By Nadin Abbott
August 11, 2012 (El Cajon)--The mood at the Cuyamaca College Water Conservation Garden was relaxed. People came to have good food, drink, and listen to some of our local politicians debate in a friendly forum.
Participants were Congressman Bob Filner (D-50th), currently running for Mayor of San Diego, California Senator Joel Anderson (R-36th District), Assemblyman Brian Jones (R-77th District) and County of San Diego Supervisor Dianne Jacob.
In a separate forum, San Diego County Democratic Chair Jess Durfee and County Republican Chair Tony Krvaric exchanged ideas on ballot initiatives.
During the opening statements Assemblyman Jones emphasized that bipartisanship means something “very different in Sacramento than it does in the East County.” Jacob thanked the 2nd District for reelecting her to four more years in office, serving the community. She emphasized that the County has a balanced budget and has maintained an AAA rating, even in these hard economic times.
Jacobs also explained how AB 109 has affected San Diego from a safety perspective. This forces counties to take back low risk prisoners from the state system. Therefore, state jails are sending both parolees and low risk prisoners back to local prisons. Sacramento is not sending the resources needed to deal with this influx.
Filner joked that they begged him to come. He also explained that in his view the Mayor of San Diego should be a regional figure, since jobs, education, the environment and other issues affect the region, not just San Diego. He intends to achieve this and also promised the audience to work with Supervisor Jacob “when I am Mayor of San Diego.”
Then the questions from the audience started. The first involved sequestration and how these forced cuts in defense and social programs resulting from Congressional failure to agree on a budget will affect San Diego. Filner first explained that this will cut Defense spending by a trillion dollars. Since the County is dependent on defense, “it will be a disaster for San Diego.” It essentially will mean a direct increase in unemployment and in a few cases the only bread winner in a household will lose the only means of support.
According to Jacobs this is a failure to protect the country. “They should not be making the cuts. They need to put public safety first. The defense of our nation could be at risk,” she warned.
Assemblyman Jones emphasized that we “cannot afford to lose 250,000 jobs.” It will only increase the State unemployment rate, which is already pretty high. It is essential to keep the Feds feet to the fire, he believes.
The next question was how to make California more business friendly?
Senator Anderson was direct albeit partisan. “Elect more Republicans.” He added, “We cannot move forwards if we have to penalize entrepreneurs.” He emphasized that the State just passed the high speed rail system funding. This will run $33 billion and money will be removed from the General Fund. “We do not know if we will even ride trains by the time this is finished,” he said. “We can do better; we deserve better.”
Jacob said that Sacramento “needs to balance its budget.” We also need to eliminate the corporate income tax and add competition wherever possible, she contends.
Filner agreed with Jacob insofar as competition goes, since he does believe that “competition is crucial.” He explained that the city government has great buying power in virtually every area. Yet, they go through one vendor for food, another for uniforms and so for. These vendors are well connected politically, not necessarily the one with the best possible price for service. We need to expand this competition.
Filner also added that we need jobs in this area. A lot of jobs were lost in the defense sector in the 1990s and they were never replaced. In his view the Port of San Diego needs to be expanded, which will create thousands of good paying jobs that will benefit the whole region.
He also added that all public buildings in the region should have rooftop solar within five years. This will help businesses bring costs down, and could become a model for the rest of the State.
Jones said that the first problem is to get Democratic colleagues to admit that there is a problem, and that indeed businesses have left California. He added, “We have lost one million manufacturing jobs in California.”
Jones also said that we need to lower taxes, impose regulatory reform and to repeal AB 134 (Cap and Trade.)
Filner started by emphasizing that both sides need to admit that “We have a problem.” He added that “the old Bob would say Republicans are the problem,” then added, “It is time to forget party labels and look at problems for what they are and find solutions.” ‘ He challenged all on the table to do this, look at a single problem and not attack labels to it.
Anderson explained that some good bills go to die in the Senate. One example he’d like to see passed is criminalizing the possession of pornography as a felony. It died in the Public Safety Committee. An example where the people took the initiative was Jessica’s Law. It finally moved on through the initiative process.
Alternative Energy is a subject of interest to our readers, and we were happy that questions were asked. Jacob emphasized that projects should be looked at individually. She voted against the Tule Wind project because it poses a severe and unmitigatable fire hazard, according to the project Environmental Impact report. Since the 2003 Cedar Fire, great strides have been made by having large responses to fires, “when they are still small.” The wind towers will make the job of fire fighters that much harder and dangerous, raising the fire hazard in the region. She also said that her reason to vote against it was the fire danger.
Jacobs also recognized that there are alternatives. “Let’s put rooftop solar on every roof in the County. There is a potential of 7000 megawatts of power.” We need to strive to make people energy independent, she added, noting that these projects will ultimately industrialize the back country.
Filner agreed with Jacobs, and said that “We need to respect the way of life in the back country.” We should not allow this industrialization to occur, he indicated. He also added that we also need to add solar power to every parking lot in the region.
Jones said that these were great ideas if Americans did them. All this “breaks when government gets involved.” According to Jones, fossil fuels are the best way. We need to turn the spigot in California on for oil drilling, and get rid of Cap and Trade.“There is no reason for the US to have brownouts. We are not a third world country,” he added.
Anderson agreed with Jones.
They were also asked what three agencies they would close?
Jones said that his first target would be the State Board of Education, which is duplicating services. He would also close the California Air Resources Board.
Jacosb agreed with Jones and went a step further. She would also eliminate the federal Department of Education, all this should remain at the local level in her view.
For Anderson, he said it quite plainly. He has been “in a Jihad against the California Department of Transportation (CALTRANS) for years.” The agency is inefficient, bloated, and doesn’t do the job, he claimed. He gave the example of the CALTRANS building on Taylor street, near Old Town. That building ran $80 million. According to Anderson, you could buy a block in downtown San Diego, with the buildings on it.
For Anderson CALTRANS embodies the difference between those who believe in the individual and those who believe in big government. “We cannot move forwards in building roads with golden shovels.”
Filner said that he would have to look at the figures presented by Anderson. He added, “you cannot make money if the state roads were not built.” Filner also said that neither Anderson or Jones would have voted for the Interstate Highway system, since it was built by the Federal Government.
Then Filner referred to the landing of Curiosity, NASA’s research platform, on Mars. He added that we “got to Mars, nobody made a profit…we saw something bigger than a pot hole to fix.”
The issue of concealed weapons came next, and whether they would approve of it.
According to Jones he had a bill to expand concealed carry rights, but it died in the Public Safety Committee.
Filner made the point that when former Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham ( R ), still served in the House. they were both working on a bill to allow both active and retired public safety officers to have a concealed weapons permit. They are trained and capable of reacting in an emergency. Filner added, that “we have a police force, let them do their jobs.”
Finally the Affordable Care Act (ACA) came up.
Jones said that he was proud that states and Governors were saying no.
Anderson observed, “Who is better to do this than the private sector?”
Jacob explained that she had a briefing on this issue. “It will make access to quality health care far more difficult, and we do not have enough doctors.” She sees problems, such as lack of tort reform and distancing patients from doctors. She also asked, “Why not go back to fee for service?”
Filner said that he was proud of his vote for the ACA. He also emphasized that nothing is taking away the private system. He added, “There are really good things in the bill and it will lower the cost of health care.” He gave the example of emergency room care. If people have access to preventive care, they will use the ER a lot less, which is the most expensive part of health care delivery, Filner pointed out.
When the concluding statements came, Anderson simply said “I believe in rugged individualism.”
Jacobs said that we need competition, and added that CALTRANS is indeed a bureaucracy run amok. She emphasized that outsourcing services at the County has saved the County $700 million.
She also pointed to the difference in philosophies and claimed Anderson and Jones “are fighting for us.” These are also the differences between Republicans and Democrats. But she closed by stating that “We really need to focus on the people.”
Filner closed by reminding the audience that “rugged individualism cannot get us to Mars.”
After the panel left, the respective Party chairmen of the Democratic and Republican Parties took to the stage. They were asked right off the bat what their priorities are during this electoral season.
Krvaric said that the chief priority is “making sure that Congressman Filner is not elected.” He also added that as far as the ACA is concerned, it will create a two tier health care system.
Durfee, on the other hand, said the main priority was to continue to move San Diego from the red basin it is to a blue bastion of the future. He emphasized that Democrats are registered in greater numbers than Republicans, and that this trend started ten years ago. Moreover they will work to elect Scott Peters to Congress in the 52 district, and return a majority of Democrats to City Council. County Democrats also intend to continue to elect Democrats to state wide offices.
They were both asked the positions of their parties regarding Prop 30, which will increase sales and income tax revenues for the state. This initiative was put on the ballot by the Governor and is intended to help fill the gaps that exist in the budget. For example, it raises the top marginal rate of those earning $250,000 or more for seven years.
Durfee said that the State Party was for this proposition since it would help invest in our children. It will provide $6 billion for education. He added that our public school systems have been declining.
Krvaric quipped, “What a surprise, a Democrat supporting a tax increase.” He added the default position of the San Diego County Republican Party is no tax increases, period. He views the proposition as a gimmick by special interests to avoid reforming the state pensions. Kvaric added that this is a battle between “who will represent individuals and who will represent special interests.”
Durfee countered that we need to invest in our children. He added that Republicans saying “No” all the time does not solve the fiscal problems that we have.
Next the party leaders were asked about Prop 32, which will prohibit the deduction of payroll for political reasons.
Krvaric emphasized that this will forbid contributions by both big business and big labor, in effect buying our legislators. The local Republicans are for it.
Durfee explained that this is a smoke and mirrors campaign since no large corporation has payroll deductions.
Kvaric countered that yes they do. It is time to bring the system back to individuals. These special interests have access to any politician in the state.
Durfeee did not agree and brought up the SuperPACS, and how this is an effort to silence the middle class. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision created this system, when it ruled corporations can make virtually unlimited contributions to political campaigns. He added that payroll deduction is an internal union tool and this should be left up to union members.
Finally they were both asked about Prop 36 which will change the three strikes law.
According to Durfee the Democrats are for it, since it modifies the law to keep people who commit major felonies behind bars, while allowing shorter terms for people with minor offenses. The three strikes law “was well intended, but with time we have recognized the problems with it,” Durfee said. He added our prisons are overflowing and it is costing us billions of dollars. It also will allow people who otherwise could have a life from not having one, for a mistake made in their youth.
Krvaric said the local GOP had no position as of yet, but he personally was all for leaving people in prison who deserve it.
In closing Kvaric reminded the crowd that the vaunted Democratic registration did not show up during the last election and Conservatives won. The people of San Diego passed Prop D, Prop B and Prop A by large majorities. He added that such change can be done.