On Thursday, October 15, 2015, I attended the 2015 Legislative Summit at the South Coast Winery in Temecula. The event was organized by the Temecula Chamber of Commerce. The speakers were Senator Mike Morrell, Supervisor Kevin Jeffries, Diane Harkey from the State Board of Equalization, Michael Hestrin the Riverside County District Attorney and Anne Mayer from the Riverside County Transportation Commission.
The panel of speakers discussed the water crises in California, the rising crime in Riverside County, the rising costs of unions, challenges in Sacramento and our infrastructure in Riverside County. All with an eye toward business.
When discussing the water shortage in California, Senator Moren, 23rd District, mentioned that California was experiencing a drought and flood crises. He discussed that bonds have done very little to alleviate the water crises. He urged members of the audience to look at the fine print when bills are passed in California. The Senator had a breakdown of the users of water in California: 50% environmentalists, 40% farmers and 10% consumers. He proposed a solution of capturing water for the water shortage.
Rising crime in Riverside County was discussed by District Attorney Michael Hestrin. He discussed the increase in crime throughout Riverside and the challenges faced by law enforcement especially in light of realignment and proposition 47. He said that realignment and the proposition “took the teeth out of Criminal Justice.” He gave examples in which repeat offenders of certain crimes would receive two year sentences but instead were released in ten to fourteen days now. Michal also spoke about how in prop 47 the same offense gets the same punishment no matter how many times committed. That punishment did not align with the offenses. His thesis is that rising crime can kill business.
The rising costs of unions were also discussed at the summit. Supervisor Kevin Jeffries, 1st District, spoke about salary increases and retirement packages for local law enforcement and firefighter unions. He stated that 65% of budget is dedicated to public safety. The Supervisor said all of the unions contracts will come up in 2015 and if this continues it will be a tough time for several years. The board of supervisors will have to negotiate the new agreements and said there needs to be a shifting and for people to come together.
Also, there was a discussion of challenges in Sacramento. Diane Harkey, from the State Board of Equalization spoke about the challenges posed in Sacramento when trying to identify issues that are important in Riverside County. She said Sacramento is focusing on urbanized setting and not suburban communities. This mindset hurts commuters and not those living in urban areas. Her point was that people are not able to bike to work or take a train. Also, Ann Meyer from the Riverside County Transportation Commission spoke about the emphasis of Sacramento to favor the coastal communities. The focus being on Sacramento, San Francisco and Los Angeles and not the inland community. Her point was that the highly urbanized settings are getting all the new money from Sacramento and not the inland communities. Ann Meyer urges support from business leaders as well as policy leaders to get stuff done.
Lastly, there is the issue of infrastructure. Supervisor Jeffries mentioned the advantages of the Inland Empire, that there is land to build, better prices and opportunities to grow. His point was that the government does not create jobs, but the private sector does. The government’s job is to get out of the way. District Attorney Hestrin discussed the 18 new prosecutors that are now in the office in the wake of the massive cuts from before. He was especially proud of the new investigators hired by the county that are now focused on organized crime. Ann Meyer mentioned the 91 freeway expansion and also the 15 freeway. She mentioned the need to work with San Diego about freeway costs but warned that it would cost billions and it would be decades before anything can happen.