By: O.C. Supervisor Pat Bates
South County is blessed with a remarkable landscape, rich in manmade wonders and natural resources. With our majestic mountains, idyllic wilderness areas, picturesque parks, serene coastal hills & canyons, beautiful beaches, legendary historical sites, and charming communities, the Fifth District provides a quality of life that is truly unsurpassed. For the last eight years, I have been truly honored to serve the residents and businesses of the Fabulous Fifth District.
Over the last several weeks, I have spent time reflecting on the promises I made to the Fifth District residents during my campaign for Supervisor, which began two years before the 2006 election. My philosophy about public service has always been simple – listen to the people you represent and don’t be afraid to take a stand. I have worked hard to preserve and protect the quality of life we enjoy as residents of this great county, and accomplishing the goals I set forth in my very first and difficult campaign for Supervisor. These reflected the priorities that you, as Fifth District constituents, shared with me as I walked precincts, worked phone banks, and participated in the many candidate forums. These priorities fell into 3 areas: Finances; Government Transparency and Accountability; and Transportation.
One of the highest priorities for the Fifth District in 2006 and continuing today is traffic congestion relief. With the passage of Measure M2, the half-cent sales tax extension in 2006, Orange County as a whole will receive approximately $15.5 billion over the next 30 years. Measure M2 provides funding for major transportation projects and also allocates funding towards environmental mitigation programs, a committee which I chaired for the last eight years. I am also proud to say that improvements to South County roads and freeways are high on the Measure M2 project priority list. In addition to widening Interstate 5 from San Juan Capistrano to San Clemente, expanding traffic light signal synchronization on our arterials, and interchange improvements from El Toro to San Clemente. We also broke ground on the long awaited La Pata Avenue Gap Closure Project, an incredible dedicated team of professional engineers and construction managers of which I was proud to be a part of.
Financially, our future is bright the County’s bankruptcy pay off will be completed in the next several years and will provide millions more in funding to the County’s General Fund available for services such a public safety and capital projects. During my time on the Board, we endured tough economic times and made the decision as leaders to take pay cuts and introduced pension reform to alleviate the impacts of the recession to the County and continued self-funded capital improvement projects such as the airport.
Beginning in 2013, the Fifth District became the focus for job creation and an uptick in our economy, which was great news for our county. Due to a rebound in construction and housing industry, the cornerstone of our local economy, the Ranch Plan opened in June 2013. The Ranch’s Planning Area 1 has sold out and construction in Planning Area 2 is currently underway.
Throughout my tenure on the Board of Supervisors, we have initiated a number of reforms to ensure Government Accountability and Transparency. These reforms include establishing an Office of Independent Review that provides full time civilian oversight of critical incidents and allegations of officer misconduct being investigated by the Sheriff Internal Affairs Department. We also established a Police Community Reconciliation Program that provides individuals an opportunity to seek resolution of a grievance regarding perceived abusive, disrespectful treatment by a police/sheriff officer through direct contact with the Sheriff’s Department and the officer involved. Additionally, the Board established the Performance Audit Department which is tasked with reviewing all departments to ensure County policies and procedures are being followed. Our work to date has reaped significant financial benefits and improved work place code of conduct.
I have been fortunate to serve the residents of South County in one capacity or another. I learned as one of the early leaders in our successful effort to stop the El Toro airport that dedicated people, working together, can overcome great odds and make a lasting difference for their communities.
I believe the oath taken by elected officials is not merely a set of words, it is a solemn obligation to adhere to the constitution, uphold the rule of law, and defend the principles of our republic. It is an oath I have taken many times, and one I am preparing to take again as your Senator in the 36th District. Working to ensure that our government at the local, state and national level is a government that is “of, by, and for the people,” is always my first priority.
If you would like to continue to receive my updates during my time in the Senate please visit senate.ca.gov beginning December 1st.
Last, I would also like to thank my family, colleagues, and staff and wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as your Supervisor for Orange County’s beautiful Fifth District. I thank you so much for your support and look forward to continuing to be a strong voice for South County in Sacramento.