The Roundtable: Poverty Rates; DADT; New Chargers Stadium Idea
September 23, 2011 1:45 p.m.
Reporters and editors analyze the rise in poverty rates in San Diego County; the end of Don't Ask, Don't Tell for the U.S. Military; and the chargers new stadium idea.
PENNER: San Diego County's poverty rate rose sharply to almost 15%. What does this mean to our region? Plus local reaction to the end of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. And the skirmish over a nation, Chargers stadium, and Convention Center.
PENNER: This is the Roundtable on KPBS Midday Edition. It's Friday, September 23rdrd. I'm Gloria Penner. Today on the Roundtable, my guests are Lori Weisberg, reporter for the San Diego Union Tribune. Good to see you, Lori.
WEISBERG: Good to be here, Gloria.
PENNER: Alison Saint John, who is the North County senior metro reporter for KPBS. Quite a title, Alison.
ST. JOHN: It's a mouthful, huh?
PENNER: And Rodger Showley who writes about growth and development for the San Diego Union Tribune.
SHOWLEY: Hi Gloria.
PENNER: We look forward to hearing your questions and comments of the week that impacted San Diegans. Just call us at 1-888-895-5727. Or you may contact us at twitter. At KPBS Midday Edition. The U.S. census bureau released its new disheartening figures this week, indicating that poverty in San Diego County has risen sharply. That incomes are stagnant, and that the median household income as dropped significantly. The Union Tribune's Lori Weisberg is covering this story. What does it mean to be poor in San Diego, Lori?
WEISBERG: Well, the national poverty level, the statistic they use is for an individual. It's about 11,000 a year is the poverty line. For a family of four, it's about a little over 22,000. That's a pretty lowing in. Yet, it's surprising to see how many people we do have in poverty now. At 14.8%, the highest in 30 years, it's a clear reflection that experts are saying of the high continued rate of joblessness.
PENNER: It sounds to me as though the statistics are really dismal. It's not just the statistics on the amount of poverty but also on income and jobs.
WEISBERG: Yes, yes. And there's another way of looking at this sum. Someone argued that in high cost years like San Diego County that that poverty rate under states the economic distress of families. And some experts will use below 200% of poverty. And that, in that case, one in three individuals fall in that category. That is really high.
PENNER: Let me turn to our listening audience now before I turn to the rest of our panel. Turning to Alison Saint John and Roger Showley. Let me ask you, or audience why is this happening? What's happening in San Diego? We know the problem is all over the country. But why is San Diego's situation quite as dismal as it appears to be? I'd like to hear from you at 1-888-895-5727. What do you think, Alison?
ST. JOHN: Well, Gloria, one of the things that I thought was interesting is that last year, the rate of poverty rose very sharply in San Diego, whereas when you look at the year before, according to the graph that you have there in the Union Tribune, it was fairly flat. And that seemed to me interesting that maybe San Diego was in some way sort of insulated against some of the recession's effects. We were quite far below the state's poverty level. Then this last year, 2010, we sort of caught up. And I don't know what the reason for that was. Whether this was a big influx of federal investment perhaps in military installations that sort of softened the blow, but that isn't working anymore. And it looks like we're actually catching up to the state in terms of poverty levels, which is distressing.
PENNER: The late of the news, Roger, that I read about, I think today in the Union Tribune, or yesterday that President Obama is planning to send some money our way. Money to help with at least the school situation. So maybe we are going to see the feds bailing us out
SHOWLEY: I don't think that will help the poverty rate. That's for infrastructure and teachers. It doesn't help the people in poverty. I guess I'd ask Lori whether being poor in San Diego is worse than it used to be. If you have to be poor some place, I guess San Diego is a better place than Chicago.
WEISBERG: You know, I don't know. I'm not so sure that's true. Because coastal communities like San Diego, as I was just mentioning, the high cost of living, I think automuch more difficult. And I think there's also a concern that if some of the kind of social services, food aid, if those are cut or diminished, it's going to be even harder. And I think I should point out, we're talking about jobs, in 2009, we lost about 70,000 jobs. And I think these numbers are showing you the fallout from that high job loss
PENNER: Where did they go?
WEISBERG: Well, I mean -- I think it predated 2009, we lost a ton of construction jobs. That's one of the biggest lotses we have had
MAUREEN PENNER: That's a part of it. We have had this rise in technology. You report out of the North County where there is a large technological community. You would think with the rise of technology, we would see a flurry of jobs developing in San Diego.
ST. JOHN: Well, of course, I think people who are investing in technology, that is a high risk investment. And so they're getting a little more cautious than they used to be. I think generally speaking when you look at some of the efforts to increase employment, particularly in the city. San Diego, a lot of them are around the hospitality industry. Even though San Diego is a beautiful, sunny spot, and the ideal place to be building hotels and restaurants, I do wonder if that is condemning the area to be the sort of area where the people who work here cannot afford to live here. Because those salaries don't pay the mortgage, let alone the rent.
PENNER: We're talking about San Diego County as though it's a homogenous area. It's all one place. But that's not really true, Lori, is it? You did the reporting on this, and you know that different cities certainly come up with different figures. Are there particular cities in San Diego -- 19 of them now? Or 18 of them? That are worse off than others?
WEISBERG: Yes. And for this latest survey, because it's not as robust a survey as you'd have with the census, it only captured about eight of the cities.
PENNER: Which census?
WEISBERG: The 2010 census.
WEISBERG: And this is a smaller sample size, but it's still a very robust sample. About three million people in the country. But of those, I think, eight large cities in the county, the worst off, I think, was El Cajon with about a 27% poverty rate. Then you have Chula Vista was much less at 8.4 percent. But the City of San Diego, which is so diverse with many poor and affluent community, it was higher than the county wide average. It was about 17%
PENNER: And Escondido in North County had the fastest growing poverty rate of any city in the region which was interesting. Z
PENNER: One might think that Chula Vista would do much worse than some of the areas that obviously it's not doing worse than. Roger?
SHOWLEY: Tell us about the safety net that we have here. Do they count the poverty rate including the safety net thing, food stamps and benefits, and help you get? Or is it after you get all that, they still have this number of people that are poor?
WEISBERG: Actually, they don't. So some do argue on the flip side that in that fashion, it does under state -- excuse me, over states poverty. Because they don't include that supplemental aid that people are getting. If you want to try to give it a little rosier spin, you could argue, well, gee, are it didn't include that. So maybe it's not quite as bad as it looks. But it's still not good news.
ST. JOHN: When you look at public aid and how it's gone down since a decade or so ago, only 32,000 families now on cal works, which is the cash aid to families, and that's half what it was when welfare went into effect. When we look at the fact there's 446,000 people below the poverty level, that's just a tiny percentage of the people who are in poverty who are getting any aid. And then food stamps, which is quadrupled since then, apparently through now 2,030,000 people taking cal fresh as it's now called. That's still only half of the people who are below the federal poverty level
PENNER: You raise a real interesting concept here. There are those who believe that our so-called generous welfare policy discourages people from actively seeking work while they're collecting benefits. So they are under public dole and why should I go to work if I can stay home and get paid?
ST. JOHN: If I may just clarify that, the whole -- after welfare reform, the whole system changed so in fact in order to get benefits in many cases, you have to be training or looking for a job or even working
SHOWLEY: But isn't this -- quite a large portion is children, isn't it? Out of this group.
WEISBERG: Yeah, it's a high -- the poverty rate is much higher for children
SHOWLEY: But I mean of the total, a third or whatever it is, is children under 18. So don't expect them to be out working and -- lemonade stand trying to raise money for their families?
WEISBERG: No, no. But I think there's a statistic that maybe would be interesting to point out. One of the things we keep talking about, it's the joblessness, the high rate of unemployment, that is driving this. But the other thing is that as people have lost their jobs but then regained employment, they're getting lower salaries and oftentimes part-time work. So the poverty rate for those who are just working part-time, was about 17%, which is much higher than the over-all poverty rate. You can see there's only about three percent, of those who are working full time, only three% are in poverty. So you can reality see that this problem of, you know, low income, low paying jobs and unployment is what's driving this.
PENNER: What are they going to do? Alison, what you have are unemployed, well-qualified workers who have to settle for lower paying jobs, which slow economic growth. The titans, what consumers are willing to spend, so the consumers aren't going to open up their pocketbook and therefore the jobs aren't there for people to have.
ST. JOHN: Exactly. It's a vicious cycle. And we're hearing more and more about the shrinkingly middle-class. I kept noticing that taxpayers supposedly are so against a lot of employment in the public sector, but the fact that we are laying people off left and right in the public sector at cities and other public sector employments is part of what is resulting in this shrinking of the middle class. Those were the good middle class jobs. But the decent salaries are not excessive, and somehow they are being eliminated left and right in order to supposedly benefit the taxpayer. It's a bit of a snake biting its tail kind of thing
SHOWLEY: Lori, at the peek of the boom, we still had people in poverty, didn'try? At the best of times in 2004, 2005, what was it? 10% or something? So we have a baseline of people always in poverty. Not the same people. But a certain percentage of people in any city is the bottom of the rung
PENNER: It's the old bell curve. 10% at the bottom rung, then you have 10 percent at the higher rung earning hundreds of thousands of dollars
SHOWLEY: Yeah. So the question is, is this a temporary rise that will take care of itself as the economy picks up, or is the whole kitchen, San Diego in particular, left with a larger proportion of people in the bottom than there were?
PENNER: Okay. Well, the situation clearly is not improving, Lori. So how are we preparing now for the effect on community tensions on public unrest, on crime and suicide rates? All those social things that happen when people are poor and feeling hopeless. How are we preparing for that?
WEISBERG: I'm not sure that there's any kind of -- I don't know if there's any kind of thinking that, oh, with the economy in worse shape we need to attack the problem that way. I really can't say that we suddenly are stepping up our efforts to address that.
ST. JOHN: In fact, if anything, we could say that the safety net is definitely eroding. Because just this year, people who do get benefits, they have an eight percent cut to their benefit which sub significant
SHOWLEY: The food bank people are trying to wrap up their collections. The downtown redevelopment people are trying to get more homeless shelters and traditional housing built. So it's not like they're doing nothing. No, no. But Alison is right. In talking to some of the organizations that reach out to these people, they are concerned that these benefits are being diminished, that some of them are going away. And in fact the life-time limit on receiving family benefits has shrunk from five years to four.
PENNER: And everybody knows someone who is in that situation or about to get in that situation. Yet it's interesting that our listeners haven't gotten engaged in this topic to want to call in and talk about it. Maybe it's a sense of hopelessness. That certainly has part of it. I want to thank you very much for an interesting discussion. And we'll be back in a moment.
PENNER: It is 12:21, and you are listening to the KPBS Midday Edition Roundtable. I'm Gloria Penner. My guests are Lori Weisberg with the UT, Alison Saint John from KPBS news, and Roger Showley, also from the Union Tribune. While one American dream was slipping away for millions, we're talking about the dream of being successful, for thousands of gay and lesbian troops, a different dream became real this week. On Thursday, the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy was repealed. So Alison Saint John, Don't Ask, Don't Tell was in force in the military for eight years?
ST. JOHN: 18.
PENNER: 18 years. How did it go out? With a bang or a whimmer?
ST. JOHN: Neither, really, something in between. It's interesting. I think perhaps the major bang was when the president signed the legislation in December. Since then, it's just been a matter of time. And people have been adjusting to the point where when it actually went into effect, the military who are very good at taking orders and implementing them, had done what they needed to do to conduct all their trainings. And if there were any hard feelings, they were not being spoken out. And the gay community had already pretty much taken this victory, put it under their belt, and started to look ahead and move on in terms of, well, what's the next step now in this civil rights battle? So I mean, it was a huge celebration down at the LGBT center Tuesday night. Hundreds of people showed up to celebrate. But the people that I spoke to really were talking more about, okay, you know, from here on, what's the next thing now? There's still quite a few things they're not happy with, in the sense that, for example, benefits for partners in the military don't get the same housing and healthcare benefits. So they are already looking ahead. But I think at the personal level, Gloria, that there was a major shift. And I think it's at the level of personal stories where you realize just what a huge transformation this has been for more than 60,000 people who have been serving in the military and having to keep quiet about who they really are all these years. And for each one of them, there's probably a different story about how Tuesday was for them.
PENNER: We'd love to hear those stories. If our dear listeners would call them in and tell us what the change might have made in your life. Our number -- or you expect it will make -- our number is 1-888-895-5727. And Don't Ask, Don't Tell, as we're talking Bwas repealed this week. And it is a major shift. Even when quietly, it was a major shift. And I'm wondering, Roger, whether you remember when the military was desegregated
SHOWLEY: In 47 or so
PENNER: You do remember that. Your grandfather told you
SHOWLEY: President Truman did that in the '40s. And it did occur to me also, how does this compare to two things: Desegregation, and women in the military. Those are two big social shifts we have had in the last first or 60 years. And I -- I don't know if the gay part of it is just a minor change at first compared to those. It's a small proportion of the population, 10% are gay or so, versus 30% women and 20 or 30% minority. And I wonder in a few years, people won't remember this. And it'll just be assumed that all manner of people are welcomed in the military. And you think how does this progress into the general society?
PENNER: So you see it as a rather small happening compared to desegregate or --
SHOWLEY: Yeah, I think so
PENNER: Incorporating women into the military.
ST. JOHN: I think what's interesting is that over the last 18 years, you've had all these people who have had to keep quiet about their sexual orientation, and now you'll probably have a large number of people in the military who have to keep quiet about their prejudices against people they're serving with and so it's not as though everything is hunky-dory. It's just that the dynamic has changed.
WEISBERG: I'm curious. They said that now the policy has been lifted that those who were discharged from the military because they were openly gay can reapply. Do you have a sense of -- and they're not supposed to be given priority when they do. Do you have a sense of how likely it will be that they will get their positions back in the military?
ST. JOHN: Well, I spoke to someone who's in the recruitment office. The situation has sort of changed in the last year or two, in the sense that certainly the Marine Corps doesn't have quite so much pressure to recruit. They reached their target goal of 202,000 marines. And fairly soon, that goal will shrink to 100 and 87,000. So the competition, I think has increased. And since this really started to get talked about a year or so ago seriously at the political level, the situation has changed. And some people said the reason the military was more open to allowing gays to be allowed in the military was because, actually, with two wars going on, they needed more people!
PENNER: So you think it was a practical thing?
ST. JOHN: Well, I've heard people say that both allowing women and gays into the military was because in a volunteer enlist. Sort of situation, they needed more people. But now, the recruitment thing has changed. Of the goals are easier to meet because the economy is so poor, more people want to sign up and are not leaving the military in droves. And in fact, in the Navy, they have been giving people incentives to retire early for a while now. It's not so easy to get a place in the military at this point
SHOWLEY: The two questions for me on this is first of all, are recruiterses going to be blind to people's defenses?
PENNER: Hasn't there already been some false sensitivity?
SHOWLEY: You still have subconscious prejudices. So you wonder how they're going to over come that. But more important to me is that I bet an awful lot of the gay people who had to leave, highly skill, qualified, really needed in the highly specialized professions in the military, and I bet they have a leg up on everybody else because they've already gone through training. They know --
WEISBERG: That's a good point
SHOWLEY: And I bet they're going to be highly -- when you have two side by side, one newbie and somebody 30 years old or 25 who's already been trained, I would bet they'd be more needed actually.
PENNER: Well, I'd like to invite Jeff from La Mesa into the conversation. Our number is 1-888-895-5727. Welcome to the Midday Edition Roundtable.
NEW SPEAKER: Thank you for taking my call. I just wanted to make the comment that a lot of people seem to be acting like Don't Ask, Don't Tell has been the policy, and it was actually kind of a stepping stone. Because before that, if you were gay at all, if they find out you were gay, you remember discharged immediately.
ST. JOHN: And -- sorry.
NEW SPEAKER: A lot of people, myself included thought we should just not even have the interim step. But I think people forget, it was kind of an important step to get to the point where we are now because a lot of people were so against gaying being in the military period. And I think it helped soften up a lot of people's thinking to the point where, like, well, you know, they're there, they're just not saying anything, and things are going fine. So what's the big deal, basically?
PENNER: Jeff, I just want to ask you a question, so you were in the military and you are gay?
NEW SPEAKER: No, no. I'm not in the military and I'm not gay. I just think that the whole -- 'cause I remember back when they instigated it, the whole thing was -- the original twist was trying to get the whole gay issue taken completely away. And they couldn't get it through Congress. So they came up with the compromise which was Don't Ask, Don't Tell which allowed gay people to be in the military as long as they didn't say anything about it. Which I thought was kind of silly because it was assuming that there were no gay people in the military even before that. But that was kind of the thinking, the sea change of think,s, then we got to the point where we are now, where people are saying what's the big deal?
PENNER: Yeah, and that's really I think where we are now. What is the big deal?
ST. JOHN: But I don't know how effective a stepping stone Don't Ask, Don't Tell really was because theoretically, you were only discharged if you told. But in practice, I think most -- many of the people who were discharged was because they were outed. They were unwillingly outed by somebody. So it was actually still a policy whereby if you fell ark foul of somebody, you were vulnerable to them taking revenge by outing you. And that is why it really wasn't a very effective stepping stone.
PENNER: Alison, does this mean that troops can now talk openly with B what it means to live a gay lifestyle?
ST. JOHN: Right. The people that I met down at the LGBT center who were wearing their uniforms in many cases and were just over joyed that they could actually come out and be open about the fact that they were in the military in the gay community and be open in the military about who they really were. Each story is slightly different.
WEISBERG: Prior to this finally going into effect, there was as you mentioned sensitivity training, and I was just wondering, because I'm sure there are still some who are not happy, who are in the military who are not happy about the policy, what was the kind of -- what was the preparation or training to get to this point?
ST. JOHN: Well, it's interesting. I did try to go to one of the trainings. And my efforts were not met with success. Although, I believe some of the people did get in. When I asked people about it, they said oh, it's just pretty straightforward stuff. This is what the policy is now. And so you have to wonder whether it's going to have to be worked out over time as people's real feelings just surface in day-to-day life. And in a sense, that's what needs to be watched now carefully
SHOWLEY: During the Republican debate the other night, I didn't watch Tbut there was a tag line at the end of one of the stories where someone asked a question, are we going to bring back Don't Ask, Don't Tell when Republicans win next year? So I wonder if this is going to become a big political debating point or whether they just drop the subject
PENNER: I'm interested in politics, generally. I looked it up, and both the Senate and the house strongly voted for the repeal. And this was a rare show of bipartisanship in this Congress. So one wonders, you know, whether this is something that is not Republican and not Democrat
ST. JOHN: I don't know if that was also being spoken about at the LGBT meeting, and some people were cautioning that, hey, this may not last. Though it's hard to imagine something which I think is the reflection of the public sentiment. It's hard to imagine a going backwards. But it was one of the major victories that President Obama has had.
SHOWLEY: And I wonder if this is going to propel gay marriage into the national discussion because as you said, the benefits will not go to their gay partners unless I guess they're legally married and the federal government recognizes that. So I bet that's the next big campaign in the next years ahead
ST. JOHN: Well, that's what the LGBT campaign is focused on, marriage. The defense of marriage act apparently there are some benefits that you can get that don't depend on being married. And that's what they're sorting out behind the scenes at the Pentagon now, what are the things that can change and what are the things that still depend on legal marriage?
SHOWLEY: If you have heterosexual couples living together and not married, I don't know if they get benefits. That might bring in this whole healthcare changes proceeding in that group as well.
ST. JOHN: And one of the other issues is veterans who were denied benefit it is and now they arifiy to get them back. And there's a campaign to get those back
PENNER: One question I really think has to be asked, and that is to what degree -- and I think it was raised slightly here for a moment or two, has the military over the years reflected the attitudes of the general populace? In other words, we've talked about desegregation, we we've talked about incorporating women into the military, and now gays and lesbians. So the question I have is sort of a broader one. Does military lead or lag behind society's demands? You want to tackle that, Alison?
ST. JOHN: Well, I would hope that they'd lag in the sense that I hope the American populace is ahead of the military in terms of its attitudes. The military is a very structured and regimented organization. It has to be to do the job they do. So is it might be harder for them to change. When you look at the fact that Europe, I mean, almost all the countries in Europe have allowed gays to serve in the military, there's only for view, Bella reduce and a couple other countries that don't, I think the American military is actually behind the curve, nationally. So I would hope that the American populace is ahead of the game here
PENNER: Let's take a call from Kevin in university city. Hi, Kevin, you're on with the panel.
NEW SPEAKER: Hello, yeah, I guess I have to begin by saying I think the public is -- the public are lagging way, way behind, the mill tear. And you only needed to watch the Republican debate last night and that very, very brave soldier, brave in many ways, booed by a crowd because he asked, you know, whether they were going to continue the elimination of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. And I really think what's so appalling about that is that there were seven candidates for president who sat there like bumps on logs and made response to the booing.
PENNER: Thank you very much for your call, and comment, Kevin. I actually watched part of that debate and I missed that part. Roger?
SHOWLEY: I was wondering what -- since I read -- I don't know whether anybody responded to his question or not. Maybe Kevin knows that.
NEW SPEAKER: Well, it was afterwards. Afterwards some of the aides said, well, that's unfortunate
PENNER: Oh, okay. So there was a response from --
SHOWLEY: The boos were unfortunate, but we don't know what the candidates would have said. They didn't answer right?
NEW SPEAKER: Right, they didn't answer
SHOWLEY: Oh, E. Pregnant pause.
ST. JOHN: It's so interesting because the Pentagon did that survey last November to see what your average person serving in the military thought about allowing gays met military, and more than half of them said that it would be fine. So if they think that, I find it hard to believe that in the general public -- I would like to believe that it is a vocal and passionate minority that is fighting this.
PENNER: One last question for Alison then we're going to move on. How did the military brass -- you were raising the issue about attitudes. How did the military brass, the high level people, deal with the end of the policy?
ST. JOHN: Well, are the head of the Marine Corps southwest, for example, already back in Januarying was saying to me it's about time. He said he's black, and he said African Americans were integrated. Now it's time for the gays. And our constitution says equality for all. So we're missing closer to what the American military should be like. And he was right for it from the beginning. And even general James Amos, the head of the Marine Corps, who was initially opposed to The said he thought it might be a distraction when people were actually deployed came around to it. I think he was reflecting the fact that almost 60% of marines who were in combat did say they were worried about changing the law at this point. And he was sort of speaking for them. But once the president sign today into law, he pretty much immediately said, look, I am going to help implement this. I am going to make sure that it's done in a professional way, and that it does not compromise the security and the effectiveness of our force
PENNER: Okay. Thank you very much. Alison Saint John.
PENNER: There's lots of activity surrounding the possibility of an NFL stadium in LA. In fact, the state legislature has gotten involved by passing bipartisan legislation to speedup that construction. San Diego is busily building up some stadium conversation of its own. Roger Showley is covering those developments. Roger, what's the latest for those who want to see a Chargers stadium in San Diego?
SHOWLEY: Well, Gloria, like everything in San Diego, this is about priorities. And the two choices before us are a new Convention Center -- a Convention Center expansion or a new stadium for the Chargers. Together they would cost about $1.3 billion. Money yet to be collected. And what came up this week was our editorial board of the Union Tribune had Mark Fabiani, the counsel to the Chargers, come and talk about this subject.
PENNER: He's been around forever, Roger
PENNER: He's going to get old and gray in this job isn't he?
SHOWLEY: Yes. He was saying we should have a conversation about this -- what we need. Do we need a Convention Center? Do we need a stadium? Or do we need a building with both in it? So he started off the conversation on Monday. Then over the week's time time, there were several extensions of that discuss. Yesterday on KPBS I believe they talked about that as well. And he ramped up the argument by saying maybe on the ballot, we should have a question to the public, should you raise taxes to keep the Chargers or not? And that's kind of the -- going to the gist of the whole thing
PENNER: That's the heart of Tisn't it?
SHOWLEY: That's the heart of it. And I think the problem for a Convention Center crowd in San Diego is they've already made the case we need a bigger Convention Center to keep ComiCon and other convention groups coming to San Diego. And they'd already gotten the plans done. They're being finalized now. There's an environmental report being prepared, and they're trying to work up the financing basically by charging hotel guests more money to stay in San Diego to pay for the thing. 500 and first million dollars
PENNER: How did they do that without a vote?
SHOWLEY: Because it's going to be the hotel owners that pay the costs. 40 million or so would come from hotels. And it's up to them to come up with the money, and you assume it would come through guests
ST. JOHN: I love the quote you had in your article from Steve Cushman, who worked for hard to get that money for the Convention Centers, and this idea came up, they're not going to get our money!
SHOWLEY: If this goes through, someone will be paying 15 and a half% on their hotel bills
PENNER: They better check ahead of time and see how much that hotel is going to cost. Is this $100 a night? Or is it $115 a night? But I think the interesting point of all this that you raised is that the people can make the decision
SHOWLEY: Well, that's not really where we're heading. Actually.
PENNER: With the people saying I am willing to have my taxes raised in order to afford a new Chargers stadium. We're not heading there?
SHOWLEY: Well, I that could put that on a ballot. I bet it would lose. It would need a 2/3 vote to raise taxes
ST. JOHN: 2/3, uh-huh
SHOWLEY: And the Chargers have spoken, November 2012, the same election as the president and mayor and a new City Council, and all these other issues and who knows what the state legislature will put on the ballot. Then we have this billion dollar question.
PENNER: Let's ask our listeners about that. Okay. You want the Chargers stadium? Are you willing to pay for it? It seems to be as clean and simple as that. If you're willing to pay for it, if you will have your taxes raised, we don't know by how much at this point, to collect what? $100 million? Then about the R let us know. Because you might give Mark Fabiani and the Chargers some enthusiasm about pursuing this thing. Our number is 1-888-895-5727. Lori's been trying to get in on the conversation since early on. Go ahead, Lori.
WEISBERG: What I find interesting, and you guys did address it, but Fabiani as you pointed out, recognizes that the hoteliers are favoring a different proposal. And so he's starting to ramp up the discussion by saying, well, you know what? Rather than just let the hotel community vote on it, which is what the plan is, let's put it up for the voters. Yet he upons the history of the voters and their disinterest in raising taxes am so why would he want to go that route?
SHOWLEY: Yeah. Some among us, not me, would say this is a whole set-up for the Chargers to leave San Diego. Matt hall is writing this weekend on the history of the Chargers search for a stadium, you can imagine a year from now it goes to the ballot, the people say no. And they say we've tried seven different locations, even gone to the voters, they said no. So I'm sorry, San Diego, we're out of here
PENNER: Do you really have to be a cynic to think that way?
PENNER: If you start touting something that sounds like a losing proposition --
SHOWLEY: You're going to lose
PENNER: Why are you touting it unless you're going to lose?
SHOWLEY: What's so paradoxical about this is they keep saying the Chargers want to stay here. Dean Spanos' family love San Diego. They don't have interest in moving the team. Yet LA is moving forward to build its own stadium. San Diego is either a plum to be plucked or a rotten apple to be thrown away. I don't know how you look at it
PENNER: Sometimes plums become prunes
ST. JOHN: Is there much made of the fact that they're still going to be here and the family is still going to be here?
SHOWLEY: No, they have a certain time each year to give a notice of leave. And they can play in the rose bowl and the coliseum. It's and you'd imagine a campaign where that is the big cry, 2012 will be the last season of the Chargers. And people say ra, ra, ra! We're the Chargers, and they go to the superbowl, and we win ,which is what happened with the Petco and the Padres a few years ago. People voted 63% or something for the Padres, then as soon as they got it, their team kind of collapsed.
ST. JOHN: So it's not the Spanos family trying to save face by getting the public -- to blame the public for the team pulling out?
SHOWLEY: Well, you could draw conclusions
PENNER: There's a real question here. Once you get your stadium or Petco Park and you stop pouring money into winning players, you have no motivation, really, left to keep pouring money into the team
SHOWLEY: That's not quite true. The Chargers, to make money, have to fill the stadium, and sell all those sky boxes, a million dollars a year or whatever it is, so they have a set-up to make it successful. The question here really isn't so much about the Chargers stadium. It's should there be one building with two things in it. A stadium and a convention facility. That is the big argument. And people have to come to grips with that. Does it make sense to have the expansion of the Convention Center or put that space into the new stadium?
PENNER: We have so many phone calls that I'm going to take some of them even though I am filled up with question was my own. But I will pass onto our listeners and start with bob in El Cajon. Bob, you're on with the panel at the Roundtable. New hi bob, are you there?
ST. JOHN: Sounds like he's flying
PENNER: What a shame. Okay. Are you there, bob? No bob. I'm so sorry. You had a good chance there because we're going to skip you and go to Eric in La Mesa. Hi, a.
NEW SPEAKER: Hello. How are you?
PENNER: Just fine. Go ahead. This is your chance.
NEW SPEAKER: Love the Chargers, been with them my whole life. They can't win a super bowl, hey, if we get rid of the Chargers, we have a chance at a team that can actually win a superbowl. For the $20 parking, for the first dollar hats, for the $10 beers, they can take it, they can pack it, and they can leave San Diego as far as I'm concerned.
PENNER: Okay, Eric. That was clearly said, thank you very much for your comment. And let's see. Do you want us to take somebody else while we're taking phone calls, Pat? Okay. If not then I am going to --
ST. JOHN: I was just going to say, if I may, that maybe this relates to the is segment of this hour, Gloria, fewer and fewer people can afford to take a family to go see the Chargers anymore.
PENNER: Very expensive
ST. JOHN: They're losing support in the sense that the tickets get more and more expensive been, and fewer residents go
SHOWLEY: And I think the point, once a city loses a team, it costs them hundreds of millions of dollars to get a new team. We would have to be forced to build our own stadium at our own cost. It would cost 3 or 4 times the cost of the new stadium to replace them. And who knows when that ever might happen? Once the Chargers are gone, I'll say no more. We'll never have football in San Diego again.
PENNER: Before we go back to the phones, I do want to ask Gloria about this. You follow redevelopment and development in town. And what we're talking now is a Convention Center that's already there. And then under the Chargers plan, there would be sort of an adjacent Convention Center. A different building. There would be two Convention Center centers. One about six blocks away from the other. Does that sound like a very imaginative idea and something that other cities should be looking at? Or desperation?
WEISBERG: In covering this before, I've talked to meeting planners, hoteliers, convention groups, and pretty much to a person they say they want to be in the same building. They don't -- they see as a liability to their attendees that they have to go to a different place. As it is, for the very large conventions like ComiCon and some of the physician meetings, they're using adjacent hotels for space to make up for it. So they are doing a little walking but to go six blocks away, they're not in favor of that.
PENNER: Is ComiCon driving all this, Lori? Other than Comicon is there really anything else that says we need to have an appended Convention Center?
WEISBERG: No, it's not just ComiCon. And the Convention Center folks, ianted, they have a vested interest, but they are saying they are a number of very large conventions. Many of these medical meetings are the big economic drivers in San Diego. Those are the ones -- they say they're hearing from them that the Convention Center here is too small
PENNER: There's a rumor that doctors are going to cut back on those kinds of activities. Well, we won't talk about that. Another subject. Tanya in the Carmel Valley. You're on with the panel.
NEW SPEAKER: Hi. My comment was just in general, we as Americans tend to want more for less and never want to pay for anything. But I do believe that if we were going to raise taxes, I would certainly be for that. However, I think there are other problems that we should tackle such as homelessness in downtown San Diego. I think I would be very in favor of raising taxes for that. But not to keep a football team here. I heard earlier in the conversation that the hotels would be paying for the Convention Center. And so analogous to that, I think that if the Chargers want to stay here, I think the owners of the Chargers and the other people who are making money off the Chargers should be paying for that stadium.
PENNER: I guess that's certainly one point of view, Roger. Have you heard that point of view?
SHOWLEY: Yes, I mean, people say why should we give millions to billionaires or something like that. I think actually being optimistic, and Ecue menical about this, we need both. We really should have a Convention Center expansion and the stadium expansion and the property -- the land in between becomes a big park where an expansion of convention activities take place. And you have this big -- they call it a sports and entertainment district, is what the downtown boost verse talked about. I think the timing is the question. I think you could have the Convention Center expanded by 2016, and then as that gets rolling, then the Chargers come up with a plan for a stadium that opens in, say, 2020. And the hand between --
ST. JOHN: And who would pay for that?
SHOWLEY: Well, who knows? But I'm just saying as a land use concept and downtown vision, it seems to me that makes sense. If the Chargers leave town or whatever, then it's all out the window. But I don't know why they have to be in competition with each other. I think we can do one and then the other. But as the caller made the point, if you have $1.3 billion in money, is this what you spend your money on? A Convention Center and a stadium rather than the necessities of San Diego, which are roads and neighborhoods and all the other things that are lacking in San Diego. And you know you had Steve eerie here speaking about this the other day, San Diego is cheap, it doesn't take care of itself. It's under taxed, it under spends. And it's kind of a something for nothing kind of a city.
PENNER: Underlying all this are the politics of redevelopment. That's all part of it too. Which parts of San Diego do you redevelopment? Which needs redevelopment? And who has the political clout to push it through?
SHOWLEY: I don't know any neighborhood that would want an 80,000 seat stadium in their backyard. When it went out to the public with Chula Vista and Oceanside and the other communities, there was not any great brouhaha from the believe wanting it. Of so downtown has become the default place to put everything like that.
PENNER: It's approximate better than being a default place for the homeless, isn't it? I'm going to try to squeeze in one more call. And that's Juan in mission valley. If you can make it brief, please? Hi Juan. Nope. We lost Juan. Okay. So we have this very special moment. Yes, downtown very often is a sort of a place why you gather all those things that other communities don't want. But you take a look at some of our communities, and I think it's clear they'd rather have a stadium than -- I was going to say used car lot
SHOWLEY: A jail
PENNER: A jail. Absolutely. If it's a matter of choices.
ST. JOHN: And the argument is, if you build a stadium, there's more economic development, and they create taxes which go into the general fund and help pay
SHOWLEY: I think economists have thrown a rock through that window. In this case, you're simply moving the stadium impact from mission valley to downtown
ST. JOHN: Right
PENNER: I want to thank our listeners and our callers very interesting calls, and thanks to Lori Weisberg and Roger Showley of the San Diego Union Tribune. It's okay to call it by the whole name isn't it, Lori?
WEISBERG: That's fine.
PENNER: And Alison Saint John from the KPBS news room. You know, KPBS continues to expand its news service. This time it's on television. And it's beginning next Monday. So you can see KPBS evening edition at 6:30, Monday through Friday. And as with Midday Edition, we'll bring you the most important stories in our region, and why they matter. That's KPBS evening edition, beginning September 26th at 6:30 KPBS on KPBS television. Help you'll join us. I'm Gloria Penner, and thank you for listening.