Supervisor Thomas F. Riley, delivering his State of the County address Tuesday as outgoing board chairman, painted a rosy picture of progress during 1989, touching only briefly on some of the problems that have stymied the board over the past few years.
Drawing a somewhat strained parallel between the past year's historic events in Eastern Europe and Orange County residents' increasing demands for responsive government, Riley said the county "began breaking barriers" in 1989.
"The many changes happening worldwide are similar to the fast-paced changes in Orange County," Riley said. "People are asking for a certain life style, and government is adapting to provide that life style . . . through political change all the way to government commitment to open space, roads and the quality of life."
Riley noted that median family income in the county rose from $28,000 to nearly $50,000 in the decade. But he did not mention that housing prices escalated so rapidly during the same time that only 15% of county households can afford a median-priced, single-family home--now almost a quarter-million dollars.
The 77-year-old retired Marine Corps general--who says he "definitely" will run for reelection this year--also said that the county made progress toward solving transportation problems, pointing to plans for the San Joaquin Hills, Eastern and Foothill tollways, and a network of new arterial roads in the eastern foothills and in coastal areas.
Riley did note that, with the defeat of Measure M, the year "was not without its disappointments." But even in the defeat of the half-cent sales tax measure to finance transportation improvements, Riley found reason to be optimistic.
"I believe that several positive things came out of this effort," he said, citing "citizen involvement" and the plan's appeal to a cross-section of residents.
Riley attributed the delay in completing the John Wayne Airport expansion--originally scheduled for April 1 but now postponed until Sept. 15--to "a few unexpected hitches."
"This is the largest public works project in our county's history," Riley said. "Needless to say, the size and scope of such a project makes completion inherently difficult."
Similarly, Riley devoted only one paragraph of his five-page speech to the county's jail-crowding crisis, praising Supervisor Don R. Roth for proposing the construction of a regional jail in Riverside County.
Roth, who also faces reelection this year, was unanimously elected Tuesday as the new board chairman.