More education cuts, A whistle-blower fights his firing, and the Regional Airport Authority tosses important forms.
December 16, 2011 1:13 p.m.
Guests: Kyla Calvert, KPBS News Education Reporter
Ricky Young, Watchdog editor, San Diego Union Tribune
Lori Weisberg, reporter, San Diego Union Tribune
CAVANAUGH: Mid-year cuts to San Diego schools are just the latest installment in shrinking education budgets. The tale of a whistle-blower, and a flap over airport concessions. Is this KPBS Midday Edition Roundtable.
I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. It's Friday, December 16th. I'd liege to welcome today's Roundtable guests, KPBS education reporter, Kyla Calvert.
CALVERT: Hi, Maureen.
CAVANAUGH: And Lori Weisberg, a reporter with the San Diego Union Tribune. Welcome.
WEISBERG: Thank you, Maureen.
CAVANAUGH: And Ricky Young, editor of the San Diego Union Tribune watch dog team. Hi
YOUNG: Good midday, Maureen.
CAVANAUGH: Kyla, a lot of news in education this week, and much it was bad. Let's start with the governor's announcement of more budget cuts. How much is being cut, and where?
CALVERT: Well, there's about $80 million being cut from general school revenues, and then almost $250 million being cut from funds for school transportation. So that $80 million sort of gets distributed equally across, you know, all of the state's school districts, then the transportation funds, they are not distributed in the same, sort of, per student dollar amount basis. And so those cuts some people have said are falling sort of most heavily on rural districts where the buses travel great distances, because the transportation funding is based on sort of how much it costs to maintain a bus fleet.
CALVERT: So those costs go up when you're traveling long distances to get each and every child to school.
CAVANAUGH: Remind us why we have these mid-year trigger cuts in the first place.
CALVERT: When the legislature passed the state's budget last June, they gambled that 4 billion extra dollars would come in for the state. In the event that didn't happen, they said we'll make these automatic cuts. There were three tiers of cuts, one for a billion dollars behind projections, one for two, and 1 if none of that entering money came in. So we're entering into that second tier of cut, but not everything that was included in that.
CAVANAUGH: So these were not the worst cuts that had been predicted, especially for K through 12, like San Diego unified school district.
CALVERT: That's right. San Diego unified was planning for a $30 million loss in January, now it looks more like 7 to $8 million. But they're still expecting to be short 73 million for the fall.
CAVANAUGH: The fall, yeah. So this is -- they sort of dodged a bullet mid-year because they were talking about draconian cuts in the mid-year. But now they're looking for draconian cuts in the fall.
CALVERT: They were basically looking at spending most of their reserves, as well as laying off 55 people in January. Now, they'll be spending -- they'll be using some money from property sales, and no mid-year layoff it is
CAVANAUGH: Education is not the only area to get cut mid-year. What are some of the others?
CALVERT: In-home care providers are being cut, the state funding for the juvenile justice system is being changed. There are the higher education cuts as well. The cuts are about a billion dollars, and the cuts to K12 education, and school transport, the universities and community colleges are about 6 hundred million of that $1 billion.
CAVANAUGH: Go ahead, Lori.
WEISBERG: It's sort of a good news, bad news story. And I'm wondering how this will impact -- Governor Brown wants to put some tax increases on the ballot next year. On the one hand, things aren't as bad as they thought they were going to be, maybe we don't need these tax increases? Or on the other hand there could be more cuts coming, we better start raising revenues. I'm wondering how his campaign to get that will fare in the light of this news.
CALVERT: I think his January is going to be a very similar scenario to what we saw last year, he came out and said here are all these cut, I'd us to extend these taxes meant to expire in June, otherwise we're going to double everything I laid out here in January. And he said already that his budget in January is going to include cuts to similar services again. And I think it's going to be a similar proposition where these are the cuts I'm recommending if we can pass my, you know, my tax package for education. And if we can't pass that tax package, then we'll see twice this, or even more of the same.
WEISBERG: So that looming threat of more bad news to come.
CALVERT: Exactly. And I think we saw a poll at the beginning of this week that said something like 60% of eligible voters are likely to support Jerry Brown's tax initiative
CAVANAUGH: We keep seeing poll results come out that people in California are disturbed by the shrinking education budgets, but at the same time they are still opposed to new taxes. So we seem to have this continuing disconnect going on. Now there's a poll out saying 60% of voters would actually support taxes on millionaires, right?
CALVERT: It's a 2% tax increase on people making more than $500,000 a year. And I think the thinking that people actually are more likely to support a tax if they know that it's set aside specifically for education funds.
CAVANAUGH: As this one would be.
CALVERT: Right. They don't trust the state to spend money on other things, generally.
CAVANAUGH: Well, other switching gears a little bit, but still staying with education, former Washington DC public schools chancellor Michele ri came to San Diego. She was here to get input about informing public schools.
CALVERT: She was here with her organization called students first, it's about a year old, and they are doing a 5-city listening tour that's cosponsored with the mayors of those cities. San Diego was the first city, and they're also going to Los Angeles, Fresno, San Jose, and Sacramento. And she's actually the mayor in Sacramento, Kevin Johnson, I think is his name he was there as well. She was saying this is a listening tour, we're going to hear what people in California, you know, are wanting to see in terms of education reform because they already have something like 130,000 members in California, even though they haven't done any work here. But in terms of whether or not it was actually a listening tour, I think we listened to about seven San Diegans in the course of the event and I don't think it was terribly surprising that they were all concerned about exactly the issues that students first has really pushed in the other states where they've worked
CAVANAUGH: What are those issues?
CALVERT: Some of their sort of hall mark issues are eliminating or modifying teacher tenure, vaulting teachers and principles based partly on student test scores, opening the way for more charter school, getting mayors and other city leaders involved in the governance of School Boards, empowering parents with more transparent information, is what Michele -- is how Michele ri characterized one of their sort of pushes. And she was saying that that could be done with doing things like providing schools A through F letter grades that were easy to understand, but those things -- teacher evaluations and what goes into them, and determine whether a school is successful, what you put into that equation is always therefore controversial. And New York City has this A through F letter grade system that pretty much after several years -- the logic was so twisted that it came do be pretty meaningless.
CAVANAUGH: I'm just wondering, though, aren't these maneuvers basically for failing schools? Does San Diego have failing schools? Do we qualify under that banner? I know when Michele ri went into the Washington DC school district, they were having a really hard time.
CALVERT: Well, San Diego is sort of always one of the highest performing urban school districts. The national academic -- I can't remember exactly what it stands for. But they outscored the average for urban districts on the math and reading scores, or math and reading tests nationally. But there are schools that sort of -- that don't get great test will scores, the district is considered under improvement, under no child left behind. So whether schools are failing or not is sort of a -- I don't think it's really like a yes or no sort of proposition.
YOUNG: I think where we are in that whole debate is, for years, it's been about holding schools accountable with this no child left behind thing, the failing schools, the adequate yearly progress, and it's become so widespread with so many failing schools that people may be starting to think that's not enough, and that's not working. A lot of people don't like huing to the standardized test. They think that takes all the creative out of education, and a lot of schools aren't able to keep up with this. Though they try very hard. And I think some of these groups like the ones who visited recently are just looking for some other things that try, you know? And certainly they're doing it with an agenda. And it does make people very uncomfortable to try to hold teachers accountable for bringing their students along, but at the same time, there's people who think it would be good to hold teachers accountable.
CALVERT: And an administrator from a San Diego public school stood up and said that innule of the time she had been at the school, she had only sort of been able to file -- not complaint, exactly, sort of requests for review of four of the teachers in her school, and she was the only administrator in her school that had done that for any of the teachers and she knew that there were plenty of other teachers in the school who kids were going in their classrooms and just sitting there for 45 minutes and not really getting anything out of their classes.
CAVANAUGH: Let me just give the number once again. 1-888-895-5727 if you'd like to join the conversation. Lori Weisberg?
WEISBERG: I thought -- wasn't mayor Sanders also present? And isn't there part of this effort to engage mayors to be more involved or interventionists? But it's kind of a difficult -- there is a dividing line between city governance and governance of schools
CALVERT: Yes, he was there. He sort of introduced the whole event. But his remarks were very brief, and then he really got out of there. But I was talking to him beforehand, and he was saying he does support the next mayor get more involved with schools. Or the City Council visit the idea of getting more involved in the School Board, and he was saying that he thinks that School Boards in general are not very watched by the public. So the public doesn't really understand the issues, they don't really understand who's on the School Board, and sort of what their interests are, and so that having sort of the more visible city leaders involved in the School Boards, and potentially, you know, being able to appoint reportives would I guess somehow better represent the electorate, even though the electorate is already voting
YOUNG: There's also been an effort by councilman Tony Young, and assemblyman Nathan Fletcher who is running for mayor to weigh in on education policy. And as city leaders. And I think it does sort of say thing, maybe, about the condition of our school district when people are looking to our city government such as it is for leadership on what to do!
CALVERT: Certainly, and I think that the budgeting is a -- certainly an, why that people are concerned about, just in terms of the budget crisis in the San Diego City school seems never really to go away. And it is -- they're only required to do a one year budget. There's not a long-term view. And it has been the approach of the School Board to take a very much, like, what can we salvage this year approach to their budgeting. Which there are people who say, well, you have to preserve all the programs for the students we have this year, and there are people who say, well, next year it's just going to be worse because we haven't taken any measures beyond put ache Band-Aid over the issues that we face right now
YOUNG: It interestingly parallels the state situation where there's these assistant crises, the world is coming to an end, we're going to go insolvent, then next thing you know, oh, it's not so bad
CAVANAUGH: We found some money under the table. I have heard people say that, and the school district keeps saying, well, it's a good thing that we haven't had go to these worst case scenarios. But to your point, there was an initiative early this year to try to increase the number of School Board members. They tried to get an initiative to get going, and they couldn't get it on the the ballot. And I'm just wondering what you think. Do you think people like the idea of city government getting involved in schools? I mean the fact that the initiative couldn't get enough signatures would seem to indicate that that idea is not real popular
YOUNG: I don't know how much you should read into that not getting enough signatures. I think people want something done. There was a group of very civic minded people who thought they had an answer. There were some cynical people that thought that was not the answer, that it was really an antiunion push. As a result, there were allegations that there was some union trickery with the signature gathering, which is why they weren't able to get enough ballot signatures to get it on the ballot. There was some thinking people were purposely putting in fake name, and this kind of thing. So I think their idea is really yet to be vetted, and there might be people who like it. But then any time you take the idea of an elected board and suggest we're going to appoint people to it, is it rubs voters the wrong way. They feel like they really should be entrusted with electing their own leadership.
WEISBERG: Well, as Ricky was saying, though, it is -- this whole budget kebalkel is reminiscent at the school level of what's going on at the state. If we're gone have -- we're going to hand layoff notices to the teachers, oh,y no, we're going toy are as I understand them. It's this state of uncertainty all the time the parallel is a good one between the state legislative budget process, and what goes on in the schools.
CAVANAUGH: Isn't there actually a state law against cities running school districts?
CALVERT: I don't -- well, I know that the composition of the San Diego School Board, it does have something to do with the city charter. I'm still not -- because at their sort of roundup of their educational listening tour, Tony Young was saying that he is going to put -- sort of looking at the city School Board or the board of education on the City Council agenda, because it is part of the city charter.
YOUNG: I think when they were circulating that petition that it did change the city charter.
CAVANAUGH: Ah, okay
YOUNG: Which I think does have something to do with the school district.
CALVERT: School districts operate as separate municipalities, but it's a very tricky sort of relationship.
CAVANAUGH: Let me just get a call here. Don is calling us from Hillcrest.
NEW SPEAKER: I think I might have heard early on when you were discussioning the visit of Michele ri to San Diego that we don't have many or any significant number of failing schools in our district
CAVANAUGH: I think it was a sort of yes and no answer.
NEW SPEAKER: Well, let me say just as a citizen has observed this for a number of years, I think the whole school district itself is failing. When you have 30, 40 depending on the studies, as much as almost 50% of your high school students not graduating. And all the other measures of performance are pretty weak. Even if we're above average compared to other urban district it is. So what Michele ri is doing, I may not agree with her in every respect, what she tried to do in Washington DC, and the focus she's trying to bring to this nationally is to look at solutions that go outside the box.
NEW SPEAKER: Go outside the teacher's union.
CAVANAUGH: Don, thank you so much for the call. I appreciate it. I want to go to Eric, calling us from La Jolla. Derek, I'm sorry. Welcome to the show.
NEW SPEAKER: Thank you for taking my call. It's Derek, by the way
CAVANAUGH: Got it. Thank you.
NEW SPEAKER: And I was just thinking with this discussion of the interplay between the city and the school district, we have Bob Filner running for mayor, he may be our first mayor candidate with a PhD. In history. He taught history at San Diego state college. And he was on our School Board. And I would imagine if he got to be mayor, it would be productive what he could do with the collaboration.
CAVANAUGH: I appreciate the comment. And so does Bob Filner, I'm sure. I'm wondering, at this forum at USD with Michele ri, there were, like, seven people there, and the mayor, and people speaking about what was wrong with San Diego schools or how they could be improved. Did anyone speak up for unionized teachers at this forum?
CALVERT: People spoke up for teachers. There wasn't really -- nobody -- it wasn't a debate or like a point kind of --
CAVANAUGH: Because we keep hearing that. I hear that all the time when we have listeners call in. It's like either they're for the union or against the union. It almost sounds like that's kind of where the discussion get it is down, when you talk about it long enough. So anyway, we will find out. I want to thank you for the discussion. And now it's onto our next topic.
CAVANAUGH: In is KPBS Midday Edition Roundtable. My guests are KPBS education reporter, Kyla Calvert, hoary Weisberg, reporter with the San Diego Union Tribune Uand Ricky Young, editor of the San Diego Union Tribune watch dog team am our next story is about the line between duty to the public and your duty to your employer. And if the Courts will help you if you get caught between the two. We invite our listeners to join this conversation at 1-888-895-5727. Ricky Young, tell us the saga of Jeffrey baker. He was fired basically are raising issues of undue risk to the county's eight budget deficit pension fund. Who is he and what are his credentials?
YOUNG: Well,ing Jeffrey baker was born in South Dakota and went off to get an MBA in college, and worked at casinos early in his career. So he knows a little bit about risk and managing a lot of money. He worked then at cal pers, are the state employee retiree system for a few years before starting at the county organization, the county pension fund. And he was in charge of monitoring the investments they had in a couple of sectors, high-yield bonds and U.S. treasuries. A pension fund is fairly conservatively invested so this is a big part of their fund, treasuries. And made up of about 40% of this eight budget deficit fund.
CAVANAUGH: What was the area of his concern? What made him so upset that he went to his superiors and ultimately to you guys?
YOUNG: Well, they monitor what's going on in the fund with returns and risk. And he was looking at the investments that they were taking on and how these investments were performing against their expected bench mark. And if you're deviating too far from that bench mark, then you're taking on risk. And what he calculated was that with treasures in particular, I forget what it was in the other sector of the fund, that they were, like, three times their risk limit. And he started raising some concerns about this. And they basically told him, well, you don't need to concern yourself with that.
CAVANAUGH: So that's -- he went to his superiors and he told them his concerns about the risk level being too high
YOUNG: Right. And the response, we have this e-mail, and in fact the reason -- the fact we have it is part of his problem, I'm sorry to say. But we have an e-mail from the portfolio strategist, Lee partridge, who's oi consultant out of Texas saying that's actually a passive investment. You don't need to worry about monitoring that. I'll do that myself, says the guy in Texas.
CAVANAUGH: But he was still worried
YOUNG: He was worried and press said his case a number of other ways. And then finally it came to this decision to come to the watch dog, our investigative team, with this concern.
WEISBERG: As you pointed out, as I was reading the story, that he was concerned about these bench marks being exceeded so later on, it seems that their response, the pension fund was, oh, well, we'll just raise the risk levels and everything's okay
YOUNG: Yes. Well, their first response was oh, you can't -- don't listen to him because it's not even possible to measure these -- it's called tractioning error when they get off of -- and it's not even possible to measure that because we haven't been holding this fund for 36 months, and you need 36 months of data really to measure that. And so their first answer to us was oh, there isn't enough data. He must be wrong. That was in May of this year. In June of this year, their own consultant measured the risk, and it turned out to actually be a little riskier than what Mr. Baker was saying. And then in July of this year, they went ahead and changed their risk limits to make it a tolerable amount of risk. Which may be perfectly fine and it may be good policy. But I think it does tend to be an indicator that Mr. Baker was right that they were out of line with what the investments were supposed to be doing in terms of risk.
CAVANAUGH: Well, meanwhile, Jeffrey baker got fired
YOUNG: Yes, three days after our story came out, he was put on leave
CAVANAUGH: On what grounds?
YOUNG: At the time, I think they told him that he was due to be laid off under a restructuring that had been underway for a while. And then thing kind of changed over time in terms of the reason for him being out of a job. I think for a while they tried to suggest that he'd done some things on his work computer he wasn't supposed to do. And then I think later it came to be that it was disseminating information, specifically to us, that resulted in him being fired, not actually laid off as the initial plan was
CAVANAUGH: I think most people listening to this story would say, well, okay I'm not quite sure whether or not his information was correct because I'm not an accountant. But aren't there laws that protect whistle blowers? If he felt motivated enough that he wanted to make this public, where is his protection?
YOUNG: Well, I'm sorry to say, and I shouldn't say this, because I want people to talk to the paper, but there are no protections for going to the newspaper. There's no special whistle blower protection there. There is whistle blower protection for going to a government agency or law enforcement agency with a concern, which is exactly what Mr. Baker did, and he is pressing a whistleblower complaint to the county civil service commission saying he was fired for raising these concerns in-house. And they found his appeal to be without merit. They upheld the firing. The civil service commission did. Now, his attorney is Mike Aguirre who you'll recall used to be the city attorney of San Diego, and he's presseg in on a number of levels including a complaint with the state laborer relations board, still saying this this firing should not have happened
CALVERT: I just -- I guess that makes me wonder sort of how your editorial process works. When someone comes to you with that kind of information, is it just a straight news judgment? Or how do you make that call whether or not to use what they've brought to you?
YOUNG: Well, there's a number of different ways to use information they bring to you. I mean, the fact is the first story we did on this was based almost entirely on a public filing. It was a report he had made to the civil service commission contesting how he had been treated. And so we were writing mostly off the public document. We were also cooperating with his attorney, and through his attorney, he released some e-mails to us that helped show how the agency responded to his initial reports. And those e-mails turned out to be critical in this.
So there's different ways handle different sources when are coming forward and in this case, it was largely done off a public document, but there were some complications there, that looking back, maybe we should have hid the source of those a little more, but at the time, his attorney said it was fine. So we went with them.
WEISBERG: One of the points that the county made was that before he goes further and takes his complaint further that he should have followed the process to its logical conclusion. Were there things that he didn't do that he was supposed to do when he was going through the process of trying to get things changed at the county level?
YOUNG: Right. So he has a code of ethics as a chartered financial analyst, I think it is. A CFA. He has a code of conduct that says that there are times when -- for the good of the investment and the securities and the market and the people whose money this is, that you might need to do something your employer tells you not to, such as leak a document. But it does say that you need to work through the process first. And what the pension board is saying is he should have first of all let the process play out. When he came forward with his civil service complaint, it was in the paper 3 or four-days later, and they thought he should have waited for that to play out. He alerted two board members about this. Their contention is he should have gone to all nine board members instead of just two of them. You know, I don't know how much difference that would have made made for them listening to him.
CAVANAUGH: So if I understand you correctly, the problem for him is that he's caught in the middle here. He notified his superiors, but they didn't get back to him in a way that would have rectified the problem in a timely manner. And so he went to the media, but now his superiors are saying you should have waited for us to respond. You violated the trust that you should have had with us. And so therefore you're fired
YOUNG: That's exactly right. And we talked to a number of first amendment experts who said they have every right to do that, that a company or employer has a right to limit and control how information leaves that institution.
CAVANAUGH: I'm just curious though, for the question that Kyla had, let me ask you, you're all reporters, when a source comes to you, does it enter into your news judgment who might become of this person iffed in he's blowing the whistle so to speak?
YOUNG: Absolutely. And we have a lot of internal thought about that. And we're very careful about how we handle that information. And the most important thing is just to be -- that everybody be clear on how the information is being used and Lori?
WEISBERG: I guess one thing I ask aside from what Ricky said is, OKAY, what's this person's motivation? Is he some kind of disgruntled person? How seriously should I be taking this person's accusations? I think that's one thing that we all weigh and look into before we go forward and do some reporting on it.
CAVANAUGH: And Kyla?
CALVERT: I would agree. And I think that a lot of the times too, the things that people think are sort of revelations to the public or whatever, they're sort of a little bit --
CAVANAUGH: Not exactly headlines?
CALVERT: Right. The things that people feel most disgruntled about, most strongly about, aren't something the general public is going to really -- I often feel that the general public is going to feel equally enraged about
YOUNG: And I should say out of fairness, the agency, the pension system says that he couldn't be a whistleblower, because they didn't do anything wrong. They stay they stayed within their risk limits, kept the board apprised in public sessions of the risk in one of these Treasury investments in particular. So they certainly have a case that has been successful at the civil service commission level. We'll just see how they do moving forward. Not the commission, there's a civil service report that's been done, like a staff report that is now being reviewed by the commissioner.
CAVANAUGH: And Jeffrey bake serstill trying to get his job back?
YOUNG: Well, that's not 100% clear to me either. I think he recognizes they wouldn't want him back. So I think it may be about money at this point, like lost income.
CAVANAUGH: I want to thank you all. And our next topic on the Roundtable is coming up.
CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition Roundtable. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. My guests are KPBS education reporter, Kyla Calvert, Lori Weisberg, reporter with the San Diego Union Tribune, and Ricky Young, editor with the San Diego UT watch dog team. And we're taking calls. And you'd like to comment on anything you hear on the Roundtable, our number is 1-888-895-5727.
When we're craving a coffee or a yogurt at the airport, not many of us spend a lot of time thinking about how that vendor got to set up shop at Lindbergh field. . But Lori, the San Diego County regional airport authority recently awarded all new food concessions for the entire airport. Why did they do that?
WEISBERG: Well, this was a pretty Herculean effort, and they're following other airports where they have gone from a master concessionaire who's operated for years and years, to a model where you can bring in more local vendors, more local flavor to represent your city. And that's what their effort involved. So you had hosts managing all these concessionaires for decades, and now it opened it up to players large and small.
CAVANAUGH: Is it an effort to make more money? What are they trying to achieve?
WEISBERG: It's also going on at the same time that they're redoing one of their terminals, this green build project they have. So yes, they are going to make more money, they're going to have more concessionaires Burk they also argue it's also for the traveling public, that there's much more diversity and variety. They're changing how they price the concessions. You know how it seems more expensive when you're at an airport. They're going to introduce something called the street pricing plus 10%.
CAVANAUGH: So in other words you get a taste, when you go to Houston airport, you'd get a taste of Houston.
CAVANAUGH: And San Diego, you get a taste of San Diego. How much of these concession contracts worth?
WEISBERG: Well, together, all of these, they're about a billion dollars in sales over the next 7 to 10 years. Each concessionaire, the profits are in the tens of millions, can be in the tens of millions. They argue that it's very difficult and operation concession in an airport, your laborer costs are higher, it's almost a 24-hour operation. You have a captive audience, but it's not just like having a restaurant on the street. It is worth a lot of money, though.
CAVANAUGH: Well, so the bids got awarded, they got a whole bunch of local vendors. Some of the companies, however, that lost wanted to know why. And then what happened?
WEISBERG: Well, the basic question they asked was, how did I score? They had this six member panel, and each panelist was supposed to give them detailed scores on about 7, 8 different criteria, then they use the scores in turn to rank, you know, first, second, third, or 4th. And you'd think, gee, maybe just the highest bid ones. But that's not necessarily the case. There are all these other criteria on your menu and design and marketing plan. But when they asked for those scores, what they got back were papers with -- they had the descriptions of how you scored, but no scores.
CAVANAUGH: Oh, I see. So in other words if somebody wanted to know how their menu rated against the person -- the vendor who actually got picked --
CAVANAUGH: There was no scoring of any kind?
WEISBERG: No. And the panelists did do scoring. But airport for -- yean that their reason was very -- really helped get the answer. They didn't keep the scores. And they say they didn't keep them because it was never intended to be about the scores. It was a ranking system. Yet that's not the practice at several of the airports I spoke with. They do hold onto the scores for the very reason that you are going inevitably have concessionaires who lost out who are going to protest or why want to know why.
CALVERT: It seems to me strange that there wouldn't be the requirement that all that documentation be kept.
WEISBERG: There was nothing that I came across that said you shall hold onto these records. It's just talking to consultants. They say they advise their airport clients to hold onto the records for the reason they all argue these are very competitive bid, and inevitably, they say it's more unusual not to have a protest than to have one
YOUNG: It sort of seems like common sense, and Lori brought this to the attention of two of the airport board members who said, yeah, we should have kept those. And it's not just so that a bidder can look and see how they scored, it's just to build trust with the public. The public might want to look and -- one of the big controversial things is there's not going to be a McDonald's at the airport anymore. And some of us find that convenient. But a member of the public who's really keen on the fries might want to go and look, why did McDonald's lose out? So it builds trust in the public, it's about government transparency, and I think next time they'll keep the sheets. But I think we'd all like a better explanation of why they disappeared in this case.
CAVANAUGH: Well, you know if also -- as you mentioned, the two board members were San Diego City Council member Tony Young, and the chairman of the regional airport board, bob Gleeson. And what they said was a little bit confusing. Did they even see the scoring?
WEISBERG: No. They would not have seen the scoring because they weren't part of the panel. They would only see -- actually what the rest of us saw were these sheets that showed how they ranked, how each panel member ranked them, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. That's what they would have seen. But yeah, they didn't get to see that. But they didn't seem to care. What was interesting was at the same time this was going on, they were also evaluating bidders for the new parking contracts at the airport, and for that contract, they kept the scores. It seems odd the same airport authority had different policies. First they told me we told the panelists they could do what they wanted with the score sheets. And when I went to the panelists, two of them told me they turned all of these score sheets into you. They said, OKAY, well, maybe it's through for those guys. But not for our staff members who were on the panel. So there wasn't a very straightforward answer for why they did this
YOUNG: We did try to find out exactly what they did with them, did they recycle them? Shred them? Make paper airplanes out of them and throw them on the tarmac? And they just said they were disposed of.
WEISBERG: Didn't really want to answer.
CAVANAUGH: One of the things that makes this interesting, besides the fact that McDonald's is not going to be at the airport anymore, is that some of the bidders that got contracts, they got them in spite of not having the highest rent projections. So what does the airport authority have to say about that? First of all, explain what rent projections are.
WEISBERG: Well, what they do is they -- when they bid on these, there's a minimum required bid, and the airport sets, and then they can bid that up as a percentage of their suggested sales. And what the airport said is that you can sometimes try to buy a contract by having pretty optimistic forecasts of what your sales are. So we can't judge it alone on what your projections are, and how much you'll sell. And then we'll take a percentage of those sales. What if you're wrong? They can't hold them to the projected sales, just the percentage. So that's -- and that I think is why we wanted to see that. So give that finances aren't the only part of this, then how did they score on these other areas?
CAVANAUGH: Now, one of the members of the Lindbergh concession evaluation panel also 7ed on a National Airport advisory board. Two of the board members he served with were awarded concessions. Now, just throw that into the mix for a little fishy smell to some people who still want to see how they scored on the entire list and what do they have to say about that?
WEISBERG: Yeah, Ricky was my other on this. We tried that that that was wasn't the most heinous thing, but it under scored why you of the to see the scores. They just said -- reiterated their comment, this was a fair process, it wasn't tainted that's just irrelevant.
CAVANAUGH: So that portion is irrelevant as well. Have there been formal protests lodged by people who lost their bids?
WEISBERG: Yeah, there were three formal -- two of the food concessionaires who wanted to operate food stands or coffee stands, and one who wanted to put a spa at thea inter~
YOUNG: Ironically, a couple more wanted to protest couldn't because you would normally use the scores. But they had nothing to do on because there were no score sheets.
WEISBERG: Some didn't even want to talk to me, because in the airport world, it's a small world, and they want to compete in other places. And they don't want to hurt their credibility or reputation. So they say, you know what? We're just going to move on.
CAVANAUGH: Did you get a feeling from the responses from Tony Young and others that perhaps the airport learned a lesson in this
WEISBERG: Yes, yeah. I think so. I think they -- without wanting to hurt the decision they made, I think they felt strongly enough that this should have been done differently
CALVERT: Oh, I was just still thinking about the requirement for keeping the scores, if I had a look on my face. And wondering how that compares to the requirement for any sort of, you know, department of the city government holding onto their sort of -- the proposals that they get for various contracts they put out.
WEISBERG: Yeah, that's a good question. I don't know how that works in other government agencies when they do. Because these requests for proposals are so common with government agencies when they're doing bidding
CAVANAUGH: So all of the new concessions are set now? They have been awarded.
CAVANAUGH: When will we see them at the airport?
WEISBERG: This will be interesting. At the end of 2012, host avenue contract ends, and the next day, the new contracts start. And there's going to be this difficult transition period. So the very end of 2012
CAVANAUGH: I see. And besides no McDonald's, anything else that's going to be interesting and new concession-wise at the airport?
WEISBERG: I think a lot of some of the -- like Phil's barbecue, Saffron
CAVANAUGH: So that is interesting.
WEISBERG: Stone brewery, some of the familiar names that will be there. Yeah, some of the brewers.
CAVANAUGH: Well, great. You're going to have to probably try to get your fries --
YOUNG: On the way to the airport.
CAVANAUGH: Exactly. One last question about this. OKAY, so the formal protests have been lodged, and they basically were rejected.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you. Of what other recourse do these concessionaires have?
WEISBERG: Legal action. Two of them are weighing whether they want to file a complaint or lawsuit with the FAA. It's very expensive. They already spent tens of thousands of dollars on submitting their bids. So they need to weigh if they want to fight this in a legal avenue
CAVANAUGH: We'll have to leave it there and wait and see what comes up at the inter~. I want to thank my guests very much. Kyla Calvert, Lori Weisberg, Ricky Young, thanks so much for talking with us today.