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Slater-Price promises more in address, despite down economy

More for less was the theme of San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Pam Slater-Price’s State of the County address Wednesday night.

Faced with a continuing decline in revenue and the ongoing threat that the state government could borrow or take municipal funds, Slater-Price outlined an agenda for 2010 that introduces new ideas and the promise of public services.

“There are many good things on the horizon,” Slater-Price said. “We face difficulties but beyond the storm, the sun shines bright.”

Forced to cut nearly $50 million from the county general fund last year, leaving a $4.9 billion budget to work with – Slater-Price described 2009 as “not an easy year.”

Slater-Price, who gave her address to about 100 attendees at the Irwin M. Jacobs Qualcomm Hall, said the county “lost close to 45,000 jobs” and “about 146,000 county residents” are out of work.

Despite drops in revenue or what she described as “the proverbial snow ball rolling downhill,” Slater-Price said the county will continue to operate necessary departments but warned of harder days.

“In the County of San Diego’s Operational Plan, our Chief Administrative Officer Walt Ekard promises more of the same,” Slater-Price said. “But he warns of further challenges ahead. That might be an understatement. When revenue is down, this board must cut expenses.”
Like in addresses from other local leaders, she took a stab at the California government for failing to cut where necessary and expecting “counties to make up the difference.”

Though much of her speech touched on the hardships forecasted for the region, Slater-Price laid out what some may say is an ambitious plan for the county despite the continuing recession.

She spoke of the formation of a multi-agency Oxy Task Force, which is meant to “combat prescription drug abuse” and has seen much press in recent days. The Chairwoman also said the Oxy Task Force would “blend elements of” the Meth Strike Force to save tax dollars.

Aside from the Task Force, Slater-Price said the board would work to “expand” open spaces, preserve parks and expand the Cardiff Library after expanding the Del Mar Library. Education campaigns, business incentives and construction projects are also on tap for 2010, she noted in her address.

Her colleague, Supervisor Greg Cox, described the Slater-Price and her address as “realistic” and noted that “more tough decisions” would face the board and the residents it serves.

“We have a lot of things we’ve been working on and as bad as it gets, it will be accomplished,” Cox said. “And, that is what was addressed in tonight’s speech.”

Supervisor Ron Roberts on the other hand said he was still taking in her ideas.

“I’m still absorbing the ideas laid out but real life will come later,” he said.

Roberts, who is often described as moderate compared to his four Republican colleagues, said the fear of the state taking local funds and drops in revenue would remain an issue in 2010.

“We’ve got work to do,” Roberts said. “We’re operating on a budget that’s about $300 to $400 million less than what it was two years ago.”

Hoa Quach is the political editor for the San Diego News Network. Follow her on Twitter or add her on Facebook.