Remarks by Supervisor Don Horsley

The following are remarks by Supervisor Don Horsley following his election as Board President for 2013. He spoke at the Terra Nova High School Theater on Tuesday, January 8:

I am very pleased and proud to see everyone here tonight. It has been an honor to serve with each of my colleagues on the Board.

Board President Don Horsley speaks at Terra Nova High

Board President Don Horsley speaks at Terra Nova High

In particular, I have enormous respect and admiration for the way that Supervisor Tissier handled the additional duties this past year of Board President. I am looking forward to continuing my working relationships with Adrienne, Carole Groom and Dave Pine, as well as developing a new relationship with my friend, Warren Slocum. Congratulations Warren, on earning your seat on the Board of Supervisors. And let me add a special congratulations to you Carole, for being appointed to the California Coastal Commission. This is a first for San Mateo County and we are all proud of your achievement.

Thank you all for coming to this lovely theater in Scenic Pacifica. It’s a perfect example of how voters made the choice to enhance our local educational systems. The elementary schools in Pacifica have also been renovated, proving that this community does indeed put their money where their children learn! I am grateful to the Jefferson Union High School District, its superintendent Tom Minshew as well as Terra Nova High School Principal Doreen Lotti Basuino, for allowing us to hold our meeting in this wonderful new facility. As a former Daly City resident and graduate of Westmoor High School, I am proud to have received my secondary education through the Jefferson Union High School District.

I also want to thank Allan Hale for arranging the Honor Guard through the local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post. Veterans are the core of service to our country and I salute them. I am sure that you have enjoyed hearing the guitar music of Jim Nichols, a Pacifica resident and internationally known musician. Thank you, Jim, for making this evening also about the importance of art and music in our district and county.

This evening my comments are about hope for the future, but tempered by a dose of reality. It’s not enough to suggest that because San Mateo County has one of the most resilient economies in California, that we are out of the woods. Our residents overwhelmingly approved an increase in our revenue stream, for which we are all grateful. It will allow us, together, to make significant improvements across the board in community services. Believe me when I say that voters will see results and improvements in everything from health and human services to parks. The quality of life in San Mateo County will continue to grow.

Board Vice President Dave Pine (left) with Assistant County Manager Dave Holland

Board Vice President Dave Pine (left) with Assistant County Manager Dave Holland

 In addition to hope, tonight, I would also like to discuss the unique nature of the Third District and a few of the specific projects and plans I have begun in the previous two years and that I will initiate in the coming years.The sad truth is that as we approached the most joyous time of the year, it felt like the end of the world had come for the families of murdered, innocent children and educators in Newtown, Connecticut.

President Obama, cited the horrible atrocity in Newtown as the low point of his tenure, and he took the opportunity to challenge all of us to question whether we have done everything in our power to prevent such disasters. President Obama said, “No single law, no set of laws, can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society. But that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better than this.”

The elected Board of Supervisors for San Mateo County obviously can’t control the national agenda for 315 million people living in this country. That’s not within our power or purview. However, we can focus in on our specific communities and ask ourselves the same questions. Have we done all we can? Have we been as creative and innovative as possible to ensure that our children are safe?

This Board of Supervisors will accept the President’s challenge to explore just exactly how this county can take action rather than make excuses for inaction. Together with local stakeholders and San Mateo County Superintendent of Education Anne Campbell, we will be developing a plan to explore the effectiveness of our mental health programs, our safety in schools programs and how well our local gun regulation and registration policies are implemented.

We are not going to usurp any state or national directives, but we are not going to ignore local possibilities. I will be sharing details on this program as they are developed this year, but I wanted it to be known that San Mateo County is not going to simply shrug its shoulders and sigh. If we can improve, if we can make one child safer or prevent one troubled person from acting out a heinous impulse, we will do our best to achieve that goal.

Don Horsley and Supervisor Carole Groom

Don Horsley and Supervisor Carole Groom

The President has said of his own renewed effort, that he will “use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement, to mental health professionals, to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this, because what choice do we have? We can’t accept events like this as routine.” I echo his words on a local level, and challenge myself and my fellow San Mateo County residents to do the same and not accept horror as routine.

Yet we all know that the best investment government can make is in our children. San Mateo County has been a leader in the country with our innovative Pre-to-Three Program, which sends public health nurses to every low-income family from birth to age three to provide support and services to make sure that children grow up healthy and safe. However, in recent years, we have cut back on this program due to fiscal challenges. I am committed to restoring this critical program so that every child in San Mateo County will receive the strong start so deserved.

Older children struggling with mental health and other issues also need our help. During my time as Sheriff, I saw too many adults whose lives could have had a different trajectory if they had been helped much earlier in their young life. The costs to them, their families, our community, and to the justice system could have been avoided. That is why I promise to work with Probation, Human Services and the Health System to restore reductions to programs for children who have experienced abuse, trauma and to provide services to children ion trouble with the law and get them back on track.

My full support goes to Supervisor Carole Groom’s efforts with the Peninsula Policy Leadership Council (PPLC) to ensure all children in San Mateo County, even those in under performing schools, are able to read at level in the third grade. We know that goal is an indicator of a child’s future life-long success. Together, we can do this.
Turning to a more focused view of what constitutes the Third District of San Mateo County, I am always amazed at its diversity of geography as well as demographics.

Almost all of San Mateo County’s Pacific Ocean coastside is within the Third District. The vast majority of open space and farmland is within the Third District.
When the Tom Lantos Tunnels at Devil’s Slide finally open this year, the abandoned portion of the scenic highway will become a San Mateo County park.

This Board and past Boards have made a commitment to create a world-class vista where people will be able to walk and bike along one of the most picturesque areas in the world. I can’t tell you exact dates, but let’s just say we are excited for the tunnel to open early this year and the park to open in 2014. I have a hunch that the new tunnels will have quite an impact on Pacifica and Half Moon Bay, along with the MidCoast residents. The entire project will become a landmark destination and a very substantial infrastructure improvement.

The Third District also includes communities of migrant farm workers and others struggling to make ends meet in the more rural areas. And the unincorporated areas along the MidCoast and in the southern Pescadero region contain active residents who require ongoing county action to address those issues for which a city structure would normally be responsive.

The color guard at Terra Nova

The color guard at Terra Nova

This past November, my District staff worked with community partners to organize an Agricultural Workshop in Half Moon Bay. This Workshop drew 150 members of our community who understand the importance of our agricultural heritage and the necessity of working together to ensure its future. The priorities of the Workshop were:

*to keep land in agriculture
*to keep agriculture on that land
*and to support the people who are doing this important work.

The gathering itself raised the profile of agriculture in our community. The agriculture community produces a variety of products the value of which exceeds $140 million annually, but that amount is in decline. We can and will work with the Ag community to encourage and strengthen our local agriculture community.

One of the issues that we heard the most concern about was related to the permitting process. Conference attendees asked that we look at our permitting process both to streamline it as much as possible and to make the process easier to work with.

To this end, I will be asking the County to determine what modifications can be made to the County’s process within the current Local Coastal Program. We are not looking at this short term. We will look at our own processes. Can it be simplified? I will also ask that we assess the potential effectiveness of an ombudsman who can help our agricultural community more easily negotiate permitting requirements.

Separately from our permitting process, I was intrigued by one of the presentations. In the state of Wisconsin, they have enacted an income tax refund for low-income farmers which offset local property tax. I am going to investigate that model and see if it is something we could institute here in California. If we are determined to keep agriculture in both San Mateo County and the State, we need to find ways to help farmers stay in agriculture.

Finally, sometimes, people ask me what “county” government does as opposed to city or state or national governments. People who do not need specific county services don’t necessarily think of them as essential, but they are critical for thousands of people. With nearly a $2 billion budget, one out of seven residents in the county receives some type of medical or human service assistance. No child is without health insurance in San Mateo County and there is a political philosophy that entails finding housing for every homeless person. While some of our objectives are compelling and successful, others are nearly impossible to solve. Housing the homeless is an example of a county goal that still has a long way to go before we can claim victory.

The Board meets at Terra Nova

The Board meets at Terra Nova

Our county library system is represented here in Pacifica by the Sanchez and the Sharp Park branches. I am supportive of the city’s efforts to incorporate library services into a single, state-of-the-art library and will continue to work with the local committee to increase our involvement. Pacifica deserves a wonderful new library.

San Mateo County is truly a wonderful place to live and work. I was once a police officer here in the City of Pacifica and I lived in Moss Beach. As a member of the Sheriff’s Department and eventually as the Sheriff, I traveled throughout the Third District, learning all about its needs and its rewards. This is truly a beautiful and interesting part of the world and I look forward to continuing to serve the Third District and the entire county as the President of the Board this year.
It is this mixed jumble of needs, desires and opportunities that makes my work as the Third District Supervisor so interesting and challenging at the same time. I do love it, however, and will continue to dedicate all of my time and energy to this responsibility.

Before I close, I would like to say that my love of this job and my success is due in great part to my exceptional staff. They are truly team players who also have the best for San Mateo County in their hearts. They work very hard every day doing constituent work, brainstorming solutions to problems and keeping me focused. I would like to ask Chris Hunter, Sarah Rosendahl and Nicholas Calderon to please stand up. Thank you for your hard work and for making it fun for me to come to work every day.

Now, please join me in the school cafeteria for hors d’oeuvres and beverages, catered by the Vocational Rehabilitation Services of San Mateo County.

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