Roberts looks at childhood health, homelessness, energy in State of County speech

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SAN DIEGO -- Board of Supervisors Chairman Ron Roberts used Thursday night's State of the County speech to recount San Diego County government's successes over the past year and share excitement about future projects.

Roberts called 2015 a pretty good year for county government, with its focus on conservation and building innovation, citing 48 Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified buildings, including the new crime lab facility set to open in 2018.

A second example is the County Administration Center's waterfront park receiving 20 major awards and being visited by over 400,000 people, Roberts said.

On Monday, the county will unveil an artifact display project designed by Jay Johnson that celebrates the center's history, Roberts said.

Roberts showed the audience at the Hall of Champions in Balboa Park a computer-generated video of a future gondola project that will take passengers from the waterfront to Balboa Park.

Fueled by cleaner electricity, each gondola station “can launch by cable car the equivalent of a busload of passengers per minute,'' Roberts said.

Roberts also used the approximately 90-minute speech to praise the new parking garage in Little Italy, which the public also uses and will soon feature a state-of-the-art digital lighting system, something the County Administration Center will also have.

Roberts praised technology for its ability to connect people to services, and cited its San Diego Emergency app which has been installed 176,000 times.

“We don't chase technology for its sake, but rather for smart investments that increase efficiencies, save money and boost public safety,'' Roberts said.

San Diego County has two patient-centered data systems -- one for health care entities, San Diego Health Connect, and the second for social service agencies, Community Information Exchange.

Next up, Roberts said, will be the KIDS Data Project that will allow the county -- in partnership with the Rady Children's Hospital and the University of California San Diego -- to “embark on an integrated child data system with the goal of improving youth health.''

The county government is also working to improve children's health with the first county study of childhood obesity, set to be released this spring, and a proposal on nutritional standards and the “Live Well Advance'' summit.

With heart disease being the second-leading killer in San Diego County, Roberts said county government is working with the American Heart Association to educate people on how to take better care of themselves -- that includes a new phone app, Pulse Point, and stroke education awareness.

Roberts also mentioned how AIDS and HIV remain a major public health threat, affecting 20,000 San Diegans. Along with Supervisor Dave Roberts and city Councilman Todd Gloria, Roberts put together a task force to consider ways to eradicate AIDS and has asked county staff to implement recommendations.

With homelessness continuing to be one of the county's toughest problems, Roberts promoted Project One For All, an initiative that “commits long-term resources to all of the seriously mentally ill homeless,'' who need more than just housing -- and now overuse emergency and law enforcement services, which in turns costs even more taxpayer dollars.

“We have been expanding the use of these partnerships, primarily with the city of San Diego's Housing Commission and know they work,'' Roberts said. “The time is now to make a big change in our homeless (situation).''

Roberts praised the county for its large influx of venture capital, totaling $1.4 billion, with a large chunk going to clean energy technologies.

Roberts said the county is partnering with the San Diego Gas & Electric to install 3,500 electric vehicle chargers in the region, resulting in a 50 percent increase in EV stations operating in California.

Focusing on some advances will help further reduce pollution in the region, Roberts added

Roberts told the audience about the county's advances in regional fire protection.

Four years ago, the county took the lead in an effort to bring battlefield technology into civilian emergency response, Roberts said, and that resulted in the Next Generation Incident Command System becoming a “must-have tool for fire departments up and down the state.''

Roberts credited San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who was in the audience, for his efforts to get a new stadium for the Chargers and referred to a scene in the film “The Revenant'' -- where actor Leonardo DiCaprio nearly dies from a vicious bear attack -- as a metaphor for how hard that task has been.

“It’s possible but it’s so much more difficult than Mission Valley that I was disappointed, to be honest,” Roberts said about the downtown Chargers stadium proposed earlier this week.

But Roberts said he's ready to hear the specifics about the proposal and wants to move forward.

The four other members of the Board of Supervisors were also in attendance, as were county department leaders, former Mayor Jerry Sanders and numerous other officials from various city governments and law enforcement agencies in the county.

Along with praising his fellow supervisors for their work on various issues and economic development, Roberts gave the Chairman's Award to Michael Bruich, director of New Alternatives Inc., which helps children in the foster care system.

Bruich, who received a standing ovation, thanked county officials for a “chance to solve a tiny bit of the problem our kids in the foster system face.''