Finding Jim Desmond: My supervisor search

Accused of taking illegal campaign contributions from San Marcos Highlands project developers, Jim Desmond, left, announces his run for county supervisor in February 2016 at San Elijo Hills. "I’ll bring fiscally conservative values to the county and build a better future for all county residents," he said./San Elijo Life

After discovering Karen and I cannot vote in city elections because our home is located in an unincorporated area of San Marcos, I’ve found we do live within the San Marcos School District, so we can vote on school bond measures. And, as County residents, we can vote in District 5 Supervisor elections. Jim Desmond, former two-term mayor of San Marcos, won his seat in the 2018 election, after Bill Horn stepped down from his 24-year reign.

Once elected, our county supervisors tend to remain there. District 2 Supervisor Dianne Jacob has the record. She’s in her 27th year in office, the longest serving supervisor since the five districts were created in 1889. District 1 Supervisor Greg Cox has begun his 25th year, and District 4 Supervisor Ron Roberts, gave up his seat, together with Horn, after his 24 years.

It wasn’t always that way. In the 104 years before Jacob took office, only Austin De Graf, who served District 4 from 1945 to 1970, and David Bird, who held the District 2 seat from 1941 to 1964, have come close to matching the incumbencies of Jacob, Cox, Horn and Roberts.

It begs the question: Why are our county supervisors so popular these days? I’m guessing it begins with their expanded use of media technology to promote themselves. Here’s what I learned from Supervisor Desmond’s website, under his priorities.

Promises Made Need to Be Kept — April 30, 2019

In November 2004, 67 percent San Diego’s voters approved a 40-year extension of TransNet, a half-cent sales tax to generate funds for highway, road, and public transit projects. San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) is responsible for leveraging these funds with state and federal resources;

On April 26, 2019, SANDAG staff presented to the Board of Directors a new vision for the RTP. The new vision identifies numerous new public transit projects while removing the majority of the 14 unconstructed highway projects that the San Diego voters were promised in the 2004 TransNet Extension Ordinance.

The purpose of this letter is for the County Board of Supervisors (Board) to direct the Chairwoman to send a letter addressed to SANDAG on behalf of the Board opposing any modification to the TransNet Extension Ordinance; advocating for inclusion of the highway and road projects in the RTP.

Encinitas mayor, Catherine Blakespear, in a message to her constituents, addressed the issue this way:

“SANDAG prepares a plan every four years that looks ahead 50 years and asks,How do we want our transportation network to look in the next half century?”

Studies show that a few years after a freeway is widened, congestion returns to previous levels. It’s called induced demand – if you build it, they will come.

Birds of a feather: Jim Desmond and Rebecca Jones campaign together at the San Marco Street Fair in October, 2018. Desmond appointed Jones to her first political post in 2007 using a scenario Jones repeated as mayor in January, 2019, shoving the Escondido assistant city manager into her vacated council seat without any substantive public discussion./Facebook

With his love of cars on freeways, my supervisor is clearly unconcerned by California’s requirement of a 19 percent reduction in carbon emissions from every person within the next 15 years, based on the emissions generated in the county in 2005.

Notably absent from Desmond’s website is any mention of climate change and the need to reduce carbon emissions to keep his district livable for following generations. Instead, on July 24 he sent a letter to his fellow supervisors titled, “Streamlining the Discretionary Permit Process,” to gain their support to make it easier for developers to escape the burden of the California Environmental Quality Act Process (CEQA) by allowing them to “self-certify” their projects.

His fondness for developers may be explained by their generosity in funding his 2018 campaign.

Twenty-one Desmond donors have District 3 San Diego home addresses, including the Chief Executive officer of ColRich Multifamily, a private, family run, residential real estate development and investment firm in LaJolla. The company has acquired, developed and managed more than 12,000 apartments and multifamily residential units in seven states (CA, OR, WA, CO, AZ, TX, UT). With several members of the Gabriel family in leadership positions, they donated a total of $4,200 to Desmond’s campaign.

Other notable donors from outside his District 5 include developers, real estate investors and construction firms. The following is just a sample.

Touchstone Communities, a San Diego-based real estate investment and land development company, $1,300

Kvaric Capital and Risk Management, San Diego, $1,600

Gafcon, a San Diego firm with core expertise in managing complex design and construction activities, $1,600

Cloverfield Management, Santa Monica, $2,050

Suncoast Financial, San Diego, $1,600

Marc Perlman Real Estate investment, Del Mar, $1,100

Sudberry Properties, San Diego, $4,800

Atomic Investments, San Diego, construction and development projects, $2,000

Hilltop Properties, Escondido, $1,600

The total for individual donors from outside of his district comes to $37,800. Add another $25,000 from the San Diego GOP Political Action Committee, and the grand total of contributions from sources beyond District 5 comes to 20 percent of his $298,000 campaign.

Thanks to the San Diego County Registrar of Voters campaign financing website, as well as Jim Desmond’s, We’re now informed voters in our new home.


After 35 years in public education as a high school English teacher and university administrator, Richard Riehl began a second life as a freelance writer, winning San Diego Society of Professional Journalists awards for his opinion columns in the former San Diego daily North County Times and the San Diego Free Press. For more, visit The Riehl World.

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