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Riverside County supervisor updates community on firefighter paramedic shortage and other county news

Riverside County First District Supervisor Kevin Jeffries. Photo by Canyon Lake Insider.

The following updates were provided by Riverside County First District Supervisor Kevin Jeffries. 

Who You Gonna Call?
You may recall that back in January I wrote about our significant firefighter paramedic shortage. Unfortunately, it continues to be a problem. Roughly eight fire stations each day are downgraded to non-paramedic status. Our long-time partner and state contractor, Cal Fire (formerly known as CDF), has over 100 unfilled paramedic firefighter positions in our county.

CAL FIRE provides contract fire/EMS services to not only our unincorporated county fire stations but also to a majority of the cities in this county (the city of  Riverside is not one of them). It’s a significant problem, and it appears that the state “Mother Ship” of CAL FIRE is struggling with solutions—like doing what most cities do: hire newly certified paramedics and then train them to be firefighters (instead of the other way around).

Fairly soon, the county will be forced to implement its own solutions, including the possibility of using county employees on medic squads. And speaking of the fire department, just a reminder—while everything is green now, all that new growth will soon turn brown, and fire season is just around the corner. Help our firefighters help you and get those weeds mowed down as soon as possible.

Greased Lightning
A critically needed mixed-use behavioral health care campus for Riverside County is quickly moving through the county approval process in order to position our county for receipt of large-scale state grants.

The Mead Valley Wellness Village will be built on roughly 20 acres of land and host a 100,000-square-foot community wellness building for mental health and substance use disorders, a 40,000-square-foot children and youth services building, a 50,000-square-foot specialized behavioral health urgent care services building, a 200,000-square-foot building for supportive transitional housing (nearly 300 beds), and a 67,000-square-foot building for extended residential care. The campus is also proposed to host a library, animal kennel, laundry facility, and an on-site market and coffee shop.

In my nearly 12 years on the board of supervisors, I’ve never seen the county bureaucracy move so smoothly and efficiently in getting our ducks in a row. It’s a great example of what can be done!

The Opposite of Greased Lightning is?
The opposite of greased lightning is big bureaucracies, both public and private sectors. I have mentioned in past articles about our growing irritation over a private public utility provider and their inability or unwillingness to install regular run-of-the-mill streetlights on a two-lane county road that has a high history of fatal accidents. Reportedly, it’s just a “low priority” for the utility provider. After nearly three years of waiting, I have given some thought to naming the next serious or fatal accident location in these areas after the board chairman of the utility. I probably won’t do that, but I should.

Another extended delay is occurring in our own county house, and that is getting sidewalks constructed. We are going on two years or more with our own county efforts to construct sidewalks near schools, libraries, and community centers. Now anyone reading this would rightly say… well, aren’t you in charge of the department that has been asked (and funded) to get the job done? I would sheepishly answer, ‘Well, yes, sort of.’ The real answer is it takes three. It takes three of five supervisors to tell the county CEO that something big must get done, that someone must get fired, or that someone needs a fire lit under them, or to say in a united voice that the bureaucracy is out of control and it needs to be reformed.

After much damage being done over several years, some big changes finally occurred and new leadership is now in place for the sidewalk projects. Unfortunately, I find in other areas that several struggling (or retired-on-the-job) manager types have had protective bubble wrap placed around them by their superiors in order to protect them from being evaluated and/or properly motivated to engage and do their job.

Now, to be fair, no employee should live in fear. Fear is not an ideal motivator. But there must be consequences for not performing. A big part of the day-to-day work in our office is helping our roughly 500,000 First District citizens navigate the bureaucratic maze when seeking help with accessing county or social services, obtaining county licenses or permits, filing or seeking county documents, property tax dispute assistance, flooding issues, county land use questions (the list goes on). Our office is not very well-liked by the under-performers, but we work for our residents, not them.

A Job Well Done
A job well done goes to the Registrar of Voters. Now, before some of you write me to tell me of a problem you encountered on election day, just know that my wife used to volunteer every election for the ROV so I am well aware of the logistical nightmare of planning and setting up election centers across our massive county. But while it is never fast enough for candidates in a tight race (I’ve been there!), we have actually been one of the leaders in the state when it comes to the speed and efficiency in which we have been counting and reporting our ballots, with many counties much smaller than ours having more ballots left to count than Riverside has—particularly as a percentage of votes cast.

Obviously, quickness isn’t as important as accuracy, but there isn’t any reason to believe ours are inaccurate. We do an automatic hand count audit of 1% of the ballots cast, and anyone who believes a race has been decided incorrectly is welcome to request a full recount of as many precincts as they wish (at their expense). 

Some of You Have a New Supervisor
In the March election, voters of the new Third District elected/re-elected Supervisor Chuck Washington to represent them.  As a result, overlapping areas that used to be in the First District will now be represented by Supervisor Washington. These areas include DeLuz, La Cresta, Tenaja, and the City of Wildomar. Supervisor Washington’s office can be reached at 951-955-1030 or [email protected].

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