LA|NOW | Knabe, New Chair of Supervisors, Outlines Priorities
Supervisor Don Knabe addressed the state of Los Angeles County at a luncheon at the Long Beach Convention Center Dec. 6. Knabe, due to be termed out of office in 2016, was named chairman of the Board of Supervisors for 2014. The chairman serves in that capacity for one year beginning in December, same as the mayor of Santa Clarita.
Thank you Eric, Aaron, Ian and all of Freedom Communications for sponsoring today’s event.
When Freedom launched the Long Beach Register, it added to its more than 30 other newspapers and magazines across the country. They now have 28 employees here in Long Beach, covering community and local issues, events and sports.
I think it is terrific that Long Beach has gained a newspaper. People have been predicting the death of the newspaper for years. Just the other day, I was at a friend’s house and I asked if I could borrow his newspaper.
“This is the 21st century,” he said. “Here’s my iPad.”
Well, I can tell you this: (pause) That fly never knew what hit him.
Thanks again to the Long Beach Register for supporting today’s event…
I want to thank Jessica Midkiff for being here to lead us in the pledge. Jessica is one of my heroes. She is a survivor of child sex trafficking. After suffering abuse as a child, she was sexually exploited for money beginning at the age of 11. The fact that she got out and is safe would be enough to make her an incredible young woman. But now, she is showing amazing courage. She is sharing her experiences with at-risk girls, hoping that by re-living her story she will protect them from being exploited. Jessica, thank you so much for being here!
Thank you to Debi Faris for a beautiful invocation. Debi is the spiritual mother of the Safe Surrender program. She was watching the evening news one night in 1996 and was horrified when she heard that a newborn baby boy had been stuffed into a duffel bag and tossed from a speeding car along a freeway. Debi urged former California State Senator Jim Brulte to write legislation that would decriminalize “safe” newborn abandonment. It eventually became California law. She also founded the Garden of Angels – a very special and unique cemetery – to ensure that innocent babies who are left to die are buried with dignity.
Debi, thanks for joining us today…
I would like to recognize Long Beach Chamber Board Chair LaDonna DiCamillo, and the Chamber’s Board of Directors.
Randy and his team for making today’s event possible.
And of course, my family …. My wife of 45 years, Julie…
It’s hard to believe it’s been 45 years…I’ve learned a lot in that time. A wise man once told me that there are two words that keep a marriage happy: “Yes dear.”
Thanks to all of you for being here today – our 7th annual event. I’m honored that people keep showing up to listen to me!
Since we were here last year, I was sworn in for my final term. “Final terms” are often associated with “lame ducks.” People just coast out… Let me tell you something – I am no lame duck! When you have had the honor of being in this position for as long as I have, as you see the end coming near, I think it actually starts to make you panic a bit. You think: “Wait, there is more I want to get done!”
So while there is the ongoing work of the County and our role as the ultimate safety net, I’ve got a “Bucket List” of things I want to get done.
Yep, me and Jack and the bucket list.
OK, maybe not that …
But I do have a list of projects and programs that I’m going to work on to get completed by the time I leave office in 2016.
Big County Challenges (DC, Realignment, ACA)
But before I get to that, I’d like to give you an update on some of the big issues facing the County…
Let’s start at the top – the Federal Government.
As you know, a few months ago the federal government shut down for 16 days. After a lot of rhetoric and posturing on both sides of the aisle, the President signed a bill that ended the shutdown and raised the nation’s debt ceiling.
It doesn’t matter which side you are on, no party or branch of government “won.” Just as we were starting to see some steady improvement in the economy, consumer confidence hit a 9-month low and 4th quarter growth will undoubtedly be knocked back.
We got through another deadline, but didn’t solve any of the big challenges facing our nation. Americans have shown their frustration in recent polls. The latest Gallup poll showed that 9% of the American people approve of the way Congress is doing its job. 9 percent! As business people, you know that if 1 out of 10 of your customers don’t like the service you’re providing, you are going out of business fast.
These polls do show that there seems to be one thing we can all see eye-to-eye on. As Los Angeles Times columnist Doyle McManus wrote: “We’ve finally found an issue on which almost all Americans, right and left, agree: We hate having a federal government that creates problems instead of solving them.”
Our elected officials in Washington need to take a long-term view of what is best for this country by working together. If they need a lesson in how this is done, they can see the example of local governments across this nation who cannot play these games, but must solve the problems impacting their communities.
In the end, however, I think these poll numbers are beside the point. People are busy and after a while they start to just ignore the silliness. We look at Washington and ask, “What are they thinking?”
I sometimes think what people really want is invisible government. You are safe in your home; you put the garbage out and it is collected; you drive to work and the streets have no potholes and the lights work; your kids go to school and they learn; you come home and the playgrounds and parks are well maintained and safe — and if all of this is true, you don’t notice government. It’s invisible. And it works.
And that is what our County government is trying to do.
There is so much that we do that people don’t even realize is us.
I talk a lot about our prudent budgeting because I’m really proud of it. We don’t let ideology get in the way of getting our jobs done. We can’t. As former New York City Mayor La Guardia once said, “There is no Democrat or Republican way of cleaning the streets.”
Because of our prudent budgeting, we have had the money to invest in important infrastructure that matters to our residents’ quality-of-life. How these projects get done may be invisible to you, but they make a real difference in your lives.
Let’s take a look at some of the projects we accomplished last year…
I would also like to announce another big investment we are going to make over the next few years. We will be putting $25 million into sidewalk repairs.
35 miles of damaged sidewalks will be repaired and replaced across the Fourth District. This is the stuff that matters to people when they are out walking the dog or pushing the stroller.
I wanted to give you a brief update on an issue that I told you about last year called “realignment.” First, a little background: In 2009, a federal three-judge panel said that California state prisons were over-crowded. At the same time, there were lawsuits alleging that prisoners were living in unacceptable conditions. On top of that, the state was facing huge budget issues.
The state’s solution was to send the prisoners to us, local government. Yep, sounds like a shell game, doesn’t it? It is, and a very expensive one for cities and counties across the state.
Before this all started, we had about 15,000 inmates. Now we house over 19,000. They’ve also sent us 17,000 parolees to look after. And it would have been much worse had it not been for early release policies, which are obviously good news and bad news. On average, inmates are serving about 20% of their sentence.
So how does this shell game impact you? It’s about safety in our communities. And that’s what my priority is. The Board has been very focused on ensuring that the most dangerous criminals serve their full sentences. We’ve been exploring options to construct facilities or lease jail beds to house those who need to be behind bars so they aren’t roaming the streets of our communities.
We’ve also got to do something about recidivism rates. Two primary issues are mental health services and drug rehabilitation. We will never get people out of the cycle of crime until we successfully manage their drug and mental health issues.
You have also probably read reports on issues in our jails. The Board established a Jails Commission to investigate. Long Beach Police Chief McDonnell was my appointee and I appreciate his time and commitment to a thoughtful effort. The Commission made 60 recommendations late last year. We have fully implemented 43 of them.
We also recently appropriated $29 million to increase supervision, add cameras and address issues raised by the Department of Justice. And just this week, we appointed the County’s first Inspector General to provide independent oversight and monitoring of the Sheriff’s Department. I’m pleased that Max Huntsman of the County’s District Attorney’s Office has accepted the position.
Affordable Care Act
Perhaps the biggest issue we are facing as a County is the Granddaddy of them all – the Affordable Care Act.
It doesn’t matter whether you are for it or against it, or whether the website works or it doesn’t. ObamaCare is here, in less than a month.
As the largest County in the nation, this is huge for us.
I know all of the numbers we hear on the news can get confusing. So here is what is currently happening. 36 states are relying on the federal “healthcare.gov” to sign people up. California is one of 11 states which established its own exchange, Covered California. As of October 1, uninsured Californians began selecting their healthcare provider. By all accounts, people could actually log-on the California site….
Our goal here in LA County was to enroll 300,000 of the uninsured into Healthy Way LA, our insurance system. To date, we have enrolled 290,000 through aggressive outreach efforts.
But it’s not just about getting people signed up. Los Angeles County has well over 2 million uninsured residents and the largest population of undocumenteds in the country. Like the federal government, we need paying customers to choose us because we will still have 1 million uninsured we are responsible for.
I think we have a lot to offer people—we’re just not used to selling our story. I am particularly proud of some of our specialized services, like Rancho los Amigos, which is named a top rehab hospital in the nation year after year. We also have a network of community clinics, which I would like to continue to expand, which provide much-needed accessibility to preventive and less expensive non-emergency care.
We also understand that we must operate in a more customer-focused way or we will only be left with unpaying customers.
So, we’ve done a few things:
We’ve decreased wait times. Any business knows that customer service is key and people hate to wait. In the past, it might have taken as long as 2-3 months to get a referral to see a specialist. Now, with improved technology and better communication, it can be 2-3 days. We’re also focusing on the overcrowded situation we have in our psychiatric emergency departments so that we put the same focus on mental health services as we do on physical health.
We’re also working to improve the relationship we have with our patients. We don’t want our only interaction to be when they come through the emergency room door!
We’re making a huge investment in electronic records so that our doctors and nurses can better track our patients, share information and proactively work with them on their health and well-being.
Other than that, we have nothing going on at the County!!
The Bucket List
Now I’d like to take you through some of my Bucket List and what I want to get done before 2016.
For a long time, I have been interested in doing a public affairs television show to educate people about the County and shine a light on some of the invisible things we do. Earlier this year, thanks to Charter Communications, we launched our monthly program. We’ve covered a broad range of issues, including the Affordable Care Act, a day in the life of a social worker, business and economic development, public health, etc.
We also did a show from Washington, DC. But perhaps my favorite was when we had three of California’s former governors discuss the current situation in California and what they see ahead for our state.
The tile in front of you shows a photo from the show, with Governors Deukmajian, Wilson and Davis.
You may notice that one of our former governors was unable to join us. I did a special interview with Governor Schwarzenegger. Take a look…
I’d like to tell you about some other projects I am focused on in three specific areas: infrastructure, public/private partnerships and safety net services.
The Bucket List: Infrastructure/Construction Projects
First on the infrastructure side – this is one area where government needs to lead. And these projects can have a huge impact on the quality-of-life in our neighborhoods.
We currently have three community center projects under construction in the Fourth District – in Hacienda Heights, Rowland Heights, Whittier and unincorporated Whittier.I want these finished, on-time and on-budget.
The facilities will be about 20,000 square feet each and achieve a LEED Silver environmental rating. Each was created with the help and ideas of the local community, so they reflect their unique needs and wishes. Multi-purpose space, catering kitchens, fitness centers, computer rooms… whatever made most sense for their constituents.
Another recreation project on my Bucket List is establishing a Junior Golf Academy. Golf is a game that you can enjoy for your whole life. I’ve been committed to getting young people into the game. Over the years, we’ve held 27 Knabe Cups for local boys and girls high school teams. For the past 11 years, we’ve also been offering free golf camps. Thousands of juniors have participated in afterschool and summer programs.
I would like to establish a Junior Golf Academy, to encourage young people from all walks of life to start playing golf. We are currently working on plans to refurbish a facility in Norwalk to use as a golf academy. We would like to offer after-school programs to provide extracurricular activities for young people who might not normally have access to a golf course – or have never thought about trying it.
Community Health Clinics
As I mentioned earlier when I was discussing the Affordable Care Act, the most expensive way to deliver healthcare is when people are really sick and they go to the Emergency Room. Preventive care is essential to managing costs and for people to manage their health.
Access to care is too limited in the eastern part of my district, so we’re looking to develop two new community health clinics, which will provide primary care for families. We are working through public/private partnerships to construct two clinics, one serving Whittier and the other in the Hacienda Heights/Rowland Heights area.
On the other side of my district, we are in the process of refurbishing Oxford Basin, a water retention basin in Marina del Rey. This is a great example of doing a good environmental project and providing recreation for the community. Right now, it’s a missed opportunity. It’s a 10-acre site and to be frank – it’s pretty ugly. But we have designed a project that will improve flood control and water quality, and provide a more natural environment for habitat. The aesthetics will be cleaned up and recreational opportunities will be added.
And of course, one of my all-time favorites – how about some public transportation going directly into LAX? Not a mile away; right to the front door! Obviously, this project won’t be completed by 2016, but I’m going to continue to push when I’m in Washington, DC and ensure it is at the top of the priority list here at Metro. A few months ago I joined LA City Councilman Mike Bonin in bringing brought together all the stakeholders that need to work together to get this project moving – LAWA, the LA Chamber, federal, state and local officials, the community – we all need to work together at the same table to get the funding and political will to finally get this built. Frankly, it is embarrassing that the second largest city in America with the third busiest airport still does not have a direct transit connection.
The last construction project I would like to discuss is something I am really excited about. I am announcing today that we will spend $45 million on upgrading libraries in my district. 45 million dollars! Some of the facilities we have now just don’t cut it.
Some people may think, “What do we need libraries for? No one reads a printed book anymore.” Well it’s a lot like what I said before about newspapers. Libraries have evolved. Across the county, our libraries are more popular than ever!
In the last three years, libraries in my district alone have seen more than 8 million people pass through their doors. More than 9 million books, videos and other library materials have been checked out. Planning is underway and I expect construction on the facilities to be completed by the time I leave office.
One final note on these infrastructure projects – a big piece of it for me – is the jobs we are able create… both on the short-term side for construction, but also longer-term.
Bucket List: Public/Private Partnerships
LA N Sync
Let’s switch gears for a minute – from spending money to saving money. Robert Half once said that, “People try to live within their income so they can afford to pay taxes to a government that can’t live within its income.” Government must manage its budget just like most people do at home – you don’t spend what you don’t have.
We need to come up with more creative ways to work together across sectors to finance projects. I recently put forth a motion to support LA ‘n Sync, an initiative started by the Annenberg Foundation. The purpose is to join all sectors – government, non-profits and businesses – when we apply for philanthropic, state and federal grants. (David Conforti in the house?)
According to the Annenberg Foundation, in 2010, New York City received $1.3 billion in grants. San Francisco received $669 million. The Los Angeles area as a region received only $372 million. California ranked 43rd nationally in terms of paying out more to the country in taxes than it takes in, receiving $0.73 back for each dollar paid. At the top, New Mexico gets $2.03 for each dollar they pay.
I’m not having that.
But we need to get our ducks in a row! We recently had 6 local agencies competing for the same grant – and not working together. The federal grantor couldn’t make heads or tails of it, so we lost.
We need to bring everyone together, public and private, for the benefit of our economy – be it for transportation, healthcare or social services grants. Los Angeles County deserves its fair share. LA n Sync will give us the opportunity to bring everyone in the region to one table. We can do better than 73 cents on the dollar!
At the end of the day, everything we do in service to the public is driven by jobs and a strong economy. And we need to work together – on the services we deliver, and to support business and economic growth: from the small business owners all the way to companies as large as Boeing.
Social Impact Bonds
Another initiative we are looking at in the County is what is called Social Impact Bonds. They originated in the UK and Mayor Bloomberg started a test program underway in New York City.
Basically how it works is that government pays service providers only if results are achieved … not something new to those of you in the private sector! So we don’t measure just based on number of clients served, but on prevention and outcomes.
The financing model is based on public/private financing and the program risk is not held by taxpayers. Investors assume the risk and can receive a modest return on their investment.
I’d like to try it here in LA County and see if we can find creative ways to fund critical programs, while also improving the services we provide to those most in need.
Bucket List: Safety Net Services
The final area of my Bucket List that I would like to talk to you about is another area where government has a critical role to play and is often invisible.
Protecting the most vulnerable.
Child sex trafficking
Last year, I told you about something I was working on – stopping the selling of young girls on our streets in LA County. In all my years in government, I don’t think there is an issue that is more horrific to me. Girls as young as 10 being bought and sold by pimps right here in our community. Many of these girls are already part of our system – they were abused at home and entered foster care. It is our job to protect them.
Over the last two years, I am proud of what LA County has accomplished. We’ve launched new programs to support the victims and to prevent this crime. When I was in DC, I testified about our efforts at the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
We need the support of our federal and state partners to increase penalties for the pimps and johns. Unfortunately, earlier this year, the state legislature did not move forward with efforts to lengthen sentences because, get this… they didn’t want to add to the overcrowded jail problem we were discussing earlier… thank you realignment!
I’m going back up to Sacramento in January to talk about that…
I want to thank Long Beach Police Chief McDonnell for being so aggressive on this issue and partnering with us. Chief Jerry Powers for your commitment to this issue. Michelle Guymon and Hania Cardenas from our Probation Department, who originally brought this issue to my attention. Our partners at Saving Innocence, who are also here today. And especially Jessica, for having the courage to tell her story. Thank you all for your tireless work on behalf of these young girls.
Of course, every year I am proud to update you on the Safe Surrender program. To date we have saved 112 lives! This year we launched a new outreach campaign. We hadn’t updated the materials in several years. We also wanted to expand our outreach across communities, so we added multiple languages.
We’re collaborating with community-based organizations and relying on a mix of traditional and grassroots awareness efforts. The campaign includes billboards, posters, bumper stickers, brochures and a redesigned website to remind women in desperate situations that there is a better choice: No shame. No blame. No names.
So there is my Bucket List: Infrastructure, Public/Private Partnerships and Safety Net Services. Not quite the same as Jack’s, but I am equally excited about the possibilities that lie ahead. As you can see, we have a lot to accomplish over the next few years!
Each year, we have a tradition of supporting local non-profits through this event. This year, we are supporting US Vets and the Ronald McDonald House.
US Vets is the nation’s largest non-profit provider of services to veterans facing challenges in their transition back to civilian life. US Vets helps those struggling by providing housing, counseling, career development and other support, to help veterans and their families get back on their feet.
I would like to recognize Jim Hansen, the Executive Director of US Vets…
And Ronald McDonald House, which provides low-cost temporary housing for families of seriously ill children who are receiving treatment at Miller Children’s Hospital and other local medical facilities. Would Cheri Bazley from Ronald McDonald House please stand?
Before I close, I want to end with a very special surprise. The Long Beach Chamber is supporting a critical part of my Bucket List – by adding an additional $40,000 to the $10,000 they normally give for local non-profits. They have generously offered to help seed scholarships for Safe Surrender children and the victims of child sex trafficking. $40,000! The children who need us most – those most vulnerable, will be given a chance to focus on the dreams they deserve thanks to the Chamber’s generous support.
So, that’s what I’m focused on.
Let me be clear about what you can expect from me and the County over the next three years.
What you won’t see is bickering, filibustering, refusing to talk or stonewalling by reading Green Eggs and Ham at our meetings – we don’t have time!
What you will see is safe sidewalks, refurbished libraries, new community centers and health clinics. We’ll accomplish it through public/private partnerships and innovative financing.
I believe that we can have different ideology and still work together. Government can do good. That doesn’t mean we need to be big and bloated. But it does mean spending your money wisely, focusing on sound, long-term investments, and making lives better through the services we provide.I love this job and am humbled to work alongside the nearly 100,000 employees of this great County, providing services that make a huge impact to all of you. Sometimes we are invisible, and frankly, that’s OK with me. That means we are doing our job right.
And in the end, we will remain focused on our most important job – helping the most vulnerable in our community, the people who without us would have no voice. I want them to have a chance to live their dreams too.
Because as the great John Wooden once said, ‘You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.”
From my family to all of you, however you celebrate the holidays, may you enjoy a beautiful season of blessings, and a prosperous and healthy New Year.
May God bless you, may God bless our troops, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.
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