Originally published October 18, 2012 at 11 a.m., updated October 18, 2012 at 2:58 p.m.
Steve Danon, candidate, District 3, SD County Board of Supervisors
Dave Roberts, candidate, District 3, SD County Board of Supervisors
For the first time in 16 years, there is an open seat on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, and the race for that seat has grown increasingly heated. The two candidates for the seat, Republican Steve Danon and Democrat Dave Roberts, debated the issues facing the county on KPBS Midday and Evening Edition.
The two candidates slipped in barbs against each other at almost every opportunity, including over their resumes.
Roberts said he has worked in the private industry for the majority of his career, and said Danon had only been in the private sector for 33 months.
“Who would you trust with a $5 billion budget and managing 15,000 employees?” he asked. “I’ve got that financial background.”
Danon countered that he founded his own business and said Roberts’ private sector experience was as a lobbyist on health care in Washington D.C.
Danon is the former chief of staff for Congressman Brian Bilbray. Roberts is currently the deputy mayor of Solana Beach.
Another moment of hostility came when the candidates were asked, “if the state budget is cut, how will you fund local social programs?”
“The county has a AAA bond rating, and they have that for a reason, through strong financial management,” Roberts responded. “I’m going to continue that strong financial management, but I’ll look at every program and ensure that we do focus on core services.”
“I’ll look at every program and make sure they’re reviewed,” he added.
Then it was Danon’s turn to speak.
“There’s a reason why people are so disgusted with politics, and that’s because people do not answer the question,” Danon said. “I’m going to answer it. Yes, we need to look at it.”
He said one in six San Diego County families are living below the poverty line.
“The county is the safety net,” he said. “Absolutely we need to look at it. We need to maintain the strong credit rating, but it is a rainy day account.”
The two candidates also took differing opinions on the county’s discretionary funds, which supervisors can give to programs or groups in their districts.
While Danon calls the arrangement a “slush fund,” Roberts disagrees.
“Each supervisor tries to look at the programs that are valuable to their district,” Roberts said. “Programs that serve veterans, abused women, that are for our libraries, our animal shelters, for the arts and culture. These are critical programs.”
He said the San Diego County Taxpayers Association and the grand jury have reviewed these programs “again and again.”
Roberts said as long as the programs are open and transparent, the discretionary funds should continue.
Danon said the funds are a “very clear difference” between him and Roberts.
“I oppose the $5 million slush fund, I support an ethics commission,” he said. “The fact that any one supervisor could dole out public taxpayer dollars to art and entertainment groups in exchange for free tickets to events, including a two-week, all-expense-paid vacation to Vienna, Austria, is dead wrong.”
Danon was referencing retiring Supervisor Pam Slater-Price, who received a free trip to Europe from local nonprofit Mainly Mozart. Slater-Price gave the group $188,000 in discretionary funds.
Instead of the discretionary funds, Danon said he supports a citizens’ commission to vet groups receiving funds.
Danon said another difference between him and Roberts is their positions on development in rural areas.
“I support managed growth,” he said. “He’s no growth, I’m managed growth. I will never support a project that does not provide good adequate transportation, open space, schools and amenities. For anybody today, in 2012, to forecast what our needs will be in 2050 is being a little ignorant.”
Danon said he supports infill near transportation corridors, but “if there’s clean technology operations for wind and solar in the unincorporated areas, then we must look at that if it provides a net value for the region.”
Roberts agreed his stance on development in rural areas is different from his opponent’s.
“People do not want to give the county board another vote to pave over our paradise,” he said. “It is critical that we have a proven leader. Look at my track record. I support sensible growth. I support growth along the transit corridor. But we have got to look at our resources and where we can have growth.”
Roberts said in 2012, 80 percent of Danon’s donors were “developers, utilities and other types of people that want to destroy the backcountry and really I think are harmful to San Diego County overall.”
"That's not true," Danon countered.
Danon also said he opposes the state’s prison realignment program, which sends non-violent prisoners back to the counties to help reduce the prison population. Some of those prisoners are in county jail, while others are out on probation.
“This is a huge liability for the county,” Danon said. “We must work together to ensure that violent criminals are not released early.”
Roberts said the program is “both a challenge and an opportunity.”
“If we have the funding here in San Diego County, we can run that program better,” he said.
All current members of the Board of Supervisors are white, Republican and San Diego State University graduates. If elected, Danon would continue the trend.
“Yes, I’ll admit it, I’m white, I’m Republican and I’m a graduate of and San Diego State University,” he said. “Guilty of all three.”
But he said he would serve the diversity of the county by forming an independent redistricting commission that would draw the supervisorial districts, which he said would “truly serve the diversity of the county."
Roberts said he brings bipartisan support to the board, and is the father of five foster children.
“I bring that diversity,” he said.
Below are interviews with both candidates which previously aired on Evening Edition (March 16, 2012).
Claire Trageser contributed to this report.