As The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board has opined for years, San Diego County government really needs strong new voices to challenge the complacency of county leaders who just last week, in their latest egregious example of showcasing a foolishly high self-regard, released a 200-page report on last year’s deadly hepatitis A outbreak listing “noteworthy successes” without really detailing their failures. His more critical eye is one reason why we endorsed Democratic attorney Omar Passons for the 4th District county supervisorial seat.
We used this same lens to view the 5th District race to replace termed-out GOP Supervisor Bill Horn and represent north-northwest San Diego County. Horn has been on cruise control for years, treating the county’s high bond ratings as proof of county leaders’ greatness and being unduly proud of his record even though the quality of life in his district may have actually declined in his time in office.
While no one in the 5th District race details the downside of the county’s arrogance as well as Passons, we think one candidate has the most promise to lead the county in a better direction: three-term San Marcos Mayor Jim Desmond. In his interview with the editorial board, Desmond, a Republican, made a powerful point about the importance of a county supervisor having broad regional experience and established relationships with elected officials and executives in other local governments. If elected, Desmond — and county residents — will be well-served by his years of work on the boards of the San Diego Association of Governments, the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. and the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority.
As mayor, Desmond has kept his city’s finances in order. He has also established infrastructure as a priority in a state where the issue is too often on the back burner. This history will be of particular value in never-ending county policy fights between big-city advocates of mass transit and those in rural and suburban areas — like Desmond — who say improving roads and freeways must also be a priority.
Desmond also makes a nuanced case in defense of the county’s unusually high reserves. He thinks the county should always have available funds to cover 50 days of expenses in case of catastrophe to ensure residents have access to vital services. But he seemed willing to accept some new spending.
We do have concerns. In his interview, Oceanside Mayor Jerry Kern, another veteran GOP officeholder and Desmond’s most prominent challenger, showed more of a willingness to criticize county government, starting with budget decisions involving probation agents that he thinks could hurt public safety. Also, Desmond saying he supported the Lilac Hills housing project in 2016 because he didn’t know until later that the developer had cut corners is baffling, and his hard line on marijuana is too harsh given state voters’ mellowing mood. And both Desmond and Kern seemed too ready to play politics with immigration by supporting President Donald Trump’s legal challenge to the state’s so-called “sanctuary” laws even though the supervisors had missed a deadline to sign onto the suit at this stage.
All in all, Desmond outclasses Kern and two well-meaning but inexperienced Democratic opponents, Jacqueline Arsivaud and Michelle Gomez. On June 5, we endorse the San Marcos mayor for supervisor.