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By Tom Ferrall
Staff Writer 

Bonsall hosts candidates for supervisor


Last updated 6/1/2018 at 4:34pm

The Bonsall Chamber of Commerce held a town hall meeting May 23 to give area residents the opportunity to hear from candidates seeking to represent District 5 on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

A small but appreciative crowd heard from Jacqueline Arsivaud, Jim Desmond and Michelle Gomez. Candidate Jerry Kern, who serves on the Oceanside City Council, couldn't make the town hall due to a city council meeting.

The candidates are vying to replace termed out Bill Horn, who has served District 5 for 23 years. The primary election is June 5 and the two candidates getting the most votes will advance to the November election, unless one of them wins the seat outright by garnering more than 50 percent of the votes.

Ruthie Harris, executive administrator of the Bonsall Chamber of Commerce, served as moderator of the town hall meeting, which began with the candidates introducing themselves.

Arsivaud informed the gathering she is the board chair of the Elfin Forest Harmony Grove Town Council, serves on the San Dieguito Planning Group, spent 20 years in business in the tech industry and was able to retire early thanks to her success in business. She said she now focuses on community issues and fighting off developments.

"We're a rural area," said Arsivaud of Elfin Forest. "We're one of the few areas pushing back development where it didn't belong and saving habitat, but we also worked with developers, helping them build communities that made sense."

Desmond relayed that he has been the Mayor of San Marcos for the last 12 years, is a fiscal conservative and limited-government type of person, a navy veteran and a pilot for Delta Airlines. He said he was proud of the work that has been done in San Marcos regarding pension reform, health care reform and infrastructure reform. He added that the median income in the city has steadily gone up since 2011.

"We've always balanced the budgets, always had strong reserves," said Desmond. "We've been very successful in creating a community that attracts young, educated people. We've been very positive in San Marcos in raising the economy, and I want to do the same for the county."

Gomez said she is a legislative analyst and community advocate as well as a commissioner with the San Diego County Commission on the Status of Women and Girls. She said through that commission she works with "hard and heavy issues, such as human trafficking, domestic violence and homelessness." She also is a commissioner with the Oceanside Housing Commission and works on the issue of affordable housing.

"I believe we need a strong voice for working families in our county," said Gomez. "Our employees deserve to make a livable wage, they deserve benefits, vacation time, and sick time. They deserve to have pensions and retirement."

Harris first asked the candidates what they felt were the primary responsibilities of the board or supervisors.

"The board of supervisors is the executive branch for the unincorporated county, (and) one of the biggest areas they have an impact in is the area of land use and developments," said Arsivaud. "We have a huge challenge in that area. The current board of supervisors is seeking a direction that is going to further us towards becoming Orange County.

"Currently there are 10,000 dwelling units that are going to be considered by this board of supervisors before November representing over 100,000 daily trips on our freeways and these are outside the general plan – outside of the plan that we spent 13 years, $18 million of your tax dollars putting together," continued Arsivaud. "It that happens we will be an unrecognizable county."

Desmond said priorities should be public safety, fiscal responsibility and infrastructure.

"I think housing and infrastructure are going to be the two biggest things that this new board of supervisors is going to have to face," said Desmond. "I think we're going to have to do it in a practical manner because we are literally driving our workforce further and further away, and then we complain about traffic.

"To me, the housing needs to go where the infrastructure exists, and where the infrastructure exists is along the I-15 corridor, right along the freeway where the freeway on ramps and off ramps are," continued Desmond. "I know nobody likes that, but that makes the most sense on a practical common-sense solution."

Gomez said the board needs to manage the budget efficiently.

"I feel the primary responsibility is planning and managing the budget for various issues such as public safety, health and human services, our homeless crisis, our affordable housing," said Gomez. "We need to focus on these interchangeable issues. And I think the biggest role of the county board of supervisors is really to manage that budget in the most effective means for all of you, to make sure that we're getting the things done that we need to be getting done at the county level."

Harris then asked the candidates what was their top issue.

"The first thing I would like to do is make sure the planning department would do an outside audit on the processes of the planning department because it takes too long getting the permitting and planning issues through," said Desmond. "People in District 5 want to get things done. They want to put in a barn, they want to put up a building on their property or something like that (and) it seems to take forever. Even if you want to put on a parade or something like that, you have to go through the county to get that done."

"We have some of the poorest people in District 5 within this county and it goes back to livable wages," said Gomez. "Making sure that our county employees are making a livable wage, making sure we have affordable housing, making sure that we're addressing our homeless issue – all of those things are interchangeable and we need to focus on those very heavily in my opinion. That's what (people) are asking me for – what are you going to do to make a difference so that I can continue to live here and I don't have to move out of state or I don't have to live with my parents for the rest of my life."

"The first thing I would like to do – which is something that I hear a lot – is restore public trust in the institution of the supervisors," said Arsivaud. "Those of us that work with the supervisors day in and day out in the unincorporated counties, the perspective is that, unfortunately, a lot of special interests have their ear and a backdoor to the supervisors and that is through their campaign contributions."

Arsivaud said in recent supervisor elections most of the contributions came from the building industries. "So you have to follow the money and wonder why that it is," said Arsivaud.

Harris asked the candidates what they planned on doing differently – if anything – than the outgoing Horn.

"Making sure that we're not over developing and becoming the next Orange County or next Los Angeles," said Gomez. "We want to maintain our own character. We need to be conscious of the fact that we need to be developing where it makes the most sense, in areas of infrastructure and transportation and those sorts of issues."

"So as a supervisor, I would take a much more hands-on approach, as I have in my own community, working with the developers, changing some of the regulations so that they can actually build units, but I would also draw the line, and the integrity of the general plan is something that I feel is critically important in order for us to continue to be the

San Diego County that we all love," said Arisvaud.

"One of things I'd like to do, particularly with the unincorporated areas, is to have a quarterly meeting with the business and community leaders to keep informed," said Desmond. "I'd come out myself – not just my aids – to have a quarterly meeting and to make sure I'm hearing the issues that you have that you want the supervisor to know. I'd do that for each of the unincorporated areas in the county."

Harris asked the candidates if they would spend the $700 million (out of the $1.7 billion the county has in reserves) that is available to supervisors to allocate.

Desmond said he wouldn't touch the $700 million of "rainy day" money and then explained some county economics.

"Right now – I'll use the old number – $5 billion is spent by the county a year," said Desmond. "Five billion. Divided by 365, it's $13 million a day. Thirteen million a day is spent by the county. That's every day of the week. Seven-hundred million divided by 13 million is 54 days of the reserves. That's only 54 days.

"We don't know when the next earthquake is, we don't know when the next fire is going to be, the next tsunami, the next whatever hits San Diego County," continued Desmond. "So that's 54 days of normal operating budget. So throw in overtime, throw in extra services, throw in helicopters, throw in all these other things that you're going to have to pay for, and you probably have about 30 days worth of reserves. And I know that's hard to imagine on $700 million but that's what it is, simple math."

Gomez said she would put the money to work.

"I'd definitely spend those reserves, and I think we that we need to spend them in a number of different ways," said Gomez. "Our county employees are paid a very low wage compared to other counties for very comparable work. I also believe some of those reserves should go to programs like CalFresh and other safety net programs. And I also think we need to focus heavily on job training and job placement. So I would like to see a lot of those reserves go to those types of programs as well as addressing our homeless issue."

Arsivaud said she would leave the money alone.

"Like Jim, I am a fiscal conservative," said Arsivaud. "I come from a farm background where we have good years, we have bad years. I understand it is very important to prepare for the future."

Harris asked the candidates their position on development if the infrastructure is in place.

"Every jurisdiction has to put together a general plan," said Arsivaud. "A general plan – in the case of San Diego County – we took 13 years, we spent 18.6 million of your tax dollars (to make). It was an effort which had the communities – the building industry, the staff, the environmentals – and we literally sat down and figured out where does it make sense to put housing. There is really no reason to throw that plan out. None of the GPAs (general plan amendments) that are currently proposed actually pay for the infrastructure.

"In general, there's a very good reason why developments are where they are in the general plan," continued Arsivaud. "There were three key reasons: one, was putting it away from high-fire area; two, was away from valuable habitat; and three, was near infrastructure."

"My criteria for a project is does it fit with the character of the community, and secondly does it mitigate all of its impacts, and thirdly does it meet the infrastructure," said Desmond. "Well, if it has that and it fits within the general plan, that property owner has property rights and I think it should be approved.

"If there's a general plan amendment, then my view is that developer has to bring something more to the community then it has today," continued Desmond. "So if that community is lacking a school, if that community is lacking a fire station, if that community is lacking ingress-egress for fire safety, then that developer should provide that extra benefit to the community."

"Practically speaking I'm not in favor of changing the general plan," said Gomez. "We spent a lot of time and money putting that general plan together. However, if the infrastructure is there I think it should be looked at and considered basically because we have an affordable housing crisis. That crisis is very real. If it makes sense, if the infrastructure is in place – truly in place and going to be maintained – then I think it should be considered."

All the candidates were in favor of continuing the community enhancement fund program that is funded by the transient occupancy tax. The program's goal is to stimulate tourism, promote the local economy, create jobs and provide a better quality of life for local unincorporated communities. Last year, there were approximately 86 local nonprofits and organizations that received funding in District 5.


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