2009: Supervisors saw cuts, sheriff battle and medical marijuana dispute

By JAMES R. RIFFEL

City News Service

Like most government agencies, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors grappled with the poor economy and reduced state funding during 2009, but also became embroiled in battles over a new sheriff and medical marijuana.

When its 2009-10 budget was passed in June, spending was cut by 4.7 percent and 758 jobs were eliminated.

Budgets for capital improvements and public safety were hit the hardest, by about $300 million and $73 million, respectively. The supervisors warned that other areas would be hit harder next year.

In April, Sheriff Bill Kolender announced his resignation and endorsed Undersheriff Bill Gore to be his replacement until an election is held next year. But others interested in the job didn't want Gore named interim sheriff because they feared that would give him a leg up on campaign fundraising and name-recognition before the election.

The supervisors listened to a number of candidates before appointing Gore unanimously. Supervisor Greg Cox said Gore, a former FBI Special Agent in Charge for San Diego, "really stood out."

The supervisors in August established a moratorium on new medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas until county officials can develop zoning regulations. They were reacting to concerns that the number of dispensaries had increased dramatically across the county, with many believed to be more interested in profits than serving the sick.

The supervisors were accused of foot-dragging in implementing the voter-approved Compassionate Use Act. It was only this year they allowed county staff to begin issuing medical marijuana identification cards.

The five supervisors, all Republicans, have been in office since 1995.

The Service Employees International Union Local 221, which represents about 10,000 county employees, recently turned in 120,000 petition signatures calling for an election next June on a proposal to limit supervisors to two four-year terms. The total was 40,000 more than required.

SEIU officials say the supervisors are entrenched and no longer represent their constituents fairly. The supervisors contend that term limits take away the right of voters to choose who will represent them.

   
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