Wednesday, May 12, 2010
There are a number of countywide and local propositions on San Diego's June Primary ballot. We'll examine some of them with KPBS Political correspondent Gloria Penner.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. There aren’t only candidates on the June primary ballot, there are issues, too. Several propositions are generating interest throughout San Diego County. Voters will decide on Proposition B, an initiative to impose term limits on the county’s top elected officials. San Diego’s five county supervisors earn more than state legislators but, unlike state legislators, they are not limited to two or three terms in office. In fact, the supervisors have served between 15 and 18 years each. KPBS reporter Allison St John has more.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Mr. Clerk, would you please call the roll?
CLERK: Supervisor Jacob.
DIANNE JACOB (Supervisor, San Diego County Board of Supervisors): Here.
CLERK: Supervisor Cox.
GREG COX (Supervisor, San Diego County Board of Supervisors): Here.
CLERK: Supervisor Roberts
RON ROBERTS (Supervisor, San Diego County Board of Supervisors): Here.
ALLISON ST JOHN (Reporter, KPBS): Roll call at San Diego County Board meetings has sounded exactly the same for the last 15 years. The last new face was Greg Cox, who was appointed in 1995. This year, the labor movement in San Diego mobilized.
LORENA GONZALES (San Diego Labor Council): …where we’re going to remind the county board of supervisors that it’s time for term limits.
ST JOHN: Lorena Gonzales of San Diego’s Labor Council has made this one of the most important issues on the June ballot for her constituents, working families. She points out demographics have changed since the current board was elected. Democrats now outnumber Republicans in two of the five districts but there are no Democrats on the county board. Lani Lutar of the San Diego Taxpayers Association is against term limits for the supervisors. She says if people don’t like the incumbents, there’s already a way to replace them.
LANI LUTAR (Spokesperson, San Diego Taxpayers Association): If they don’t support the incumbency then they have to work to identify a qualified candidate and support that candidate.
ST JOHN: Challengers have an uphill battle financially to raise enough money to compete with the supervisors’ accumulated war chests of more than $100,000 each. Richard Rider of San Diego Tax Fighters has been calling for term limits for San Diego County Supervisors for years. He labels himself an Independent. He says the interesting thing is that the Democratic Party, which is historically opposed to term limits is now in favor of them, whereas the Republican Party, which has adamantly supported term limits is suddenly opposed to them.
RICHARD RIDER (Spokesman, San Diego Tax Fighters): The one common denominator you see between the two parties is absolute lack of principle. When they see a chance to get rid of people from the other party, they support it. When it protects their own party, they’re ag’in it.
ST JOHN: Michael Rosen, secretary of the San Diego Republican Party, admits his party’s support of term limits for state legislators did not result in better government.
MICHAEL ROSEN (Secretary, San Diego Republican Party): I guess I’m saying I’m sort of agnostic about term limits, that they can be, in some circumstances, perhaps they could help bring about competitiveness in elections but I think in this case, in the case of San Diego County, they’re overrated.
ST JOHN: Margaret Johnson, a longtime county employee is a registered Republican but she’s also a union member and was one of the first to go out to collect signatures for the term limit initiative. She says she watched her father vote election after election for the incumbent county supervisor.
MARGARET JOHNSON (Republican Activist): And I just wondered how many other people are out there who don’t know what labor knows but they still vote for the incumbent regardless of their track record.
ST JOHN: Johnson wonders how many people even understand how the county affects their lives. She points out San Diego supervisors spend a fraction of what other counties spend on fire protection, and San Diego was at the bottom of the list of counties statewide in terms of its food stamp program. Johnson says people whose health and welfare services have been cut are often too busy trying to survive to vote, and service providers tend not to speak out in public to criticize the board that funds their programs. She says it was difficult enough for her to support the initiative.
JOHNSON: I was very scared about it because you’re taking on the board. And I’m still scared.
ST JOHN: The term limits initiative avoids confronting the supervisors currently in office. Even if it passes, it allows two additional four-year terms. That would mean Ron Roberts and Bill Horn, who are running for their fifth terms this year, could still run for a sixth and seventh term. Richard Rider says he believes changing demographics will change the makeup of the board eventually, with or without term limits, but not until the incumbents decide they’re ready to quit.
RIDER: What has happened is we’ve had a situation where the demographics have changed but because of the advantages of incumbency we can’t get rid of the old school who’s there much to the delight of the Republicans, much to the chagrin of the Democrats.
ST JOHN: It turns out San Diego is not unusual. Supervisors in more than a third of California counties have served between 15 and 20 years. So far, only 8 of California’s 58 counties have term limits. Allison St John, KPBS News.
CAVANAUGH: And I’m Maureen Cavanaugh here with KPBS political correspondent Gloria Penner. Prop B will be decided by San Diego voters countywide but there are a few local propositions that are generating controversy. Gloria, let’s start with Chula Vista’s Proposition G. It’s being called the Fair and Open Competition Ordinance. What would Prop G do?
GLORIA PENNER (KPBS Political Correspondent): Okay, this is an ordinance that would prohibit Chula Vista from funding or entering into public works contracts that require agreements with labor organizations or payments on behalf of employees to labor organizations, benefit plans or other trust funds. Now this is for projects paid for by city or redevelopment funds for the City of Chula Vista. And, basically, the city cannot become a signatory to a collective bargaining agreement. Some see it as a choice between developers offering more jobs with fewer benefits and protections or fewer but better jobs. You know, Chula Vista is a city with big plans for its waterfront and when the economy picks up, and many public buildings are on the drawing board.
CAVANAUGH: So that’s why supporters want Prop G. What do opponents say about this proposition.
PENNER: Yeah, just to add to that…
PENNER: …supporters say this is not about being forced into paying higher salaries and more benefits and thus limiting competition for projects, that the purpose is to ensure fair and open competition, that’s part of it. Let me tell you who’s supporting it.
PENNER: The Chula Vista Taxpayers Association, Associated Builders and Contractors—that’s no surprise—and Phil Blair, who’s the head of Manpower Services. He came out. It’s a temporary employment agency. He said he’s convinced project labor agreements that require certain standards and guarantees from construction companies will be a drag on development.
CAVANAUGH: Okay, then, the opponents of this ordinance.
PENNER: The opponents, school board member Shelia Jackson. She says that going with project labor agreements is not just about low bids but about good jobs. And it’s not necessarily about union jobs. It’s what people get caught up with when they hear ‘project labor’, they get that labor mentality. And I read an article, an editorial in the La Prensa San Diego newspaper and basically it says there’s a danger here because this would prohibit Chula Vista from receiving funding from the state which then would prohibit the federal government from funding local projects. So it would go far beyond local. It would mean that state and federal funds could not come in to support local projects, which would cut back significantly on what’s available.
CAVANAUGH: So from Chula Vista, we go up north to Oceanside. Voters there are being asked to approve a city charter. It’s Proposition K on the ballot. What do supporters say – why does Oceanside need a charter according to the supporters of Prop K?
PENNER: Well, first I’m going to give you the high road reason why. The city continues to be controlled by out-of-touch Sacramento politicians. That’s what supporters are saying, that they’re puppets for special interests who impose greater mandates and constraints on local government. They wanted to become a charter city so it’s governed by local needs tailored to local needs. However, the charter also calls for fair and open competition to reduce costs for public construction projects and contracts, and by eliminating the state’s prevailing wage requirements, which is what general law cities have to follow, that’s part of the whole package. The San Diego Taxpayers Association is in support of it and, of course, there’s heavy developer participation on the board of the Taxpayers Association.
CAVANAUGH: So another labor versus developer battle?
PENNER: Yeah, once again we’re talking about a labor issue and it’s interesting that this should surface at the southern end and the northern end of the county, sort of like tent poles. But since Chula Vista and Oceanside are the two largest cities in the county after the City of San Diego, with significant potential construction when the economy recovers, the age old labor disputes will erupt as developers and contractors try to drive down labor costs and eke more profit out of each project. But labor interests in the county have been getting stronger as workers in this weak economy have been hoping for some form of salary and benefit security. Now what happens in those two elections, I believe, will most likely have a great deal of influence as the question of project labor agreements pops up in the other cities as well and then pressure increases on the county to abandon the ordinance it passed to ban project labor agreements from its public works programs.
CAVANAUGH: Interesting. Solana Beach finds itself in a little bit of a money jam and so the Proposition L is on the ballot there. That one is about a business tax. Tell us what it would do.
PENNER: Money jam is a very sweet way of putting it, Maureen, I must say. Yeah, Solana Beach is in a fiscal crisis and what it would do is impose a business tax on certain industries to relieve that fiscal emergency. Now this is controversial. The sliding scale fee would be a tax on businesses, to be sure, but it also would be levied on residents who work out of their homes as well as on apartment renters through their landlords. Let me give you an example. An apartment dweller would be paying $25.00 a year. Somebody who uses the internet, telephone and fax at home to do consulting would be $75.00 a year. So, you know, the measure goes beyond that but it’s also been noted by the opponents that it only closes $250,000 of Solana Beach’s $2 million gap. So, you know, what comes next?
CAVANAUGH: Anybody actually supporting this new tax?
PENNER: Yes, actually. Yeah, the San Diego and Imperial County Labor Council supports it. That surprised me. So I asked the political director yesterday why and he responded that local governments are being raided by the state and that with the best real estate in California—and that’s in Solana Beach—it’s amazing that they can’t find a way to pay for city services. So this is a question he believes of closing tax loopholes and not a matter of the labor council representing one single public employee in Solana Beach. He’s basically saying that the anti-tax argument is tired.
CAVANAUGH: Let’s move on to the one other countywide proposition on the ballot and that is Proposition A. What is that about, Gloria?
PENNER: Well, Proposition A would amend the county general plan to change the land zoning to allow solid waste facilities and add the parcel to the county’s list of recycling and disposal sites. The parcel would site a new recycling center and solid waste landfill in the east Otay Mesa area of unincorporated San Diego County. This would be a countywide vote.
CAVANAUGH: And does the county – like the county board of supervisors, did they say we need a new landfill on Otay Mesa?
PENNER: Well, they did not put this on the ballot. It went on the ballot after the petition gatherers gathered enough signatures and they brought it in in a timely way. The person, or people who are really pushing for this is an Otay Mesa property owner. His name is David Wick. And he signed the ballot argument for and he circulated the petitions. He’s a longtime business associate of another South Bay developer, Roque de la Fuente. They wanted to build a racetrack on land that they owned in the area along the border with Mexico and that was maybe about 10 years ago but the project was blocked by intensive Border Patrol operations against illegal immigrants traveling through the property. And so now they’re looking to site a landfill. And, you know, there are those who say the County of San Diego has five active landfills and the landfill capacity will be good for at least another 20 years. So it’s going to be interesting to see whether the proponents actually get it in and are able to site it and have a landfill up and ready to go when the others start filling up.
CAVANAUGH: Now, my last question to you, Gloria, is when – you know, we’ve been talking about the June primary ballot for quite some time now it seems, when does the voting actually start with the mail-in ballots going out?
PENNER: Well, mail-in ballots have become really, really popular, Maureen, and the permanent mail voters, people who say I want to be a permanent mail voter, and voters who declare for a party, they should have their ballots by the end of this week.
PENNER: These were all the requests that were in the Registrar of Voters office by the end of April, so everybody should have it. But if you don’t, if you haven’t gotten your mail ballot and you didn’t sign up as a permanent mail voter, you need to get your request in by June the first and then you’ll get your mail ballot.
CAVANAUGH: And you can always go to the polls on June 8th, right?
PENNER: You certainly can but one or the other, Maureen.
CAVANAUGH: Not both.
PENNER: You don’t vote often.
CAVANAUGH: Right, exactly. Thank you, Gloria, for clarifying that. Gloria Penner is KPBS political correspondent and host of Editors Roundtable and San Diego Week. To review all of the KPBS stories regarding the June 8th California primary, you can go online to KPBS.org/election. Coming up, what prospective parents should know about foreign adoptions. That’s ahead as These Days continues here on KPBS.