The 11th annual State of the County address was delivered in TV talk show fashion Wednesday to hundreds of municipal movers and shakers over a chicken lunch, with Supervisor Kathryn Barger leading key staffers in discussion about pressing county issues, such as homelessness, mental health and congested roadways.
“It has been a busy year,” Barger told the crowd hosted by the SCV Chamber of Commerce inside the Grand Ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Valencia.
“I’ll let you in on a secret,” she said. “In 2020, I am going to run for a second term.”
“Make no mistake, this is a job,” she said. “Government is not here to be your nanny. You have to help us address issues.”
Barger called the county’s 5th District special and “the best,” admitting her bias while pointing out: “You don’t have one-size-fits-all in the 5th District. What’s right for the Antelope Valley may not be what’s right for the Santa Clarita Valley.
“It keeps me on my toes,” she said. “And, it makes me a better public servant.”
As luncheon attendees began their meals, they were treated to a short film of county accomplishments in the SCV this past year — including the ribbon cutting at the opening of the Bella Vida senior center and bulldozers grading ground for the new sheriff’s station.
If there was a theme behind the State of the County Talk Show it could easily have been called, “Santa Clarita Valley: Under Construction.”
Joining Barger on stage was Amy Bodek, director of the Department of Regional Planning, who described the SCV as the site of opportunity.
“I look around the room and I see people from the Northlake Project, FivePoint and the Highlands — all projects I’ve been involved with, and I am surrounded by people providing opportunity.
“These are the opportunities happening here,” she said.
In looking at “constraints,” Bodek cited affordability, noting it as a problem “not just here, but across the county.”
On that note, Barger turned to her other guest on stage, Mark Pestrella, director of the Department of Public Works, and asked: “How do you mitigate these challenges?”
“(County officials) are trying to provide one line of service,” he said.
“With FivePoint now underway, it is such an exciting time,” he said, referring to Newhall Ranch.
“We are rebuilding the valley, in a way,” Pestrella said, referring to management of the SCV’S natural resources.
On the issue of transportation, Barger shared details of her own Thanksgiving Nightmare, alluding to severe highway congestion on Interstate 5 on Thanksgiving weekend, saying: “When I received Thanksgiving emails saying, ‘It took me two hours to go one mile,’ it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.”
She described tackling the problem of highway congestion as a long-term commitment involving the work by a task force assembled to include the SCV Sheriff’s Station, the California Highway Patrol, the Los Angeles County Fire Department and the Department of Public Works.
Barger also asked Dr. Jonathan Sherin, director of the Department of Mental Health, to talk about homelessness.
“When it comes to individuals who are homeless, we all know that every day this is a massive issue,” he said.
“All the hospital systems are not connected,” Sherin said, despite the availability of hospital resources.
On addressing mental health, Sherin cited the success of Mental Evaluation Teams, which now accompany sheriff’s deputies to calls requiring insight into mental health issues.
“Overall, we have 87 MET teams in 39 of our cities,” Barger said. “We diverted 3,000 individuals (from incarceration) last year.”
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