Roundtable: Marriage Equality, Manchester, Props A & B
May 11, 2012 1:17 p.m.
Guests: Stampp Corbin, publisher, LGBT Weekly
Scott Lewis, CEO, Voiceofsandiego
David Rolland, Editor, San Diego CityBeat
PENNER: The conflict over same-sex marriage frames elections locally and nationally. The UT San Diego leaps into local politics on the editorial pains and elsewhere. This is Friday, May 11th, I'm Gloria Penner. This is KPBS Midday Edition Roundtable. Join our conversation about same-sex marriage, involvement of UT San Diego in local elections, and what's at stake for labor in the City of San Diego's ballot propositions. With me today are Stampp Corbin, publisher of the LGBT weekly.
CORBIN: Thank you so much for having me.
PENNER: Of course. And we also have Scott Lewis, CEO of voice of San Diego. So good to see you again.
LEWIS: Always a pleasure. Thank you.
PENNER: And welcome back to David Rolland. Good to see you too.
ROLLAND: It's good to be here, thanks Gloria.
PENNER: Well, San Diego's social media, and other communications' reaction to the president's announcement that he supports same-sex marriage ran the gamut. Some comments I'll read to you. "The most important man in the country has just validated me as a human being with equal rights." And then there's the more cynical take, which is "election year, enough said." So today we'll talk about the president's position on marriage equality, and how San Diego is responding. And I'm going to start with you, Stampp, of course, publisher of the LGBT weekly. Advocates of same-sex marriage are thrilled. Just how important is the president's support for same-sex marriage to you and to the LGBT community?
CORBIN: Well, first of all, when the president says something from the bully pulpit, it really has the ability to change hearts and minds throughout the United States. And so those who support the president may take a step back and say, well, let me sort of address how I feel about this issue. But the president is leading. And I was thrilled when he came out for same-sex marriage because initially he said he was for civil union, then he was evolving, and now he's come out in full-throttled support for same-sex marriage.
PENNER: Isn't that the way Jerry Sanders started? Didn't he also start in favor of civil unions and then eventually came out for same-sex marriage?
LEWIS: I don't remember if he was for civil unions but he certainly wasn't for advocating for marriage equality until his staff and his own family experience really brought him along and made that very memorable occasion occur, which was that day when he, you know, with tears announced that he was going to support the City Council's action to weigh in on the Prop -- on the state case, right?
LEWIS: So that was -- when we look back on Jerry Sanders's tenure for that period, we're going to remember that over everything, I'm convinced.
PENNER: Before I go to you, David, let's ask our listeners about it. How important is this issue to you? And in the elections that are coming up. Because this has really become a political issue, when the president comes out and states it, and the mayor comes out and states it, it's politics. So I'd like to hear from you, our listener. What do you think about this, the politicization of same-sex marriage, David? Do you think that it will be an issue that will ultimately determine how people vote?
ROLLAND: No, I don't. When I think about the impact of the president's decision, it's most certainly a watershed moment in the history of civil rights in this country. Absolutely. Whether it impacts people's individual feelings or actions and votes, I'm skeptical of that. And we can look at Jerry Sanders as an example. Jerry Sanders was touched personally by the issue. His daughter is gay and was in a committed relationship with a partner, and at the end of the day, I think he was getting political advice in terms of his reelection on which way to go on that issue because it was such a high-profile issue and statewide. But I think at the end of the day, he looked at his daughter, and since he was touched so personally by it, he had to go with his heart. And I think that's what happens with most people when they are impacted personally by other people that they know who are gay and have the same hopes and dreams and desires for a committed relationship, marriage, a family, they have the same desires as everyone else. And once people see that in their friends, their coworkers, their colleagues, be that's what changes their mind.
CORBIN: Yeah, well, I think in contrast to what you just said, I think what you just said is absolutely correct, but you look at Dick Chaney who had an openly lesbian daughter who had a partner of 8-10 years when he came into office, and they implemented policies to take away marriage equality in 11 states in 2004. So some people react viscerally to the fact that they have experienced some know in their family who may be a member of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered community, or some people think that politics trumps that. And in the case of -- I mean, that's the contrast that you can draw between the president's actions as president of the United States versus the vice president's actions. And what they did. Now, the vice president has come out since then.
ROLLAND: Yeah, I was going to say what Dick Chaney thinks personally and what Karl Rove wants politically are two different things.
PENNER: Stampp, I just want to add one thing, and that is in an interview here at KPBS, mayor Sanders said he change would his mind to support same-sex marriage when he got educated. So he's talking not heart and soul, he's talking education.
CORBIN: Well, some people can be educated on issues and then move forward. But then there are others who can never be educated on issues. As an African American man, I guarantee you, if we put up African American rights today to a vote, there would be a segment of the population who would not vote for me to have equal rights. Even today.
ROLLAND: Who was the pastor? Sorry, the pastor the other day, who came out famously and said to his congregation, whoever would listen to him, that if we put the civil rights act up for a vote, he believed in the south it would probably fail.
PENNER: But it was also the pastor who said you don't see gays or lesbians having to sit in the back of the bus. So you have both parts of it. Let's take a call from one of our listeners. And we're going to welcome Dave from San Diego.
NEW SPEAKER: Hi there. Thanks for addressing the topic. I just want to address my support for Jerry Sanders a couple years ago and President Obama. And I think it sounds like the panel is all in agreement. But with what happened in North Carolina this week, I think this real division in the country about this issue. And I think we need to just go back to the founding of the country. And I think the genius in the part of the establishment of this country was they realized there needs to be a fundamental separation between people's practices of their religion and our law. And I think marriage is a perfect example of that. And just anecdotally, when people want to get divorced, they don't go to a church. They go to court because marriage is primarily a contractual arrangement between two adults to help facilitate the establishment of a family.
PENNER: Very interesting.
CORBIN: Gays and lesbians do that, they have children. So it's primarily not a religious issue, it's a court issue.
NEW SPEAKER: And I think the reason this country has been successful is we've separated people's religious practices from our government and allowed government to be the one place where everyone's treated equal.
PENNER: Thanks, Dave. I want to let some other people in too. That was a very well thought out statement. Scott?
LEWIS: I think it's important to look the how far we've come just locally, too. Look at the Republican party, which when Jerry Sanders did this big statement about supporting same-sex marriage, they nearly -- you know, didn't support him as the incumbent mayor for the next election. Now the Republican party has two people running for mayor, Bonnie Dumanis, and Carl DeMaio who are both in committed relationships.
PENNER: And both Republicans.
LEWIS: Both are Republicans.
ROLLAND: And didn't the party actually go for Francis?
LEWIS: The first time.
PENNER: That's another election.
LEWIS: And now getting all three of the conservative candidates running for mayor are trying to outdo themselves, notice I said conservative not necessarily Republican, they are trying to outdo themselves to prove how much in favor of marriage equality they are.
PENNER: I just want to pursue that, and then I'm going to go to you, Stampp. Nathan Fletcher recently expressed support for same-sex marriage.
LEWIS: He went from personally not believing it to maybe being okay if the government did what it did. To now saying he would work thought as hard as Jerry Sanders would. Carl maybe wasn't -- well, Stampp wants to say something.
CORBIN: Yeah, in terms of talking about everyone's rushing to support same-sex marriage, that isn't necessarily -- that's a true statement, but if you peel the onion back, what Nathan Fletcher has said in terms of saying he would sign on with the mayor to support same-sex marriage or the freedom to marry and be an advocate as Jerry Sanders has been, Carl DeMaio in contrast doesn't want to talk about this issue. He thinks that this issue is a social issue, and it doesn't -- isn't in the perview of the mayor.
LEWIS: It doesn't solve the pension problem.
[ LAUGHTER ]
PENNER: Is it a defining issue, however? Does it define the candidate?
CORBIN: Well, in our community, it is a defining issue. If you're the person that's being oppressed or discriminated against, it is a defining issue for you.
PENNER: Your community, you mean the LGBT community.
CORBIN: That is correct. The LGBT community wants that support. That's why Wednesday was such an historic moment for us as a community to have a president say, yes, I support marriage equality.
PENNER: But what about the rest of the community that isn't part of the LGBT community? How defining an issue is it for them?
CORBIN: Well, I think the rest of the community doesn't think that citizens should be discriminated against. There are those who believe that that should be the case. There were those who thought that African Americans should not be able to sit on the front of the bus, there were those who didn't believe that women should have equal pay for equal work. And there are those who don't believe that LGBT folks should have the ability to get married.
PENNER: Okay. Let's take a call now from Shane in downtown.
NEW SPEAKER: Hi, I just want to say I grew up in a gay household, so I might have some bias here. But I think this is a totally manufactured conflict. And I think if we just had churches handle marriages and government handle civil unions, that would be fine with about 80% of Americans, the extreme right, and the extreme left may not be okay with it. But they can go fly a kite.
PENNER: What do you think, David? Have our civil institutions take care of all of these issues, like things like civil unions and --
ROLLAND: I'm okay if everybody is treated equally under the law exactly the same way.
PENNER: Exactly the same way. Okay.
ROLLAND: Yeah, everybody should have exactly the same right, the same access to services no matter who they are.
PENNER: Well, we have not talked about, and we really need to before we end this segment, is risk. And let me turn to you, Scott. How risky is it for President Obama and even for mayoral Sanders to come out in favor of same-sex marriage?
LEWIS: I don't -- a lot of people talked about the African American community that would be upset. I'm having trouble picturing African Americans who will choose Mitt Romney because of this issue over Barack Obama. But on the other hand --
PENNER: Explain that. Give a little background on it, that African Americans traditionally are antisame-sex marriage.
LEWIS: In prop 8 in California, there was substantial evidence that they voted for prop 8, which obviously prohibited same-sex marriage in California. I think though that this issue -- we're right at the cusp of understanding just what risk it is. Look at Bob Filner running for mayor. When he was asked by your paper, Stampp, to explain why he didn't support marriage equality in the '90s, and he said it's the worst answer so far I think of all of them, was that, well, why would you want to get married? Your ex-wife just takes all your stuff.
[ LAUGHTER ]
LEWIS: I mean, it was hilarious. But I think that obviously, even very progressive Democrats have struggled with calculating when is the right time for them to feel comfortable embracing this as a civil right issue. But one other thing too, he didn't go as far as he could have, Barack Obama. He did not declare this a civil rights issue, like a civil rights issue of the past, that the federal government would have to try to enforce and protect the equality of. He stepped back and he actually did what Dick Chaney did and said it's not our job, it's the state's job, which is what I believe. But this is a much different deal.
PENNER: Very briefly, Stampp, where does the San Diego region lean on this? Do you know? I mean the polls show that nationally the nation is evenly divided.
CORBIN: Well, are the nation is evenly divided. But it is moving in the right direction. If you take a look at -- I think we were 53-47% for prop 8, but that was four years ago. And it shows that the arc of justice is leaning in the right direction. And so people are moving. So I would imagine that we're probably close to 50-50 here in San Diego as well. But there's been no polling. I don't think we need to go back to the ballot at this point. We've got a court case that's going through that I think is going to uphold the decision that we should have the ability to get married.
PENNER: Well, thank you very much.
CORBIN: I'm Gloria Penner. This is Midday Edition Roundtable. Today at the Roundtable, we have Stampp Corbin, the publisher of the LGBT weekly. Scott Lewis who is CEO of voice of San Diego, and with us from San Diego City beat, we have David Rolland. And now we're going to switch subjects because ever since Doug Manchester brought the San Diego Union Tribune, now dubbed UT San Diego, people have been watching for the next shoe to drop. What's next for Papa Doug and the newspaper? Scott, now it looks like the next expansion of the Manchester journalistic enterprise is almost here. The purchase of the Orange County Register.
PENNER: What's the point of buying a second newspaper?
LEWIS: Well, you could consolidate some function, perhaps. Maybe they could be print the out of the same location. Printing costs are the most Egregious of a published newspaper like that. Maybe there's sports fans in San Diego that could benefit from coverage in Orange County or LA teams. That sort of thing. You can consolidate a lot. Then if you're building a media empire, you got to build! You got to get more and more. And he's clearly on a trajectory toward trying to consolidate some media power. There was two very unprecedented things that happened recently with his paper. And I think the first was a person who sat in, Nathan Fletcher, looking to get the UT's endorsement for mayor. And he decided to release his interview with the editorial board.
PENNER: Nathan Fletcher released his interview?
LEWIS: Yeah, and the conversation that that provoked about what people were saying as Dave said, are the sausage at the UT factory was being made, I think it's fascinating. And --
PENNER: Wait, way! You can't just drop that and not tell us.
LEWIS: And the second unprecedented thing I saw what happen was a week later or so, Carl DeMaio epiget endorsed. That was expected. But on the front page, it was a wraparound ad on the front, and so anybody who says well, the newspaper's endorsement doesn't matter needs to take into account, that it said Carl DeMaio for mayor on the front page of this paper. It's as if 300,000 signs dropped on people's lawns over night am
PENNER: So instead of being on the editorial page, it was on the front page or attached to the front page.
PENNER: Before we go further, I'd like to get a sense of where our listeners are on all this. Has the UT San Diego become more valuable to you withes it new ownership? I'd like to know that. David, from your perception, what steps has Doug Manchester taken so far to establish himself as a power broker in politics? You just heard what Scott said about the endorsement of DeMaio on basically the front page of the paper.
ROLLAND: Oh, he's going full-steam ahead, racing like a runaway train toward that end. You can look right when he started, he and John lynch, his CEO, I believe is his title, they began their crusade to try to thwart the process of expanding the Convention Center and put it in a different place and marry it to a sports and entertainment complex at the 10th avenue marine terminal. That was -- they came right out of the gate charging full-on on that one, and again, that was another thing that they put on the front page. So Manchester and lynch have made no bones about how they want to -- the UT is really in some sense an advocacy paper, at least in terms of their opinion section, which they are kind of physically speaking intermingling with where papers traditionally put their news coverage.
PENNER: Do you see the UT San Diego now as an advocacy paper or a place where you can get the news in an unbiassed way? You publish a newspaper, don't you?
CORBIN: Yes, I do.
PENNER: And in publishing that paper, do you see it as an advocacy paper?
CORBIN: No, I don't see it as an advocacy paper. I think that the editorial page is the page at which I can express my opinion. It has nothing to do with news when I express my opinion. It is what I think from a publish upper's perspective or my editor thinks from an editorial perspective. But when you start commingling advocacy for your pet projects or your companies, that's when journalistic ethics begin to break down. So we don't really understand whether the sports complex is a great idea for San Diego or whether it's a great idea for Doug Manchester. And when Doug Manchester is proselytizing the sports complex, and I read it in the paper, I have to take it with a grain of salt knowing that he is the person that's going to financially benefit from it.
PENNER: David Rolland?
ROLLAND: Well, I have a different -- slightly different take on bias and objectivity and journalist ethics and that. I think the lines have always been a lot blurrier than Stampp is suggesting. I think objectivity, journalistic objectivity is a myth. I think that bias goes into so many decisions when you're putting together your news section regarding where do you put stories, what stories do you cover in the first place, who do you hire, what do you say in the headline, who gets the first quote, who gets the last quote? There is bias every step of the way. What we don't know is how much the owner or the publisher attempts to influence news coverage. I think that part of it kind of varies from publication to publication.
LEWIS: We all bring our values into these decisions. When you decide what story to cover, that's often a subjective decision that adds value to that conflict or issue, you know, as a priority issue. And so the idea that we're somehow -- we can just look at the world and reflect it, that would make no sense. Reflected, there's no point of having a newspaper! You have to have somebody boil it down. That's the whole point. What got me about the whole thing is the revelation that the UT was profoundly worried about the state of the local Republican party. And this was captured in those comments released by Fletcher in that interview where Jeff White, the editor of the UT, said repeatedly that they were worried about the Republican brand, that they were worried about the Republican brand being hurt by Nathan Fletcher leaving the Republican party and talking ill about that coalition. Of
PENNER: But hasn't the Republican party been slipping in San Diego now for years? Hasn't it?
CORBIN: Yes, I knowledge registered voters at this point are more democratic in the county than they are Republican. But in terms of who shows up to the polls, the Republicans have a much better get out the vote operation in San Diego County than the Democrats do. But just on the surface, Democrats outnumber Republicans in terms of registration in the county.
PENNER: Go ahead, Scott. Then we have a lot of calls I want to get to.
LEWIS: Absolutely. When you think about parties as coalitions of people that get-together to working to gain power and then hold power, what they're saying is that the key as leaving this party has somehow -- he has leaving this party has somehow hurt that tremendous, and hurt all the other people trying to get power within that coalition. And I think that's a fascinating revelation that everybody seems to be worried about. And it actually paints to a new future for San Diego if there is somehow a way for him to get successful, then I think that a new coalition might form around him that would then therefore --
PENNER: Define him now because you're using a lot of pronouns.
LEWIS: Nathan Fletcher.
PENNER: So are you actually pushing the whole idea of a Nathan Fletcher coalition?
LEWIS: I'm just saying that if he wins he's going to blaze a path that makes the parties very uncomfortable because they're the ones that get to decide who gets to go for power. And that's what the UT was reflecting in these comments.
PENNER: How do you react to that, David?
ROLLAND: Well, first of all, what Stampp was describing, the relative change in voter registration, but I believe the fastest growing segment are people who are declining to state, and I think that's who Nathan Fletcher is trying to reach. But I agree with Scott that the really fascinating stuff here was what was said -- what the members of the Union Tribune editorial board, mostly Jeff Light, said about their allegiance to the Republican party. And what Scott -- Scott wrote a great piece about this fretting that they were doing.
PENNER: Why is this a surprise to you?
LEWIS: They're always been conservative, but to worry about this coalition known as the Republican party as the primary worry expressed repeatedly by the editor of the paper --
ROLLAND: They used the word brand! They were worried about the brand in the editorial, not just the interview.
PENNER: One at a time. Obviously the two of you are joined at the hip on this.
[ LAUGHTER ]
PENNER: But let's do one at a time. Actually, let's do neither of you and let's go to our callers. Okay, we'll start with John in Point Loma. You're on with the Roundtable.
NEW SPEAKER: Hi. Thanks for having me on.
PENNER: You're welcome. Go ahead.
NEW SPEAKER: I was just calling to speak to the obvious promotion of other interest in the newspaper. Our newspaper is not a biassed investigative reporting paper. It's owned by someone who's -- they stated when they bought it, that's why they're buying the Union Tribune, as a machine to promote their interests. If people think that's now how it is, they're behind to what's actually going on.
PENNER: Well, that's interesting. We ran an interview, I think it's on the web this morning, that Amita Sharma did with a media analyst who basically says this was a good business move. So I understand what you're say, John. Thanks for your call.
CORBIN: Well, many people think that Doug Manchester didn't want to own a newspaper at all. The reason that he bought it was in order to get the land, which he is now going to try to develop in mission valley. Because Doug Manchester is a developer, and the newspaper was an afterthought, and said, oh, gosh, I get a newspaper, but I really want that land to develop. So now I'm in the newspaper business, I'm going to go for it. But the reality is that he's going to make more money on the development of where the UT sits, are the development of that land, than he'll make on that newspaper over the next ten years.
LEWIS: But it doesn't mean the newspaper isn't a political influence.
CORBIN: No, I agree.
LEWIS: He's found the value in that, and now they're launching a TV station and other entertainment facilities too.
ROLLAND: Think what you're saying ignores Doug Manchester's sizeable ego. I think he is more interested in the media part than you're giving him credit for.
PENNER: Let's hear from Eric in Mission Hills.
NEW SPEAKER: Hello, yes. I agree with what your panel says, a lot of. I think there's a lot of parallels between him and how Murdock got started. Really, baying the UT is an overall strategy for him to influence the public in order to get other business things done for himself. And I think it's really shocking that the Fletcher interview, that's shocking to me, when a newspaper will so overtly support a whole political party like that. I don't know how common that is. I've never seen anything like that short of a tabloid. If you look back how Murdock got started, he used his papers and printed publications to shoehorn himself politically into other things. To gain advantage in other ways.
PENNER: Go ahead. Finish up. I guess we lost him. Eric, thank you very much. We appreciate that. How different, Scott, is news coverage now at the UT from when platinum equity owned it for a short time, and before that, are the Copley family owned it?
LEWIS: I think in some ways there's arguments that it's better in different areas. They've really ramped up the watchdog and investigative work. Now, some of it's smaller stuff, but some of it's important, bigger stuff. They've just promoted Matt Hall into a columnist position. I think that was a good decision. It's still a valuable source to get information from. What we're talking about is just a broader landscape difference. You know, they're obviously, especially in the editorial board, ownership, and now essentially the editor, going after certain goals. And so just admit -- you know, and now they're being more open about it. It doesn't seem like they're being that shy about it. Of so let's just understand that, and we can cobble together the sources of information, whether it's Dave's paper or Stampp's paper or my services, and we can then create reality out of different perspectives and I think that's not necessarily an invaluable thing. But let's just be more open about it.
PENNER: Let's hear from David, and then we'll take another caller.
ROLLAND: I was starting to get a little uncomfortable with the tone of the conversation. It really sounds like there's a lot of UT bashing going on here. We're really talking about that endorsement interview, and what it says about the, UT's editorial board, and what their values are. But I think that when Platinum Equity came in, I think you did see a continued -- a lot more layoffs. So there was a lot more cost-cutting, but in some areas like Scott said, the watchdog, I think they have been doing a pretty good job of investigative reporting. So I'm not commenting on the quality of their reporting at all, I think.
PENNER: Ken from Chula Vista.
NEW SPEAKER: It's pretty obvious to me just reading the paper in the last five years or so that it has gone extremely far to the right. And even more recently just by some of the stories that they cover, which ones they decide to put up front, that they definitely have a right wing Republican and also more tea party inclination than they would having an unbiassed reporting of story.
PENNER: Thank you for your opinion. And with that, we'll wrap this up.
PENNER: Ballot propositions generally don't attract voters' attention the way candidates do unless they deal with social issues. But in the case of the City of San Diego's two ballot propositions, A and B, these are pocketbook issues for anyone who pays taxes. This is the Midday Edition Roundtable, and at the table with me to talk about this, we have Stampp Corbin from the LGBT Weekly, and we also have Scott Lewis from voice of San Diego, and David Rolland from San Diego City beat. David, what do props A and B have in common?
ROLLAND: Well, they -- I would argue they both -- well, not just argue, but they're both vehemently opposed by labor unions and people who support labor unions. So that's the primary similarity. And they're both I believe politically motivated. Prop A is a politically motivated solution to a nonexistent problem Nmy view, and probably B is a politically motivated and oversimplified solution to an overdramatized problem.
PENNER: I think you have to be a little more specific. Those are beautiful words
ROLLAND: No, that's going to do it.
[ LAUGHTER ]
PENNER: Okay! I'll pin you down a little bit.
ROLLAND: Which one do you want first?
PENNER: A, I'm traditional. I start at the top of the alphabet. That bans project labor agreements. And that would change the way things are now; is that correct?
ROLLAND: Yeah, what it does is it prohibits the city from requiring project labor agreements on city-funded construction projects. Project labor agreements for people -- and I believe there are a lot of voters who have no idea what they are. PLAs essentially result from negotiation between contractors hired by the city to do -- to oversee a construction project, and the labor union, and labor organizations. So these agreements result from collective bargaining between those two parties. They set wages and benefits, they can set work site conditions.
PENNER: So there's a -- I'm moving you along because we have two propositions to go through. What you're saying is that there is a negotiation between contractors and unions on that. So what is the point of banning them, which is what proposition A would do?
ROLLAND: Well, the point from the proponents' perspective, and this is pushed forth by contractor trait organizations, the associated general contractors, they're going around the country trying to get these project labor agreements banneded. So it's not just in San Diego. It's all over the country.
PENNER: Do we have it now in the City of San Diego? Do we require project labor agreements?
LEWIS: No. Here's the deal. Upon the unions get-together with the builders and say, we agree not to strike! But we also agree that if you ever come up short on labor, then we'll pay a fine or be punished somehow. So we'll agree not to strike, and then we'll guarantee the labor force for this. And in exchange, you have to send all laborers through us. It doesn't mean they have to be part of a union, but they have to usually get hired through the union, and the union has to -- usually requires that certain healthcare benefits are provided.
PENNER: Are there any advantages?
LEWIS: Well, you get guaranteed labor, and you get the guarantee there won't be any stoppages from a labor strike or something like that. And the thing is, what this says is the government can't require that one of those agreements occur. And so you could still do one in the City of San Diego. You could still have one of these project labor agreements. But the government can't say for all these projects downtown, there has to be a project labor agreement.
ROLLAND: They can now, but the proposition would ban them fromming able to do that.
PENNER: At this time, you're saying that our government, the City of San Diego, can require or not require project labor agreements?
ROLLAND: Yes, our City Council can say for this big project that we're going to do, the contractors who we hire to do it have to sit down and negotiate a project labor agreement with unions. But it is important to know that that has never happened in the City of San Diego. Never.
PENNER: But let's legal to do that
PENNER: So people who don't like that idea would vote for proposition A.
ROLLAND: Yeah, but there's a lot more do it in my opinion.
PENNER: One of the things that I've noticed is that proposition A talks about transparency. It really doesn't talk about contracts. Of the people who are out there Espousing it. Do you know what they're talking about?
CORBIN: In terms of transparency in government, we always want to know what goes on, what's available to the publish to take a look at. I'm the vice chair of the citizens equal opportunity commission. And so in terms of these project labor agreements, this is a perspective law that we've never done anything even remotely close to what it's suggesting. So they have manufactured something to say, hey, let's put this on the ballot so we can prevent it from happening when it's never happened.
PENNER: Well, my understanding is that Oceanside, Chula Vista, and the county of San Diego have such a ban in place.
CORBIN: Yes, they did that, I believe, two years ago.
LEWIS: And it was supported by majorities in each jurisdiction. Big majorities.
PENNER: So you're saying there's popular support for this.
PENNER: What is the demographic of a person who would support it?
LEWIS: They make a very -- you can argue about its truthfulness or not, but they make a very compelling case that if you air contractor who doesn't want to play by the union's rules, you're somehow not going to be able to compete for projects. Now, remember we're not talk about some free market issue here. This is government money, government contracts, basically. Can you equally compete for those? So again, you still have to send your labor through the unions. So it is a benefit to the unions, and that's why they support it. I think the question -- if you're against organized labor, you don't want to do that in any way! And so they want to be more free, and so that's why they're going to push it. And antiunion arguments do find a pretty receptive audience in many parts of the county.
PENNER: I've heard that San Diego could lose state money if this is passed?
ROLLAND: That's the point I was about to make. Look, there are valid arguments on both sides of the debate. The debate over PLAs has been raging across the country and for, you know, the past 10, 20 years or so. That is a valid debate. But I think it misses the point in this case because of what you just brought up. Like I said at the opening, this is a solution looking for a problem at this point. And the problem here is as you bring up, there was recently a law passed by the state legislator and signed by the governor that appears to say that charter cities, and San Diego is a charter city, that prohibit their governing bodies from requiring these things will not be eligible for state funding for construction projects. So I think in 2010, the city got $36 million from the state for construction projects. And last year, I believe the number was $158 million in 1 fiscal year from the state for help with construction.
PENNER: So there is taxpayer money at stake here.
ROLLAND: Yes, this could result in a Los of a lot of money.
PENNER: I'm going to move us onto proposition B because that's the one that's been -- if there's any publicity at all, it's the pension eliminating public employee pension benefits. Let's go to proposition B. As I said, it would eliminate pensions for new city workers. Do we need proposition B?
CORBIN: Well, I think -- I always try to put myself in the place of the person who's going to be affected. And a city worker signed up 20 years ago, they had opportunities in San Diego not to be a city worker. But they decided to go work for the city because the city said if you come work for us, sure, you're not going to make as much money, but at the end of the rainbow, you're going to have full benefits, you're going to get this great pension, and now as workers are getting ready to retire, particularly those who are close to retirement age, they're suggesting we're going to freeze your salary, so that's going to significantly decrease how much my pension is going to be, so they're breaking the contract, if you will, that they made with the city worker. And the city worker didn't create this situation.
LEWIS: At no point did they promise them continuous raiseses. And we're not talking about raises for each individual worker. We're talking about across the board increases. You could still -- if you're a firefighter, get promoted to the next level and get more money. You can still make more money according to bonuses and other things like that. Of so I don't think at any point did the city say you are guaranteed an across the board increase on and on. Which is what this freezes. If --
CORBIN: I agree with you. I'm just saying that customarily, when you go work for a company, a for-profit company, there is an expectation that as long as the company is doing well, you'll get a raise. In this case the city is not doing well. But what this is going to do is I have planned for my retirement, and I'm thinking, okay, it's the last --
LEWIS: You're not going to get me to feel bad about current city workers. They have a tremendous deal, and they're not being affected by this, except for that they won't get across the board raises. The future generation, like in all reforms of legacy benefits, are the ones getting screwed. Just like what we do with the Social Security. Don't worry, we're not going to touch your, we're going to do it for the future generations. If anybody should be upset, it's about the intergenerational equity interests here. But future generations were already lowered by their pensions. Their pensions were already lowered. All we're doing is taking that away and giving it to Social Security.
PENNER: Let's hear what Ben from City Heights has to say about this.
NEW SPEAKER: Especially in the media you hear a lot of really good analysis of the prop, but to me, it's not a reform, it's ending all pensions moving forward. It's more somewhat for the austerity measures we see overseas. And as far as I understand, it's unprecedented in a major American city to do this to city workers.
PENNER: The polls I've read indicate there is voter appeal for replacing a city pension with a 401K plan. David?
ROLLAND: Yes, I think it's appealing to a lot of people. But I think what I've heard is that polling suggests that that appeal might be eroding a little bit. I expect it to pass. But I don't think it should.
PENNER: Well, those who favor it say that B is going to save millions for the city.
ROLLAND: Well, no, they say a billion.
PENNER: A billion. Okay.
ROLLAND: Over 30 years. But that is oversimplifying and probably wrong.
PENNER: What's the real story?
ROLLAND: The real story is that the City Council's independent budget analyst puts the number at $950 million over 30 years. That's where the proponents get their billion dollars. They just round up. But she says that if you factor in inflation, and most economist do, it factors to less than $600 million. But it would cost about $50 million over the first four years, then it starts to save money.
PENNER: I'm going to try to get Shoshana in. If you can keep it to 30 seconds, you can have the floor. Go ahead, please.
NEW SPEAKER: I'm a city worker. And an adjunct professor at San Diego City college. And I just want to say that first, we need to teach young people in high school how to vote and how to understand the double talk of which our ballots are drafted. And No. 2, 12% of the United States population is in a union. I'm sick and tired of seeing budgets balanceded off the backs of the poor. Off the backs of the workers. And we need to support unions, we need to support workers. Otherwise we're all going to be become nothing but mere wage slaves.
PENNER: We're out of time. I'm sorry. I guess I shouldn't have taken you at this point because I had to interrupt you, and I apologize for that. So what you've been hearing is the Midday Edition Roundtable. And my guests today were David Rolland who's very eager to say something, but no time today, David.
[ LAUGHTER ]
PENNER: And Scott Lewis, and Stampp Corbin. I thank you all very much for being with me. I'm Gloria Penner.