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New jobs include many slated for East County;

Cedar Fire survivor also calls for stronger fire protection and improved emergency notification in region

By Miriam Raftery

September 2, 2010 (San Diego’s East County) – Most candidates only talk about creating jobs. But Mark Hanson (D-Lakeside) aims to hit the ground running if elected to fill the open 77th Assembly seat vacated by Joel Anderson, who is running for State Senate.


“I’ve already met with over 200 companies around the country, and I’ve identified 32 who have committed to bring green manufacturing jobs to California,” he told East County Magazine, adding that his plan includes a facility in Boulevard to manufacture parts for wind turbines. “Those companies will generate 2,200 jobs within the next two years.” Asked to name a few of the firms, he listed these:


Private Energy Systems (a Minnesota-based wind energy company), Pure Enviro Management (a soil renovation and reclamation currently based in Utah), AGP Global (a maker of biofuels in the Phillipines) and ThermaSave ( a green building product company that manufacturers structural insulated panels in Alabama). “These companies will boost manufacturing from 7% to 30% of workers in California’s economy, said Hanson, who wears many hats.


One of them is head of United Green, an entity of the nonprofit Heartland Foundation (a division of Heartland Coalition) of which Heartland is executive director.  United Green is dedicated to creating sustainable energy and green jobs for our region. Now Hanson hopes to take his expertise in creating good-paying jobs in sustainable industries to the state level—attracting similar businesses statewide.

Hanson grew up in Lakeside (winning a barrel race in a local rodeo at age 11) and has lived in East County for most of his life, along with his family.


A Cedar fire survivor who lost his home in the 2003 blaze, Hanson led efforts through Heartland to raise funds that helped other fire victims rebuilding their lives, getting donations of cars, computers and other equipment.

Heartland Coalition was also instrumental in establishing the VIejas Wildfire & Emergency Alerts powered by East County Magazine, a publication which now averages 2 million hits a month due in large part to popularity of the free alert service for the public.


Hanson expressed amazement that the County’s emergency website had zero information on the nearly-1,000 acre Monte Fire last weekend, which started in the same area of Lakeside where the deadly Cedar Fire began. He faulted notification procedures for failing to reach many residents in the vicinity and also expressed concerns over the impact of budget cuts on state and local firefighting and fire prevention.


“I will get the focus on fire prevention and protection in San Diego and all over California to keep our communities safe from wildfires,” he pledged, adding that he will also seek ways at the state level to improve emergency notifications.

Education is another plank in the Hanson platform. He was twice named teacher of the year, taught English at local colleges and high schools, and served as an administrator in the Grossmont Union High School District back when California schools were ranked highest in the nation. He won state and national awards for writing/teaching programs he developed, also writing grants that were funded to help the District.


“Terrible things are happening today in education,” said the candidate, who holds a PhD and masters degrees.  “The $1.6 billion cut eliminating Cal-Works that the Governor has proposed will eliminate terrific community college programs that produce jobs…A 10% oil tax, like Texas and other oil-producing states already have, would keep the Cal-Works program.” He also called for more emphasis on making sure kids turn in their homework, noting that nations with higher rates for this have better academic results. “We have to be the very best in education,” he said.

Hanson has noted that when education fails, drop-out rates increase—along with crime rates and prison crowding. He also called for prison reforms modeled after some programs in Europe. He said that in some European nations, prisoners don’t cost the state a penny—instead, each prisoner generates revenues for the state while producing items in prison and learning job skills that can enable the prisoners to enter the work force when they get out, lowering the rates of repeat offenders and easing jail overcrowding with no new taxes.


Hanson opposes new taxes on the middle class or poor, and also opposes any measures that would harm small businesses. “Small businesses are the lifeblood of a community,” his website states. “They provide two-thirds of all new jobs in California, fueling the California economy. But increasingly, small businesses are facing financial pressures from rising fuel costs, soaring health insurance premiums, and a maze of complex business regulations and bureaucratic obstacles. Our government leaders have given huge tax breaks to big corporations, while doing little or nothing to ease the burden on small businesses.”


He proposes tax incentives to help small businesses, as well as closing loopholes that allow large corporations to offshore assets and dodge paying taxes in California, streamlining regulatory and bureaucratic procedures, and offering tax incentives for businesses that build alternative energy manufacturing facilities in California to boost our economy and help America attain energy independence from high-priced foreign oil and create good paying jobs.

“I believe that people who work hard deserve good jobs with fair wages and health benefits,” he said. In addition to bringing green manufacturing jobs to our region, he noted, “My plan will make it easier for small businesses to start up, compete, and thrive throughout California.” He added that Prop 23, a ballot measure backed by two large out-of-state oil companies, would cripple growth in California if passed, noting that several of the companies that have pledged to bring green jobs here have told him they would reconsider if Prop 23 passes.

Hanson is known for his abilities to work with both sides of the political aisle, also bringing together business and labor interests for purposes of job creation. In addition to heading up the nonprofit Heartland (publisher of East County Magazine), he is also CEO of Leadership Management International, San Diego, providing corporate leadership training and management consulting. He has also been active in creating jobs as District Director of Resource Development for the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District and as Director of Training and Development San Diego – Imperial Counties Labor Council. He also served as a member of the San Diego Youth Council, the State Youth Council, the State Veterans Work Group, and the Targeting Resources as well as the Business and Industry Committees of the California Workforce Investment Board.


As for Sunrise Powerlink, Hanson has voiced fire safety concerns about the route planned through Lakeside, Alpine and other fire-prone communities. Instead, if the line is to be built, he has called for an alternative route parallel to the existing Southwest Powerlink along the border.


East County Magazine conducts routine background checks on all candidates for higher offices. Our check of county and court records on Hanson turned up clean, with the exception of a civil case involving a property dispute settled out of court.

Heartland Foundation received some negative press in 2006 over a building dispute with the City of El Cajon, however the allegations made have been disproven as false. A newspaper report at the time incorrectly stated that Heartland failed to make payments on a building it had agreed to retrofit and that the City was forced to foreclose. In fact, ECM’s editor has reviewed canceled checks and verified each payment was made on time. Court documents confirm this.  Recently, the City agreed to pay Heartland money under a settlement agreement over the incident.


Hanson was not head of Heartland at the time the deal with the City was made and voted against the project, minutes indicate. When mold and other problems turned up during renovation of the dilapidated building, Heartland, which had invested hundreds of thousands in the remodel, negotiated a reduction in payments  and offered to give the deed back to the City. The City refused, instead initiating foreclosure proceedings. According to court documents, the City refused to return security deposits and rents to tenants, telling them to seek money from Heartland instead. The Court ordered the City to pay damages to Heartland.  The City recently sold the building at a hefty profit. 


Political insiders have said the City’s actions were politically motivated. Hanson previously ran for State Senate against Senator Dennis Hollingsworth and was considering a run for County Supervisor at the time; El Cajon Mayor Mark Lewis was also considering running for the seat.

Heartland’s initial deal with the City included a goal to provide job training to 240 people over 20 years. The settlement agreement found that Heartland surpassed their 20-year goal by over 900% in the first eight years.


Heartland Foundation has a long record of charitable work including successful job-training programs (most recently providing Haz-Mat training for local workers participating in the Gulf oil spill cleanup.) The nonprofit has done sustainable retrofitting of homes, environmental cleanup projects, public art, health, and education programs,  projects to help fire victims and assist disadvantaged youths.


Next up, Hanson and United Green are organizing an October 9th conference on a sustainable future for San Diego at San Diego State University.   Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is slated to speakat the bipartisan event; last year's program featured then-Lt. Governor John Garamendi.

Despite his qualifications and experience, Hanson faces a tough battle.  He won 33.1% of the vote in his 2006 State Senate race, despite a heavily Republican registration and a district that included portions of Riverside County. The 77th Assembly district, has a substantial (though lesser) Republican majority. However the district lies in Hanson’s home turf. An East County resident and community leader for many decades, he hopes name recognition will help lead him to victory, but also acknowledges that he needs funding and additional volunteers.

“I have to raise money to win,” he said candidly, when asked to name his biggest obstacle in the race. “So I’m holding a concert celebration with four bands on Saturday, September 18th from 3 p.m. to midnight and the public is invited,” he said. “We’re going to have food, kids’ activities, and basketball,” added Hanson, also a former basketball coach. The event will be at Hanson’s ranch home in Lakeside, where he resides with his wife and daughter.

For more information on Mark Hanson, visit his website at or e-mail

Hanson’s opponent, Republican Brian Jones, is a minister and Vice Mayor of Santee who previously ran for Congress, but was defeated by Duncan D. Hunter in a primary race. ECM has previously profiled Jones, who won a Republican primary in June.   

Disclosure: Miriam Raftery is editor of East County Magazine, a Heartland publication founded in 2008.  In 2006, she served as a media consultant for the Hanson campaign. She has won dozens of national and regional journalism awards, including honors for political reporting and investigative reporting.  Kristin Kjaero also assisted in research for this story.  


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