In Break with the Past, San Diego County Board of Supervisors Cancel Evening Budget Hearings

by on February 15, 2018 · 1 comment

in San Diego

Credit: SEIU’s Invest in San Diego Families Site

In recent years the County Board of Supervisors has held evening budget hearings, providing an opportunity for ordinary citizens with regular jobs to observe the process and give testimony.

Hundreds of people attended these evening sessions, sharing their views and aspirations. Many of the Supervisors commented on how important it was to hear from more San Diegans about budget priorities.

This year, things will be different. The Supes (except Greg Cox) don’t care.

People will have to take time off from work if they have an interest in local government this year. With most of the Board of Supervisors leaving office in the next couple of years due to term limits, they’ve decided daytime hearings are all the people need.

Supervisor Bill Horn’s recent statement that he was no longer willing to sit through evening hearings on the $5.79 billion County budget and the willingness of three other board members to go along with him says it all.

As reported by the Union-Tribune: “If you’re a concerned citizen … you could make the time to come down here to testify,” Supervisor Bill Horn said at a recent board meeting. “I’m willing to sit here for two days. … I don’t want to sit here at night.”

“For the past two years the Board of Supervisors has honored the community’s desire for an evening budget hearing,” said Kyra Green, executive director of the Center on Policy Initiatives, a San Diego think tank with ties to local labor unions.

“Public participation has been growing, with more than 1,000 people attending last year,” she said. “In light of that turnout, the board’s decision not to hold an evening budget hearing is a horrible blow to transparency and a terrible beginning to Kristin Gaspar’s leadership on the board.”

Gaspar, who chairs the board, just announced she was running for Congress. She issued a statement criticizing the Service Employees International Union, which represents county employees, for advocating for a night meeting.

Only County Supervisor Greg Cox, who made the motion for night time hearings, thought it was a good idea.

The SEIU is urging people to sign a petition “to tell Chairwoman Kristen Gaspar and the Board of Supervisors we won’t let you shut us out…again; San Diegans want an evening budget hearing.”

***

Two of the five seats on the Board of Supervisors will see new faces next year.

Bill Horn via SDRostra

District 2 Supervisor Bill Horn is termed out, and the contest to replace him is between San Marcos Mayor Jim Desmond and Oceanside Councilman Jerry Kern, both Republicans.

While Democrat Esther Sanchez, who serves on the Oceanside City Council, will appear on the ballot, she has raised almost no money.

UPDATE: I heard from a reliable source today that Esther Sanchez has dropped out of the race for Supervisor, citing the recent illness and death of a family member.

Desmond has the support of a boatload of local establishment types, including former District Attorney (and Supervisor Candidate in District 4) Bonnie Dumanis, Sheriff Bill Gore, Supervisors Greg Cox and Dianne Jacob and Ron Roberts. Kern has a history of cultivating a political relationship with developers.

The district in question includes northern San Diego County including Oceanside, Carlsbad, Vista, and San Marcos, along with parts of the rural eastern backcountry. The district includes northern San Diego County including Oceanside, Carlsbad, Vista and San Marcos, as well as well as stretches of the rural eastern backcountry. Republicans hold an eight-point advantage in registered voters.

The other seat on the Board of Supervisors up for grabs is held by termed-out Ron Roberts. District 4 includes much of the City of San Diego. Democrats hold a nearly two to one advantage in voter registration.

The Republican candidate, former District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, has successfully blurred the public perception of her partisan outlook in the past. Democrats Nathan Fletcher, Ken Malbrough, Omar Passons, and Lori Saldaña are hoping to get past the June primary to force a November showdown.

I suspect all the candidates in the District 4 contest will say they are in favor of evening hearings.

Nathan Fletcher took to social media yesterday to call out the no-evening meeting decision as bs. His campaign issued a more measured statement:

Bill Horn and the Board of Supervisors ought to be ashamed. After ignoring the public outcry and voting themselves a 19% pay raise, they now turn around and vote to shut the public out of County Government even further by abolishing the one and only evening public hearing on the budget. Unbelievably, Supervisor Bill Horn said, ‘I don’t want to sit here at night.’ This is yet another example of how the Republican status quo at County Government isn’t delivering for San Diego and why change is desperately needed on the Board of Supervisors.”

***

The county’s role as the administrator of most state and federal funding allocated for programs impacting people makes public oversight important. Social welfare, administration of the court system, public safety, land use, restaurant health inspection, agriculture, conservation, and recreational programs are all under the county’s purview.

The Board of Supervisors is set to adopt yet another Climate Action Plan (CAP) destined to be bounced by the courts as too little, too late.

Wildfire over Camp Pendleton Credit: DVIDSHUB / Flickr

Jana Clark, secretary of the Cleveland National Forest Foundation Board of Directors (which has been a plaintiff in previous lawsuits) contributed an op-ed to Voice of San Diego pointing out the latest version’s shortcomings:

San Diego County’s head-in-the-sand mentality was made clear when Supervisor Ron Roberts recently criticized the way state agencies measure car travel — using a metric known as vehicle miles traveled, or VMT — as “a political metric.” This runs counter to state policies. It’s only by measuring VMT that local governments can evaluate how well they are doing in their efforts to reduce regional air pollution.

Mark Wardlaw, San Diego County’s Planning Director, argued at the January 18 Planning Commission meeting that land use is not part of CAP. But state law closely ties land use planning to climate change, recognizing that encouraging transit-friendly development leads to fewer people driving to work and more people biking, walking and taking transit for their commutes.

The CAP that will go before the Board of Supervisors at its Wednesday’s meeting is rooted in fantasy. San Diego County’s plan makes no attempt to curb sprawl development. Instead, the county’s CAP relies on a laundry list of small-scale solutions that depend on individual action instead of regional policy over which the county has actual control.

In addition to the notion that land use is somehow disconnected to climate impacts, much of what the county proposes depends on cap and trade offset credits by developers for 70% of its emissions reduction efforts. Industrial polluters in California are limited to no more than 8% of emissions reduction goals in the cap-and-trade program, yet the County of San Diego somehow thinks their plan will pass muster.

As Ry Rivard observed in another Voice of San Diego article, the consequences of falling short on a CAP will impact people throughout the region:

Some of the most beautiful and valuable coastline in the world will flood repeatedly before its permanently buried underwater. Suburban homes will be threatened by ever-more frequent fire. Water the region cannot live without may no longer be available.

In the face of those concerns, environmentalists are worried the county’s plan is not serious enough. Environmental groups have many objections, most prominently that the county’s plan makes it too easy for developers to build sprawling developments in the backcountry.

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The most important votes for most San Diego residents in 2018 be for County offices. And most of them will be decided in the June 5 primary. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again.

In 2010, by a more than a two to one margin voters approved Measure B, limiting members of the San Diego Board of Supervisors to serving two four-year terms.

This began the long-overdue process for changing the unrepresentative nature of County government, which has been dominated –if not exclusively run– by white male San Diego State graduates for most of the last three decades.

Please, please, please! Take the time out to learn about these contests. If you want to see some actual change, June 5 offers a unique opportunity. All you have to do is vote.

Following are links to some of the articles I’ve written on the county elections:

Overview: These County Elections Are The Ones to Watch in 2018
County Assessor: County Elections Matter: Matt Strabone’s Campaign for Assessor/Recorder/Clerk
County Sheriff: Help Wanted: A 21st Century San Diego County Sheriff
County District Attorney: District Attorney Candidate Geneviéve Jones-Wright Runs on a Reform Agenda for San Diego
and
County DA Candidate Summer Stephan’s Paranoia About George Soros
Lori Saldaña: Lori Saldaña, Candidate for District 4 County Supervisor: The Truth Will Set You Free
Omar Passons: Omar Passons, Candidate for District 4 County Supervisor: Policy Wonk With a Heart of Gold
Nathan Fletcher: Nathan Fletcher, Candidate for District 4 County Supervisor: Build a Coalition for Change
Bonnie Dumanis: Republican Bonnie Dumanis and Her Churlish Crew Are Already in Attack Mode
Campaign Funding: Show Us the Money, Part 1: City & County Campaigns

From San Diego Free Press

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Avatar Michael February 15, 2018 at 2:14 pm

This is how the politicians run the people in this state. The street sweepers are just there to write you tickets, the police line doesn’t take crime reports and they claim crime is down. Cut back on evening sessions and claim people don’t come to meetings. Guess what? I have to take my personal time to calculate all my California taxes, maybe they should spend some of their evening time listening to their constituents.

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