Horn And Challengers Spar Over 5th District
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Special Feature Who's Supervising San Diego?
The San Diego County Board of Supervisors controls a $5 billion budget and makes decisions affecting your health and safety. They oversee services that range from prosecuting criminals to feeding the poor. Learn about your supervisor’s priorities and how the group spends your money.
The five qualified candidates for the District Five seat on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors are in the KPBS studio to discuss issues before the June primary, including budget shortfalls, growth, immigration, and county services.
Special Feature San Diego County's 5th District
The colored region marks the boundaries of San Diego County's 5th District. Click to view on Google Maps.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. Two seats on San Diego County's five-member board of supervisors are on the ballot next month. We hosted a forum for the 4th District candidates earlier this week, and today it's the county's 5th District. The 5th District covers the entire northern border of San Diego County from Camp Pendleton out to Borrego Springs, and south to Rancho Santa Fe. Members of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors control a $5 billion budget. The board's decisions affect county public safety services, the county court and justice system, emergency and fire services, health and human services, including food stamps and welfare, to name just a few of the board's responsibilities for San Diego County. Five candidates are participating in this forum. Incumbent District 5 Supervisor Bill Horn is seeking his fifth term on the board. Tom Bumgardner, an avocado farmer and community volunteer from Valley Center; Steve Gronke is a teacher and Vista City Councilmember; Fabio Marchi is an engineer and a broker/contractor from Oceanside; and John Van Doorn, an engineer from San Marcos. And I want to welcome you all and thank you all for participating in this forum this morning.
ALL: Good morning.
CAVANAUGH: Now we’re not giving a specific time for each answer but because there are a number of candidates here this morning, I’m going to ask you to make your answers concise and to the point. Let’s start by having each of you introduce yourselves and tell us why you’re running for county supervisor in the 5th District. And let me start with you, Mr. Horn.
BILL HORN (Incumbent, 5th District, San Diego County Board of Supervisors): Thank you very much. Good morning. Thanks for having us. I’m Bill Horn. I’m North County Supervisor. We’re facing a historic change for the County of San Diego. It’s something that’s been brought upon us not by our own doing but by the State of California and the federal government being in a crisis. When I first ran for office, the county was about to go bankrupt and we prevented that from happening, and over the years we’ve worked our way out of it. When I was chairman of the board in ‘97, we sold the trash system. My colleagues and I paid off all the bonds that went – were associated with that, $206 million worth, and we basically freed up about $60 million a year of debt service. We have maintained very good reserves. We have $100 million set aside for the closed landfills. That has – that increased our credit rating to double-A. Currently, our management reserves have moved us to Triple-A. That means that when we pay for money every year, we pay a lot less rate than other governments. We’re currently, we feel, the best run county government in the country, not just California, and part of it is because we’ve been very diligent at watching what we spend. And when you look at that, the reason we have public safety, the reason we have helicopters, the reason we can afford to purchase fire engines, it’s because all that money is not going out to pay interest on money that we have to borrow. So public safety’s a big issue to me, especially in North County; all my cities are involved. We just convened a gang – the Juvenile Justice Department model in North County. I created the North County Gang Task Force in ’95 when we had ten homicides in Balderama Park in Oceanside. I created a gang commission a couple years ago. And now we’ve – we’re joining the District Attorney and the Sheriff and getting MoUs with all the cities involved in North County to go after the gang problem.
CAVANAUGH: Okay, let’s move it along. Mr. Bumgardner, if you would introduce yourself and tell us why you’re running.
TOM BUMGARDNER (Candidate, 5th District, San Diego County Board of Supervisors): Yeah, my name is Tom Bumgardner. I’m from the North County. I’ve worked with the community for the past 32 years, volunteering in every facet of the thing. I’ve been on boards with Bill, fire and emergency medical, LAFCO Board, and so on and so forth. I think that there’s a lot more to be done and I am willing to do it.
CAVANAUGH: Okay. You were concise. Thank you so much. And Steve Gronke.
STEVE GRONKE (Candidate, 5th District, San Diego County Board of Supervisors): Thank you. Steve Gronke, I’m a teacher in Vista and also a city councilmember in Vista for nine years. And I’m running because of my work on SANDAG. I believe that there’s a lot of movement right now to try to address some of the global warming issues and I don’t think the county’s moving in that direction, so I want to try to change the direction of the county so that we keep our new units, housing units, within infrastructure areas such as the city areas and not provide for urban sprawl like we’ve been seeing in the way my opponent supports. I also believe, from my time on the campaign trail, that my opponent appears to have – be disconnected with his constituents and seems to be in the pocket of special interests. And so if you look at my record on the council, you’ll see that I work with my peers very well, you’ll see that I listen to my constituents, and I’ve really brought – protected my people with new fire stations and with the fire – police department we have, too. And the last thing I want to bring up is just my issue with coming in as a decline-to-state candidate. I see a problem in government right now where both extremes are taking the lead and leadership is being relegated to those in an extreme and I think that’s un – that really saddens me because I think we’re losing the ability to dialogue and solve problems.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you. And Mr. Van Doorn.
JOHN VAN DOORN (Candidate, 5th District, San Diego County Board of Supervisors): Yes. My name’s John Van Doorn, and I’m an engineer that lives up in the Escondido area, up in the hills north of Escondido. I’m running for a lot of the same reasons Steve Gronke is but primarily I’m running because I’ve been an activist against Title IV-D Program abuse here in San Diego County for the last 4 to 6 years. One thing Supervisor Horn doesn’t bring up is that the County of San Diego has been able to balance its budget and get rid of the debts that we previously had due to over administration of these programs. Title IV-D Programs are federally mandated social programs that are imposed on states and local governments and what has happened here in San Diego as well as in every other county across the United States of America is counties have found that these programs are very lucrative, provide a lot of profit margin, and by intervening in families, and many times where it’s unnecessary to do so, the county can obtain profit by destroying families. For instance, in the care of – in the instance of foster care. A foster child results in $6,000 of net payments to the county. Some of that’s shared with the state but very little of that trickles down to the foster care parent. The rest is profit to the county and because these programs have been over-administered, we’re seeing a lot of children and a lot of families suffer in this county. I want to put an end to that. That’s the primary reason why I’m running.
CAVANAUGH: And Mr. Marchi.
FABIO MARCHI (Candidate, 5th District, San Diego County Board of Supervisors): Yes, hi. My name is Fabio Marchi. Everybody knows me by Fabio, no association with the guy in Hollywood, because we’re on radio, and – but that’s my real name, Fabio. And I’m running for the board of supervisors in the 5th District. I’m going to be your next supervisor in the county, district five. I’m a fiscal conservative. I was born in Argentina and I grew up during dictatorships, hyperinflation. I witness firsthand hardship and injustices when government bring money just to pay the bills. And I pursue my American dream. I was growing up in poverty and I achieve wealth today. And being an engineer, I studied in university for over six years, so I learned to listen. I’m trained to resolve problems. The County of San Diego needs to do much better with $5 billion today. And we need to fulfill the needs of the economy and the people, providing services. I’ve been listening to all the concerns of the people and when in office, I will try to take care of those concerns. And I’m running also because the supervisor incumbent is completely out of touch. My policy will be open doors office.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you. Thank you all for that initial statement. Let me start with my first question. Let me start to you, Mr. Gronke. My first question is, what do you see as the primary role of county government?
GRONKE: The primary role of county government is to provide social services. And one of the things that I’ve been hearing as I’m out on the campaign trail is that they’re not providing adequate services. There’s availability of monies that the county is not taking an opportunity of such as food stamps, and I believe part of that has to deal with the fact that most of the county supervisors would rather not provide services to some individuals. We’re in a time of economic crisis, we’re in a time when people need these types of services. We’re in a time when the county should be going out and doing whatever it can to try to provide these additional services because if we’re one of the last counties in the nation when it comes proportionately in giving out these types of services, there’s something wrong with that equation and I think we need to change that.
CAVANAUGH: Mr. Bumgardner, the same question to you: The primary role of county government as you see it?
BUMGARDNER: I think the primary role of county government is to keep the people safe, the county secure financially, and communicate with the members of the community, not back up and wait until something happens and act. They need to act first, not react to everything that happens.
CAVANAUGH: And Mr. Horn.
HORN: I think the primary reason we were chartered as an arm of the state is public safety and equity. We, as you know, on Wednesday mornings, we sit as a land use judge. On Tuesday mornings, we sit as the general government. Of the $5 billion that is spent in the County of San Diego, a number of those programs are mandated by the federal government. You mentioned food stamps, and also CalWORKs. 85% of that money comes from the federal government. The state is supposed to match that with 10% and then the county takes 5% out of its general fund to pay for that. We have a responsibility to the taxpayers to make sure that all of that money is spent within a budget. We cannot go into – well, we do not and will not, this current board, spend one-time monies on on-going programs. We will not backfill what the state does not provide. Which brings – Earlier this year, well, November of last year, the state was withholding 9% from our 85% for the foster kids, and it was causing the county to spend $32 million a month, and we had to sue over that issue. We settled with the state in February when they admitted – or basically because they didn’t want to go to trial, that they should not have been taking their 9% out of our 85% and then they paid the money back. Each foster child gets $700.00 a month. We could not afford to terminate the program. We didn’t have a location to put 50,000 kids in any one location, and we didn’t want to distress any of the foster parents that we had or the CalWORKs folks. So our goal is to protect the taxpayer and protect the recipients of the program. As far as food stamps goes, because that was brought up here, we made – Last year, my board and I helped streamline the process. You go in for your interview. I know a lot of criticism has been to us (sic) because of the fraud investigations but fraud is something that’s mandated by the federal government that we do investigate, and so we’re very good at that.
CAVANAUGH: I will have to move this along. You’ll have time to…
HORN: All right.
CAVANAUGH: …address that again. And Mr. Van Doorn, the primary role as you see it of county government.
VAN DOORN: Yes, again, social services as mandated by federal government constitute about two-thirds of county government. The majority of revenues that the county receives is associated with that. What I’ve seen happen with county government in the years I’ve been an activist is that there is a county policy that we will maximize efficiencies and generate as much profit or save as much money as we can in these programs. And as Mr. Gronke alluded, there are services that are not as profitable or not profitable and those services are somewhat suppressed to the public. Others have tremendous profit margins, as in the case of foster children, and there you see the county go out of its way to obstruct the public. You know, I run into grandparents, aunts and uncles all the time who can’t get their kids out of foster care and it’s tragic. And…
VAN DOORN: …and…
CAVANAUGH: …and let me move to you, Mr. Marchi.
MARCHI: Yes, the primary role of the county, there are too many to mention right now. The county serves 40 different – provides different services to the community from district attorney, sheriff’s department, health and human services. And we need to do much better to the people, to the constituencies and my job as a fiscal conservative will be to provide those services to the people much better.
CAVANAUGH: I am surprised to say we have to take our first break. We will be gone for 90 seconds and return with all the people running for San Diego County’s 5th District on the county board of supervisors. You’re listening to These Days on KPBS.
CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. We’re hosting a candidates’ forum today. This is a forum for the 5th District on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. My guests are Supervisor Bill Horn, Mr. Tom Bumgardner, Steve Gronke, Fabio Marchi, and John Van Doorn. And let’s – As I say, we have a lot of people here, so let’s move it along. If I may ask you, starting out with Mr. Bumgardner, you know, the unemployment rate is San Diego is set at about 11% right now. What can the board of supervisors do to bring more jobs to San Diego?
BUMGARDNER: Talk to the federal government.
CAVANAUGH: That’s your entire answer?
BUMGARDNER: The programs that we have in place, we have hundreds of thousands of people here from – in the military and I think the jobs are coming here. It’s a matter of the economy picking up. To just say we can automatically throw out some money and put people to work is not a responsible answer. And I wouldn’t care to make that statement.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you. Mr. Marchi, what can the board do to bring more – to stimulate employment in San Diego?
MARCHI: Yes, as a fiscal conservative managing $5 billion of the county’s money, we need to do much better on the services that we’re providing. We run over three and a half million population and the unemployment is higher than the reports are. For example, the construction field that I’m totally involved and I know about it, affect 120,000 people directly in construction, and for every contractor or every worker, another four and so on. So we need to do much better with services, stimulate those construction jobs. We need to bring in other industries. We need to get sustainable systems in place, green jobs, and we have to use all the creativity and the resources that the county has. And we don’t have to have a red tape when somebody’s trying to deal with the county. My philosophy is streamline any dealings with the county. The county has to be efficient and accountable.
CAVANAUGH: And Mr. Van Doorn.
VAN DOORN: Yes. The county government really doesn’t get too involved in directly impacting how work is – basically, the county can just get in the way, and the county has done a pretty good job of being accommodative to industry. The only thing I can see, being the parent of some teenage children, they’re having trouble getting work in entry level jobs. And a lot of these jobs, unfortunately, it’s a very hot topic but a lot of these jobs are taken by people who are not here legally. So the county—I hate to say this but we would need to find some way to police employers and find ways to discourage them to hire – from hiring people who are not here legally and open up those jobs to the entry level people in this county.
CAVANAUGH: And Mr. Horn, what can we do about unemployment?
HORN: Well, let me – Currently, the board of supervisors is building the COC, which is up on Kearny Mesa. Our old – we’re tearing down our old building and it’s about a $390 million phase one project. We put that out to bid. As you know, we don’t have planned agreements with the unions so that we put out the bid and we got the best bids we could get. So that’s construction that’s taking place. In North County, I developed the North County Economic Development Council. We hold quarterly meetings to promote business in North County. We – I sponsored a number of job fairs, one that’s irritated Mr. Gronke, but in Vista, and I have another one coming up in San Marcos. Vista – I mean, Escondido, which is not in my district but we also promote it because it’s on the 78 corridor. I’m on the board of the Small Business Development Council at Mira Costa College. So our goal is to get business going. And we do have about 11% unemployment. I’d like to see more construction jobs in my district. Of course, what I’ve been criticized for here but construction currently is about 37% unemployed so until we get that engine going again – and what the county can do is streamline the process and get out of the way. We don’t really promote – or have a lot of jobs that we can generate except assisting the private sector.
CAVANAUGH: And Mr. Gronke.
GRONKE: You know, there’s three things that the county government’s involved in. One is the police service. The second is social service. But I think in land planning, I think there’s a real opportunity for economic growth. Some things that come to mind are the 76 corridor. Right now, we’re trying to build out that whole corridor and build up that highway, and I know the county has an opportunity to be involved in that process. When you think about some of the smart growth issues within the county area, I think the county has an obligation to try to assist the cities in making those occur. Another idea I have, too, and I was successful with, is we started a career center within Vista, and I envision one within the county. As we come out of this slump, I think we’re going to need people with skills, and I think that the county has an obligation to try to put together a large career center. And the reason I say that is just my years in teaching tell me that the public school system is more concerned with getting kids through school and into college and there’s a lot of kids that don’t fit that mold. And I think we need to change that.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you. Let me move on to an issue that has been in the headlines lately, the issue of illegal immigration. I’m going to ask you a question and I would like all of you to answer it just yes or no. And there will be a follow up question to allow you to explain your answer if you’d like to. The San Diego City Council just passed a resolution condemning Arizona’s new immigration law, that, of course, requiring police to check the residency status of suspected illegal immigrants. And so I want to ask you all, yes or no, do you support Arizona’s new law? Mr. Marchi.
CAVANAUGH: Mr. Van Doorn.
VAN DOORN: Yes.
CAVANAUGH: Mr. Gronke.
CAVANAUGH: Mr. Bumgardner.
CAVANAUGH: Yes. And Mr. Horn.
CAVANAUGH: Now the follow up question is this, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors has a legislative policy on illegal immigration. It asks for a constitutional amendment to stop children of illegal immigrants born in the U.S. from automatically becoming citizens of this country. Now, Mr. Horn, do you support that policy and, if so, why?
HORN: Yes. I do not believe the 14th Amendment of the Constitution intended for folks to come into the country—we’re the only country in the world that does this—have your child, and that child become a citizen. It’s a huge drain on the county. I understand Arizona’s position. They have asked for years for the federal government to get involved and enforce federal law and control the border, and they haven’t done it. Phoenix, Arizona, is the number one kidnap capital of the United States, number two in the world, Mexico City being number one. So I don’t blame them for doing that. But in the County of San Diego, we did the study a couple of years ago on what it was costing us and it was costing us hundreds of millions of dollars in services, in a number of social services, that we were putting out to those folks who were not in the country legally, and not only the county but also our hospitals. Our hospitals in the County of San Diego, a couple of years ago when we did the study, they were running about a $57 million a year deficit just in emergency room services and I’m sure it’s a lot larger now.
CAVANAUGH: Let me ask you, Mr. Bumgardner, do you support the county board of supervisors legislative policy on illegal immigration as I stated it to stop children of illegal immigrants born in the U.S. from automatically becoming citizens of this country?
BUMGARDNER: I do but with a caveat to the fact that it’s an injustice to immigrants to just do anything other than close the border and – You have to have a line drawn in the sand where you’re going to start, you know. I don’t believe that the 14th Amendment, just like Bill, was not intended – it was intended for slavery, and it needs to be rewritten or taken out. But we need to have our federal government make the law that closes the border so we’ll have a place to start. We’re not going to throw anybody’s grandmother and stuff out of this place but you have to have a line drawn in the sand where you can start taking down people’s names and paperwork and stuff so you can know what you’re going to do. We don’t know what we’re going to do. We don’t even have the power to do it. The county doesn’t, the city doesn’t. The only one that does is the federal government and they seem to not be interested into (sic) doing their job.
CAVANAUGH: And Mr. Gronke, what is your position on this?
GRONKE: You know, I – It’s a personal thing for me. I can recall when my son was born 23 years ago down in the hospital here in San Diego and I looked out the window and I saw four or five moms sitting on the curb there waiting to be – for their babies to be born within the States. And I thought, you know what, the federal government’s going to solve this problem within the next 10 years. Well, here we are 23 years later and it’s still not solved. You know, the reason that I agree with Arizona’s law is because I think that it’s pushing, it’s pushing the envelope and saying, come on, feds, get onboard. I have people come before my council all the time and say, let’s do something about this problem. This problem’s affecting our schools. You know, as a teacher, I know that probably 20 to 30% of my – the people within our school system are illegal. Something has to be done, and it has to be done at the federal level. And it has to be done now.
CAVANAUGH: Mr. Van Doorn.
VAN DOORN: Yes, I support the board’s policy in taking a stand against planting babies here in the United States. If you look back in history, we’ve already had two amnesty programs for illegal aliens here in the United States of America, and it looks like we’re, you know, on fast track to do it a third time. We have had, and still have, rules in federal law that control how people can come to this country, work in this country and become citizens. And there is – there, frankly, is no enforcement. And local government has been burdened with the cost of these people through additional costs in law enforcement and medical care, education. It’s time for this to stop. And if the federal government won’t do it, local government has to do it and bring this change from the bottom up.
CAVANAUGH: Mr. Marchi.
MARCHI: Yes, well, I’m an immigrant. Like I said, I was born in Argentina. And I’m Italian by blood because my parents, they have to immigrate from Italy. So it will be the same if somebody will deny me because I born in Argentina being an Argentinian over there at the time, so I believe that making any dent or any chipping away of the Constitution, it is a violation to the American rights from all the citizens in this country. This country has been made for all immigrants. Check all the names over here, probably all of you that are immigrants. So now what we need to do is, like I said, being a fiscal conservative, we need to resolve a move forward. I obey the Constitution. And we need to do much better with providing jobs and not blaming that illegal people are all the problems in our economy today. As an engineer, I believe that I’m a troubleshooter and the county should not be dealing with what they’re not supposed to. They got too many issues to deal with and they’re not fulfilling all of them and what are they going to get stepping up in another’s shoes? The federal government has to do that. That’s why they have the tools, the resources and the money. As a supervisor, I will make sure that all the citizens, legal citizens, they will get the services that they need from the county.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you. Thank you. Another question about the board of supervisors is that each of the members of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors has a discretionary fund. It was recently cut from $2 million to $1 million, largely because of the county’s budget problems or the recession. Do you think that fund should continue and, if so, why and at what amount? I’m going to start with you, Mr. Gronke.
GRONKE: No. I’d love to show you a flier I have right here but that doesn’t make sense on radio. It shows my opponent’s picture very broadly right across the front of this expo that was hosted by my chamber. And basically it’s a campaign piece, and something I’ve heard over and over. You know, as I was out campaigning, I went to some friends of mine and said, hey, you know, can you help me out? You know, they work for nonprofits. Nope, no can do. We can be as kind as we can, we can tell all our friends, can’t come out publicly because if we do, we’re going to lose our slush fund. And that’s exactly what it is. It’s a campaign fund. It’s abused. I’ve heard Mr. Horn explain exactly how it was originated and I came back with the question, what gives him the right to use our tax money for his personal pet projects? And so, yeah, it needs to be discontinued. It’s cut in half. Let’s get rid of it completely.
CAVANAUGH: Mr. Van Doorn, what do you think about the discretionary fund that the supervisors control?
VAN DOORN: I also believe it needs to be discontinued. Personally, in the campaign this year and two years ago, I’ve seen instances where people want to give their endorsement but they can’t because they’re afraid that the funding that they are presently receiving through this program will be withheld. I’ve also run into leaders of nonprofits who have suggested what I give, that it be in excess of what the present supervisor’s giving and that things could be done to aid me along. There is no definitive, you know, no concrete agreement between the supervisors and the beneficiaries but there’s this unspoken knowledge that if you give the money, you will get the endorsement or you will get the public attention and the votes or vice versa. It needs to end. The program does a lot of good for the community, it does a lot of good for the unincorporated areas but it creates entitlement and it keeps supervisors in office and it buys votes. It’s got to end.
CAVANAUGH: Mr. Horn, what do you think about the discretionary fund? And, as I said, I know it’s been cut this year.
HORN: Well, first, let me explain this fund. In the unincorporated area in North County, in District 5, we have about 170,000 people who buy things and pay sales tax. If you live in a city like Vista or Escondido, you get your portion of your sales tax back and it goes into your general fund. In the unincorporated area, they get none of that money back. The only way any of that money is returned is through this neighborhood reinvestment. I’m – What I – a How I’ve spent the money in my district is on my website. Most of my money goes to public safety, fire engines, helicopters. A large amount of my money goes to building public libraries. I’m currently under construction with one in Fallbrook. That would not have taken place if we hadn’t taken half a million dollars for that community reinvestment money and put it into that project. If you look at the Boys and Girls Clubs, I have a large number of those in North County, ten. I support them because they are involved in the anti-gang programs, the after school programs. That’s where the money goes. I think it’s well spent. I realize that this money could go into the big hole of the general fund of the County of San Diego but with the $25 million that is collected in the unincorporated area in sales tax, I do not think—and it’s currently now one million, I think it ought to be back at two million—that we need to put that money back into the community. Every city gets the benefit of that so why should not the unincorporated area?
CAVANAUGH: Thank you. And Mr. Bumgardner.
BUMGARDNER: This is a pet peeve of mine. The actual amount of money is $2 million for each supervisor, not one million. Now they’re saying, oh, we’re going to cut it in half and we’re only going to use $1 million. My question would be, where is the other million going? Where did it – Is that like raising your taxes because we’re taking your money and giving you nothing for it? On the other hand, the equalization of distributing that money is totally out of whack. I know places that get one-tenth of what the other communities get. And nothing is said about it but when you apply for the money, they just looked at you like you’re from Mars. And you have communities in North County that get money, millions of dollars spent on roadways that have no significance at all out in the desert, and the North County roads look like, you know, alleyways. I think there’s a good reason to have the money and to use it in the right way but I think that you have five people using this money that, after a period of 20 years, the money is using you.
CAVANAUGH: Let me move on to Mr. Marchi about the discretionary funds.
MARCHI: Yes, I believe that the funds, they are there because they are fulfilling a purpose. What I cannot accept is what I hear just a minute ago. The incumbent said ‘my money.’ Is not your money. It is actually our money, citizens’ money, so you don’t have to take the pride, the owner, saying that it is your money because I believe from your paycheck that nothing goes to the constituencies. So as a supervisor, what I will do, I will make sure that the money will be spread equally to all services, to all citizens. And I won’t put Fabio’s money is going to be given to the people because that’s a bribery and that’s a bad use. Maybe the purpose of the supervisors was great, the intention was okay, but the use, it is unacceptable. Like I said, being a fiscal conservative, I multiply the money two millions per five is ten millions a year over ten years, $250 million, almost a quarter a billion dollars. For what? So we can do much better. We can buy schools, we can build libraries, we can put fire trucks, and we can do that in a open forum. We can get the citizens to the side and not one individual because I said that I grew up in a dictatorship in Argentina and I don’t want the same over here. That’s why I’m running for office and I think we need to put an end to these little kingdoms and these little powerbrokers…
CAVANAUGH: Thank you. Thank you. I want to end it there. And, Mr. Marchi, I realize I’ve been asking you last a lot and so the next time we come back, you’re first up, how’s that?
MARCHI: Well, actually – actually, the last is the best, and I had to say that today’s my birthday so I’m happy to be here today. So my 49th birthday.
CAVANAUGH: I’m happy you’re all here. We have to take a short break. When we return, our 5th District San Diego County supervisor candidates’ forum continues here on KPBS.
CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS, and it’s a candidates’ forum. We have all the candidates here running for the 5th District on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. They are: Bill Horn, Tom Bumgardner, Steve Gronke, Fabio Marchi and John Van Doorn. And I said that I would start with you, Mr. Marchi, on this, and I, indeed, I will. Proposition B on the June ballot would impose terms limits on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. Current board members have served longer than the two terms that the proposition would allow but they would not be affected by this. In other words, they would be allowed two terms as well. I’ll ask each of you if you support terms limits, starting with you, Mr. Marchi.
MARCHI: Well, term limits is not a solution. I believe democracy is. We got, as citizens, we got the power to vote and I learned that we can vote the bad official, vote him out. And that’s what I believe. I stand for principles. We have to win a democracy here. We have to exercise the right. When we vote, we are compare – the poor man in this country’s compared with the wealthy individual in this country in that moment only. So I encourage everybody to vote. The incumbent needs to be retired, no doubt about it. He’s tired, getting old, outdated, out of touch so we need young blood. I will bring a new change to the county, and we have to have more fun in this county when dealing with the county. It’s terrible, so depressing dealing with the county.
CAVANAUGH: Okay, and Mr. Van Doorn.
VAN DOORN: I…
CAVANAUGH: Do you support term limits?
VAN DOORN: Yes, I support the term limits for a number of reasons. Number one, I believe having a change in leadership is vital and good for the county. If we stay moving too long in one direction, there becomes a section of society that becomes disenfranchised and neglected. I also feel that if you can’t get something you’re passionate about done in eight years in office, it’s time to move out. You’re not going to fix it. And somebody else will have a greater passion. And if you look at our history, our founding fathers, people went into public service, they became – they went to elected office and saw it as a duty to country. They went for a few years and then they returned back to their businesses. We need to get back to that in American government.
CAVANAUGH: Mr. Gronke.
GRONKE: Yeah, I also believe in term limits. And, you know, and some people question whether terms limits are effective. You know, the reason that Sacramento has term limits is because of Willie Brown, and they had to try to finally break up that monopoly. And I think we have a monopoly right now in the county. We have individuals that have been there for 16, 20 years. Because of their slush funds and so forth, they’re almost impregnable. So I think we need to find a way to break that cycle and this is one way. I realize it’s not going to break it this year but it will eventually break it.
CAVANAUGH: And Mr. Bumgardner.
BUMGARDNER: I think that term limits are a good idea. I don’t know whether eight years is. I think that we need to get to Congress and do some term limits there. I heard a guy on the way down here on the radio station saying he’d been in there 41 years. He absolutely knows nothing about what went on in Congress because he’s probably been sleeping half that time. And as far as somebody being here for 16 or 20 years, I think that probably you impale yourself with a spear that will put you out because you’ve become too obligated to the people you’re just associating with. And I think it’s time to – for the current supervisor to move up or move out.
CAVANAUGH: And, Mr. Horn, term limits.
HORN: I’m opposed to term limits and I was in the very beginning, I was opposed to term limits. But this current ballot measure is put on by SEIU, the employees union. They haven’t been able to get control of the county board of supervisors, unlike the unions being in control of the City of San Diego, the unions being in control of the legislature. They have ruined the budgets. And I just do not believe the taxpayers, if they understood that the reason SEIU’s put this on the ballot is they want to get control of the salaries and wages and the retirement benefits. And this current board has, even though we’ve said no, we have – I think we’ve treated our employees fairly. But at the same time, we haven’t gone overboard like the City of San Diego. Currently, our retirement system is funded at 82%. It was 104 before this economic turndown. We have made our payments every year on time. We’ve also paid additional every year to pay down the debt. So I – And last year when we negotiated the retirement thing, we moved public safety back to 55 years away from 50, and the general employees back to 62. So I think the unions do not like the governance that we’ve put in place but I think one of the reasons we have a sound financial structure in the county of San Diego is because we have done a diligent job. And I – if I, you know, if this current board has to take all the credit for that, I would do that. Interesting that SEIU, who’s put this on the ballot in San Diego, is also opposed to it – I mean, they want to keep term limits in Sacramento. So kind of a two-faced kind of approach.
CAVANAUGH: I want to give you time, each of you, to give a sort of a closing idea, a closing answer to this forum and I’m going to give you all just about 90 seconds to do that if you’d like. And the question really is if you want to tell us some of the specific issues that you’re particularly concerned about and why you think that you would be the best candidate to lead the county’s 5th District. Let me start with you, Mr. Van Doorn.
VAN DOORN: Yes, again, I want to get back to federally mandated social programs. The county has been aggressive in administering some of these programs and my family and many other families that I’ve come across have, to put it simply, been destroyed for the county’s profit. I’m the only person among the five of us here who is intimately, or at least maybe Mr. Horn is, I don’t know, but he won’t admit it, but I’m intimately knowledgeable of what’s going on in the county. I’ve spent a number of years researching the type of funding that comes back to the county in exchange for this. I’ve seen personally the corruption, and testified to the board about the corruption in county government that’s going on behind the scenes and nothing’s being done. I’m going to be the candidate who has a passion about it, who is going to demand that there be change, who will not accept anything other than change in this area. And the people of San Diego can count on me to make certain that that happens. Beyond that, I’m very concerned about our water situation. Mr. Horn and the supervisors will say that this is not within their control but, still, they need to be our representatives. They need to drive the Delta Stewardship Council, the State of California and the federal government to make certain that those investments are made that our water supply is secured because we cannot – as a county, we cannot grow economically, we cannot grow in our demographics until there’s more water here. We are at a straining point. The County of San Diego’s at its limits. We can’t go any further until that problem is properly addressed. The current board right now, at least Mr. Horn, is not cognizant and is not voting in a manner consistent with that.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you. Mr. Bumgardner, your specific issues and why you would be the best candidate to lead the 5th District.
BUMGARDNER: Well, my specific issues are that we need to put more people that live in the county into the governing process. We have hundreds, even thousands, of people who make decisions who are not elected who do the undercover, the dirt, the ground work, and we need to empower them to be able to do that in a manner that befits the communities they come from. I have been a public servant for 32 years and I am signing up to be a full time public servant, which I have been for 32 years, and I can get the job done just like I’ve done over the years in managing celebrations and running chamber of commerce and working on fire boards and working on parks and recreation boards. I have seen things work and I’ve seen things not work and I think that I would be an asset to this community because I can make things work.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you, Mr. Bumgardner. Mr. Marchi.
MARCHI: Yes, as your future supervisor, I will bring my knowledge as a engineer, as a general contractor and a real estate broker because that taught me in life the abilities to listen to people and provide. I’m a troubleshooter, so I’m a person that like to deal with problems and resolve the problems. That was something that my parents taught me, to be responsible with my money, and I will be responsible with the constituencies’ money. I’m self-employed, so I’m a small business so I know how hard it is to make the payroll every week, so I don’t expect any freebies from anyone. And like being a fiscal conservative, I learned that hard work is the only way to do things in life. Honest work, honest income is what I believe. I’ve been listening to the concerns of the citizens and when I’ll be your supervisor, I will make sure to try to take care of all those concerns. I believe that emergency preparedness is so important, same like crime deterrents. I want to reduce traffic congestion. I will help to resolve the infrastructure of water, energy and transportation, so much needed and so substandard right now. I will help the farmers, citizens, businesses. I believe in a free market. And I will bring a generational change and diversity to the board of supervisors.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you, Mr…
MARCHI: I’m fluent in Spanish and Italian so I have a world experience that is so much needed.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you. And, Mr. Gronke.
GRONKE: Thank you. I see two things that would – why I want to run. And the first one deals with the oil spill in the Gulf. The U.S. is dependent on oil and we need to change that. And I think through SANDAG and through other agencies there is an opportunity for San Diego to take the lead on being the county of the future with transportation corridors, with units built within infrastructure areas, with the availability of jobs close to where people live. I think we can really do that within the next 8 years and that’s why – one of the reasons I want to run. The other reason I want to run is more primitive. We’ve seen two major fires within our last decade. We need to do something about fire and we need to respond as quickly as possible. You know, through my fire agency, I was able to see a video called “The Blue Line.” And basically the story behind it was the ocean is the end of the line for some of these fires if we don’t get a handle on them. And I don’t think we have a handle on it yet. I don’t think the county has a proper defense when it comes to protecting the people of North County.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you. And, Mr. Horn.
HORN: Yeah, I think North County very often is forgotten when it comes to county government or various SANDAG boards, what have you. And I think North County needs a strong voice. And to be honest with you, I think I’ve been that strong voice. Sometimes I’ve been an irritation, sometimes folks do not like to hear the word no. But at the same time, I think you need that gumption or strength for North County. We have a number of industries in North County that need to be protected. Agriculture, we’re San Diego County’s agriculture, $1.8 billion a year. The water issue’s a huge issue for us. I – It’s been a bully pulpit but – because I do not – the board of supervisors does not do water, but we should have more desal plants, we should have more water coming south. The current mixture of water in Skinner Reservoir, they’ve increased the salts, which reduce our crops amount. So these are issues that had to be addressed. The vegetation management to prevent the fires from rolling in here and down these wicks that are little valleys, and burning up the cities, we have put that in place and that’s a – I worked hard with the federal government and the state government two years ago to make that happen. And the public safety issue, there’s nothing worse than watching a dead kid on the street or a police officer. I’ve – We’ve been a strong force for the North County Gang Task Force, our Gang Commission. I want to continue that pressure. And so thank you very much for having us, Maureen, and we’ll see you on June the 8th.
CAVANAUGH: I do appreciate you all participating in this and being so concise. We had so many thoughts and so many ideas, and thank you for expressing them so well. I want to let everyone know the District 5 seat on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors is one of the races on the June primary ballot and that election takes place on Tuesday, June 8th. You can see all of our election coverage online, KPBS.org/election. And thank you. You’ve been listening to These Days.