The Star-News - Feb. 7, 2003

Tough-talking Cox asks allies to fight


There was something presidential about the way Greg Cox, chairman of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors gave the State of the County Address Wednesday night although he didn’t once use the word “nukular.”

Just like President Bush, he began with a summary of all the good things we can expect from his administration. At county level we’re talking child foster care, the Sheriff’s Department, the probation service, the Tax Assessor’s office, environmental protection and so on. And then the rest of his speech seemed to be stirring us up for war: not against Baghdad but Sacramento.

“I will fight for you,” Cox said. “I will press our case loudly and forcefully. I will not bring you the bottom line bad news unless and until my colleagues and I have exhausted every conceivable avenue to ensure that the Governor’s irresponsible budget is dramatically changed to support what we do here.”

If San Diego County has built a reputation for financial restraint and fiscal discipline, the demands of Gov. Gray Davis’ proposed budget threaten cruel and unusual punishment by removing $60 million from county funding right away and still more in successive years. The budget also dumps many state responsibilities unfunded into the county’s lap. Cox said the sick and the poor will be severely impacted.

He said he plans to host a forum where members of the public can join the 18 cities of this region and the county in calling on our state legislators to make sure San Diegans do not suffer needlessly at the hands of Sacramento bureaucrats.

At the buffet reception following the address, County Supervisor Ron Roberts confided that opposition to the Davis budget will be massive throughout California. Other counties aren’t in such good financial shape as San Diego. Los Angeles County, for instance, may face bankruptcy. Cox’s audience included many elected officials from the county’s cities.

From Chula Vista there were Mayor Steve Padilla and council members Mary Salas and John McCann. From National City there were Mayor Nick Inzunza and council member Ron Morrison. In the veritable mosh pit of bodies lining up for chicken wings and quesadillas Morrison and Padilla separately confirmed they were ready for the fight.

If Davis has marginalized himself by attempting to pass the state’s problem to the cities and counties, the budget war may even culminate in Davis’ removal from power.

And if it comes to that, we’ll be balloting his recall on new touch-screen computer terminals which, according to Cox, have already been funded.