Putting San Diego County in the context of more than 400 years of local history, County Supervisor Paul Eckert delivered an upbeat "state of the county" speech Wednesday that called on citizens and government to join in the pursuit of "new horizons."
Eckert's 20-minute address, delivered to an overflow audience in the flag-filled supervisors' chambers, was more a recounting of the achievements of the county and its residents than the kind of nuts-and-bolts listing of issues and goals that has become the norm for such speeches.
"We cannot wait for events to overtake us," said Eckert, who this year has the rotating title of chairman of the board. "We must chart new courses and adopt bold new programs to properly shape our destiny. Our sights must clearly be set on new horizons."
Eckert didn't describe his plans in any detail. But in a quick listing of the "new horizons" he envisions for the county, Eckert mentioned such lofty goals as eliminating child abuse and drug abuse, improving the county's roads and highways, and increasing cooperation with the 16 city governments in the county.
Considered the strongest supporter of development interests on the five-member board, Eckert also said he could see a "new horizon of unspoiled agricultural lands, beaches, canyons, lagoons and flood plains."
Eckert is running for a third term on the board, and Herb Williams, his political consultant, said copies of the nine-page speech were mailed to hundreds of supporters and contributors. Eckert delivered the speech from a podium in front of a huge American flag, while dozens of American and state flags, part of an Oceanside man's collection, ringed the room.
Eckert, a Vista resident, has included in his campaign a series of radio spots discussing North County history, and he expanded on the history theme in his speech Wednesday. He spoke of Juan Cabrillo, who in 1542 was the first European to sail into San Diego Bay, and Father Junipero Serra, the Spanish priest who built a string of missions in California, beginning with one in San Diego. He urged San Diegans to emulate the early settlers' "courage, enthusiasm and conviction to meet tomorrow's challenges."
Reaction to Eckert's speech was varied. His longtime supporters, who made up a vast majority of the audience of about 300 people, seemed to see the address as an effective way to set a positive tone for the year ahead. A few critics suggested that Eckert should have offered a more detailed blueprint for the county's future.
"I think it should have dealt more with specifics--the specific problems the county has now, its achievements and its challenges," Supervisor Leon Williams said. One major issue ignored by Eckert, Williams said, was the federal government's effort to balance its budget and that action's effect on the county's efforts to build more courtrooms and jails, improve roads and continue to offer social services.