District Supervisor Kathryn Barger hosted her inaugural State of the County address Thursday afternoon, highlighting successes in the fifth district’s economic, environmental, public safety and homelessness efforts.
“One thing that has stayed constant is the relationship between the city and county,” Santa Clarita City Councilman Bob Kellar said as he introduced Barger.
As Barger began her address, she said she felt comfortable because she was among friends. Distinguishing herself from her predecessor and former boss, she said she would not be telling a dirty joke like Michael Antonovich did during his address.
Instead, she decided to focus on the unity of the Santa Clarita Valley with the county.
“When we talk about the city of Santa Clarita and the county of Los Angeles, it’s always been about one valley, one vision,” Barger began. “It’s about our valley, our vision.”
The supervisor said she often gets comments on being the only Republican on the board, but joked that Mark Ridley-Thomas was really the outsider as the only male supervisor.
She discussed what it was like to cast lone “no” votes against four Democrats and said it is her priority to represent community members in the fifth district.
“I promised to put the needs of the constituents above the needs of anything else,” she said.
Supervisor Barger highlighted her proudest accomplishments thus far, starting with budgeting.
“My greatest concern is maintaining a balanced budget and making sure we are the stewards of the budget,” Barger said. “I want to make sure we live within our means and do right to the tax payers.”
In light of the passing of Measure H, the countywide initiative to raise taxes one-fourth of a cent for homeless services, she said she valued the measure’s 10-year sunset and need for a two-thirds majority to pass.
“All money will go toward the homeless, no place else,” she said. “We all agree we need to provide programs and services for those in need.”
Community members, faith groups and nonprofit organizations play a vital role in the implementation of the measure, she said.
Reynauld Hampton, a Bridge to Home client, gave his testimony on a video and expressed the hardships he faced with illness and homelessness.
“Bridge to home set me up financially,” Hampton said. “This is real life. Everybody needs somebody sometimes. There is help. You must seek it.”
After the address, Child and Family Center CEO Joan Aschoff thanked Barger for her support of people who are homeless, have mental illnesses and are foster children.
“Thank you for your advocacy, it’s so necessary,” Aschoff said.
In addition to finding housing solutions, Barger also said the county must look at aiding homeless people who suffer from mental health or drug problems. She discussed the importance of medical emergency teams in helping these people and said the number of teams doubled in January.
Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Captain Robert Lewis spoke in a video as well, emphasizing the need to ensure safety through collaboration between the sheriff’s department, city and county.
“I share Supervisor Barger’s commitment to public safety,” Lewis said. “I look forward to working with her and her staff in the coming years.”
Barger expanded on her desire to ensure public safety, saying there was a problem allowing prisoners to be released early in county jails to make room for prisoners from state jails.
The law categorizes some crimes as “nonviolent felonies,” when in fact some are especially horrible crimes, but they are not rightly identified, she said.
Barger wants to conduct local studies to spark discussion in Sacramento to drive reform.
Moving to the topic of transportation, Barger discussed Measure M and Metro’s plans to further public transit.
Phil Washington, CEO of Los Angeles County Metro, also gave a testimonial and said Metro will contribute to hundreds of thousands of jobs because of Measure M.
Barger said she supported the measure because it was a “bottom-up” approach. As Barger is on the board for Metrolink, she said performance of public transportation is a top priority for her.
The supervisor closed by thanking attendees for their support and encouraged them to reach out to her office.
“There are many challenges and opportunities ahead,” Barger said. “I’m thankful every day that I was elected. I don’t forget where I came from.”
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