District 4 Supervisor Candidates Fletcher, Dumanis On The Issues
Nathan Fletcher and Bonnie Dumanis are vying to replace Ron Roberts on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.
Roberts, who represents District 4, is termed out.
The board of supervisors is a non-partisan board, but all of the current supervisors are Republicans. Fletcher, a former state assemblyman, is a Democrat, while Dumanis, the former county district attorney, is a Republican.
District 4 covers most of the central city of San Diego from La Jolla to downtown, from Ocean Beach to Encanto.
In our series of interviews with candidates running for office, KPBS reporter Andrew Bowen spoke with Fletcher and Dumanis.
The below answers have been edited for clarity. To see the full, unedited conversation with the two candidates, click here.
Q: San Diego County has a major housing shortage and most experts agree that this is one of the reasons why this region is so unaffordable for people at many income levels. The board of supervisors just recently approved a development in undeveloped land in North County for more than 2,000 homes. Is this the kind of housing that you would support to help relieve the housing shortage?
Fletcher: No, I think what we need to do instead of going into backcountry, in areas that aren’t consistent with our climate action plans, aren’t consistent with fire protection or water or transit plans, I think the way we need to address our housing shortage is to take bold and decisive action to increase housing in the more urban areas to do more infill, more transit-oriented development. We've talked about the creation of infrastructure financing districts, we've talked about the addition of auxiliary housing units. We've looked at really creative things we can do with county-owned property with the resources they had. You know, let’s not forget this is a county board of supervisors that had $150 million to build the Chargers stadium. They have the funding and the availability, what we need is bold leadership and action to tackle the homeless crisis because it's not just homeless who needs homes, there’s working class folks, there's workforce housing. We have a real need and it's going to take someone to really push them and lead them and drive them in a new direction to make substantive change. We need to address what is a very real problem.
Dumanis: I think we have a housing crisis. The urban core I think is a good place to start because you have livable, walkable communities, your close to transit. So I think that's a good place to start. But for the county, the county's land use is in the outer areas. So if we get 2,000 homes, I think that would be wonderful. But we have not enough homes to go around. That's part of the reason that we have a homeless situation. And so I think we need to do a lot of different things. I think the county needs to step up more and be a leader in housing. I think that we need to put some money from the unreserved reserves and make sure that we help those that are doing affordable housing building with with loans so they can leverage that. I think we need streamline the process so that it doesn't cost as much. Forty percent of the cost of housing is those regulations and that gets passed on to the consumer.
Q: San Diego's homeless crisis does seem to be getting worse. And last year and part of this year it contributed to the deaths of 20 people from Hepatitis A. What would you do on the board of supervisors to help relieve this homelessness crisis?
Dumanis: I think that Hepatitis A kicked us all in the butt. And that's why people started focusing on homelessness and I think it's great that Dan Shea and Peter Seidler stepped up and made sure that they helped as well and the city of San Diego. So we have some temporary shelter now but I see after the crisis, it seems to be more and more people on the streets. So I think we have to look at number one, the shelters as a first step. And then from there we need to have bridge housing and then from there we need housing first plus. But, we also have to recognize that there are people in the system that have mental health issues, that we need to place into homes eventually that have wraparound services. And there is mental health money that we can use for those wraparound services. And I've been working in the homeless area, I've been working in San Diego for 35 years as a DA and a judge and as a prosecutor, and that's why Bob McElroy from Alpha Project and Father Joe are supporting me because of my experience with them on the homeless issues.
Fletcher: The county hasn't been getting it done. The simple reality is there is a crisis that has been building over years and they've been asleep at the switch. For almost a decade, they were warned that you had a Hepatitis crisis coming and they didn't take action. A recent state audit showed they have about one half the public health nurses they're required by law to have. And you have an all five Republican board of supervisors that's too busy voting themselves pay raises, offering money for stadiums and investing in things that aren't helping the most vulnerable among us. Last year we stood on the steps of the county and put out an emergency action plan. And standing with me was a coalition that included state leaders like Todd Gloria and city leaders like Chris Ward and Barbara Bry and included folks from labor, business leaders, community and faith leaders, and we called on the county to change their ways, to step out in a new direction, to be bold, to hire the public health nurses they need, to commit to building the permanent supportive housing that they need to have, to open the inpatient psychiatric beds that they’re licensed and authorized to open at their Rosecrans facility, to be a better partner with the city. Just a few weeks ago, Chris Ward and I stood at a vacant county building in Hillcrest and called for a specific plan of action on a piece of property there that's been vacant for over a decade. They have fences around the facility and they pay 24-hour security to stop homeless folks from climbing the fence going into the building, we said ‘tear the fence.’ Let's create a recuperative care center, a step down facility, but there's been a lack of leadership and that's what I think we need now more than ever. When I was in the state assembly, we showed we could lead and things like Chelsea's Law got a lot of attention. But I did legislation on homeless youth, to try and alleviate that burden and help them and that's where we need a new generation. We need new ideas. We need someone who's going to really push them to be accountable and make a difference.
Q: The current supervisor for District 4, Ron Roberts, has had a big impact on San Diego County's transportation network, not just in District 4, but really across the entire county through his leadership at the MTS and SANDAG boards of directors. If you end up serving on the boards of either of those agencies, what kind of transportation future would you advocate for in San Diego County?
Fletcher: We have to provide more options. So much of the world, whenever they build and they develop, they build their housing and then they think about how do they put work and residential and culture and arts and nightlife, how do they put them in the same environment and then they think about how do they connect those via pedestrian access and then they think about how do they connect those via transit. And then after that, then they think about how do you fill in the gaps with cars. We tend to build in a way that is primarily derived from how to use a car to get from A to B. And I've traveled all over the world and I've seen public transit systems that work. Every class I teach at UCSD as a professor, I see students who want a different type of life. They want a different quality of life. And so I think our region needs to move boldly and in a substantive way to really provide a viable transit option that connects centers of employment and centers of housing, that will lower our greenhouse gas emissions, that will allow us to build more density. That will change the parking requirements and it will really go a long way towards building the San Diego of the future that we want. But also the one we want for our kids and our grandkids so that they can afford to live here and the type environments they need. And I don't think we've seen the commitment that we need to transit, to bike lanes, to walkable communities and that's one of the things I think really has to change.
Dumanis: I would think it's an exciting opportunity. I would bring people in the community together, in my 35 years working in this community, that's been my MO. My MO has also been bold leadership, change agent, turning things around. And so I would get together with those in the different areas of the community, as well as the experts in the area and have them be advisers to me in particular and also to SANDAG and I like the SANDAG approach that's regional, which is good but you know the urban core, I live in downtown San Diego so I like walking, I see a lot of those scooters these days. Not sure, I like those but only because they feel like they're dangerous. But I think that we have to do both. We have to work on traffic because I also drive in traffic. My mother lives in UTC. I have to drive back and forth and there is no time when traffic isn't really bad anymore. And so I would look for options. I like the trolley, the trolley goes to UCSD now or is in process. So I think there are a lot of different options that we can look at. But I do think they have to be new options and having fresh eyes look at them I think is a great thing because we will look from different views and different lenses.
Q: What do you think is the most important distinction between you and your opponent?
Fletcher: I think it's this notion of change, you know Bonnie Dumanis has spent 30 or 40 years at the county, really does reflect, is supported by all five of the incumbent Republican supervisors, is part and parcel of what's been going on there. There's this great line, that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is today. I wish 20 years ago the county would have been doing a lot of the things that now we say they need to do. I wish they would have been moving in a more progressive direction. I wish they would have invested more, I wish they would have taken a louder and stronger stand on things and I think our region would be a better place. But I think in this election, we have the opportunity to bring someone who has governing experience, has shown that legislatively we can tackle big, difficult issues and deliver solutions. Who's shown that outside of office, whether it's helping mental health treatment for our veterans or our deported veterans, but who comes in with that energy and drive to say we're going to move in a more progressive direction and we're going to lead and we're going to work with the state and we're going to drive solutions in a meaningful and accountable way. And so I think that we need a new voice at the county and I think it's time after the last 30 years that we really start moving our region in a different direction.
Dumanis: I think it's experience. I've been working in this county for 35 years. I've been the CEO of a organization that has a budget of $185 million, 1,000 employees. I was the top law enforcement office official in the county. And you know what? I don't even know how I got there. I was raised in a home that was a working-class family. My dad was a truck driver. He was a Teamster. My mom worked for WIC. I put myself through college. I put myself through law school and I started out as a junior typist and rose through the ranks until I got to the deputy DA. I was elected as a judge and then I was elected as DA and not only DA, but the first openly gay DA in the nation and the first woman and openly gay DA here in San Diego. I've also been known as the most progressive in terms of criminal justice reform in the state of California. We have implemented and actually done bold programs. So I've walked the walk. I know what it's like to pick up the pieces for victims. I know what it's like to change the criminal justice system and be progressive. And I know how to save lives and that's what it's all about and that's what makes me the best qualified candidate in this race.