As my second and final term as San Bernardino County First District Supervisor draws to a close, I want to share a few highlights from these past eight years, as well as updates on exciting projects on the horizon.
Law enforcement has always been a priority of mine. Unfortunately, during the past several years, California has undergone a radical decriminalization shift with passage of AB 109, Propositions 47 and 57. More recently, the state has done away with cash bail for many crimes and released about 10,000 prison inmates, ostensibly due to coronavirus. Despite all of this, I am proud of the work we have accomplished in successfully advocating for innovative anti-crime programs, including an increase in crime sweep funding which was initially set at $75,000 under the previous county supervisor and is now up to $1 million. These expanded efforts of law enforcement have yielded thousands of arrests and taken millions of dollars in drugs and weapons off the streets. With the help of Sheriff John McMahon, who I was pleased to nominate in 2012 as our County Sheriff, we have increased the number of Deputy Sheriffs in unincorporated areas and rolled out programs to reduce recidivism and a new collaborative project: the Sheriff’s Community Workgroup. In times of unrest, this community-based workgroup is committed to play a vital role in helping to bring a calm to the community and assist in averting possible violence. In partnership with the District Attorney’s office, we focused on critical areas in our county, including implementation of reforms to welfare fraud policies and support of welfare fraud sweeps around the county.
Job creation has been another top priority during my time in office. The First District has a lot to offer prospective manufacturing companies, opening the door for many great opportunities. Industry growth ultimately brings with it the need for a skilled workforce, and I have strongly advocated for technical training programs like the newly created High Desert Training Center at Southern California Logistics Airport. The 66,000-square-foot building at the airport was provided by Stirling Capital Investments, ProLogis and Exquadrum. The High Desert Manufacturers’ Council, the County Workforce Development Board, and Victor Valley College worked together on the project, inspired by the success of Barstow Community College’s technical training program. This program will allow us to retain local talent by providing access to skills training for our high school graduates, veterans, and residents seeking a career opportunity with our local manufacturers.
I’m especially proud of our initiative, “Made in the High Desert,” which over the past six years has connected more than 14,000 high school students with local manufacturers offering careers in well-paying jobs. This event also provides an opportunity for manufacturers, teachers and school administrators to discuss how to link classroom lessons with job skills that are in high demand.
As the COVID lockdown continues, the harm to our businesses, churches and youth is deepening. I have consistently pushed back on the governor’s lockdown and called for the careful reopening of local businesses and schools. Our communities cannot sustain the continued mental, emotional, and financial strain caused by the closures. Our families and businesses desperately need the opportunity to thrive for sustainability and continued economic growth.
I am proud of San Bernardino County earning national recognition for its work in reducing homelessness among veterans. The Board of Supervisors, County staff, the Sheriff’s HOPE team, and our nonprofit partners continue to work diligently on the issue. We have successfully opened the Desert Hill Crisis Residential Center in Victorville and will soon open Desert Haven, a permanent supportive housing facility in Victorville designed to assist individuals who have experienced prolonged homelessness.
Every year my office spends considerable time working through bureaucratic logjams for hundreds of constituents and businesses. My staff has often stayed late and worked weekends to help coordinate emergency housing for those in need. We have worked with the Bureau of Land Management to help reduce a two-year backlog of mining permits, helped to clear hurdles for local drone manufacturer General Atomics, and were even able to assist the developer of the Cracker Barrel restaurant in Victorville – the first in California. There is never a question of a task being too large or small. Our commitment of service for the betterment of the First District has remained an ultimate priority.
During my time as Supervisor, the County has completed a major resurfacing of all roads in Silver Lakes, sections of National Trails Highway/Route 66, areas around Newberry Springs, Needles and Trona. County Public Works has also rebuilt many of the bridges along old Route 66, many originally built 90 years ago. I successfully advocated for the repaving of all county-maintained roads in Spring Valley Lake and Wrightwood. And I expect paving and widening of Phelan Road will start in the next few months. We’ve also partnered with local cities on joint city-county paving projects. An important transportation project to note is one initiated in 2018 when we saw a sharp rise in major injury and fatal traffic accidents on Highway 395. In order to address this concern, we brought together several agencies and formed the Highway 395 Task Force. Working with the CHP and Caltrans, data shows that in the year following implementation of the task force’s solutions, fatal crashes in the identified accident-prone areas have been eliminated.
I believe in the adage that the most effective government is one that is closest to the people. I’ve seen how local Community Service Districts in Helendale, Phelan Pinon Hills and elsewhere in the County have done outstanding work in providing high-quality, low-cost services to the public. With those models in mind, I supported the formation of the Wrightwood CSD, which voters passed in 2017, knowing the value of locally elected board making decisions based on their insight and knowledge of local needs.
The E-220 High Desert Corridor continues to make progress toward environmental work completion for this important project. This multipurpose corridor will offer a vital connector route for residential, commercial, and industrial areas in the Antelope Valley and Victor Valley.
Stakeholders recognize the value this corridor brings in east-west mobility within the High Desert region and are committed to its development.
It has been a great eight years, but all good things must come to an end. As I bid farewell, I want you to know that it has been an absolute honor and privilege to serve the residents of the First District as County Supervisor. I am confident that the High Desert and surrounding communities will continue to be a great place to live, work, and play.