Smoke of a Distant Fire: Stingy San Diego Voters Rejects Wildfire Measures


Just four months after the most disastrous fires in the county’s history, four of seven ballot measures to improve fire protection in San Diego County failed to win passage Tuesday.

“It looks like the firestorm as a political issue is out, it’s history,” said Steve Erie, political science professor at UC San Diego. “People are back to their penny-pinching ways…. It’s an astounding place.”

The failure of the four tax measures comes as debate continues over whether the fires, which killed 16 people and destroyed more than 3,200 structures, could have been stopped sooner if the region had had better fire protection.

A task force report issued Wednesday by the California Department of Forestry said firefighting crews were hampered by poor communication, lack of training and lack of coordination among agencies, which led to chaos in the early hours when the wind whipped the flames into fast-moving infernos.

The measures rejected Tuesday joined 32 other fire protection measures – out of 50 – that have failed in the past 25 years. The rejections included a San Diego proposal to increase the hotel-motel tax paid by visitors.

“Something has got to give,” said an exasperated City Councilman Michael Zucchet, a former lobbyist for the firefighters union. “Either we have to find new revenues or residents in this city have to learn to live with pathetically underfunded public safety services.”


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