Here’s Where We’re Going

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If you want to know where you’re going, you check a map. If you want to know where the County is going, you look at our operational plan and budget.

So where are we headed? In the plan we’ve just released for the coming year, we expect to spend $6.2 billion – nearly half a billion dollars more than this year. While that amount covers countless items, we are stepping up our investments in four broad areas. Those really represent our priorities for the year ahead.

I want to give you the big picture strategies, and for each of those, just a few examples of how we’ll work at getting there. There are a lot more, and the details will lead down to specific programs many of you spend your days on. But this will just give you some idea of how your work supports our larger goals.

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Off the top is ramping up resources to help the most vulnerable San Diegans: those who are homeless and those struggling with mental illness or substance abuse, which are two of the top risk factors for homelessness. We’ve been increasing the resources we direct at these issues the last few years, and now we’re pushing even further.

More than $175 million of the new spending and 120 new staff positions will be devoted to meeting the need of the vulnerable population. We’re tripling our spending on individualized treatment programs for people abusing drugs or alcohol. The personalized approach improves the person’s chance for success.

We’re putting $1 million toward domestic violence response teams and mobile family trauma services. We’ll keep building on the early success we’ve seen with Project One For All, which focuses on homeless people with severe mental illnesses.

Our public health nurses were instrumental in tackling the hepatitis A outbreak. Our budget adds 12 nurses to keep up the fight and work on other public health priorities.

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Far too many people who enter the criminal justice system wind up in a cycle that’s difficult to break. We need to keep those at risk out of it in the first place, and help those already in successfully leave. People on either of those paths can face obstacles, so one of our focus areas is breaking down those barriers to success.

For young people, we are supporting mentoring programs using what are called “credible messengers.” These mentors have overcome their own involvement in the justice system, so their words carry a lot of weight with the youth they advise.

We’ve made tremendous strides in recent years in reducing the number of juveniles we have in custody, and that’s partly because of all the work we do to steer them away from trouble. We’re expanding the Alternatives to Detention program from 500 to 750 youth.  

We’ll also expand another successful diversion program: Summer Night Lights. This provides positive activities for young people on summer evenings and weekends, times they’re at greater risk.

Sheriff Gore will tell you our jails are the largest provider of mental health services in the county. We’re adding new assessments and services to reduce the number of people in jails, and to help those leaving the system successfully re-enter the community.

We’ll have more attorneys in the Public Defender’s office work on criminal record assistance for victims of sex trafficking and thousands of others trying to make a fresh start.

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You can probably find a headline every day about local housing costs or how many people are priced out of the market. You may know it all too well from trying to find a place to live yourself. So we’re addressing housing affordability at all income levels.

We’re taking a couple of County-owned buildings we don’t (or soon won’t) use anymore – the family court and the current crime lab – and turning them into affordable housing. We’ll add 16 positions to support development of at least 400 to 600 affordable housing units for low-income or special needs residents.

For middle-income households, we’re going to cut permitting process time and costs make it easier for developers to get homes built. We’ll start updating 15 community plans to allow for a range of housing options.

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We’re investing in neighborhoods countywide with enhancements that raise our residents’ quality of life. We’ll be opening new parks and trails, improve or build three library branches, and fund 180 miles of road repair and new sidewalks. We’re adding or upgrading new fire stations and paramedic service in the backcountry.

We’ll work on two new County Live Well Centers: one in San Diego’s southeastern community and the other at the current Health Services Complex on Rosecrans. Both will give residents one-stop access to a variety of services.

There’s an old proverb that says society grows great when we plant trees whose shade we’ll never enjoy ourselves. We’re putting 3,500 trees on public land in the County’s unincorporated area. We’ll also add another 500 acres of open space to the nearly 50,000 acres already preserved.

We’ll invest millions to reduce the urban runoff that leads to polluted beaches. And we will remain committed to constructing zero-net-energy buildings and reaching LEED standards.

Even though we are investing a lot more dollars in these key areas this year, we are doing so with a balanced budget. We’ll continue to use the fiscal discipline that’s gotten us to this position of financial strength, where we have the resources to step up our efforts to meet  pressing needs.

There’s much, much more in the full operational plan. I don’t expect anyone to plow through the whole thing, but I encourage everyone to give it a look. You can read it or use the interactive budget tool. Either way, it helps connect the dots between the numerous things we do each day and our ultimate goal: creating a region that’s healthy, safe and thriving.

The video has details of our budget and stories of individual residents and the County staff who serve them.