Wednesday, November 25, 2015 • 12:22

More transparency needed on drone testing in county

October 31, 2013
I'm not happy and I'd like to tell you why. Earlier this week, I received an email from a subscriber about the San Diego County Board of Supervisors' decision to support a proposal to make most of San Diego County a drone testing site. Sadly, this email was the first I heard about this decision.

Granted, I am new here, just coming on staff about the time this decision was made by the board, but why is it that nothing had been said to the Roadrunner prior to the board even making this decision? I decided to dig some more. I checked the past agenda's from the San Diego County Board of Supervisors' website; the item is listed there, but not in a manner that is easily distinguishable.

The item, number 20 on the agenda for the Sept. 24 regular meeting, is listed as "supporting job growth in San Diego's innovation economy," hardly alarming in itself. However, it takes considerable scrolling to find the actual description of the agenda item — it begins on page 20. Someone who is new to the fine art of reading agendas could easily miss this all-important explanation of the situation and would then not be aware of what decisions and discussions are happening in regards to Valley Center at the county supervisors' meetings.

With all of this said, I want to go on record now about my opinion on drones. I have nothing against drones; as a matter of fact drone testing and development was one of the biggest programs I reported on when I was with The Tester at Patuxent River Naval Air Station. It was

interesting to see how much capability can be packed into one little piece of high tech machinery, capability that can protect and save the lives of our servicemen and women while fighting terrorism and all kinds of nasty stuff that is going on in the world today.

I loved it all, the X-47B is pretty cool, the Global Hawk has some amazing capabilities, and the Fire Scout, which looks like a helicopter, is just flat-out awesome. What I do have a problem with is what I would say — again in my opinion — is a lack of transparency from our local government on this issue.

Government transparency helps us as citizens to hold our leaders accountable for their decisions; it prevents corruption and allows for public oversight. Without knowledge of the September meeting when the Board of Supervisors threw unanimous support at something that many Valley Center residents might not like, our town was unrepresented. There was no way for residents to voice their opinions. Yes, the meeting was open to the public and yes, if we would have attended those meetings as well as the meetings leading up to it, we would have been in the know. Turning most of San Diego County into a drone testing site probably won't affect us much in the grand scheme of things, but the fact remains, something that is very controversial was put into action without many of us being aware of it.

One final thought, where was our supervisor, Bill Horn, in all of this? We know he supported the action, yet when contacted by the Roadrunner to comment on the article on page one in today's edition, his only response came in the form of an emailed statement from

his media director, Anita Lightfoot. Horn's comment was something he said in the past regarding drone testing, Lightfoot said in her email to the Valley Roadrunner.

While Horn's statement is insightful and clearly demonstrates his opinion on the matter, this editor believes that those who represent us should be more open with constituents regarding matters that affect them or they could have strong opinions on. Bottom line, our elected leaders need to keep us informed of issues affecting our communities and our livelihoods and the best way to do that is through communication and government transparency.

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