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2005 State of the County Address

Presented by the Honorable Bill Campbell
Chairman of the Board of Supervisors
County of Orange, California
February 1, 2005

Colleagues, Mr. CEO, Department Heads, members of the County family, ladies and gentlemen:

Last week I listed the goals for the County for this year. This week in the State of the County address, I will be highlighting the achievements of this past year. I intend to ask my colleagues to describe the state of his district – major public works projects, watershed issues, the fulfillment of service needs unique to each supervisorial district. So we will pause later for brief State of the First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth District speeches.

2004 presented daunting challenges to local government, and this great county of ours was no exception. The County of Orange remains on solid ground, ready to meet the challenges sure to come in 2005. From the state’s perennial raid on county coffers, to conducting elections under intense scrutiny, to public works projects requiring significant deployments of personnel and resources, this organization, with the help of its 18,000 members, faced its share of difficulties and achieved many significant accomplishments.

As we all know, 2004 was the 10th anniversary of the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history – our own. Fiscal responsibility and efficiency have become the watchwords of this County, and with good reason. The recovery and rebuilding process has been a long time coming, but thanks to a sober and unflinching look at the way we do business, we are a long way from where we were 10 years ago.

We said goodbye to former CEO Jim Ruth, who helped to steer the County back on track with major departmental reorganization and who put into place tighter fiscal controls to avoid the kinds of problems that led to the bankruptcy. And, in a seamless transition from Mr. Ruth’s administration, we welcomed our new CEO, Tom Mauk, who is continuing the fine analytical work of Mr. Ruth.

A Strategic Financial Planning process guides our annual budget in light of long-range goals and revenue projections. We have a sound investment policy that is protected by vital checks and balances. We focus our attention and resources on our core business, shifting away from the municipal service business through the annexation of county islands. But we move forward cautiously, unsure of what the state may try to take from us or require us to do.

We are all familiar enough with the challenges this County faced last year. For the most part, we continue to face them each day. I’d like to turn now to our many accomplishments.

In 2004, the ill-fated notion of a commercial airport at the former MCAS, El Toro was finally put to rest with the negotiated settlement of the remaining litigation and the annexation of the El Toro property to the City of Irvine. We now look forward to the planning and development of the Orange County Great Park. The Navy is accepting bids on the property as I speak to you today, and I have every confidence that the Great Park will become a reality. But the ongoing efforts of the City of Los Angeles to insert itself into policy decisions affecting Orange Countians illustrate the need for our continued vigilance on the El Toro front; we must not let down our guard until the sale is final and the runways have been destroyed.

Under Clerk-Recorder Tom Daly’s leadership, the County converted over 10 million official and vital records and indices to a digital format, dramatically increasing efficiency and reducing citizens’ wait-time for birth, marriage and death certificates to mere minutes. The Clerk-Recorder also launched a County Archives Web site, providing the public with access to information on Orange County’s rich history. After successfully applying to the State Department to accept passport applications, the Clerk-Recorder processed over 600 of them, making the difficulties of international travel in today’s world a bit easier for Orange County residents.

The Clerk of the Board implemented the Countywide e-Agenda system that provides the public with full access to the weekly Board agenda, staff reports and attachments via the Internet, and allows for the timely and orderly submission of staff reports.

Last year, the County gave its final approval to the “Ranch Plan”: a General Plan amendment, a zoning change, and a Development Agreement that, together, will allow for the development of 14,000 residences, half-a-million square feet of employment uses and over 15,000 acres of dedicated open space – plus 60 acres dedicated to the County for affordable housing. Supervisor Wilson, RDMD Director Bryan Speegle, and Tim Neely and his team in the Planning Division deserve special recognition for their fine work in seeing the Ranch Plan through. In a few minutes, I will defer to my colleague, Vice Chairman Tom Wilson, to elaborate on the historic Rancho Mission Viejo project.

November’s election was conducted almost flawlessly because of the successful implementation of the County’s $26 million electronic voting system. The success of that project hinged on tremendous voter education and outreach to thousands of Orange County voters prior to the elections. The success was also due to a vigorous and comprehensive poll-worker recruitment and training program, for our 7,500 volunteers who handled the record 1,094,405 voter-turnout in the November election. All of this because of the intense scrutiny, and the learning that was gleaned after the March primary.

Last summer, John Wayne Airport opened eight new security screening lanes, doubling our airport’s total screening capacity. As a result, what was once a 45-minute wait for security screening is now about ten minutes on average…just in time for JWA’s busiest month on record – August 2004 – with 872,271 passengers.

Also, my colleagues and I certified the final EIR that will allow the airport to make facilities improvements that will support an increase in its annual passenger capacity from 8.4 million to 10.8 million per year.

The Integrated Waste Management Department handled the safe disposal of nearly four million tons of solid waste last year. And the County’s four Household Hazardous Waste Collection Centers disposed of a much greater volume of household hazardous waste than the prior year. Participation in the program is up 19% over the prior year, and volume increased by 30% as a result of successful public outreach.

We are fortunate to have the finest law enforcement officials in the nation who are at the forefront of law enforcement innovation in the state of California and the nation.

The District Attorney, whose deputies operated with caseloads twice the size of their counterparts in San Diego, filed charges against 71,000 defendants last year and managed to convict 90 percent of them. The DA also initiated prosecution on eight cold-case murders, including one dating back to 1969.

Early on, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas recognized the need for law enforcement tools to catch up with today’s technology; in fact, he played a key role in Proposition 69, the initiative requiring the collection and cataloging of DNA samples of those arrested for violent felonies. Orange County is recognized statewide for setting in place a standard for DNA collection and advises other counties on establishing their protocols in response to the November passage of Prop. 69.

Sheriff-Coroner Mike Carona leads the entire county in dealing with terrorist threats and potential attacks. His agency played a lead role in last year’s Operation Orange Shield, a major terrorism-response drill involving hundreds of participants from dozens of local, state and federal agencies to simulate response and reaction to a potential attack here in Orange County.

We recently celebrated the opening of the new, statewide Coroner’s Training Facility, where our nationallyrecognized forensics team solves crimes and provides instruction to deputy coroners from up and down the state.

Sheriff Carona runs the finest law enforcement agency in the nation because of his refusal to compromise public safety. He recognized that the County’s financial situation was not likely to improve any time soon and so called on his team to convene a blue ribbon task force to review all aspects of the department and recommend a series of costsaving measures that resulted in significant cuts in his department’s various budgets without affecting vital services.

The Probation Department broke ground on two, major facilities projects last year: the expansion of Juvenile Hall and the new Youth Leadership Academy, both in the city of Orange. These projects will result in a net gain of 120 beds for juvenile offenders committed to the County’s correctional institutions.

Recognizing that rehabilitation is key to curtailing recidivism among these juveniles – and key to alleviating future bed-space needs – the Probation Department partnered with the Orange County Department of Education and non-profit, community-based organizations to provide alternative avenues to incarcerated or otherwise committed juveniles in order to prevent them from returning to the criminal justice system. Last year, 227 incarcerated youth received GEDs and 109 received high school diplomas.

The Public Defender’s Office participated in the development of the DUI Court pilot program, which began in October in the Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach. The DUI Court is widely regarded as being effective at keeping chronic drunk drivers at bay and preventing firsttime offenders from becoming repeat offenders.

Turning to the County’s community services, we look first at the Health Care Agency.

The public health community experienced numerous challenges in 2004. Our Health Care Agency, along with the Orange County Vector Control District, faced the arrival of the West Nile Virus head-on, working with the community to educate health care providers and the public about the symptoms of the virus, coordinating disease surveillance and testing with state health officials, and providing information to the public about West Nile Virus prevention. HCA responded decisively to the shortage of flu vaccine by partnering with the community for the effective distribution of influenza vaccine as it became available – slowly, but in time to reach the most vulnerable among us.

The Health Care Agency demonstrated its readiness to respond to bioterrorism by orchestrating response drills and mass vaccination clinics and training all HCA employees on emergency management procedures.

The Housing and Community Services Department implemented a Senior Non-Emergency Medical Transportation program plan to develop, test and monitor pilot models throughout the county. By the end of the year, the program had provided nearly 88,000 medical trips, had 7,600 older adults enrolled, and was growing at a pace of 600 additional clients per month.

HCS also opened four County-financed affordable housing developments, and broke ground on one more, representing a total of 381 new rental housing units for low-and very low-income residents throughout the county.

The Social Services Agency completed its first year of the “First Step Assessment Center” at Orangewood Children’s Home. The goal of the First Step Center is to divert children from Orangewood’s front door to familycentered or foster placements. Last year, hundreds of children were placed rather than admitted to Orangewood.

Now, I’d like to turn to my colleague, Vice Chairman Tom Wilson for a look back on 2004 in the Fifth District. Tom?

My new colleague, Supervisor Correa, will now discuss issues affecting the First District.

Supervisor Silva?

Supervisor Norby?

We had some notable public works projects in the Third District aimed at improving the quality of life there and in the county as whole.

In late 2003, the Board of Supervisors declared an emergency in the Third District in response to a problem in San Diego Creek that would have resulted in a public health disaster. RDMD crews commenced work early last year and worked tirelessly to remove overgrown vegetation to restore the flood control capacity of a portion of San Diego Creek adjacent to a sewer treatment facility. Had there been a major flood, untreated sewage would have flowed into the Upper Newport Bay through the San Diego Creek.

A new, $4 million sewer system was installed at Irvine Regional Park, and we’ve begun work on replacing the old septic system at O’Neill Park with a sanitary sewer system. I’ve heard of youth groups being turned away from O’Neill Park because the park’s septic system couldn’t support their stay. We should never turn away respectful park visitors, and I hope we never have to again.

Our Board also approved the Outdoor Education Camp, which will be adjacent to Irvine Park on private land deeded to the Boy Scouts from the Irvine Company. With involvement from a variety of youth organizations, including the Orange County Department of Education’s “Inside the Outdoors” program, this camp will educate Orange County’s youth on the outdoors here in Orange County, rather than having them go outside the County for camping and other activities.

The question of what to do with the County’s blimp hangar at the former MCAS, Tustin is one that was brought to my attention when I first joined this Board. Throughout 2004, the County solicited and received proposals for economically viable, park-related re-uses for the hangar.

We will likely move forward with the disposition of the County’s 85-acre parcel that includes the north hangar in 2005.

Another important milestone in the Third District that will benefit the entire County is the approval by the Planning Commission of the Environmental Impact Report for the extension of the Olinda Alpha Landfill operating permit above Brea.

Staff is now completing negotiations with the City of Brea and will come to the Board for approval of the EIR and a Memorandum of Understanding with Brea. The Katie Wheeler Branch Library will soon be built in the County Historic Park at Jamboree and Irvine Boulevard in Irvine. The new library will provide an educational experience for County residents on both the inside and the outside of the building. The library will honor the memory of its namesake’s family, showing exactly what the Irvine family ranch house looked like at the peak of its use in the early twentieth century. The new library will also include some of the home's internal architectural features. It’s being built with funding provided by developer fees and a grant from the James T. Irvine Foundation, on a site provided by the County's Harbors, Beaches and Parks Department. The Katie Wheeler Library is scheduled to open in 2006.

My office has been working with the El Modena Community Group to better understand and be responsive to the needs of that unincorporated community. Since the Board approved outsourcing a portion of the county’s code enforcement operation, we have been able to aggressively pursue code enforcement violations in the area that depress the quality of life of the people we serve. Additionally, I have asked the Sheriff to continue the working relationship his deputies have with community leaders there to ensure consistent and adequate policing.

For Orange Park Acres, the issue has been to balance the number of horses allowed per acre with the community’s desire to protect its equestrian theme. I believe a good compromise can be reached and will be before this Board for approval soon.

The County acquired two parcels last year within the boundaries of the Cleveland National Forest, one in Fremont Canyon and the other in Modjeska Canyon, that will be dedicated as open space in perpetuity. The one in Fremont Canyon includes the largest natural spring in the northern region of the forest, and the Modjeska Canyon parcel will extend the Modjeska Canyon Nature Preserve.

Last spring, some constituents – among them, a noted biologist – made me aware of a bat maternity roost under the haul bridge that crosses over Santiago Canyon Road, east of Irvine Lake. Hick’s Haul Road, which the bridge connects to, was used to transport sand and gravel mined at Irvine Lake to a finishing plant on Irvine Company land in the hills between Santiago Canyon Road and the city of Irvine. The agreement that allowed for the bridge’s construction required that it be demolished June 1 last year. We managed to spare the bridge and avoid disturbing the bats. But in the process, I discovered that the bridge could be an invaluable public asset because of its potential as a connector in the “mountains-to-the-sea” trails network. County staff and I are working with the Irvine Company and other stakeholders to acquire the bridge and to provide various access plans.

2004 was a year of accomplishments because of the department heads, managers and dedicated employees serving this great county at all levels. It will be these public spirited individuals’ accomplishments that we will note in 2006, when we reconvene to reflect on the year before us.

I look forward to working to achieve the goals for 2005 I laid out last week: preserving financial integrity, accelerating management action, and improving the quality of life here in Orange County. We will undoubtedly encounter bumps along way, but with these goals guiding the day-to-day work of our exceptional employees, we can make this year our best yet.

Thank you very much.

 
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