COAST CITIES — Ask people why they live in San Diego and chances are they’ll mention the weather. Equally likely to not be cited is a business-friendly environment, which is one of the main reasons Steve Danon entered the District 3 race for the San Diego County Board of Supervisors in 2009.“We have to offer more than just a good climate,” he said, noting San Diego-based Sapphire Energy’s decision to build its 22-acre research and development facility and 300-acre integrated algal bio-refinery in New Mexico.
“Here’s an environmentally safe business that would have produced hundreds of jobs locally,” Danon said.
He said executives at Sapphire Energy, which uses algae, sunlight and carbon dioxide to produce a green crude oil that can be refined into gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, told him myriad regulations and the high cost of living made the decision to build elsewhere too easy.
“We need to offer more incentives for businesses to stay in San Diego,” he said.
If elected, Danon said one of his top priorities will be to eliminate red tape and unnecessary regulations to create economic opportunities.
His other major goals include reforming public employee pensions and establishing a regional ethics commission “to restore accountability and trust,” he said.
“There are 16,000 county employees,” he said. “They should be able to report waste or fraud without fear of retaliation.”
As part of his campaign, Danon launched a neighborhood listening and speaking tour, stopping at local shopping centers and markets to chat with residents.
“The issues that have been coming up most often are jobs,” he said. “People are afraid of losing their jobs or they want to know what we can do to keep businesses here. They also said they want pension reform and they’re concerned about education.”
Originally from the Los Angeles area, Danon graduated from San Diego State University in 1990 and decided to settle in the county.
He was vice president of an international public relations firm before creating his own local business, a PR company focused on information technology, health care, environmental, public safety and housing issues.
He served as chief of staff to Supervisor Ron Roberts and currently holds the same position for U.S. Rep. Brian Bilbray.
The 3rd District is made up of North County jurisdictions such as Del Mar, Solana Beach and Encinitas, as well as several areas in the city of San Diego, including Carmel Valley, where Danon lives with his wife and two young children.
Pam Slater-Price has held the District 3 seat for nearly 20 years. Danon launched his campaign in 2009 hoping to defeat the incumbent, but she announced last September she would not seek re-election.
Solana Beach City Councilman Dave Roberts entered the race Jan. 10. Del Mar Mayor Carl Hilliard said he will be running but at press time had not officially announced his candidacy.
Danon said he would like to establish a private sector retirement system for supervisors and nonpublic safety personnel and abolish a $12,000 annual car allowance for supervisors that is added to their salary for pension benefits.
Critical of some of Slater-Price’s political moves, Danon said she’s done a “phenomenal job” when it comes to the San Dieguito Lagoon.
“It’s a lot better place because she was so active,” he said. “She deserves a lot of credit for that. She rolled her sleeves up and stayed with it all the way through.”
Whoever is elected will be the first new face on the five-member board since the 1990s.
“It might be uncomfortable for a while, but that’s OK,” Danon said. “I want to make some fundamental changes and we’ll need to work together as a team.”