As we close the door on 2012, we take a moment to reflect on the past year, while looking ahead with anticipation to 2013. At the national level, our country continues to face a sluggish economy, a looming “fiscal cliff,” and difficult times for many who are impacted by a stagnant job market.
Yet here in Los Angeles County, where we serve as the ultimate safety net, we are fortunate not to face many of the financial issues of other municipalities, which are forced to cut services just when they are needed most. Thanks to the County’s ongoing fiscal responsibility, our credit rating was raised from AA- to AA, something virtually unheard of in government. This allows us to meet the needs of our constituents and provide the quality-of-life services that our residents have come to expect.
The year 2012 was a year of new sights and opportunities for residents and visitors to Los Angeles County. From the arrival of the 340-ton boulder known as the LACMA Rock, to the fly-over and transit of the space shuttle Endeavour, to the opening of downtown’s new Grand Park, LA County enjoyed plenty of new and exciting attractions. Here in the fourth district, we opened the new Diamond Bar Library and invested over $4 million in park upgrades and renovations.
New opportunities came to Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center as they received two ReWalk exoskeleton units that allow paralyzed patients to walk unassisted, as well as some new Paramobile chairs which give some patients a first chance to stand up, play golf, or do physical therapy. One of Rancho’s graduate patients inspired hope in all of us, when she competed in the Paralympic games in London this summer. Katy Sullivan, the only runner competing on two carbon-fiber legs, set a new American record in the 100 meter race.
Of course it was not all good news – but we did work hard to address issues facing the most vulnerable in our community. We launched a public awareness campaign to inform residents about a horrific crime happening in our own neighborhoods and communities, the sexual exploitation and trafficking of young girls. We opened a dedicated courtroom to deal specifically with juvenile girls who are arrested on prostitution charges, and trained over 1,600 county staff to better identify victims. We hosted a national conference on Empowerment that was attended by victims – and those who are most at risk of being victimized. Our efforts have helped Los Angeles County become a national leader in the fight to stop child sex trafficking.
Finally, in 2012 we celebrated an incredible milestone: our 100th Safe Surrender. To celebrate the lives saved by this program, we had a candle lighting ceremony at Grand Park with former Safe Surrender babies and their families. Sadly, not more than two weeks after the celebration, we learned that a newborn was found deceased at a local trash facility. This was a heartbreaking and tragic realization that though 101 lives have been saved by the program, we still have much more work to do. We will continue to expand our efforts to spread the word about Safe Surrender as we move into 2013 so that any mother in a desperate situation knows that she has a better option for her baby … and for herself.
As I look ahead to 2013, I remain confident and optimistic about Los Angeles County. We have many challenges ahead, most notably the January 2014 roll-out of the Affordable Care Act. While we face many unknowns with this implementation, we are aggressively planning and preparing to ensure all of our residents receive the healthcare they need.
So a new year begins! I pray that our men and women in the military are kept safe and are returned to us soon. And I wish each of you and your families a safe and joyous new year! See you in 2013!