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New County Supervisor Desmond To Prioritize Creation Of Behavioral Health Facility

January 10, 2019 2:28 p.m.

GUEST: Jim Desmond, District 5, San Diego County Board of Supervisors

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Related Story: New County Supervisor Desmond To Prioritize Creation Of Behavioral Health Facility


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

This year marks major changes on our San Diego County Board of Supervisors which manages a five billion dollar budget. Jim Desmond is one of two new members on the five member board. He takes over from longtime county Supervisor Bill Horn. Desmond's Fifth District covers a huge swath of North San Diego County from Carlsbad and Oceanside on the coast north to the Orange and Riverside county borders and east through Valley Center and Borrego Springs to the Imperial Valley Line. The board including Desmond voted Wednesday to waive county fees for the next five years.

Homeowners who want to build granny flats on their lots. I spoke with supervisor Desmond about his priorities yesterday. Here's that interview.

So some people would say that perhaps you are the face of the old guard on the Board of Supervisors you're the Republican who will fight to maintain the conservative approach to government. How do you relate to that characterization.

I am a conservative and I do have conservative values. I'm a very strong fiscal conservative but I think I come with a whole different perspective of you know being the mayor of the city of San Marcos and we've done some you know done some things they're very proud of we were always you know fiscally responsible there we put in infrastructure make sure our infrastructure roads streets and roads are maintained. And I want to take those same values to the county.

You actually did a lot more affordable housing in San Marcos than many other cities.

Yes we did. Even as a conservative.

So no border issues are headline news these days and the county has decided to play a more active role in helping the asylum seekers find shelter. Your colleague on the board Dianne Jacobs was more concerned about helping our current homeless veteran population for example rather than new families coming in. How do you balance the needs of those coming in at our existing homeless.

It's a struggle. I mean we're still trying to clean up from the states realignment when they let out a lot of you know people from the jails that have behavioral health issues or you know addiction issues. We still have 80 500 homeless people on the streets right now quite frankly. And I said it in the hearing the other day. I think they are you know should be you know the top concern because they don't have sponsors in the U.S. for them. They don't have a family that's willing to take him or bring him in.

They can't get a job they can't get housing. So but what we did with the asylum seekers is primarily they've been screened by the federal government and ice and now they are waiting for their asylum hearing. And so ice drops them off in our community. And what we're doing is County a county where the public health entity for San Diego County. So what we want to make sure is that we have the people coming here waiting for their asylum hearing are properly screened for health issues because we want to make sure we don't get any infectious diseases or things like that that are coming in that are unchecked.

So that's where we are stepping up and making sure that screening is possible. So I really think it's a state and federal government. The sanctuary state of California has gone ahead and said yes we'll open it we have open doors but they have made no provisions at all for housing these people here while they're in their transition or they're waiting for the hearing. So you know people are always looking to us than the county to pick up that slack. We're willing to do it in the health and human services area.

So talking about homeless you worked with Nathan Fletcher I understand we talked to him he's the other new supervisor and he said that he'd talk to you about ways to help and work with the homeless. What sort of ideas did you work on.

We didn't really hammer out any any long term plans but we looked at homelessness is an issue you must be thinking a lot about. Oh absolutely and one of the things you know being that District 5 representative the city of San Diego seems to get all the attention on homeless. You know we've got homeless in Oceanside we've got homeless in Fallbrook. We've got homeless and Borrego in San Marcos as well we have homeless so I want to make sure that we get our resources as well. But one of the things that really disturbs me about this particularly the behavioral health issues the behavioral health homeless people is the revolving door that we've got going right now where somebody has an episode or an issue that they're confronted by the police or they go to the E.R. They get stabilized they get you know maybe the medications that they need and then they're turned right back out into the streets again.

I think we need to have some sort of it's going to be expensive long term care facility for some of these people because they're never going to get off the streets. And we've got this revolving door. There's a cost to society either way. And so I think it would be better to bring them into housing to where we can administer programs as opposed to the revolving door of go into the E.R. and then back out on the streets.

Well as you say it could be expensive. What do you think about the issue of reserve funds. Because the county is one of the best credit ratings in the country and some people say that it's not spending its money on issues like this where it should be. Do you feel like perhaps that reserve fund is a little too large.

No absolutely not. The reserve fund is there for reserves. That's where we have a catastrophic event happen. So right now you know we've got about 40 to 45 days of reserves if we get a tsunami we get a big fire. You have overtime you've got all this other equipment to bring in and we've got services you know health care child health care services we've got food stamps we've we've got a lot of services that people depend on and be honest with we probably have about 30 days worth of reserves when you add in all the extra costs of catastrophes going to bring on.

So no I'm not in favor of spending the reserves. I think what I did in the city San Marcos and what I want to do is counties We've re prioritize what we have and we use it most effectively where we need to at the time.

Let's talk about housing and development because the county does have the ability to approve new housing developments in the unincorporated areas. And you as the mayor of San Marcos did work a bit with the developer from Ulan Sierra which was a big development that would add 2000 new homes the County Supervisors approved it but it's now going to be on the ballot because people are afraid of urban sprawl.

What's your position on developing out in the rural areas urban sprawl has been going on for years and years. I mean we just keep growing in population so you know I don't think that's really a fair term but to just say that's out in the urban populate or out in the rural areas it's right along the 15 corridor 15. And it's an intersection with deer Springs Road. So to say it's in the middle of nowhere is not is the rural urban interface. Ok but it's right along the 15 corridor it's got freeway access.

And quite frankly I think that's a corridor that if you have to develop somewhere that corridor makes sense.

The county's Climate Action Plan has been rolled three times to be inadequate and that's one of the reasons that these new developments are having a hard time moving ahead because the county is allowing developers to use carbon offsets and other countries to make up for the extra carbon. Well James here.

And quite frankly that is legal under Sequoia to do that. So when you go have a general plan amendment if you have a project that just adheres to the general plan you can't do offsets out of the region if you have a general plan amendment that has to go through the full course of sequal you are allowed to. And it is legal to go and get those carbon offsets someplace else. And it's not like you know you're only affecting the environment in California. You know you can get those offsets someplace else.

The atmosphere is all over the planet. It's you know it's not just one system over the city of San Diego. So it is legal to do it and but I know there's groups that just don't think that is right.

OK. Well speaking of carbon offsets traffic of course is one of the main causes of global warming in fact. And so the public transportation is being pushed as being something that would help us get cars off the road. Now you have said that public transportation does not fix all our needs. Can you expand on that.

The people are choosing are choosing automobiles and to say that the automobile. You know we have to move everybody to transit while the people are making the choice of automobiles. Why don't we make automobiles less. You know I guess putting out less greenhouse gases and we have done that in the past I think we should make that better and more efficient through technology. And I think we're going to get there but we're not there yet. Maybe another decade or so even though you know I like building roads and freeways and think we need more of them in some places.

But you cannot you can't do that you know infinitely just keep adding lanes in more lanes. We're going to have to make the existing roads more efficient. And I think through technology driverless cars electric cars those types of things and then even make it streetlights and everything else much smarter so you're not sitting there idling at a Streetlight when there's no traffic around.

That was Jim Desmond district five's new representative on the County Board of Supervisors.