Supervisors Use Of Discretionary Fund Challenged

GLORIA PENNER (Host): Supervisor Pam
Slater-Price did not report almost $1500 worth of free tickets from the San Diego
Opera and the Old Globe Theater. Uh, it took questions from The
San Diego Union Tribune to dig out her failure to document the gifts. Here’s her statement after the story
came out: “It has always been my intent to follow the laws regarding
the requirement to report gifts. It has been my understanding that tickets
from a non-profit organization for attendance to that organization’s events were not subject to the gift restrictions,
and therefore not reportable. I will personally reimburse the
Old Globe and the San Diego Opera for all tickets reported in the newspaper.” (Pam Slater-Price) PENNER:
Alright so there we have it. She actually already took a check down to those
venues and said, “Here I’m paying you back.” What do you think of her statement? DAVID ROLLAND (Editor, CityBeat): Well. I don’t have a lot of sympathy
for elected officials that say they didn’t know what the rules
were for being an elected official. I mean, you’re, you’re you are responsible
for knowing what you can and can’t do. But having said that, I don’t, this
is just not one of those things that I think is really going
to resonate with the public. I don’t see, you know, an angry mob forming
outside her office calling for her ouster. PENNER: So Kent, you don’t see this
as damaging, uh to Slater-Price, having any long-term effects on her career. KENT DAVY (Editor North County Times): Well
she’s not up for re-election for two more years, so uh by that time it will be
probably, probably long forgotten except for whoever her opponent might be. Uhm it does however, uh, add
fuel to the fire of the critics of the supervisor’s uh reinvestment program
as they call it, community reinvestment – I think it’s something like that. PENNER: Ah yes, it used to
be discretionary fund, yeah. DAVY: The critics, uh including uh our
editorial page, refer to it as a slush fund. And it is at their discretion. They dole it out to people that they
choose, without regard to anything other than the fact that it has to be to nonprofits. PENNER: Well the supervisor’s discretionary
fund has had a succession of names as Kent said, in its search for credibility. The latest, as Kent said, is the
Neighborhood Reinvestment Program. We asked the president and CEO of the San
Diego County Taxpayer’s Association her opinion of the controversial program. LANI LUTAR (President & CEO of
SD County Taxpayers Association): Our concern is that this program
has strayed from its initial intent of funding bricks and mortar projects. Uhm, it is now funding programs that I
would say are lesser priority relative to other core county services. LUTAR: It’s the process that I think
a lot of people have concerns with – the notion that each supervisor gets to
give money to their specific organization or to their specific project of interest. Rather than it going through
a more formal process, where the county administrative
officer would present a proposal and then they would either adopt or reject it. So I think a lot of what you hear over and over from concerned citizens is the process
by which the money is allocated. The perception that it’s a means to
pay back any special interest groups that might have supported their campaigns
and one way to address that would be to award the money through a normal
budget process as most governments do. PENNER: So Kent, as Lani said, the perception
is that these funds in effect are campaign funds and that they are awarded
outside the normal budget process. So why hasn’t this been changed? DAVEY: Well because it is convenient for
supervisors to have money that they can go dole out to various people who appreciate very
much their attention and their funds. Uh, Bill Horn will go to Boys & Girls Clubs
and little league and drop money on them. Pam Slater-Price likes the opera,
she drops large dollars to the opera. It’s whatever the supervisor
uh, in the case wants. PENNER: Now that the story has broken about
Slater-Price, do you expect more public pressure on the supervisors and that
there will be changes? ROLLAND: Not from the public. Not from the general public, but you
will have it from folks like Lani Lutar and newspaper editors like us,
uh calling for it to be changed. Look this is not, this is not, would not be a
problem if everybody was just rolling in money. Uhm, you know but, but everybody is dealing
with a budget crisis right now and this is kind of shameful that it is taxpayer
money that does not go through any kind of process, like Lani says. PENNER: What would you like to see changed? ROLLAND: Uh I would, I would like to see just
uh, just an end to the fund altogether uh. Or at least, and just put it back into
the general fund where it has to go through some kind of budgetary process. But failing that I would like to
make it sort of a competitive program where community organizations could
at least compete for, for, for grants. DAVY: I agree with that. I think that if the supervisors have excess
money that they can use for this thing it needs to be a graded, prioritized kind of system in which all the supervisors somehow
collectively decide rather then simply saying to a supervisor “you get to
spend yours how you want.” PENNER: Well, just very briefly Ken, we
talked about Donna Frye’s decision not to run for the Board of Supervisors. Without new blood on the board, do you
really think we’re gonna see a change in the slush fund? DAVY: No, I don’t. PENNER: Ok, well thank you very much.

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