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Supervisors: Tirado next chairman?

January 05, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

There is little doubt the next chairman of the county Board of Supervisors will be District 1 Supervisor Tony Tirado.

The typical rotation calls for the vice chairman to become the next chairman, but the board passed over Tirado to become the vice chairman last year. Three of those who voted to do so, including vice chairman Dean Shores, are not returning to the board, either because they retired from the board or were defeated in the November election.

Had Tirado been elected to be vice chairman he would be next in line to the chairmanship.

Despite Tirado's apprehension that he might not actually be elected to the largely ceremonial position on Monday, he was interviewed to find out what he thinks the state of the county is and what his chairmanship might hold for the county during the next year.

"History has made it very clear that this county is in stagnation, with the highest unemployment and lowest median income in the state. It is still that way," he said. "The Board of Supervisors has to take the leadership to redirect the county."

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Tirado said the key to success, meaning large amounts of economic development that can offer decent-paying jobs with adequate benefits, is "regionalism." Regionalism includes the county, the seven incorporated cities and the private sector.

Despite his call for greater economic diversification, Tirado acknowledges the county's roots are in agriculture.

"We should continue to be supportive of that," he said, adding the county should also remain firmly in support of the under-construction beef-processing plant in Brawley, a planned expansion of the Gossner cheese factory, the continued push to get dairies to locate in the Imperial Valley and continued support of development of a sugar cane variety that will not require the burning of the plant after harvest.

Tirado's diversification and regionalism ideas include taking advantage of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the county's proximity to Mexicali.

"If we don't regionalize, we remain where we've always been; stuck where we are," he said.

Two examples of good regionalism, Tirado said, include the two state prisons. He said the prisons hire people from throughout the Valley, and those employees then spend their money in their respective communities. Tirado said the county can learn from that.

To implement his plan of regionalism, Tirado said the Valley as a whole must be promoted by the county's Overall Economic Development Commission.

Under Tirado's plan, regionalism does not preclude cities from pursuing their own development plans

Tirado was asked to comment on the role education plays in helping the county develop economically.

He said he frequently asks local educational leaders why the workforce is not better trained. He said part of the problem includes a lack of adequate state funding for Imperial Valley College and San Diego State University-Imperial Valley campus.

He does favor a recent proposal by a Virginia-based computer technology company to locate here and train its own workforce.

With the defeat of District 2 Supervisor Bill Cole, Tirado was asked what role the Board of Supervisors should play, if any, in the arena of water. Cole was heavily involved in water matters.

"We are the umbrella organization for the whole area," he said, adding the Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors is the lead agency tasked with defending the area's water rights. "There has to be some input."

Tirado, however, said he is opposed to the IID/San Diego County Water Authority water transfer, fearing there will be insufficient water left for local economic expansion, particularly in light of other transfers to the Coachella Valley Water District and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

In light of the county's limited population and concomitant political influence, Tirado said he understands the need for a movement of water out of the county, though he fears the detrimental effects if water is conserved through fallowing. Additionally, he said it's likely water transferred to San Diego will be sold to the city of Tijuana.

Tirado was asked if he thinks it's time for the county to back out of its agreement to oversee the Gateway of the Americas project.

He said the county should stay the course and he expects the project to move forward now that infrastructure is again being built. Further, he said there is still hope the county will be on the receiving end of a $900,000 grant that would help with infrastructure.

Despite those comments, Tirado said he still has frustration regarding the project, and that he once actively opposed county involvement.

Tirado's first goal is to ensure the three incoming board members understand how the board works and understand the new role of the county executive officer position.

His second goal is to implement regionalism.

"Let's just hope we will be successful in our endeavors," he said. "People put us here and we serve the people."

Immediate changes slated for the coming year include moving the chairman's office next door to the county executive officer, and a shift in the seating arrangement in the board's meeting chambers to place the chairman adjacent to the CEO.

Tirado, 67, is a member of the Border Trade Alliance and a former Calexico city councilman.

The new board members are slated to be sworn in at 8 a.m. Monday, with reorganization — Tirado's election to chairman — taking place at 6 p.m., in the County Administration Center, 940 Main St., El Centro.

Staff writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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