District 5 Candidate Jim Desmond Says County's Reserves 'Are Fine Where They Are'
Most of the members of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors have been in office for more than 20 years. That will change after this year’s election.
New supervisors will be elected in Districts 4 and 5 because of the addition of term limits for the board positions.
The San Diego supervisors race for District 5 has four candidates — two Democrats and two Republicans. The winner will replace termed-out supervisor Bill Horn.
District 5 covers the entire width of North County — from Carlsbad and Oceanside on the coast, north to the Orange and Riverside county borders and through Valley Center and Borrego Springs to the Imperial Valley line.
Candidate Jim Desmond has been the mayor of San Marcos for the last 12 years. He’s also a member of the board of directors for San Diego Association of Governments and a board member of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority. Desmond is a Republican. Supervisors positions are non-partisan, but currently, all five members of the board are Republicans.
Desmond spoke with KPBS Midday Edition host Maureen Cavanaugh about his positions on some of the top issues in the race and why he is running for the seat.
Desmond's candidate interview airs on Thursday on Midday Edition.
>>> Two seats on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors are wide open this year because of term limits. The District 5 seat is being vacated by supervisor Bill Horn who has been on the board more than 20 years. District 5 encompasses the entire portion of San Diego County from Carlsbad, Oceanside , nor to the Orange and Riverside County lines, and through Valley Center and Prego seeing -- springs through the -- line. Both of them are running to Republicans and two Democrats. Didn't -- Jim Desmond has been mayor for the last 12 years. He is also representative on San Diego Association of governments and the board of regents on the San Diego board of Airport of Doherty. They are nonpartisan but currently all five members of the board are Republicans. Mayor Desmond, welcome to the program. Housing and development are big issues for district 5. Proposed developments like the new version of Lilac Hills Ranch remain Virtual. On the one hand they addressed the county's crucial need for more housing but they don't conform with the County General plans guidelines of where to build in the backcountry. How do you think the county can resolve this problem? >> The biggest failure of housing is we don't have the infrastructure necessary. One of the biggest complaints that everyone hears about for any new housing or projects is traffic. I am a big proponent of putting in more infrastructure and making sure we have the infrastructure we need so that people and businesses can be successful. And we can accommodate more housing. Only if we have the infrastructure in place that is necessary. >>> Do you have a position on the Lilac Hills Ranch development ? >> I am in favor as long as it provides the necessary infrastructure put sand. Since it is the general plan amendment request, whenever there is a general plan amendment, I think the development needs to bring more to the community that already exists. If it has the adequate infrastructure it requires plus emergency access infrastructure, and it meets all mitigation requirements, I think it should be reapproved. I have yet to see the full extent of the infrastructure as part of this product and that is the biggest weighing factor for me as a yes or no. >>> Reserve funds have been a big issue for the county. Supervisors take credit for putting the county on firm financial ground. With almost $2 billion in reserves, the board has been criticized for not opening pursestrings to address issues like housing, mental health, homelessness. What is your position on the use of reserves? >> If you take the unencumbered reserves, that is the money that is not spoken for rainy day funds. It equates to about 700 million. Dollars of unencumbered reserves. The county right now, even at the $5 billion a year budget which comes to about 13 million a day. If you take that 700 million of unencumbered reserves, divide by 13, it leaves the only 54 days of reserves under normal operating procedure. I think the reserves are fine with AR. I think they are called reserves for a reason. The unencumbered reserves are in good shape. >>> San Marco's outlawed marijuana cultivation, delivery, sale within a city. The supervisors have a moratorium on nearly all new marijuana dispensaries and farms. Your views are in line with the current board. You are the only district 5 candidate who takes a hard line against the new cannabis industry. My question is do you see any room for the cannabis industry in the county's future? >> On the recreational marijuana side, I definitely have been against the retail sales of recreational marijuana. I don't want just a marijuana dispensary in my neighborhood, I don't want it in anyone else's. I am open to the discussion, however, of the cultivation of marijuana in the unincorporated areas. My criteria for that would be it has to be in and enclosed, secured, ventilated type building or structure so that it is not accessible as opposed to a open field growing marijuana. I am open to the discussion. I'm okay with medical marijuana. I'm against retail sales of recreational marijuana. >>> And we recent years, San Diego County jails have had the highest number of reported suicides in any California gel system. A recent report urged the county to address inmate mental health and gel suicides by providing more resources to the jails. What do you think the County Board of Supervisors could do to help fix our jails ? >> I think our jails and homeless problems comes down to a lot of mental health issues. I think the county even in the new budget that is coming up with the draft budget for 2018/19, this includes about $469 million of additional monies into the general fund to provide mostly for mental health services. I think that is going to be a big shot in the arm for additional employees and services not only for the jails but also for the homeless and the entire mental health issue. I fully support increasing those dollars for the current budget that would be in the draft if I was on the Board of Supervisors now, I would be in favor of those dollars going towards mental health issues. >>> The chair of the current board of supervisors went to the White House to talk about the county's vote to support President Donald Trump's lawsuit against California sanctuary state laws. Do you think the County Board of Supervisors should've gotten involved in that issue? >> The real issue is not so much the sanctuary city issue or anti-immigration, it is really about law enforcement. With SB54 in the sanctuary cities. Law enforcement should not be operating in silos. That is what SB54 did. It severed the coordination effort between local law enforcement and federal law enforcement. What SB54 does, which is called the Century City bill, it is a separation of law enforcement. That is detrimental to all communities and all neighborhoods. I think we should work together and make sure we keep our neighborhoods safe. >>> Do you think the County Board of Supervisors should've gotten involved in it the way it did? >> I think they should take a stance on neighborhoods and in keeping neighborhood safe and for making sure law enforcement works together, yes. I agree with their position. >>> You said if you were elected to the board, you work for more dollars for highway expansion in North County. Won't more dollars for highways pose a problem for the county's larger goal of reducing greenhouse gases and building better mass transit ? >> I disagree with mass transit will fix our greenhouse gases. I think technology will advance faster than transit. Cars are becoming much further along. You look at Tesla's and electric cars and electric charging stations, I think cars will be much less of an impact on greenhouse gases in the future. Primarily due to technology. Buses and trains still run either they are compressed natural gas but I think the technology in individual vehicles will outpace any sort of accommodation of transit in North County. >>> I've been speaking with District 5 candidate Jim Desmond. Thank you so much. >> Thank you. I appreciate it.