The following updates were provided by Riverside County District 1 Supervisor Kevin Jeffries.
Is the Big Pay Raise Proposal Coming Back? You may recall that a proposal was recently presented to the board of supervisors to significantly increase pay for the five countywide elected officials (not the supervisors themselves). Under the original proposal that failed on December 6, the salaries of three elected officials would have increased by nearly 32 percent to $256,814 each, and the salaries of two elected public safety officials would have increased by nearly 13 percent to $308,197. While my position against big pay raises for (any) elected officials hasn’t changed, I’m hearing that this proposal or something similar will make its way back to the board of supervisors for reconsideration. Stay tuned.
Will Closing a State Prison Close a Local City?Most of us have passed through it, and some of us have even stopped in it, but nearly 18,000 live there and they have good reason to be worried. We are talking about the City of Blythe at the far eastern edge of Riverside County along the Colorado River. Blythe has enjoyed the support from two big industries: Agriculture and the employees, families, and support services of the Chuckawalla Valley and Ironwood State Prisons.
The farming/ag industry has been hit hard with water restrictions and water rights being bought up, and now the state has announced they will be closing the Chuckawalla State Prison by March 2026. Though the city is still fighting the closure, the state is already looking at redevelopment options for the prison site, but options are limited for such an isolated location. And replacing the nearly a thousand good state jobs and their spillover impact on the local economy (local stores and businesses that service the prison and their employees) will be an incredible challenge. Let’s hope they find a solution. The last city that went belly up in this county was Cabazon (1955 to 1972).
New County BudgetJust a heads up for those of you who follow such things, the county Executive Office is developing the next county multi-billion-dollar budget for consideration by the board of supervisors (hearings scheduled for June). While your county government has enjoyed significant increases in revenues from property taxes, sales taxes, and big bucks from the one-time federal American Rescue Plan (COVID) dollars, it seems certain that things are cooling off a bit – maybe even a lot (home sales are significantly down).
As I have done over the past ten years, I will keep an eye out for mission creep (departments seeking to expand beyond their mission), making sure essential public safety services are properly funded to protect our communities (but not bloated), monitoring CAL-PERS pension debt (it’s growing), preserving the safety net for the elderly and children who are at risk, making sure our services and infrastructure in unincorporated communities are not left behind the rest of the county, and the never-ending task of pushing, prying, and demanding that our massive 23,000 employee bureaucracy be helpful, respectful, and efficient when serving the public.
Electrons, Cars, and Wildland FiresA representative of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) recently provided a presentation about their 2022 Scoping Plan to achieve “carbon neutrality” across the State of California. A few of the many challenging efforts that the plan calls for is the need to beef up the entire power grid to support electric vehicles, requiring that only electric passenger vehicles be sold in California by 2035 (12 years) and heavy trucks by 2045 (22 years). That latter group will be a really big challenge for the fire service and other large emergency response vehicles.
One of the many other efforts includes wildland vegetation (fuel) reduction efforts to help with controlling our wildland fires and the massive plumes of smoke they generate. Riverside County has dozens of communities that are intertwined with very high fire danger areas and/or local national forests. Many of these communities are already awaiting wildland fuel management projects, and most have state or federal grants lined to help get them done.
So just as we are becoming hopeful that they will actually start the thinning efforts this year or next year (they can take several years to complete), the California State Legislature is now considering a proposal (AB 338) to change all these community projects and turn them into full-blown “Public Works” projects (more studies and delays?) and require them to increase the wages of the private contractors and employees who perform the work and require they be paid at higher “prevailing wages” (or face misdemeanor charges).
Now even if you are a strong supporter of better pay (who isn’t?) you have to acknowledge that if you significantly increase the wages, you also significantly increase the costs. Unfortunately, AB 338 does nothing to help with the funding equation.
The Best of the Best is….?Do you know someone who lives or works in the First District that is an outstanding community volunteer? Someone who gives 110 percent to helping a local cause or need? It could be a food bank volunteer, a community clean-up team member, a volunteer firefighter or reserve police officer, a senior center volunteer, etc, etc.
If you know such a person, please contact us or have someone from their organization contact our office ASAP! On Tuesday, April 18, at 9:30 a.m., the Riverside County Board of Supervisors will recognize a Volunteer of the Year from each of the Five Supervisorial Districts. If you need more details – please email us at [email protected] or call 951-955-1010.
Full Court Press UpdateThis past February, I reported on the ongoing saga of our understaffed local state courts (lack of judges) and the growing number of criminal cases being dismissed (approx. 1700—mostly misdemeanors) because we haven’t been able to schedule trial dates quickly enough.
Our local ratio of judicial officers per 100,000 residents is 3.4, compared to a statewide average of 11.4, which means Riverside County is at least 22 judges short to handle the workload. Local State Senator Richard Roth introduced SB 75 to have the state fund additional judges for our county and others.
SB 75 had an important hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 28 th and it was passed unanimously. With that decision, it now headed to the Appropriations Committee. I did recently have a chance to meet with the presiding superior court judge for riverside county, and I have to say that I was impressed with Judge Clark’s dedication to the job, fixing and/or adjusting schedules, and implementing new practices and procedures to mitigate the situation as much as possible until the state legislature provides the necessary funding to make sure all citizens are afforded fair and equal access to the Judicial Branch. Note: Judges do NOT work for the county and are independently elected or appointed by the governor, so it’s a bit like herding cats.
Trash TalkIn the next month or two, I will cover (previously approved) Senate Bill 1383, which has the potential to cause some notable increases to all of our monthly trash bills in order to meet new recycling mandates from Sacramento. Sneak Peak: The law also requires that your trash can contents be inspected!
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