Donna Frye. Photo by David Rolland.At the close of county Supervisor Pam Slater-Price's State of the County speech last Wednesday in a large theater at Qualcomm's office complex, a string quartet, perched above the lobby, began to play. Below, speech attendees lined up at numerous stations where local restaurants were dishing out free samples of their fine fare. Folks sipped complimentary beer and wine as they ate.
The “Let them eat cake” irony was unmistakable, given recent reporting by voiceofsandiego.org that nicely quantified what many of us already knew—that San Diego County government has built an appalling record of caring for its most needy constituents, particularly in the disbursement of food stamps, where the county's policy, essentially, is to immediately assume that those seeking help aim to defraud the taxpayers.
San Diego County's social-service denial rates are the highest in the state, voiceofsandiego.org's Kelly Bennett and Dagny Salas reported. County supervisors have straightened their backs and dug in their heels in response, saying their constituents don't want them to go around handing out welfare checks like so many small plates of seared ahi. It's the state Legislature's fault for mandating social welfare programs and not giving the counties enough money to fund them, they say, even though some counties have supplemented flagging state funding for social services with local money, according to voiceofsandiego.org.
In her speech Wednesday, Slater-Price largely ignored criticism of the county's record of extending a stiff middle finger toward the poor, saying only that “our state government continues to throw money at all problems in the hopes of solving every societal issue known to mankind. They are draining the taxpayers—and our state—dry.” Then she talked about how great the county is at environmental protection (we know some people who might take issue with that) and went way out on the political ledge, coming out strongly against “dog fighting and animal abuse.”
Meanwhile, last week, Supervisor Bill Horn, who stepped right out of the Central Casting office to play the part of Fat Cat Politician No. 1, proposed spending $100,000 to place an initiative on the ballot that would bar the county from entering into project labor agreements (PLA) with local trade unions. Never mind the fact that no union would even bother proposing a PLA to the current group of supervisors. Never mind the fact that if a union does propose one, all the supervisors would have to do is say no—and that wouldn't cost a nickel. But Horn and colleague Dianne Jacob would rather waste 100 grand on making sure that no future group of supervisors can create PLAs. To them, that's far more important than providing food stamps to needy families—using USDA numbers, $100,000 would provide a year's worth of food stamps to 67 people.
It's all this and more that has hundreds of San Diegans joining the Donna Frye for County Supervisor! page on Facebook. In less than 72 hours, 400 people signed up on the page, which was created by neighborhood activist and former District 3 City Council candidate Stephen Whitburn to compel Frye to challenge incumbent District 4 Supervisor Ron Roberts.
Two of us—members of the CityBeat editorial staff, that is—have added our names to the page because we believe that the time has come to shake up the too-comfortable, too-tone-deaf Board of Supervisors. And no one can shake things up like Frye, who has a knack for energizing a large, active base of followers.
Frye replacing Roberts would be step one. Step two would be a high-profile progressive from the South Bay replacing Greg Cox (Denise Ducheny is an oft-mentioned candidate, but progressives say she's no progressive). Though Republicans Cox and Roberts are far less objectionable than Slater-Price, Horn and Jacob, they represent the two districts where, combined, Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 97,000.
Donna, we know you don't want to get bogged down in employee-pension issues at the county level, just as you've been mired in them at the city for the past five years. And we assume that you're trying to reconcile your family's needs with the demands of a new gig. Maybe you're thinking about running for mayor in 2012.
But it would be a shame to let this opportunity pass and have to endure another two years (at least) of the status quo. It would also be a shame to lose your unique brand of public service. So, if it works for your family, Donna, please jump in. Your constituents are calling. What do you think? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.