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For decades, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors has grown and protected its reserves to shield taxpayers from emergencies and other costs, such as new facilities and pension debt. That seems destined to change.
Voice’s Lisa Halverstadt reports that progressives have long pushed for spending more of that money and may finally get their chance because two of the four longtime supervisors will be termed out this year and another two by 2020.
All five of the candidates seeking Ron Roberts’ District 4 seat — including former District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, the lone Republican in the race — said they’re opening to tapping that $2 billion reserve to alleviate the region’s homeless problems and housing shortage.
Of course, the details and specific proposals vary.
Some of the highlights:
• Dumanis was the only candidate not to give Voice an interview, but in a statement she sent, praised the board’s decision last year to direct $25 million in reserves to a fund to support affordable housing development.
• Land-use attorney and neighborhood activist Omar Passons proposed using up to $100 million in county reserve funds and county-owned land for housing projects for homeless San Diegans.
• Former state Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher proposed new mental health facilities, and increased affordable housing investments and rental assistance.
• Former state Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña said she like to see the county create a revolving fund to support upgrades and repairs to aging affordable housing.
• Retired deputy fire chief and Encanto planning committee chair Ken Malbrough said he wanted more proactive education about what the county does and what it can offer San Diegans – and a better way to evaluate outcomes.
The County Board of Supervisors also dominated the first half of this week’s Voice of San Diego podcast.
Later this month, the all-Republican board will consider — behind closed doors — following Orange County’s lead and joining a federal lawsuit against California over the state’s so-called sanctuary laws that limited local police cooperation with immigration officials.
The supervisors will also discuss whether to get involved in California’s suit against the Trump administration over a citizenship question on the 2020 Census that could cause the state to lose a member of Congress. The federal government is citing the civil rights-era Voting Rights Act in its defense, which Sen. Pro Tem Toni Atkins called “shamelessly cynical.”
Hosts Scott Lewis and Sara Libby consider those lawsuits as well as the candidacy of Jacqueline Arsivaud, who’s seeking the 5th District seat on the Board of Supervisors. She’s tied herself to an anti-development initiative on the November ballot that would require developers to get voter-approval anytime they want to deviate from the county’s general plan. Supporters of the initiative say it’ll stop sprawl and hold builders accountable.
On the second half of the podcast, Lewis is joined by Andrew Keatts for an interview with Christian Ramirez. He worked for a Washington D.C. nonprofit on border and immigration policy, but returned home to run for the San Diego City Council’s 8th District, which includes Barrio Logan and Otay Mesa. Ramirez said those communities are underserved at City Hall and he wants to make them cleaner, healthier places.
Keeping Military Weapons Away From Cops
Despite a long-standing taboo in America against sending combat soldiers into the streets to do civilian work, government agencies across the country have gotten their hands on a shocking amount of war-tested equipment.
In 2014, for instance, San Diego Unified obtained a $730,000, mine-resistant, armored vehicle (and returned it when the public expressed outrage). That same year, I wrote about a tiny town in Minnesota that had been given a grenade launcher its own police chief didn’t want.
That’s all thanks to a federal program started in the 1990s — championed by tough-on-crime Democrats and Republicans — allowing the Pentagon to transfer military-grade weapons to local police. President Obama limited the program, but President Trump has re-affirmed the White House’s endorsement.
A bill recently introduced by San Diego Assemblyman Todd Gloria would, reports Voice contributor Marisa Agha, require law enforcement agencies in California to outline how the military equipment would be used and to hold a public meeting for local governing body approval. For sheriffs and DAs, that would mean the county Board of Supervisors.
The bill cites, among other things, manned and unmanned aircraft, firearms and ammunition of .50 caliber or greater, riot batons, camouflage, explosives and long-range acoustic devices.
“State and local law enforcement are a public safety service, not an occupying force,” Gloria said in a statement. “Militarization is not necessary in order to keep our neighborhoods safe.”
Also in this week’s Sacramento Report, nearly half the residents polled in Orange and San Diego counties said they worried about the water supply in their part of the state. Plus Equality California, an LGBTQ civil rights organization, has endorsed both Republican Assemblyman Brian Maienschein, and his Democratic challenger Sunday Gover in the 77th Assembly District race.
Some Things Never Change, But Bylines Do
San Diego declared March 30 “Roger Showley Day,” commemorating the Union-Tribune reporter’s retirement after 44 years at the paper.
Fittingly, Showley’s final story revisited the 1974 book “Temporary Paradise?” about the promise and problems facing San Diego’s growth and development. The book has been republished this year, including a prologue from SDSU professor Bruce Appleyard, whose dad, Donald Appleyard, was one of its original authors.
On Facebook, Showley pointed out that the book’s release and re-release perfectly bookend his career at the paper. During that time, Showley has relentlessly covered how and where San Diego is growing. Few topics are as central to local government as land use. The region will be less informed on those matters without Showley’s yeoman’s work.
— Andrew Keatts
In Other News
• General Dynamics-NASSCO is promising to hire 800 to 1,000 workers, including welders, electricians and shipfitters. (Union-Tribune)
• The Union-Tribune also reports that the various public and private parties competing for control of a bayfront site in San Diego — which is key to the city’s planned expansion of the convention center — are in a holding pattern while closed-door discussions continue.
• Cesar Chavez would have been 91 on Friday. KPBS spoke to a close friend of his, retired educator LeRoy Chatfield, about the labor leader’s legacy.
• A deported U.S. Army veteran who was granted U.S. citizenship is expected to attend a naturalization ceremony next month in San Diego. (Associated Press)
• The craft beer sector’s share of the market is growing while the volume of beer sold in the U.S. declined slightly in 2017. (San Diego Reader)
Top Stories of the Week
Developers on the coast have learned to use a loophole that lets them tear down old homes, replace them with bigger ones and call it a remodel. Neighbors have hated it for years, and now are pushing for a fix. (Andrew Keatts)
Supporters of the initiative that would sell the old stadium land to San Diego State University have had to keep their distance from the university. But City Councilman Scott Sherman says they broke the law by using the name SDSU for their initiative and campaigns. (Andrew Keatts)
District Attorney Summer Stephan opens up about a controversial decision and more. Community planning in Barrio Logan is a big deal and causing big political moves. The charter schools are coming (to a convention). (Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts)
County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Kristin Gaspar says the board will discuss in closed session whether to join the lawsuit between California and the Trump administration over the state’s sanctuary policies. (Maya Srikrishnan)
SANDAG projects the county will be more than 150,000 homes short of what it will need by 2050, even if cities across the county build everything current plans allow. (Lisa Halverstadt)
Thursday’s Learning Curve column said the California Charter Schools Association endorsed Antonio Villaraigosa for governor. The endorsement came from The California Charter Schools Association Advocates, the group’s political arm.