In recent years, the state has profoundly cut the funding for programs like welfare and food stamps, leaving counties to pick up the slack. Some counties have agreed to take on an extra financial burden, but here the five elected county supervisors rebel against the idea. To them, it’s a matter of fiscal principle.

“This is a county that believes in limited government whose primary responsibly is public safety,” explains one former local official.

But limited resources spell headaches for those who need assistance and find themselves rejected, stuck in endless lines or both. The numbers of those seeking help are on the rise, but the county is not keeping pace.

How did the county get to this point? As we reveal in the second story in our “Out of Reach” investigative series, an ingrained political culture and decades-long legal battles have left a gulf between residents and public aid here that is starker than in any other major California county.

Money, of course, plays a role too. Only one other county out of the state’s 12 largest receives a smaller slice of per-capita funding from the state for general purposes.

We profile a woman who tried to get food stamps to support her struggling family but appears to have gotten lost in the maze of bureaucracy. We explore how the county developed a culture of resistance to expanding programs. And we look at a possible bright spot.

Another short story examines how the county sends investigators to the homes of welfare applicants to look for inconsistencies. The ACLU raised the alarm about privacy rights, and even TV’s Stephen Colbert lampooned the program, but an appeals court said the home visits were legal. And we examine how local businesses — including farmers markets and local grocers — may lose out when eligible people don’t get food stamps.

Also: We have excerpts from our lengthy conversations with each of the five county supervisors. They talk about topics ranging from fraud prevention to local enrollment rates in social-welfare programs.

Make sure to check the comments from Supervisor Bill Horn, who says this: “My parents would never take public assistance. My father wouldn’t even take the GI bill. I could’ve taken a lot of those benefits. If I could live without it why would I take it?”

And Supervisor Dianne Jacob has some sharp words about the state: “They like to take — they steal our money and then they tell us, do more with less, and we don’t have a money tree growing outside in the backyard that we can go pick money off of.”

We’ll have more in the Survival in San Diego blog as the week goes forward, and we look forward to hearing your perspectives.

In other news:

  • Campaign financial statements are in, and San Diego Councilman Kevin Falcouner has a hefty treasure chest for his reelection bid.
  • There’s also a new episode of Fact Check TV examining the housing market’s shadow inventory, the impacts of the Chargers’ loss on the stadium push and more.
  • The Photo of the Day blends sea, sky and surfer.


  • Getting rid of all those parking spaces in front of the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park could cost $6 million, although plans are for private donors to take care of it. (U-T)
  • Jumbo squid alert! Really, really big squid, seen off San Diego over the last month, have made their way north. Some are four-to-five feet long. Holy mackerel.
  • The San Diego City Council delayed a decision on the strong-mayor ballot measure. (U-T)
  • The Escondido police officers union is trying to revamp its public image. New leaders have sent out 20,000 fliers signaling their desire to help with the city’s budget problems, a noted shift from last year’s campaign, which included an incendiary flier claiming gang members there outnumber police 6-to-1. (NCT)
  • The group that oversees California’s bullet train ambitions is holding a public hearing in San Diego on Thursday. (NCT)
  • While he lacks the flair of Bette Davis, a Florida sports reporter writes that San Diego’s football stadium is “a dump.”

Gee, the stadium gets named after a sportswriter (at least for a while) and this is the thanks it gets from one?


Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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