With Riverside County being the 10th largest county in the nation and the 4th largest in the State of California, and projections saying we may one day be the second largest county in the state, you can’t help but wonder what the future will look like for our growing county. When I was first elected to the Board in November 2012, one of my questions for our county’s future was – what do we want to be when we grow up? Are we going to become one mass of concrete and houses? While we hear a lot about the logistics industry’s impact on the Inland Empire, will our largest export continue to be people, with workers heading out every morning at the crack of dawn to work in LA, Orange and San Diego counties? Or are we going to control and shape our own destiny and bring our people home?
I remember a time when builders built a variety of new buildings for professional offices, small neighborhood commercial centers, and light industrial facilities for small businesses and manufacturers to start and grow. Today it’s either large residential developments or large warehouses. Where did the little guy go? Hasn’t it always been the small mom & pop businesses that have all the plaques on the wall, because they could never say no to a little league or soccer league sponsorship request? That wall of plaques usually doesn’t exist at a corporate chain store.
My point is – as we grow and question how to add more roof tops and of course more cars on our congested streets, we have to simultaneously figure out where our future high school and college graduates are going to live and work. While we have some beautiful, hillside, gated communities being built, where are the starter homes for young families or professionals? A couple of warehouses along major transportation corridors doesn’t cause me to lose much sleep – but we owe it to our kids and grandkids to attract high tech, professional, and yes, good paying retail and blue collar jobs to our county. Putting all our eggs into one basket and becoming the mega-center of warehouses for Southern California is not my idea of a long term promising future. Let’s think outside the box (pun intended).
You may have seen some news stories about the county budget, and the contentious discussion surrounding it. I ended up voting no on our new county budget and its deficit spending of $1.17 million per week. On a 4-1 vote the Board lifted the previous restrictions that had been imposed a month earlier on travel, new hiring and the purchase of large items (cars, etc.). It also increased spending for a non-public safety agency (or two) and then left unanswered how we are going to deal with a $34 million shortfall in the Sheriff’s Department and at least a $6 million short fall for the District Attorney. I had hopes that all spending was going to be on the table for re-evaluation and funding prioritization, but that was not the case. Something tells me we will be re-visiting our decisions by the end of the year.