John Horst, a cyber-security engineer and former chairman and secretary of the Mira Mesa Community Planning Group, is one of six Republicans challenging three-term Democratic incumbent Scott Peters in the 52nd District.
San Diego has the fourth largest homelessness population in the country, and Horst has made it one of his main campaign issues. He says our model of government involvement in the homeless problem is broken. “When you see that your jail system is the largest mental health services provider, you should know that something is broken with the model that we have in terms of the way we align our government,” Horst told Politically Speaking’s Gene Cubbison.
He said currently we have two models of keeping people in custody: county Behavioral Health Services if a person is judged to be a danger to themselves or others and jail if the person commits a crime.
But we have a population of veterans who are coming home and because of PTSD and chronic pain, they end up getting hooked on opioids and all kinds of nasty drugs so they have a substance abuse problem,” he explained. “They’re not necessarily a threat to themselves or others so county mental health is not the right solution and they’re not criminals so the jail is not the right solution, but they can’t hold a job and now they end up on the streets.”
He says homelessness is a mental health issue. “but mental health is run by the county and housing is managed by the various cities, so now we’ve got federal money being scattershot throughout the community and all these different bureaucracies are looking at each other and saying ‘no, you’re supposed to pay for that,’” he said. “We get caught up in finger pointing, we get caught up in bureaucratic rivalries and so the problem never really gets solved.” He says the Housing Commission is almost what is needed, but it doesn’t have the kind of authorities and governmental power necessary.
Horst says the city and county need to be brought together under what’s called a joint powers authority to exercise their capabilities together. A joint powers authority allows two public agencies to jointly exercise common powers.
“SANDAG is essentially a joint powers authority, SanGIS takes care of digital mapping for the region. It’s a joint powers authority and, gee, we were talking about doing one to build the Chargers stadium,” he said. “If we can put a joint powers authority to build a stadium for the Chargers, I think we can do it to provide mental health and housing services for our veterans and for those folks who are suffering on the streets.”
He also believes the health care system is broken and supports repealing the Affordable Care Act. He says as a cybersecurity professional and IT professional, he’s in tune with what’s called the gig economy, where more and more people are working part-time or temporary positions. “Our whole model of health insurance is built around fulltime employment,” he said. “Fewer and fewer people are working fulltime so fewer and fewer people have access to these group policies so they get stuck on an individual policy market that they can’t afford. Obamacare tried to solve that and failed miserably.” He says group policies need to be available to people outside of full-time employment, “whether it be a trade association, a credit union, maybe even a church denomination.”
He says the government needs to expand health care accounts so that people can pay for their policies, and he believes employers should get tax credits for matching their employees’ contributions to their health savings account (HSA).“Then that employee should be able to use that HSA to go out and get a group policy without having to necessarily be a 40-hour a week employee,” he said.
Horst has also made cybersecurity, marijuana legalization and affordable college central issues of his campaign.