Candidates In District 3 Supervisors Race Face Off
October 18, 2012 1:30 p.m.
Steve Danon, candidate, District 3, SD County Board of Supervisors
Dave Roberts, candidate, District 3, SD County Board of Supervisors
Related Story: Candidates In District 3 Supervisors Race Face Off
ST. JOHN: We are about to embark on a debate between the two candidates for the county Board of Supervisors. The supervisors control a $5 billion budget. Voters are les aware of the day to day activities of the supervisors, but the county is responsible for the jail, public safety and development in the unincorporated area, they control state money for healthcare and social services for the indigent county wide. And a seat is opening up as Pam Slater price steps down. We are fortune to have in-studio the two candidates, Republican Steve Danon.
DANON: Good to be here.
ST. JOHN: And Democrat Dave Roberts.
ROBERTS: Great to be back.
ST. JOHN: We're going to ask you to keep the responses short, about a minute. If one of you say something that really bad no needs a rebuttal, we'll give you a chance, but only one rebuttal each, okay? What is the biggest challenge do you think facing San Diego County that the supervisors actually have some authority to do something about? And we're going to start with you, Steve.
DANON: Creating environment for jobs to be created. It should not take years for businesses to get their permits. We are currently -- we have 1-10 San Diegans out of work. There's nearly 1-6 San Diego County families that are living below the poverty level. And in Escondido, childhood poverty is at 24.8%. It should not take years for businesses to get the permits. And we must streamline then to expand operations and opportunities here in San Diego.
ST. JOHN: Okay, good. Dave, what would you say is the biggest challenge is that the supervisors can actually do something about?
ROBERTS: Well, I think jobs and the economy is the No. 1 issue. And our economy is slow. But the county shouldn't make it even slower. I'm the candidate that has true private sector experience. I created over 3,200 jobbed when I worked at SA IC, I've been in the private industry the majority of my career. And I think it's critical that we figure out how the county can get out of the way for new jobs to be created. I've supported the red tape reduction task force, but I do not want the community planning groups abolished. We have to have community input into decisions that are made at the county level. But this is really the No. 1 issue. We've got to keep the strong AAA bond rating at the county. The question for this race is who would you trust with a $5 billion budget and managing 15,000 employees? I've got that background and a masters degree in public financial management and I've served on the City Council in Solana beach, I'm currently the deputy mayor.
ST. JOHN: Well, the next question is a chance for you to tell us more about your credentials. Steve, when it comes to bringing jobs to the region -- sorry, Dave.
[ LAUGHTER ]
ST. JOHN: When it comes to bringing jobs to the region, and expanding the economy, what specific skills and credentials do you have from both the public and private sector to accomplish this?
ROBERTS: Well, I've got a long, 32-year career, and for almost 2 decades working in San Diego County, I worked for science applications international corporation, we grew our healthcare sector there by over 3,200 new jobs. I've served on the Solana beach City Council for the last three years. I worked at North County Transit district. I have to hurry from here to get to a board meeting there because we're working on trying to clarify some of our policies to expand service and to cut fares. In Solana beach, we are the No. 1 ranked city in San Diego County for pension reform. But we're doing it at North County Transit district and other districts. So I think it's critical that these are the types of skills the voters are looking for. My opponent has been a lobbyist or political aid his entire career.
ST. JOHN: That's not true.
ROBERTS: He hasn't had real private sector experience.
ST. JOHN: I know for the listener, it might be difficult to distinguish. We have Dave here who is the Democrat, and we have Steve Danon who is a Republican, and Steve you are now going to tell us more about your experience that you bring to the table.
ROBERTS: I want to take my private sector experience, having founded my own business, and my public sector experience and put it to work. I'm very proud to have earned the endorsements of Mark Cafferty, the president and CEO of the San Diego region economic development corporation as well as Dwayne Roth can Connect. Jobs is the No. 1 priority. And we need to continue to build that coalition. We have Salk, Scripps, UCSD, San Diego state, phenomenal institutions, and we must create an environment for jobs. Dave, you talk about pension reform, but you are the one that voted a 90% salary for those that retire at the age of 50 when you were at the Solana beach City Council. But working together as a region I think is absolutely essential to provide job growth here.
ST. JOHN: And since he challenged you and said that you hadn't had that much experience in the private sector --
DANON: I was vice president of a public relations firm, and then I had my own public relations firm.
ST. JOHN: You want to rebut this issue about the pensions?
ROBERTS: I also want to challenge, I think my opponent has only been in the private sector for 33 months. He was with a three member himself, a partner, and an intern. We've talked to these people about his experience. I don't think creating three jobs plus the 3,200-plus jobs I've created. San Diego north Chamber of Commerce, business communities works with me, even Republican supervisor Pam Slater price has endorsed me for this position.
ST. JOHN: Thank you. We may come back to this issue of pensions. Did you want to respond quickly?
DANON: I think it's just disingenuous for you to talk about SAIC. You've been a lobbyist in Washington on healthcare for the past ten years. You can go ahead and Google David W. Roberts lobbyist, healthcare, and all the stuff with Obamacare and affordable healthcare act will come up. Soap let's be honest with one another here.
ST. JOHN: Okay. We're talking about someone to replace Sam Slater price on the county Board of Supervisors. And the next question for you, Steve, is present prison realignment. It's moved about 2,000 nonviolent offenders from state prisons to county jurisdiction in just the last year. More to come. They're in the county jails and under the supervision of the probation department now. Recent crime statistics suggest that crime is on the increase. Are you committed to the goal of using alternative sentencing rather than building more jail cells?
DANON: Well, you are correct. The SANDAG report came up, and crime has gone up 8%. I'm proud to have earned the endorsements of the deputy sheriffs association, the police officers association, San Diegans against crime, the deputy district association, as well as the Probation Officers Association. This is a huge liability for the county. It's all hands to deck to insure that we do not let violent criminals out of jail. End of story.
ST. JOHN: Thank you very much. Dave Roberts?
ROBERTS: I've got as I proven background on public safety, I served on SANDAG. The report Steve is talking about are reports I've worked O. I've worked with the district attorney on Internet crimes against children. I think AB109 is a challenge and an opportunity. Of when the state ran this program, we had a 70% recidivism rate here in San Diego County. That means 70% of the people within three years had to a chance to go back to prison. If we have the funding here in San Diego County, we can run that program better. I've met with sheriff gore to talk about specifics, adding more jails to our county so that we can handle this. But I'm willing to work with the sheriff and with the District Attorney to find things that we can do to improve this to make our community safer for all.
ST. JOHN: Okay. And I just wanted to go back to you, Steve, this issue whether to spend money on jails or programs in the community. Do you have a preference?
DANON: It's a combination of both. Providing after-school programs to keep kids off the street is a No. 1 priority. As far as building jails, yes, but there's only a limited amount of dollars out there. So we have to set the priorities. And prevention is one good way to address it.
ST. JOHN: Dave Roberts, you get the next one. Each supervisor gets $1 million a year to allocate to a project or activity in their district. And these discretionary funds have been called by critics slush funds. Some say they have been used to buy support in the district. They have been controversial for many years. Pam Slater price got into trouble after accepting free opera tickets after giving money to the opera fund. Isn't this an old fashioned thing?
ROBERTS: What we're talking about here is neighborhood reinvestment. The 18 cities in the county have a method to do this in an open, transparent way. Twice the jury has made originations to the program overall, and the county has implemented those recommendations. Even the San Diego County's taxpayers' association has reviewed this program and said it should not be abolished. My goal with this funding, this is money that is for veteran, it's for battered women, it's for the miracle league. I think it's really offensive to call this a slush fund like my opponent, and I am truly not in favor of abolishing it like he has talked about throughout this campaign. I believe that in an open and transparent way, we can make this a more successful program. And I look forward to working with my colleagues to make this a successful program to put the money back into the communities. I don't want it to go back into the blackhole in Sacramento where Steve works in Washington DC.
ST. JOHN: And how would you make it more open and transparent?
ROBERTS: Right now, the county has implemented guidelines, you fill out an application, you complete it, it goes through a review process, all five supervisors have to vote on it. They have passed a rule that their names cannot be used on those things.
ST. JOHN: And then waived their own rules. And Dave, do you want to finish that?
ROBERTS: They have put these rules into place, all the grand jury recommendations into place, and this is a very open and transparent program right now. And I want to look at future ways to do that. And the critical thing is this is an economic engine. It has been judged by the taxpayers' association as a way to invest in San Diego County.
ST. JOHN: Okay. So now we're going to go to Steve. And I know you've been very much opposed to these.
DANON: Yeah, I'll start with you, this is a program that's been absolutely abused to purchase political favor. For one supervisor to have at one time, $2 million, now $1 million of discretion to give out to any group that they think without any checks and balances, without the groups being vetted, and in a situation that you mentioned about Pam Slater price, she received a two-week all expense paid vacation to Vienna Austria to see the Vienna boys choirs. There is a huge conflict of interest. What Dave supports is allowing the supervisors to dole out at their own discretion, what I am calling, abolish this slush fund, create a community citizens group that would vet every group in a very transparent process before one tax dollar is dedicated to it. The fact that you have individual supervisors that had $2 million, now $1 million to dole out at their discretion to purchase political favors is dead wrong.
ST. JOHN: Okay. Let me ask you this. It's likely that the four other members of the supervisors would not support you in eliminating this, and you would be outvoted. If your efforts to eliminate the funds was defeat, what would you do with the money?
DANON: First and foremost, I believe that there's a changing tide right now. By building coalitions with the San Diego County taxpayers' association, and building other community groups to come in and say we support it this but don't believe it should be at the sole discretion of one county supervisor, I believe we are going to make those changes. If not, I am going to make it a very transparent process by having a citizens' panel view and review every application to insure that there's true transparency before $1 is allocated to the community. Dave opposes that. I can't believe he opposes the transparency and allowing a supervisor allocate money to the opera.
ST. JOHN: Well, we have a break. Which means everyone will want to come back and hear your rebuttal. Stay with us.
ST. JOHN: We have in studio the two candidates running for the 3rd district supervisorial race to replace Sam Slater price. We were talking about the neighborhood reinvestment funds, they are very contentious. Both of you have had a chance to express your opinions. But I you, Dave, wanted to rebut someone Steve said.
ROBERTS: I think Steve is being really disingenuous. He ran this program for a number of year, and he may have run this as a slush fun, but I can guarantee you Bill Horn, Greg Cox, and Pam Slater price did not. It takes a majority of the board to approve these things. And the San Diego County taxpayers agency association has looked into this.
DANON: And they oppose it.
ST. JOHN: We'll come back to you.
ROBERTS: Thank you. As has the grand jury twice. So I think that this is a program that is valuable for the local community and they want this program left in tact.
ST. JOHN: Steve?
DANON: Let's start simple. I think we both support resources going to the community to better our communities. What my proposal is take it out of the discretion of the individual supervisor who's purchasing political favors as Pam Slater price did by going to Austria. There is a huge difference. The fact that Dave is sitting here advocating continuing this slush fund is unbelievable.
ROBERTS: Your boss --
DANON: Wait, let's talk about that.
ST. JOHN: One person talk at a time. And Steve? I'm going to ask you to just not address him directly.
DANON: That's fair.
[ LAUGHTER ]
ST. JOHN: We're going to move onto the next question. You have 10 seconds.
DANON: The fact is that it has been abused. The Union Tribune and the North County Times both say we've got to do away with these funds. It's time to bring transparency. I also support an ethics commission which Dave is opposed to.
ST. JOHN: Thank you so much. Let's move onto indigent care county wide. Of the county supervisors are responsible for care to the indigent community. And cuts statewide have meant that welfare to work programs are shrinks, some have been cut off all together, there are cuts to aid to the disabled and home care for the elderly. San Diego County has a billion dollars in reserve. Would you backfill some of these programs cut by the state with this money?
DANON: Yes, absolutely. I've been fortune to earn the endorsement of father Joe carol. He shared with me that people are using his mobile health clinic. When they lost their job, they lost their healthcare insurance. This is where the county steps in: It is the safety net. We must ensure -- that's the role for counties, not the cities. It is the county of San Diego to provide that safety net so people do have healthcare or alcohol and drug abuse or mental health, and yes, they call it a rainy day fund. And of that's what it's for. It's raining out there. When we've got nearly 1-10 San Diegans out of work right now, and people without healthcare insurance, we not only have the right but the responsibility to take care of our fellow citizens.
ST. JOHN: So you would take money from the reserve fund.
DANON: Absolutely, absolutely.
ST. JOHN: Dave Roberts?
ROBERTS: I would look at each and every program on the merits of T. People know that there is change that is coming to San Diego County, and I represent this community. Of and the county has a AAA bond rating, and there's a reason we have it. But I've got the background in healthcare. 40% of the county budget is in public health. I am a strong supporter to make sure mental health is treated just like physical health. There are so many core services that I want to look at at the county level to try to improve it. For over 2 decades I've been working on that here. I haven't been the partisan operative like my opponent. I've been working on real solutions to real issues. Healthcare, food stamps, a lot of these things need to be looked at, and I'm looking forward to working on it. But until I know the facts, I can't tell you if I would or wouldn't. But I'm going to protect the county's overall AAA bond rating and their strong financial management. But I'm going to relook at what course services.
ST. JOHN: We'll just follow on with this one, Dave. What are your thoughts on improvements being made to the county's food stamp program? 3.1 billion residents in the county. Almost half a million people live below the poverty level. Only about 1/3 of the people in the county who are qualified for food stamps get them. Would you push for changes if elected?
ROBERTS: The first thing we need to do is to make sure that we create good-paying jobs so that people don't need to qualify. But for those that do need to qualify, I think they should get access to those benefits. I've been meeting with the San Diego hunger coalition and a number of other groups. They guesstimate that only 40% of eligible beneficiaries are getting the benefit. That's about 35 million a month. If you could get more people qualified, that would be more money coming into San Diego County. The benefit is 100% paid for by the federal government. This was a Richard Nixon when he was president of the United States. The distribution of this is 85% paid for by the federal and state government. I think we can do it better. I'd like to work with San Diego 2-on 1 as an example to see what they could do. But there are so many ways we could improve this.
ST. JOHN: Steve, what would you do about food stamps, bearing in mind that so far the efforts still haven't made more than a big dent?
DANON: You know what? Our discussion here, I agree with Dave. Dave is absolutely correct. The county has failed at getting the word out about these resources that are available. I was with Mitch Mitchell last night, the head of the food bank, and so many folks are using the food bank. A lot of our own military personnel, they are literally using the food bank to make sure that there's food on the table. We need to insure that the program is being implemented correctly, to make sure that there's no fraud involved, but we need to continue -- and the Board of Supervisors is taking proactive actions to ensure that people in the public are aware of this program and can access it.
ST. JOHN: There's one place that you guys agree. And Steve, you will be taking the first crack at this one. We talked about this open seat on the board without discussing the obvious thing, that the makeup of the board, all the supervisors are white Republicans, all of them. Three of them are men, two women. And one woman is stepping down. So we'd have four men on the board. As San Diego's population becomes more diverse and more heavily Latino, how do you plan to represent that diversity?
DANON: Well, I'll share with you, actions speak louder than words. I've become very cynical and skeptical of those who run for office and those who are in office. They're just happy to be at the dance. I wrote a draft board letter legislation calling for an independent redistricting commission. I'll admit, I'm white, and I'm Republican, and I'm a graduate from San Diego state yesterday. Guilty!
[ LAUGHTER ]
DANON: But I felt it was fundamentally wrong for supervisors to select their voters instead of voters electing their county supervisors. And I was criticized by some of the board members. By building the coalitions of support, county supervisor Greg Cox carried a similar version of that on an independent commission. Christine Kehoe carried it, and last month Jerry Brown signed it. So there is going to be a true independent redistricting commission. So that the Board of Supervisors after 10 year, Dave or I will be gone by then because there's term limit, but we'll truly change the makeup of the Board of Supervisors.
ST. JOHN: Steve, we're talking about a long time in the future. I'd like to challenge you, Dave, is there any way to serve diversity in the present moment?
ROBERTS: Well, I've met with Chris Cox and Chris Kehoe, and they've said they haven't done anything for Steve Danon. This is a fantasy.
DANON: That's not true.
ROBERTS: I'm the father of five adopted foster children, I've been endorsed by La Prensa, the Spanish-speaking newspaper, I bring that diversity. And if you look at Steve's campaign material, he's not very inclusive. He doesn't support diversity. In our county, in the third district, we have an extremely diverse population. The Asian Pacific islander community is the fastest growing community in this area. I am pleased to be endorsed by so many of their leaders. I embrace diversity. I think it's what makes San Diego County great. But read his website and literature, and you'll see his opinion of what he calls diversity.
DANON: Our diversity is our greatest strength. I think it's disingenuous, if you read my card here, Mets Lee. Let's have an honest conversation. I've been endorsed by a very diverse group of folks. We have a large Asian population, especially in the third district, and I'm pleased to have a lot of these leaders, doctor lilly Chang from San Diego state, I'm proud to have their support.
ST. JOHN: Great. Thank you. Let's move onto the next question which is even though your district does not cover the unincorporated area, you cover sort of north city and up to Poway and Del Mar.
DANON: Not Poway.
ST. JOHN: Ranch Bernardo.
ST. JOHN: And west Del Mar, Encinitas, Solana beach.
DANON: Up got it.
ST. JOHN: Even though you don't represent the unincorporated areas, whoever wins will be a key vote on in board when developers bring their projects for approval. I believe it's you, Dave, how will we accommodate more population growth in the county if you don't support new development in the backcountry?
ROBERTS: I think it's interesting. If you look at my opponent's financial disclosure, over 80% come from land developers, utility companies, and other groups like that. And I think all you have to do is look within our district. There's a proposal right now called One Paseo, proposed at four time the zoning. Or you look at Capital Power, they want to build a power plant 1,700 feet from university city. Steve is supported by these developers.
ST. JOHN: That's not true.
ROBERTS: What we need is sensible growth. I have worked with SANDAG and throughout this region to come up with sensible growth ideas. We've got to develop around our public transit station, around the sprinter corridor and others. These are the types of initiatives. We've got to recognize that we have limited resources to do this, and we've got to do it in a collaborative fashion working across party lines. This is a nonpartisan position. And I've got that experience.
ST. JOHN: And I have to ask you to address the issue of the unincorporated areas.
ROBERTS: I think that is the No. 1 issues why my campaign has picked up so much momentum. And we've been endorsed by 12 newspapers because people do not want to pave over paradise up in the North County. I've talked to Bill Horn about this, he has an idea that he would like to even expand public transit up there. But we can't just keep spreading houses throughout the backcountry in east county or north.
ST. JOHN: Thank you. That's what I wanted to know. I was amazed we still have 12 newspapers in this community! Steve, what about you? Would you be willing to amend the county's general plan to allow development in the backcountry?
DANON: Dave is a no-growther, I'm a managed growther. You don't know what our community is going to look like 50 years down the road. I will never support a project that does not provide good open space, amenities, transportation corridors, and good schools. When Dave talks about developers and special interests, if you just look at the Virginia public access project, Dave Roberts has been accepting contributions from the construction industry since he ran for the Virginia house of delegates. I think it's a little disingenuous once again. Growth is a big deal. I support clean technology. I want jobs. If there's opportunities for manufacturing in the east county on wind and solar, unless there's a poison pulling the proposal, I am going to support it.
ST. JOHN: We just have a couple minutes left. Steve -- no, Dave?
ST. JOHN: A closing statement.
ROBERTS: Thank you for having us back here to talk about the real differences in this race. I've got a track record of proven ladder. I'm somebody that the voters can trust. And from the latest poll, I am currently 18 percentage points ahead of decided voters. Voters are trusting that I will make the right decisions. I know how to create jobs, get the government out of the way so jobs can be created. But I also know that we have to now have a focus on the core services here in San Diego County. I believe that's why so many leaders including the incumbent supervisor has stepped forward and endorsed me for this seat on the county Board of Supervisors. And I hope with your viewer support, I'm going to be the next supervisor and will be installed next January on the board.
ST. JOHN: Thank you very much. And now Steve Danon?
DANON: You notice he didn't want to refute about taking construction money?
ST. JOHN: Well, would you like to say you haven't?
ST. JOHN: Your minute is starting now.
DANON: Thank you. It's a pleasure to have us here. I really appreciate it. There is a clear difference. Nearly 1-10 San Diegans out of work, closer to 15%. We must get our economy jump started. We must create an environment for jobs to be created. When Dave supports a business tax in 2010 during the midst of our worst recession in 80 years, we fundamentally disagree. He voted 21 times to increase our enhance 237 frees. This is not a way to create a pro-business atmosphere. He also voted for the largest pay increase in Solana beach and a $3,000 a year car allowance even though he lives less than 3 miles away from City Hall. I want to create jobs, I oppose taxes and fees, I want an ethics commission, I want to eliminate the slush fund, and I'm proud to earn the endorsements of San Diego mayor, Jerry Sanders, father Joe caller, UT San Diego, and the North County Times.
ST. JOHN: That was a very stimulating discussion, gentlemen! Thank you both so much for coming in. Steve Danon and Dave Roberts, candidates for the 3rd district supervisorial race. Check it out. It's a big district. Be sure and vote.
ROBERTS: Thank you.
DANON: Thank you.
ST. JOHN: Thank you.