County of San Diego: 2013 Year in Review

By Supervisor Dave Roberts

I love my job. I have said those words repeatedly for the past 12 months and they remain every bit as true and heartfelt today. I greet every day with excitement and an eagerness to serve the residents of the Third Supervisorial District and all of San Diego County. For me, job satisfaction boils down to making a difference in the community. So I am very satisfied.

As 2013 draws to a close, I can reflect upon a full year of policy-making as a County Supervisor. I also can look forward to future challenges, to tackling those challenges and to improving our quality of life.

Looking back on 2013, I am pleased to report that I focused on transparency and accessibility and made strong advancements in improving fire protection, economic development, mental health services, foster child adoptions and other important programs.

The Economy

Since taking office as the first new Supervisor in 18 years, I have focused on legislation to assist start-up businesses, create jobs and fund programs that enhance our quality of life.

In June, I voted to adopt a balanced, $5 billion budget that maintains strong reserves.

The spending plan covers public safety, land-use and the environment, general government and health and human services. Nearly 40 percent of our budget is needed to fund state- and federally-mandated health and social programs. My colleagues and I have been as frugal as ever with public money.  But we still have managed to expand service levels. We pay cash for county construction projects as often as possible because we are determined to leave a legacy of completed projects, not public debt.

For instance, we have paid for our new County Operations Center – which includes brand-new facilities for the Registrar of Voters -- almost entirely in cash. By avoiding interest and financing payments, we are saving millions of taxpayer dollars.

When we do need to borrow money, we can borrow it inexpensively because of our AAA bond rating.

To spur jobs and grow the local economy, I voted to support a new cheese- and beer-making ordinance to support that industry. I also supported the equine ordinance, which protects our rural way of life in the unincorporated area.

Public Safety

While a strong economy and jobs are important to all of us, so is public safety.

We spent nearly $19 million last year to strengthen our firefighting capability, and we contract with CALFIRE as our fire-fighting force.

The Board of Supervisors approved a five-year Fire Master Plan, which enhances cooperation among emergency responders, increases staffing levels in our fire stations, intensifies training requirements, improves information technology and adds more firefighting equipment to our arsenal.

Last summer, to learn first-hand about a large-scale wildfire response, I volunteered at an evacuation center for the Yosemite Rim Fire.

In an emergency, able-bodied people can and should comply with evacuation orders. Elderly and disabled people, however, need extra help. That’s why one of my initiatives focuses on vulnerable people and provides training and equipment to caretakers and shelter workers. Partners in this initiative include the American Red Cross, the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and regional economic development groups.

Social Services

I am determined to provide help where it is needed most. That’s why I have brought forward legislation to audit the county’s mental health programs.  At issue is the role that the county and the courts should play in caring for mentally ill people who are unable to help themselves. The audit led to a vote to expand mental health services throughout the county.

Another policy issue I have embraced is adoptions of foster children. This one is very close to me personally, as I have adopted five children from the county system. I know first-hand that the system needs reforms. Accordingly, I have spearheaded the “Exceptional Families Campaign,” which identifies and recruits loving parents for children in the foster care system who are hard to place because of their age, health or attachment to siblings. As a result, nearly half of the county’s hard-to-place foster kids have been adopted.

Healthcare

I have worked closely with nonprofit service providers to enroll eligible people for food assistance, dental and healthcare. A free dental clinic that I sponsored at the fairgrounds this month served 2,000 people.

Another safety issue I am addressing is the potentially-deadly contents of our medicine cabinets.

Authorities say overdose deaths from prescription drug abuse continue to increase.

As a member of the regional Prescription Drug Task Force, I secured the Board of Supervisors’ formal endorsement of legislation to provide funding for a state program called CURES – the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System. The system tracks the prescriptions of controlled substances and helps authorities detect unusual or excessive patterns.

The prescription drug task force continues to build alliances throughout the law enforcement, educational, prevention and judicial sectors. I am proud to note that many other counties are looking to our task force as a model.

Veteran Affairs

Moving to veterans affairs, San Diego is a military town. All veterans have my thanks and respect, but they don’t always get it from the Veterans Administration.

A policy that I brought forward this year formalizes the county’s opposition to the so-called “widow’s tax,” a deduction that the VA places upon survivors’ benefits. The tax is unfair and insulting to the survivors of loved ones who made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of our country.

The Arts

My predecessor, Pam Slater-Price, understood the importance and the value of our arts community, for the cultural enrichment it provides and the jobs and spending it supports. In keeping with the strong example she set, I have promoted programming at the California Center for the Arts Escondido and have supported programs that bring the underprivileged children to live performances.

I am honored to have received early recognition as a champion of the arts by San Diego Theatre Reviews. In November, I had the privilege of recognizing our top artists as host of the SD Bravo Awards.

Transparency and accessibility

I am determined to maintain outstanding constituent services. Accessibility and responsiveness are top priorities for me and my staff.

In June, I empaneled a committee to review Community Enhancement Grant applications and make recommendations to me. My staff and I are judicious in our review of Neighborhood Reinvestment Program applications, and I publish details about all applications I recommend for approval on my Web site, www.supervisordaveroberts.com.

The Legislation page of my Web site includes copies of every board letter we have written in 2013 – 17 total for my first year in office.

My Web page includes links to my weekly, electronic newsletter, From Dave’s Desk. We have published 49 of them this year.

I refresh my Twitter and Facebook pages every day.

The meetings and events I have attended number more than 1,000.

I have opened a full-time office in Escondido and keep regular office hours in Rancho Bernardo and Del Mar. I am excited to start keeping regular office hours in Mira Mesa in 2014.

My calendar almost always has me going around and about the district seven days a week, but it never feels like a chore. I love to serve you, and like I said, I love my job.

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