By Vito Chiesa, CSAC President.
They say that time flies when you’re having fun. It flies even faster when you are busy with fulfilling work that matters to the people of California. For me, this past year has flown by at the speed of light. With just a couple weeks left in my term as President of CSAC, I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish and a little melancholy that this chapter of my public service is coming to a close. I’ll hand over the reins in early December at CSAC’s Annual Meeting.
Working closely with CSAC Staff has been a highlight. They are talented, knowledgeable professionals. Together we have been able to strengthen our already solid relationship with Governor Brown. He continues to recognize the critical role counties play in delivering vital services to Californians.
Accordingly, his budget for this year included repayment of $535 million to California Counties in pre-2004 mandates. County fairs got some additional state funding for much needed repair work, and we also got the first Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) in the budget in 12 years.
I am proud of how CSAC has been able to help bring the poor condition of our local roads to the top of the priority list. A year ago no one knew that “PCI” stands for Pavement Condition Index. They do now. The special session conference committee on transportation is working on meaningful change in the way we fund repairs to local streets, roads and bridges and I am hopeful the Legislature will soon deliver a workable proposal on this vital issue.
We’ve also been able to secure more funding for public safety realignment. Realignment is far from perfect, but counties up and down the state are finding new and better ways to deal with criminal offenders, using evidence-based programs to treat drug abuse and reduce recidivism while improving public safety. More dollars are available for counties to build the facilities they need to better manage a new population of inmates. CSAC continues to advocate for the funds and flexibility counties need to respond to that challenge.
CSAC supported recently-passed legislation to regulate medical marijuana that includes local authority provisions. We are working to implement landmark groundwater regulations that can be tailored to local needs, and we created a poverty working group that successfully advocated for the earned income tax credit for California’s working poor.
2015 hasn’t been all peaches and cream. We still have a drought to manage, the fire season was particularly disastrous for several counties, and now we have El Nino to worry about—which threatens to deliver enough rain to cause further misery—but not enough to quench our four-year drought. There’s not much we can do about the weather, but we can prepare for natural disasters and their impact on counties.
These are the worries that still occupy my mind as I finish out my term as CSAC President. At least I have the luxury of knowing that Amador County Supervisor Richard Forster is waiting in the wings as CSAC’s First Vice President. In the past couple of years I have come to know him as a passionate advocate for California Counties.
So, I hope to see you at CSAC’s Annual Meeting in Monterey County, December 1-4. As always, it offers a variety of workshops, policy discussions, great speakers and opportunities to network with your peers from around the state. And, you may even get to see an old walnut farmer from Hughson tear up just a little bit when I hand the gavel over to CSAC’s new President. That alone is worth the price of admission!