One powerful lesson of my service in the Marine Corps came early in my service, on a cold and snowy day high in the mountains at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center. We had been training at high altitude for weeks, existing on pre-packaged meals. After days of continuous work in freezing temperatures, like a gift from the heavens, we saw snow trucks approaching bringing “hot chow.” When you’re wet, cold, tired and hungry, nothing lifts your spirits like a hot meal.

What happened next is something I’ll never forget. A burly gunnery sergeant yelled for us to get in line by rank. The lowest-ranking Marines were allowed to eat first; the officers ate last. The leadership took care of those whom they were responsible for before themselves. Of course, we ran out of food. The top leaders ate cold, pre-packaged meals — and never complained.

In this spirit, the County Board of Supervisors should reject their proposed 12 percent pay raise. Supervisors have received higher raises over the last eight years than the county employees who serve the public. Although our county supervisors’ pay ranks in the top half among the state’s most populace counties, our county employees’ average pay ranks in the bottom half – and this proposal does nothing to change that.

But the supervisors’ obligation is not just to the county employees, it is to the broader public they are elected to serve. The county plays a vital role in helping those in greatest need access available programs, and their efforts are falling short.

A recent KPBS report shows that poverty in San Diego County is at a record high, and just over a year ago, a report pointed out the county is one of the worst at identifying and registering needy families for the state and federal programs. San Diego County ranks ninth out of the 10 largest counties in California for ensuring families in need are enrolled in Cal Fresh, a program that helps provide basic food security. An aggressive program to maximize enrollment in CalFresh, CalWorks and Medi-CAL would not only aid families most in need, it would provide a needed boost to our local economy. We are missing out in over $700 million in state and federal assistance that could help those most in need and inject money directly into our economy.

The county has neglected to truly invest in mental health services and efforts to help reduce homelessness. While we’ve seen an explosion in the homeless population throughout San Diego, a recent grand jury report shows the availability of significant unused taxpayer funds that could be put to use aiding in the delivery of mental health services, a vital component of a comprehensive strategy to tackle homelessness.

We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

This isn’t a question of resources; it’s one of priorities. The county currently has cash reserves three times the amount recommended by experts in government finance and has millions on hand to invest in a beautiful-yet-costly water park at its downtown facility. It’s pledged millions more to finance a new Chargers stadium. And now, the supervisors are poised to increase their own salaries. It’s a clear case of skewed priorities.

If we live by the principle of taking care of those we are sworn to serve, San Diego County has a long way to go. It’s time to invest in those families most in need: our homeless, our veterans, folks badly in need of housing and the workers who provide the very services that can lift up the least among us. If we are getting in line by rank, the line is long — and the supervisors should be at the end.

Nathan Fletcher is a Marine Corps combat veteran and former member of the California Assembly who currently serves as a professor of practice in political science at the University of California, San Diego.

    This article relates to: Opinion, San Diego County Government

    Written by Opinion

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    SDResident subscriber

    No mention in the article that the Board is sitting on a huge Management Reserve that several years ago was well over $700 Million and is undoubtedly much higher now.  The Board sits on this cash when it could and should be used to assist homeless and other needs within the county. 

    Bill Bradshaw
    Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

    Ron Roberts justifies the pay/retirement grab by the four Supervisors that don't have to face the voters again by citing some obscure county that pays more, the old "stay competitive" nonsense public employee unions have used for decades to ratchet up their pay.  Better he look at a slightly closer match, San Diego city council and mayor.  Last I heard the council members were are about 75 grand, less than half the county supervisors and Hizzoner made about 100k.  How does Roberts rationalize THAT discrepancy?  

    Roger Guddago
    Roger Guddago

    Note that all four who voted for the raise are ineligible for re-election due to the new term limits. They had nothing to lose and a lot to gain. Expect similar self-serving behavior when their successors term out.

    philip piel
    philip piel subscriber


    I had the privilege of hearing you speak when you were just out of the military and getting your feet wet in politics. I understand and truly believe that you want positive change but I wonder, in your analogy both the first in line enlisted and the officers waiting to chow were subject to an entity monitoring their performance. Who exactly is monitoring the "performance" of the homeless? How many of the homeless chose the lifestyle?

    While the "performance" of the officers (elected officials) in your analogy, is supposedly the responsibility of the voters it would appear that either the plight of the homeless is not a priority or the voters are not being heard. To think the problem is the latter, the voters not being heard, is a stretch as our elected officials claim to represent the middle class and downtrodden.

    Nathan I urge you to keep up the fight but I have to wonder if the Union backed party of the people (Democrats) is the way to success? Personal responsibility, as in the military, may be the path to success for enlisted Marines as well as officers or in this case homeless and the government that is supposed to help them.

    "Welcome to America, it's not your fault" seems to have replaced a system that used to promote opportunity, now it would seem we have a system where a government entity tells us that regardless of effort you're entitled to a result.    

    bgetzel subscriber

    @philip piel It appears that you are into"pull yourself up by your bootstraps"! How does that work for the mentally ill, the vets who were maimed or have ptsd, the women and kids whose breadwinner walked-out or died,etc.? I thought that, in the 21st century, we have learned to have compassion for our fellow man!

    philip piel
    philip piel subscriber

    @bgetzel @philip piel

    I would think the most "compassion for our fellow man" could be shown in eliminating fraud, waste and gross mismanagement in our current social benefit programs. The people yelling the loudest regarding helping the needy are responsible for electing Ca. Government Legislators. The same legislators concerned about driver's licenses for illegal aliens and bathrooms for the gender confused are in charge of our social benefit programs.

    Why aren't the mentally ill being treated, lack of funding? The California Department of Mental Health had roughly $301,000,000 identified as waste, fraud and general mismanagement identified between 2000 and 2010.

    The department of Healthcare services had $2,729,933,677 in that 10 year period. Department of Mental Health and Department of Public Health had $301,000,000 and $800,000 respectively.

    2000 - 2010 Waste, fraud and mismanagement by department for other programs

    Ca. Work Opportunity          $519,600,000

    Children and Families First  $52,700,000

    Department of Child Services  $1,401,000,000

    Department of Social Services  $1,637,500,000

    Your questions, "The mentally ill" should have access to programs. "Veterans" should have access via the Veterans Administration. "The woman and kids" should have plenty of help through various social programs. The money is there but alas, the people responsible for providing the tax payer funded benefit are more concerned with Public Employee Union rules that shield employees from accountability. Those same heart of America - back bone of America middle class union members use their dues funded political power to elect a legislature that wouldn't dare hold them accountable.

    As far as my "bootstraps" I've learned that the government is not going to provide me the lifestyle I want. I've been blessed to not have any problems from my 4 years in the US. Army. I also am not afflicted with mental illness nor have I had a "breadwinner" leave me high and dry. I am 100% behind having a social safety net for those in need but I have a real problem with progressives lecturing about the failings of a system they perpetuate. When you're ready to be truly compassionate try demanding accountability in our State Government.

    bgetzel subscriber

    @philip piel @bgetzel Certainly government waste should be eliminated in order to more efficiently and effectively serve every income group. Pleate site the source of your figures, I would like to "read-up" on your point.

    philip piel
    philip piel subscriber

    @bgetzel @philip piel

    I'm not that tech savvy so I hope the link above works. There are many examples down to local government where  the lack of accountability in government is prevalent. One striking example is the San Diego Unified School District limiting competition on their school construction work. The SDUSD  union only project labor agreement is a prime example on an institution that promotes inclusion, fairness and the well being of all yet denies hard working local construction workers the opportunity to work for the sole reason the workers chose not to pay union dues.

    The hypocrisy evident in the rhetoric from progressives, Union Bosses and those running on a Democratic ticket knows no bounds. I was one of "the Rich" my fellow Californians voted to tax for Public Education "for the children." Prop 30, a "temporary" tax was backed by a who's- who of progressives and unions and passed by the way retroactively and of course has been extended. One needs to look no further than our San Diego public school system to see how education money is actually spent, VOSD has given many examples recently.

    The point being, for many of us the well is dry. The "compassion" has morphed in to indifference. When the people that feel strongly about the plight of those less fortunate decide to actually do something they may actually demand accountability from those they vote in to office.   

    Mark Giffin
    Mark Giffin subscribermember

    So I guess this means Nathan Fletcher plans on running for the county Board of Supervisors in the future.

    The raises, in real terms are not that much considering the entire county budget.

    Bill Bradshaw
    Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

    @Mark Giffin I agree, if you think the raises won't generate pressure to increase pay for county professional and managerial jobs.  I think it's very likely it will.  Pretty hard to argue we can't afford them after this action.

    Fred Williams
    Fred Williams subscriber

    @Bill Bradshaw @Mark Giffin spot on, Mark and Bill.  The sweet tears of Ron Roberts, sniffling at the Chargers fleeing to LA, after him begging, with your tax dollars, for them to stay, shows the priorities of the long entrenched board.  Would Nathan (whose sentiments in this piece I endorse) perpetuate truckling obedience to money and power?

    Looking at the record so far, I'm skeptical.

    Still, nice to hear reason and empathy.  As an NCO I also put my men first.  Pity so many elected officials do the opposite.

    John H Borja
    John H Borja subscriber

    Readjusting is the same as increasing, in this case.  I would love to "readjust" my paycheck.  But, these "supervisors", these people elected by the voters in San Diego County, are the same ones railing against the "give away" progressives in the County. I don't know about you, but $154K per year for just sitting around on a computer is more than double what City of San Diego Councilman gets.  Come to think of it, $154k is about three times what normal people get on a paycheck in San Diego County.  So, to increase their "take" to $174 is making the farm trough so much more enticing!

    Sure, the geographical region of San Diego County is very big. But, if these people actually moved out of their offices they would get "per diem". Also, these people would also receive a very tidy pension. Pension? What pension? Play-offs? Really?  

         So, like the illustrious Marshall Faulk, what has my supervisor done for me lately?

    1. We have freeway gridlock on 805, 15, 92, and 5 at 7am., 12 noon, and 4p.m.

    2. The Tijuana River Valley is about as bad as it has ever been in the last 30 years: hold your nose.

    3. The homeless?  Oh, we support the NYMBYs.

    4. Any progress on the Otay River Valley? No.

    5. Mass transit? What's that?

    6. Don't touch the "back country", like Alpine: they vote for us.

    7. More housing, period. Huh? 

    8. Protection of our environment? No.

    9. Liveability in San Diego? No.

    10. Mental Health, better health? No.

    11. Laissez-faire? Absolutely!!!!!

    Daniel Smiechowski
    Daniel Smiechowski subscriber

    I don't want anyone to feel sorry for the way I live my life. I do not own a car and most other everyday necessities yet I'm a viable candidate for D2 SD City Council. Years ago I swam with Navy Seals and became an Ironman. My Father was a Polish Peasant and always tried to get me a job. He never succeeded because in America he was a nobody, a shadow and someone to take advantage of despite always giving to the needy. Nobody ever helped me in anything and now I toil in fortitude to win a seat on the City Council. I've always done things the old fashioned way through blood sweat and tears. I admit I cry sometimes when I see the breath of humanity in all its despair. I will never become an insider to the Democratic Party because every American is equally worthy. People don't like my name here in San Diego but outside the United States I'm a hero as my Father also is held dear especially in Normandy where he married my Mother in a bombed out church shortly after the invasion. I know my Mother suffered during the war but my Father saved her. I will never ever give up because my tears are far stronger than the bravado of any man. Danny D2 SD City Council 2018 God bless all of you and may God bless America!!

    David Crossley
    David Crossley subscriber

    Looks like Fletcher has thrown his hat into the ring to run for the BoS.

    barb graham
    barb graham subscriber

    They keep giving themselves raises because we allow it. It's frustrating, and demonstrates their awareness of the growing cost of living in San Diego.

    Eddie Barnett
    Eddie Barnett

    I agree. The County Supervisors are supposed to serve the "people". Maybe they need to be reminded of our county motto, the same motto that's emblazoned on most of our county buildings, which they would see if they were only to look up and pay attention!

    "The noblest motive is the public good."

    Even President Franklin D. Roosevelt made note of our county motto:

    “If we all carry that motto in our hearts, in every city and community throughout the land, there is no question but that the proper thing, American democracy, will survive,” ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

    michael-leonard subscriber

    Four-out-of-five Supes vote our county motto to be the greatest irony since "America's Finest City."