Ron Roberts, Chairman of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. He represent district 4.
Related Story: SD Supervisor Ron Roberts Previews State Of The County
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The state of the county will be assessed this week in a speech by Ken Nicholson County supervisor Ron Roberts. This is KPBS Midday Edition. The annual address will range from new building programs to the challenges of present realignment. Ron Roberts will join us to give us a preview. Many San Diego students will hear the us has order for us to Long Island community to reevaluate attitudes toward immigrants and ethnic minorities. We will hear about the national average against hate g per by the incident and told by the KPBS documentary not in our town and then a preview of the 22nd annual Jewish film Festival. I am Maureen Cavanaugh KPBS Midday Edition Is Next. First the News. Chairman of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors Ron Roberts is here to give us a preview of the state of the County address. And a national outreach against hate crimes comes to San Diego. This is KPBS Midday Edition. I am Maureen Cavanaugh. It's Monday, February 6. These are the San Diego stories we are following the key PBS newsroom. Southern California Edison officials automate making productions about what repairs will be completed at 703. A nuclear reactor was taken off-line last week after a leak was detected in a tube that carries radioactive water. At present there are no reactors producing power at the plate. Peter IMC world are facing off in a San Diego courtroom. Attorneys for the people for the ethical treatment of animals are setting the theme park saying see world is using killer whales as slaves and violating their rights. See world says the suit is a baseless publicity stunt. And a soccer playing robot is in San Diego today as part of a demonstration being held this afternoon to promote the upcoming regional robotics competition. Lesson four the latest news throughout the day here on K PBS. Our top story at Midday Edition California leaders have used their annual addresses this year to outline bold ideas for the future. Gov. Brown focused on high-speed rail. Mayor Jerry Sanders on downtown building projects and this week we'll hear the state of the County address that also includes plans for downtown development and infrastructure improvement. But will the challenges facing our County also be addressed? Joining me now is the man who delivered the state of the County address chairman of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors Ron Roberts. And welcome
RON ROBERTS: Well good afternoon, Maureen.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We invite our listeners to join the discussion if you have a question or comment for chairman Ron Roberts give us a call at 888-895-5727. Chairman Roberts, list started with the building claims that you'll be talking about concerning the area around the County administration building in downtown San Diego.
RON ROBERTS: Well that's one of the most exciting things that's going on but it's actually just a small part of the overall building program. But for over a decade now I've been pursuing this idea of taking out the parking lot that surrounds the County administration building and replacing them with something that everybody in San Diego could enjoy. A regional Park. We took down, it was a health building, the SQ building just a couple months ago in preparation for the construction of this park. We will see it break ground this year. The bids are in. We will be awarding a contract shortly. But ground will be broken later in the year and probably late summer of 2013 there will be a magnificent waterfront park replacing what now is about 1100 parking spaces.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You know there is a lot of big projects planned, a lot of discussion about downtown San Diego construction. Now that redevelopment agencies are gone do you think San Diego County will be playing a bigger financial role in any of these major construction projects?
RON ROBERTS: Well a lot of the construction that is affected by redevelopment and I think it was a bad decision on the states part are really private ventures where the public can come in and maybe help with infrastructure, help to make it a developable project that might otherwise never see the light of day. That's what's really driven the development of downtown San Diego. I don't think we are going to see that, the resources available for any city or county to get in and make up for that differential and what we are going to see a slower pace of development in the future. And it's not just going to be about downtown. It's going to be about all the other areas all over the county that are redevelopment zones.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So the county doesn't see it taking on any larger bird in the burden the development of these projects
RON ROBERTS: Well there is nothing come straight to do it. What you're really doing is saying look we are going to take tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars and shift those away from local government primarily the cities. While the County has a couple of redevelopment agencies there in rural areas they are not terribly significant in a financial sense. So the major losses going to be to the cities for that important development tool. No I don't see the counties I don't see any county in a position to be able to do that.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What about I just want to ask you the proposed Chargers stadium downtown to you, does the county do you support that idea.
RON ROBERTS: Well I would very much like to see a new stadium. I would like to see a stadium that is used by more than the Chargers but the site that we are considering downtown is a good one. I think the reason plan that was put out in my you to use. Visionary is very visionary. I like the incorporation of the public space around it so I'm not going to argue about where we doing I would like to see us get it done and I've been meeting with Mayor Sanders along with supervisor Dianne Jacob for some time and we are looking at financial options as to how we can do this and recognize that the voters will have the ultimate say.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Moving from downtown San Diego to the County's new general plan. The County is in the process of finalizing a plan. It has some backcountry residents upset about restrictions on the use of their land. What is your attitude toward growth in San Diego's backcountry?
RON ROBERTS: Well I think there's an even bigger question is you know where are we going as a community? And what we had, we had a historic plan that kind of spread density out all over. It didn't give a lot of consideration to what the cost of building the infrastructure to serve that remote density might be. What we just finished was a process decades in the making and a lot of time a lot of money, a lot of effort. What we've developed is a new vision of the future where we are basically concentrating where the houses will be. We are concentrating them in areas where we can better serve whether we are talking about water, whether we are talking about sewer service, whether we are talking about roads so that we minimize the cost but we also minimize the environmental effects. We won't San Diego to be a healthy place. We wanted to grow in a rational way and the plan was outdated. It didn't meet state guidelines and in order to do that we had to really take properties that have a lot of what I will call theoretical zoning on them. They might've been an environmentally sensitive areas, they might have had extremely steep slopes they could have had a lot of issues that they would have never realistically been able to use the densities that was there by an obsolete plan. What we've done is we've tried to concentrated more, try to make it more effective and we've tried to let it support the kind of County that we want to be in the future.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: A lot of smaller communities are wondering what role their local planning group is going to be playing for the development of the backcountry of San Diego because the red tape task force that you support aimed at decreasing hurdles for development in areas that you deem should be developed. Is also think that there may be some legal liability for those local planning groups to get too involved in that. What do you say to the local planning groups who say you know we know our area better than perhaps somebody also might come in and tell us what to do with our land.
RON ROBERTS: First of all I think there's a lot of misconceptions in terms of what's going on. I don't think we're going to see planning groups go away but I think we will see the role of them to find four more carefully than it has been. Not all planning groups operated the same way. Some have operated perhaps even outside of the line terms of the way they've done things and conducted their business. What we really want to see is a system in which the planning groups will have a role in making recommendations but those recommendations, it should say 10 or 15 years to decide an issue and it should be about what somebody's personal concerns are. It should be focused on the issue of planning. What we really want is a system that works a lot more effectively and it doesn't necessarily mean that things are going to be approved. It means that we will get to the position of either yes or no without spending millions and millions of dollars so that we can see that irrespective of who it is we treat the ideas as a planning concern and look at the pros and the cons as a planning issue and move forward. We can reject things quickly or we can improve things, but it should all be done in a far more timely way and that's why it's called red tape. We have absolutely burden the system with tens of millions of dollars of wasted effort.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: In your speech, the state of the County address that you're going to be delivering on Wednesday night I know that one subject features prominently in that is about prison realignment. And of course that means the low-level nonviolent prisoners are now staying in county jails instead of being sent to state prison the way they would have formerly. San Diego has been praised for its handling of this transition, but what challenges do you see ahead?
RON ROBERTS: I think first of all the challenges are we live in a dysfunctional state. State government is very broken and they are not addressing the issues and how do we reform state government. This is a great example. Along with the redevelopment changes because in this instance they are saying, look we're going to redefine what felonies are and we're going to send all those folks that are in state prison, we are transferring them to locals jails so they are saying here is the burden, you take care of it. The governor said that maybe there will be funding, maybe there won't be, so something that the state has historically funded they are going to put on the local systems. Well, in many areas they don't even have the capacity. San Diego is in far better shape than a lot of other counties, but still what you are seeing is really a transfer of responsibility without the commensurate check that you should go with it to cover the cost. We can do it less expensive than the state. So to some extent this is a good idea. The state could save money and we don't have a problem with that, but they ought to be fully reimbursing each county for picking up the cost that even along with the savings that they are getting for supporting their own system and the things that they were responsible for traditionally. We are all, you know all of us are seeing a decrease in property tax and sales tax and all these things and it's only at the state level we say okay we don't know how to solve our problems so you know what we will just transfer them down. It's not good for the local community. Yes we will be building additional prison facilities, Jill facilities, no question about that. If the state would just reimburse us our cost which would save them money. I think that we are talking about maybe as much as $10,000 per person or per year that we could save them. The idea is fundamentally sound it's just the way that they go about it.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I believe that in the new tax initiative that's been proposed by Gov. Brown there are guarantees for funding to the counties for prison realignment. So taking that into consideration, will the County be supporting the Gov.'s tax initiative?
RON ROBERTS: I don't want to speak for the Board of Supervisors on that because we haven't discussed it at all. I think that there are concerns, you know I think going forward with increasing the taxes in the way the governor's proposing. In fairness, my own feeling is that some of the things that the governor's proposed, look, we need to reform, one of the reasons we got into this, we were too dependent on some barely focus Texas. You hear about tax the 1%, that's part of the reason why we're in this is because the 1% has lost a lot of their earnings and when they are disproportionately paying taxes it means we feel the declines to a far greater extent. So I think part of what the governor is saying we need some broad-based taxing here I think there is may be some merit to this. You know I'm not personally I would not, because I think it was at a point in time that we are probably going to have to see some increase in some way shape or form I want to take a position yet on the whole thing and I'm certainly not going to speak for the Board of Supervisors, Maureen. Maybe standing by myself
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: On the city organization of governments transportation recently the new SANDAG regional transportation plan took a big hit because the Atty. Gen. is taking a position supporting a lawsuit against the plan but it doesn't address air pollution and climate concerns. Does that surprise you?
RON ROBERTS: First of all I would characterize this as a big hit. The Atty. Gen. Is being. Political and is wrong on this issue. San Diego became the first region in the state to have a sustainable community plan approved. That plan needs every single one of the goals scares me, SB 375. Okay this is a state act. We were the first ones teed up. We went through the process. Notice the California air resources board that has a right to approve or deny the plans. I just happen to sit on the board also agreed it wasn't a closed about pretty was virtually the whole board said this is not just a good plan, this is a very good plan. The attorney general had threatened even before that to sue. It is grounds, the grounds for this suit I will let the court stepping here, we as a community are meeting every single goal in SB 375 and more than that we are being supported by virtually every air district in the state of California that is saying that San Diego has a good plan and that the Atty. Gen. Is interfering.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So there's no plans to reopen and take a look at it again.
RON ROBERTS: There are none that I'm aware of. I think this is, I think we are, but we are willing to sit down and talk to the attorney general and let her explain what are the specifics that concern her in so far as if we are not attaining a goal, but they didn't really provide any real testimony during the hearings. And you know, she put out a letter and said here I don't like the plan and we think the criticism is very weak but it's not just when I say we, we have an airport that has been at the forefront of changing the playing field in California that has given the strongest possible endorsement of this plan and you have similar air districts all over the county, all over the state that support this plan. The Atty. Gen. Is the one that needs to justify her position.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I have so many more questions for you we are just about out of time. Let me ask you one, the state has been forced to make deep cuts in some social services especially home healthcare and welfare programs. Considering the good physical condition of San Diego County is it, are you considering any kind of change to the County's long-standing policy where they don't back so, you just don't backfilled these programs are cut?
RON ROBERTS: I think we have to get into more specifics, Maureen, first of all backfilling we largely don't do it that's the reason why the County is not suffering. Kind of consequences the state does. The state doesn't operate in a prudent financially. Had we been doing that we would be making major cuts on top of what the state is doing today. I am pleased to say in the last two years we've increased our food stamps here in San Diego by 65%. We've hired a lot of new staff. We've brought new systems online. We are able to do things. The construction now we are able to do at a time when people need jobs you know, it's not only the safety net that you have to take care of. You have a basic and fundamental economy here that you want to see and it's a great time to be putting things under construction. We have probably am going to say close to just have them completed or just over $1 billion worth of construction and the good news about 70% of that has been paid for, period. Trying to find another model the state ought to be looking at how we operate. The state has never had really a fiscally sound budget. It is not structurally balanced. It has been. Many of the cities have done the same thing. They don't have a structurally balanced budget. At the Board of Supervisors we insist on that and we do things like you know the maintenance of our facilities has to be built under the annual budget. You won't see the deferred maintenance that you will see in other governments but just as an index I would say look at the number of state employees today, compare that to what was there five years ago, 10 years ago and imagine that the county has fewer (inaudible) that we had in 1995 look at what the states numbers are and I think you'll see a drastically different model.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I say to have you go I have so much more to ask you.
RON ROBERTS: Invite me back!
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I would love to do that figure want to tell people you will be delivering the state of the County address Wednesday evening at the Hall of champions at Balboa Park and chairman Ron Roberts thank you so much. Nice to see you again. Coming up, the murder of a young Latino man in New York has sparked a nationwide campaign against hate crimes. We will hear about the documentary not in our town. And the San Diego Jewish film Festival celebrates its 22nd year. It is 12:23. You are listening to KPBS Midday Edition. Can a tragedy in a small Long Island town stop (inaudible) town hate crimes, That's what my next guest are hoping. The town in question is Patchogue New York and the murder is of a young Latino man named Marcelo Lucero. The story of his death and how his community changed in response is told in the PBS documentary Not in our Town; light in the darkness. I'd like to introduce my guests Paul Ponyieri is mayor of Patchogue New York and Mayor Pontieri, welcome to the show.
PAUL PONTIERI: Thank you very much, Maureen. I appreciate being here.