San Diego County may be California's second largest, but you could never tell it from the number of civic and business leaders picked to serve on an array of state boards and commissions, a Times study shows.
One of the fastest-growing areas of the state, San Diego County makes up about 8.4% of California's population, according to January figures compiled by the Department of Finance.
Yet in political clout, the county is much smaller--accounting for only 6% of the 638 seats on state panels ranging from the prestigious Public Utilities Commission to more arcane groups regulating such professions as funeral directors and dental hygienists, the study shows.
Those numbers seem to bear out the long-standing complaints among members of San Diego's establishment that the land south of Camp Pendleton comes up short when it is time for the governor to pass out the political plums.
Although the visibility of San Diegans has improved markedly under the Republican administration of Deukmejian, civic leaders have publicly bemoaned the fact that no local has ever been appointed to high-profile positions on the state Supreme Court or the PUC--a fact they say is particularly irksome in light of local efforts to halt the proposed Southern California Edison-San Diego Gas & Electric merger.
"There's no question that we're under-represented, not only on pure numbers but on the extremely important appointments, the ones that are affecting our quality of life, our jobs," said Chula Vista Councilman David Malcolm, who serves on the state Coastal Commission.
Robert C. Fellmeth, a University of San Diego law professor and expert on state boards and commissions, added:
"I think that large numbers of people in Sacramento think the state ends somewhere south of Disneyland, but they are not exactly sure where. They don't know we're here."
Terrance Flanigan, a San Diego native who is Deukmejian's appointment secretary, stressed that the governor tries to balance his choices between different locations around the state--such as Southern California versus Northern California or the coastal areas versus the inland valleys.
But Flanigan conceded that the appointment process is an "imperfect world" that may leave some counties short.
"I can see why (San Diegans) may feel like they would want to have more," he said, adding that he doesn't believe there is a "glaring under-representation" from his hometown.
Fellmeth, director of the USD Center for Public Interest Law, differed sharply, arguing that there is a "shocking" lack of San Diegans on boards and commissions. And he blamed it on the overall scant attention Sacramento power brokers give to the state's second-largest city.
"You have very few field offices in San Diego, and those that are here are understaffed," said Fellmeth of state field offices. "Until recently, the PUC didn't have an office. And the state contractor's licensing board has one person.
"I think we could secede from the state, and it would be noticed . . . in a couple of years."
Others counter that San Diego, often lampooned as the "cul de sac" of the state, has only itself to blame for the relatively few government appointments.
Tom Hawthorne, a California Transportation Commissioner from San Diego, agreed.
"I feel we have the best community spirit of any community statewide, but it is very parochial here," said Hawthorne, who owns a Kearny Mesa heavy equipment company.
"It takes a lot of energy, time and willingness to really serve on these boards, and I don't feel that enough San Diegans have come forth and offered their services in the area of their expertise," he said.
Greater San Diego Chamber of Commerce President Lee Grissom, who serves on the CSU board, called the phenomenon a sort of civic "immaturity. . . . We just don't really understand what these boards do and don't press as seriously as we can to get involved."
Former state Sen. Larry Stirling, who quit the Legislature when Deukmejian appointed him to be a San Diego municipal judge, blames area legislators for not promoting more of their constituents for board and commission posts. Stirling said that, for all his years of public service, it wasn't until the last few months before his resignation that he began to actively submit names of prospective appointees to Deukmejian's Administration.
"As a legislator, the mistake I made was that we had literally hundreds of qualified applicants, and it did not occur to me to aggressively seek out and feed people into the governor's appointment process," Stirling said. "To the extent that the governor didn't appoint more people from San Diego, I take responsibility for not being a more conscious conduit."
Not all San Diegans need such a push to offer their services to Sacramento, though.
Consider the case of Marianne McDonald, a Rancho Santa Fe academic who hoped to catch Deukmejian's eye and win a spot on the coveted Board of UC Regents.
A professor of Greek classics at UC Irvine, fluent in eight languages, a black belt in karate and heiress to the Westinghouse fortune, McDonald felt herself qualified for the post. But her busy life left little time for politics, and she lacked the requisite number of crucial Republican connections to get the governor's serious attention.
So, when a spot opened on the board last year, she had to act quickly. With the aid of attorney Dan Stanford, himself a former Deukmejian appointee to the Fair Political Practices Commission, McDonald conducted a whirlwind tour of corporate chieftains and politicos to put pressure on the governor.
"I scheduled meetings and made introductions with people like Gordon Luce, Kim Fletcher, Clair Burgener, John Duffy and others who are active in the political process," said Stanford, adding that his efforts included a trip to Sacramento to introduce McDonald to Flanigan and his assistant, Peter Mehas. (Luce is president of Great American Savings Bank, Fletcher is president of Home Federal Savings & Loan Assn., Clair W. Burgener is a former congressman and Duffy is San Diego County sheriff.)
"In a period of three or four weeks, she was able to meet with 15 to 20 people, and that usually takes other folks six months to a year to do," Stanford said. "I think the only difference between her case and thousands of other cases is that her efforts had to be done very quickly."
McDonald agrees that she "met with people," but said her efforts were "absolutely not" a campaign to win a 12-year appointment as a UC Regent.
"That would be tacky, I think," she said.
McDonald lost out to Burgener.
To see what share San Diego County is getting of state appointments, The Times analyzed the current membership of 72 statewide boards and commissions. Not included in the analysis were judicial appointments and panels that are strictly regional, such as the Del Mar Fair Board.
Deukmejian is responsible for the overwhelming majority of the appointments, although a few are made by others such as Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) and Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles).
Among the findings:
* The county accounts for one out of every 12 people in California. The county has nearly 2.4 million residents--or 8.4%--of the state's 28.7 million residents, according to the most recent statistics with the Department of Finance.
Yet San Diego has only one out of every 17 state board and commission seats. County residents now sit on only 38 of the 638 seats, a showing of 6%.
* San Diego would need 16 more appointments to have a number of citizens serving on the state boards commensurate with the county's share of the population.
* The ratio of San Diegans on the more prominent boards is about the same as on the lesser boards.
* To a lesser extent, the under-representation also holds in Orange County, the state's third-largest. With 8% of the population, it accounts for 6.7% of the political appointments surveyed.
* In contrast, more populous Los Angeles County, the governor's home base, has fared proportionately better under the Deukmejian Administration, pulling down a number of appointments commensurate with its 30% share of the population.
Hundreds of Californians are chosen by Deukmejian to serve on what is commonly referred to as the "fourth branch" of government--the scores of boards, commissions and councils that help shape government policy, interpret laws, promulgate administrative rules and regulate myriad professions.
An extension of the executive branch, these panels make sometimes momentous decisions on how to regulate utilities, arbitrate consumer disputes, allocate money for the arts, set air emission standards, punish water polluters, allow development on the coast, determine where to build colleges and license health care professionals.
Some of the appointments are so coveted that Deukmejian and his staff must endure a veritable stampede of applicants before making a choice. These spots include the PUC, the UC Regents, the CSU trustees, the Coastal Commission, the Fish and Game Commission and the State Personnel Board. Some, like the Agricultural Labor Relations Board, are full-time positions that pay more than $80,000 a year.
The majority of the appointments, however, are on boards and commissions that are lesser known and have narrow missions. They regulate landscape architects, pest control firms, animal technicians, beauticians, speech pathologists, accountants, funeral directors, lie-detector operators, acupuncturists and barbers.
In doing so, they are sometimes taken on expense-paid trips throughout the state and convene their meetings in resort areas such as Palm Springs and Monterey Bay.
People interested in the jobs apply to the governor's office and are asked to fill out a lengthy form that asks questions designed to ascertain whether the person has a conflict of interest or could be an embarrassment to the administration. Questions include whether the applicant has written any controversial books, has talked to the media or has been disciplined for a lapse in ethics. Each applicant is then subjected to a background check.
If selected, the person joins an army of paid or volunteer appointees that can have a powerful, albeit relatively anonymous, effect on the economy and quality of life.
"Out of these boards and commissions comes the vision of the future," said Thomas F. Carter, a senior vice president for Great American First Savings Bank. "If we want San Diego to get its fair share, we have to have people there who have clout and represent the city's needs."
Besides Burgener, other locals that have received the nod to fill board and commission slots: Grissom; Malcolm; newly elected Assemblywoman Tricia Hunter; former San Diego police chief Bill Kolender; County Supervisor Brian Bilbray; San Diego restaurateur and former city planning commissioner Ralph Pesqueira; former City Council aide Marla Marshall; real estate agent and former city zoning board member Caryl Iseman; former state Sen. Jim Ellis; Encinitas minister Herman W. Mitschke.
Still, the ranks of San Diegans are thin, and now a civic group called Coalition for a Balanced Environment hopes to take a more systematic approach to helping a greater number of locals secure appointments to boards and commissions.
The group, a holdover alliance of business and labor formed to fight local slow-growth initiatives, plans to conduct a recruiting drive to drum up interest on the part of local political partisans to apply for seats on the state panels.
The goal: compiling a long list of San Diego candidates to be forwarded to the new governor, who will be elected to take Deukmejian's place next November.
The idea began to take hold after a recent visit to San Diego by Flanigan, who was debriefed by members of the coalition on what it would take to get more local people on state boards.
"What we are thinking about doing is find out people that are active on different campaigns, determine where their interests would be and provide their names to the newly elected governor or lieutenant governor," said Great American's Carter, president of the coalition.
And, of course, nothing could be better for San Diego if the next occupant of the state's executive mansion is a favorite son, U.S. Pete Wilson (R-California)--a prospect that has civic leaders all but drooling.
A gubernatorial victory by Wilson, former San Diego mayor, would catapult his hometown into prominence statewide and guarantee a first-class ticket on the political gravy train, say local leaders. And that would help reverse the trend of San Diego getting less than it deserves in state board and commission appointments, they say.
"You tend to go to the people you have confidence and trust in and know you share your basic philosophy and vision," Grissom said. "Naturally, Pete would come back to San Diego and call upon those people who have worked with him before."
SAN DIEGO APPOINTEES
Following is a list of the San Diegans who currently sit on the 72 state boards and commissions surveyed by The Times.
NAMES HOMETOWN BOARD Tricia Hunter Bonita Nursing Jo-Marie Sekol Carlsbad Animal Tech Gail Hubbard Carlsbad Speech Pathology Margaret J. Helton Chula Vista Aging Manuel Mollinedo Chula Vista Parks David Malcolm Chula Vista Coastal Comm. James L. Ellis La Mesa Ag. Labor Rel. Sunny Mojonnier Encinitas Film Comm. Herman Mitschke Encinitas Cemetery Herman Mitschke Encinitas Cosmetology Donald A. McInnis Fallbook Coastal Comm. Brian Bilbray Imperial Beach Air Resources Jacquelin Trestrail National City Medical Quality Jacquelin Trestrail National City Physicians Asst. Jean Guyer Oceanside Veterinary Thomas Slaven Olivenhain Geologists Clair W. Burgener Rancho Santa Fe Personnel Clair W. Burgener Rancho Santa Fe UC Regents Rosmarie Johnson Rancho Santa Fe Nursing Stephen H. Lazarian Rancho Santa Fe Contractors Frank DeVore San Diego Parks Timothy Haidinger San Diego Comm. College William Kollender San Diego Comm. College Lindsey Cahill San Diego Acupuncture Marla Marshall San Diego Contractors Ralph Pesqueira San Diego CSU Trustees Lee Grissom San Diego CSU Trustees Tom Hawthorne San Diego Transportation Pam Robertson-Glor San Diego Home Furnishings George Shipp III San Diego Nursing Joyce E. Boone San Diego Nursing Caryl Iseman San Diego Pest Control Karen McElliott San Diego Podiatry Robert Thornberg San Diego Prof. Engineers Sharon Reid San Diego Prof. Engineers Albert Blaylock San Diego Prof. Engineers Joe Kellejian Solana Beach Auto Repair John Lazzara Vista Contractors
NAMES OCCUPATION Tricia Hunter Nurse/Assemblywoman Jo-Marie Sekol Veterinarian Gail Hubbard Audiologist Margaret J. Helton Retired Nurse Manuel Mollinedo Chula Vista Parks Director David Malcolm Chula Vista Councilman James L. Ellis Former State Senator Sunny Mojonnier Assemblywoman Herman Mitschke Minister Herman Mitschke Minister Donald A. McInnis Retired Executive Brian Bilbray County Supervisor Jacquelin Trestrail Radiologist Jacquelin Trestrail Radiologist Jean Guyer Dental Hygienist Thomas Slaven Consultant Clair W. Burgener Former Congressman Clair W. Burgener Former Congressman Rosmarie Johnson Anesthesiologist Stephen H. Lazarian Attorney Frank DeVore Former SDG&E; Executive Timothy Haidinger Pres., New West Ventures William Kollender Copley Press Executive Lindsey Cahill Consultant Marla Marshall Political Consultant Ralph Pesqueira Restauranteur Lee Grissom Pres., Chamber of Commerce Tom Hawthorne Owns Heavy Equipment Firm Pam Robertson-Glor Interior Designer George Shipp III Owns Travel Agency Joyce E. Boone Nurse Caryl Iseman Realtor Karen McElliott Part-Time Travel Agent Robert Thornberg Contractor Sharon Reid Dep. Dir., County Public Works Dept. Albert Blaylock Structural Engineer Joe Kellejian Runs Auto Wrecking Co. John Lazzara Labor Union Rep.