By E.A. Barrera
May 23, 2012 (San Diego) -- Steve Danon has been active in Republican politics since his days as College Republican president at San Diego State University. He has worked for Republicans ranging from Supervisors Dianne Jacob and Ron Roberts to Congressman Brian Bilbray.
He is one of a new generation of youthful conservative leaders emerging in San Diego that include Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher and City Councilman Kevin Faulconer (both of whom have endorsed Danon).
So when one sees the images of his political heroes John and Robert Kennedy on the walls of his office or in his home, it can come as something of a surprise. But not to Danon.
"I keep a plaque on my desk with the quote Bobby Kennedy borrowed from George Bernard Shaw: `Some men see things as they are and ask why. I see things that never were and ask why not'. Both Kennedys inspired Americans to believe that they could make a difference. It's the reason I stay in politics," said Danon. "It's a fundamental value that we as Americans should work together to create positive change."
He is running for 3rd District Supervisor to replace Pam Slater-Price, who has been on the Board since 1993. Slater-Price, a Republican, has endorsed Danon's Democratic opponent Dave Roberts. But Danon has been endorsed by every major Republican locally including former San Diego Mayor, U.S. Senator and Governor Pete Wilson. The San Diego Union-Tribune endorsed Danon, as did current San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, Father Joe Carroll, The Deputy Sheriff's Association, the San Diego Police Officer's Association, Republican Congressmen Brian Bilbray, Darrell Issa, and Duncan Hunter Jr. He has also earned the endorsement of Lemon Grove Mayor Mary Theresa Sessom, who is a Democrat.
Danon has been politically motivated since his days at SDSU in the late 1980s,, where he gained some campus popularity as president of the Collegiate Council. Danon fought successfully to increase the number of parking spots available to students.
That combination of broad coalition building efforts among a diverse student body, and his Republican activism, led to political jobs where he mastered the intricacies of local government and insider politics. He later went into the private sector as a political consultant for the firm of Porter-Novelli, and then established his own business as a political consultant.
Yet his mastery of politics led him to his biggest motivation for running for Supervisor ... the fact that so few people understand the power of a Supervisor to impact their daily lives, or how to utilize local government services.
"We have to do a better job of giving the public this information," said Danon. "This is what local government is really about. There is no such thing as a liberal or conservative pothole. It is a shame the way people are not given the information they need so they can take advantage of programs they are paying for through their taxes."
Danon said the County has been "dismal" at letting people know about health services available to people he described as "down on their luck."
"How does a person apply for help? How do seniors get taxi services? How does a family down on their luck get help with their rent, energy or grocery bills? How does someone find out who helps them if a tree falls on their property or a pet dies?" asked Danon.
With more than 260,000 veterans throughout the region, San Diego County has the second largest veteran population in the state. Danon said services to veterans needed immediate improvement.
"How do young veterans get the services and help they need after serving our country in Afghanistan or Iraq? We need to provide assistance to those brave men and women who have served our country and assist them in transitioning back to civilian life," said Danon.
The Third District encompasses the cities of Del Mar, Escondido, Encinitas and Solana Beach, the City of San Diego communities of Carmel Mountain Ranch, Carmel Valley, Mira Mesa, Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Penasquitos, Sabre Springs, San Pasqual, Scripps Ranch, Tierrasanta, Torrey Hills, Torrey Pines and University City, and the unincorporated community of 4S Ranch. Danon often points out that San Diego County has more than three million residents, which makes it larger than 20 U.S. states.
"The County also has an operating budget of $4.8 billion which makes it larger than the state budget of 22 states," said Danon. "Every child born in the United States should have the chance to succeed in our society. That is why I will promote after-school programs that will work with those students where English is their second language. I believe that assimilation into our language and culture is the basis to build a strong foundation for success."
Among his priorities, Danon said creating a healthier business environment for the county was first on his agenda. He said the next Board of Supervisors should work with local chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, trade associations and business leaders to retain, recruit and create a healthier business environment. He would "streamline" the Department of Planning and Land Use (DPLU) to expedite permits for businesses to expand their operations or to build new facilities.
"It should not take five to ten years to go through a bureaucratic process to build something that has been approved by the Board of Supervisors," said Danon.
Danon said he supported much of the recent so-called "Red Tape Reduction Task Force" - a group appointed by the San Diego County Board Of Supervisors - and its report calling for an easier process to get developments approved in the county. But he balked at the Task Force’s call for elimination of the planning groups, which the Board of Supervisors also rejected
"Planning Groups are what democracy is all about. They are the eyes and ears of a community and they are vital to a healthy county," said Danon.
Danon said his early efforts as a Supervisor would be to clean house and institute reforms within the Board itself.
"We need to abolish the $12,000 per year car allowance each supervisor gets as part of their salary and pension package. For that matter, we should eliminate taxpayer pensions for Supervisors all together. They can participate in a 401(k) program like the rest of us," said Danon.
Danon would eliminate what he terms amounts to "double dipping" of thousands of taxpayer dollars in "per diems" payments from outside organizations and agencies to Supervisors. He would cut the Supervisors' office budget by 20 percent and eliminate $5 million in what he labeled "pork-spending earmarks" by Supervisors to their neighborhoods.
"No more $10,000 taxpayer paid funds to the San Diego Guild of Puppetry," said Danon in a reference to one of Slater-Price’s pet projects. "Groups and organizations can go through the appropriate budgeting process. No more purchasing political patronage at taxpayers’ expense."
Danon would advocate a permanent gift ban for supervisors from individuals and organizations that receive taxpayer dollars from the County and he would work to create what he called a regional "Ethics Commission" to combat corruption, but also the perception of corruption.
"The people think we who service in government are on the take half the time," said Danon. "I know how hard elected officials and their staff work - how much they give up in terms of financial earnings potential and time spent with their families. The overwhelming majorit y of people working for the county are fantastic and honest individuals serving the people of San Diego. I just want to make sure that is never in doubt by the public."
On the singular issue of fire protection, for a county that has suffered two countywide fires in the past decade, Danon supports a countywide Regional Fire Fighting Authority.
"Fire doesn't respect class or wealth. Fire doesn't care what race or religion you are and it doesn't care whether your community is two months old or 200 years old. The fires of 2003 and 2007 proved we need a system in place like they have in Orange County," said Danon. "I think the current Board has done a good job - especially Dianne Jacob - in trying to bring the fire districts together. We have fire-fighting helicopters now. But there's no single command structure with one fire chief, and that makes us vulnerable."
On other issues, Danon called for a consolidization of all the County's individual water districts and said the Board of Supervisors should support more efforts at desalinization and recycling of water for non-drinking uses.
"We live in a desert and water is gold. We need to increase our water storage capacities, including building more reservoirs," said Danon.
"We can use the local schools to move San Diego from "a service base economy to a knowledge base economy" through the promotion of after-school activities," said Danon. "The focus should be on math, science and technology. Out of 34 countries, the United States ranks 17th in science and 25th in math."
On the environment, Danon would said he would "fight to preserve and protect our environment and put into the County charter a provision to invest in the latest technology" to clean up our lakes, rivers, lagoons and beaches.
"We have to protect the crown jewel of our region that makes us so unique," said Danon about San Diego's beaches, mountains and parks. "Not only for our children and future generations to enjoy, our natural resource provides millions of dollars in revenue to our region from visitors throughout the world who wish to enjoy this place we call home. We must protect this natural investment and our quality of life."
Asked if his vision of a more aggressive and active County Board of Supervisors in this era of a smaller government Republican party, Danon said he saw nothing in his positions that did not fit with traditional Republican values. But he also said there is a significant role for government.
"There is absolutely a role for government in a civilized society. Our job as elected officials and my feeling as a proud Republican is we need to find the balance between providing a strong environment for local business to thrive, while keeping our environment clean, our streets safe and helping those who need a hand in tough times," Danon concluded.