By Steve Danon
It’s time for positive change, reform and transparency in county government.
County red tape is strangling job creation, making it more difficult for new and existing companies to expand operations and create jobs and causing many companies to close their doors or relocate to other areas. It should not take five to seven years for businesses to get their needed permits. Businesses that are forced to navigate the county’s permitting process are simply leaving San Diego.
It’s time to reform the county’s permitting process by reducing the layers of administrative review and eliminating redundancies. The county’s Department of Planning and Land Use employs the same number of people as it did in 2002 when the housing market was at its peak and it’s time to hold these bureaucrats accountable to create greater efficiency or contract out some of their services.
With nearly one-in-10 San Diego residents under- or unemployed, it’s time for the Board of Supervisors to work with local chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, trade associations and business leaders to retain, recruit and create a healthier business environment to provide better paying jobs for residents in the region.
In addition to aiding in job creation, the county needs to cut and reassess its spending priorities. Taxpayers have been left holding the bag for unsustainable public employee pensions and costly perks for elected officials. It’s time to implement a 401k-style pension system that eliminates risks and reduces costs for taxpayers, similar to the one proposed for the City of San Diego by the CPR initiative.
It’s time to abolish the $12,000 per year “car allowance” supervisors receive on top of their gold-plated pensions. And, it’s time to cut the supervisorial office budget by 20 percent and eliminate the $5 million slush fund that is nothing more than purchasing political patronage at taxpayers’ expense.
The current system allows each supervisor to dole out $1 million in cash, with little or no accountability, to organizations of their choosing. The board often votes to waive the entire body of regulations governing the funds in order to push their individual pet projects through when they don’t meet the criteria. It’s time to eliminate this slush fund and implement a merit-based community grant system based on county government priorities such as public safety, education, public health and infrastructure.
Recently, there have been ethical lapses in county government that need to be addressed. For instance, there should be a permanent ban on gifts to supervisors from individuals and organizations that receive taxpayer dollars from the county.
It’s time for the creation of a regional “Ethics Commission” to make sure elected officials live by the rules. The commission would be a vehicle for the public and elected officials throughout the county to ask questions or receive guidance on whether issues are a conflict-of-interest or it they’re within the spirit of the law. This unit can serve as a resource to elected officials and their staff who may have questions regarding gifts, filing disclosures, or reporting improprieties. The unit can focus on education, training and enforcement regarding significant violations. And, if necessary, it will have subpoena power to investigate allegations of impropriety. Finally, it’s time to re-instate a whistleblower program so that the county’s 16,000 employees have a mechanism to report waste, fraud and abuse without fear of retaliation.
These are needed reforms to restore public trust, accountability and transparency in county government.
Steve Danon is a candidate for the San Diego County Board of Supervisors in District Three and he served on the Board of Directors of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association. Steve lives in Carmel Valley with his wife, two children and two dogs.