Roundtable: Colorado Massacre, SDPD Budget Request, Defense Cuts
July 20, 2012 1:35 p.m.
Guests: Mark Sauer, Senior Editor, KPBS News
John Warren, Editor, Publisher, San Diego Voice and Viewpoint
Keegan Kyle, reporter, Voice of San Diego
PENNER: This is KPBS Midday Edition Roundtable. I'm Gloria Penner. It's Friday, July 20th. With me at the Roundtable today to discuss the shooting and other stories of the week are Mark Sauer, senior editor of KPBS news. Good to see you in this role, Mark.
SAUER: Good to be here.
PENNER: John Warren, editor and publisher of San Diego Voice and Viewpoint. John, you always make it worthwhile for me to come into work.
WARREN: Thank you, Gloria.
PENNER: And Keegan Kyle, reporter for the voice of San Diego. This is our first time together!
KYLE: Thanks for having me.
PENNER: And also with us is Kenny Goldberg. Thanks for coming in.
GOLDBERG: Hi, Gloria.
PENNER: Let's start out with you, mark. Why don't you give us a fast update on what we know happened in aurora Colorado, and while you're thinking about how you want to do it fast, I'm going to give our phone number in case anybody wants to join us. I'm sure you will want to talk about this. 1-888-895-5727.
SAUER: Well, police there say 71 people were shot in the sold-out theatre, 12 of them are dead. That was a midnight showing of the new batman movie. The shooter is James Eagan Holmes, he grew up in the tory highlands area of San Diego. He had a shot gun, assault rifle, and two pistols. He wore a gas mask, detonated canisters of gas to distract the crowd before opening fire. And Kenny goldberg this morning was out at the neighborhood there and talked to some folks. What did you learn out there?
GOLDBERG: Well, I spoke to a 16-year-old kid who grew up right next door to the suspect's house. And he said the kid was always a nice guy, very friendly, maybe a little bit guarded if anything, but always amicable, and he just couldn't believe that this would be the type of person that would go around with guns shooting people.
SAUER: The family was contacted, ABC news apparently called the mother in the home, and she said right away, you have the right person. I need to call police. I need to fly up to Colorado. Her husband, was escorted by police, and did go out to Colorado, was at the airport this morning according to local news reports. We also know that the suspect, Mr. Holmes, was studying neuroscience in a PhD. Program at the university of Colorado Denver there, and he was in the process of pulling out of that program as the shootings occurred. It's very, very tragic situation across the country today.
PENNER: John, it is a tragic situation. I mean, all these people killed, and many, many more wounded. But we have had mass killings before. Does it seem to you that we're having a huge reaction to this that, well, maybe we had before? It doesn't feel like it.
WARREN: I think the reaction is due to the time-lapse. I remember we had the mass killing here in San Ysidro, which kind of started it in this area. We had the Santana high school shootings, then we have had shootings in other parts of the country. I think people get somewhat detached when it's not right there in their backyard. What makes this so significant is where it occurred and the fact that so many people last night and tonight are in theatres across the country watching this premiere, and so many people who are dressing in costume, if you will, for it. Upon it adds to it because then people realize no longer do you have to be on a campus for this to take place, it's taking place any place.
SAUER: I interesting you mention that premiere. Warner brothers is kind of in a quandary here. They have canceled the pair it is premiere of this movie tonight, and now there's a statement here. They're wondering what to do, whether they're going to suspend the showings for now or go ahead with them. It's uncharted waters for the studio.
PENNER: We are taking phone calls. What is your reaction? That's interesting, Kegan, that he's been identified by some as a graduate student in the university of Colorado, Denver, but he was in the process of withdrawing after only being there a year. Now, we know that people who are having difficulty at school, especially in graduate school, you know, very often have psychological effects.
KYLE: Well, I don't know specifically about college. What I do know is that -- I'm always cautious about making local connections between tragic events across the country, even if they have local ties. But a common theme that this case reminds me of is that law enforcement across the county have been reporting about mental health as kind of an increasing concern, and that they've seen an increasing number of suicides in the county, as well as an increasing number of calls relating to mental health. I think that's been one of the topics that's on my mind whenever I hear about this type of tragedy. What's going on with mental health, and how are our agencies trying to respond to it?
PENNER: Mark, our business reporter, Erik Anderson is on the scene at the moment. I think he's now available.
SAUER: We assigned Erik this morning to go out and explore this question about security in public theatres. You've been talking with Wendy Patrick of San Diego state?
NEW SPEAKER: That is correct. We had a chat with her in downtown San Diego about a half hour or so ago. And talking about this idea of how do you not only protect yourself if you're out in public, but how do businesses help themselves protect you and make you feel secure? As you can imagine, the sense that she communicated to us was that there are things that can be done, but ultimately, it's a place where people -- you can't account for everything. One of the things that people can do is to be aware of their surroundings, put the cellphone away, look around you and get a sense of your environment to know whether or not you're going to be safe. We also went to a downtown theatre as well, spoke with a manager there, they're showing the movie, they're going to be showing it tonight unless something else happens between now and tonight. But they did say that they were going to have extra security in place. The manager couldn't go on the record because he works for a theatre company, and he's just the manager of a local theatre. They said there was going to be extra security in place. He couldn't detail what that was. But he said, yes, they are very sensitive to the issue.
PENNER: Erik, I find it interesting, there are some who believe that the killings will give support to those who feel that this needs to be some control over violence in television and films. I have not seen the film, but I understand that there are scenes of public mayhem in the film. I wonder whether he saw a presue of the film before he actually began his massacre.
NEW SPEAKER: Interesting question. I certainly don't have the answer to that. But there's no question there was violence in the Batman series. Do we look at that and say that was the cause? I'm not sure if we can make that leap. Or do we look at it and say that that was an opportunity for someone who was planning and bent on violence?
PENNER: It's going to be interesting. That's going to be part of the discussion, I'm sure. John, before I go to you, I want to take Sherry who is with us from San Diego. Go ahead.
NEW SPEAKER: Good afternoon. My comment is just -- I think the debate about the right to have weapon, bear arms, I understand the need for that freedom. But with the freedom has to go responsibility. And unless we're going to start doing a much better job of enforcing the laws that are in place to keep people from having so many weapons that certainly aren't for hunting, I just don't know how we're going to ever stop having this kind of stuff happen.
PENNER: Thank you, Sherry. There you have it. Just another level of this kind of discussion.
SAUER: It's an interesting point she makes there. Mayor Bloomberg of New York City today went on a program similar to this and called for both presidential candidates this year to open the debate on gun control and gun restrictions basically on those types of weapons that she's referring to there. So it didn't happen after the gabby Giffords shooting, so we wonder if it'll engender this debate again.
WARREN: I think you have to balance this. In terms of the movie itself, it's not so much the movie as it is the opportunity that the movie provided. And I don't think we should mix the two.
SAUER: Sold-out theatre?
WARREN: Yes. And I don't think the series is going to be canceled, because the first weekend is so critical to movie production. And this is really reminiscent of what happened years ago, when Mario van Peoples produced Posse. And there were shootings outside the theatre, and they pulled the plug in variety theatres around the country. We don't have that kind of scenario. And as far as the gun issue is concerned, I don't see this providing the impetus to change that. We saw what happened with the Supreme Court decision about the handguns in DC. We also have the second amendment issue, and the NRA. We have a situation right now where we are after Republican members of Congress are after the attorney general in terms of fast and furious, yet the same people will not appoint a new director of the alcohol, tobacco, and firearms administration. So we have a lot of hypocrisy going on here.
PENNER: I want to thank Erik for being with us this morning. Thank you, Erik, and I'll let you get onto your next assignment.
NEW SPEAKER: You're welcome, Gloria. Of
PENNER: Okay. Kenny?
GOLDBERG: Well, I think you can debate gun and control and this and that, but I think the same with alcohol, in other words when you have unfetterred access to alcohol, and you have liquor stores in neighborhoods, you're going to have a problem. We have unfetterred access to weapons, and broad access to these kinds of guns. Anybody can get them, virtually. What do we expect is going to happen here?
PENNER: It's interesting. One of the concerns of veterans coming back is that these people are familiar with weapons, many of them have drug addictions. Might we see some increase based on the population of people who are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan?
KYLE: Well, I think that's part of the concern about the rise in mental health, our veteran-related incidents. I don't know if there's necessarily a broad concern about -- or whether there are enough incidents to substantiate a broad concern about veterans involved in firearms. I think it's more about harming themselves at this stage.
PENNER: I did note that it appears that this attack was a well-planned attack, Mark.
SAUER: No question.
PENNER: That his apartment a few miles away from the theatre was booby trapped?
SAUER: That's right. The police were talking about that this morning. It had a number of sophisticated bombs that the suspect himself had told them that -- they've evacuated that apartment area and the neighborhood. And it may actually take days to go through and disarm these bombs because the booby trapping was so elaborate.
PENNER: And he also had a shotgun and two Glock pistols?
SAUER: Yes. These are not used in any form of hunting that's common place. They are used to hunt humans, to borrow a phrase from the San Ysidro tragedy a few years ago. I think John remember ares that, where that fella told his wife I'm going out hunting humans. It get basing to what Kenny is talking about, are the accessibility of our society to weapons. If someone has an obsession with them, that's tragedies are there.
PENNER: So it's not the weapon, it's the person?
SAUER: That's the bumper sticker, yeah. But it gets back to your point. This was well-planned. This wasn't a situation where an individual snapped.
GOLDBERG: It seems to me there's no question we live in a violent society. And people are ringing their hands about this kind of thing today. I think it's misplaced. Because we're violent! Look at the entertainment we enjoy. Have you ever been to the movies? Everything has a gun in it of the it's pervasive. So I don't think anybody should be surprised by these kinds of violent cataclysms that happen. The question is are we letting these things just go by like the Columbine shooting and doing nothing afterwards to change anything? We're all paying attention to it, and tomorrow we'll be watching the baseball game.
PENNER: You're right. For how long? Let's hear from Lori SaldaÒa. She's on the phone with us from San Diego. Lori, former candidate for Congress, and former member of the assembly.
NEW SPEAKER: Good afternoon. And I authored some gun safety bills, and California leads the nation with a lot of gun safety laws. And I think some things did come of past shootings, and that is K-mart stopped selling ammunition after the columbine shooting, after public pressure was put on them. I think there are certainly things that people can do. Open carry is now banned in California, thanks to laws that were authored by myself and others over the last few years. And the response we might hear is this could be stopped if people were armed in the theatre. I really want to speak up and say that probably more people would die if more people were carrying guns and tried to fight back in this situation. And that's one of the things you'll start hearing from pro-gun side. And California has said no to open carry, and I think that wouldn't do anything to stop these types of terrible incidents.
SAUER: A U.S. Congressman already made that point this morning, that more people should have had guns in the theater.
NEW SPEAKER: Yeah, and that's something that we studied when I was working on the legislation in California, and in fact the more people who have guns, the more people who actually wind up being shot and killed in these situations. More guns is not the answer to better safety. There are better ways to approach this. And I hope just as after columbine, I hope we see similar safety measures in place as a result of this incident.
PENNER: This kind of argument has been going on for a long time. And will something like this, John, do you feel it'll change minds? Or are people already decided? This is how I am on violence, this is how I am on gun control, this is how I am on mental health?
WARREN: Well, I think America has reached a point where too many people are only concerned when they see themselves being directly affected. Kegan keeps mentioning mental health. In this county alone, almost 1 suicide a day in the past year, according to statistics. And we have at least one a day in terms of military personnel. But let's keep in mind the people who are buying these guns are not people who have criminal profiles. Convicts are not allowed to, exfelons aren't allowed to have weapons. These people have clean records and go through the right procedures to acquire them and then use them. We always know there's no need for assault weapons in a society. You don't hunt deer with an AK-47. But yet we want to keep these things permissible, and there are enough dollars out there to do so. And that's where the problem is.
PENNER: We're going to be talking about beefing up the San Diego PD, having nothing at all to do with what happened at midnight. But I'm just wondering whether this development and all the attention it's getting gives credibility to the chief of police's request for much more money to beef up the police.
KYLE: That's really tricky. One of the things that took away frawhat happened last night is that the police response was very quick. I think it was minutes.
SAUER: 90 seconds.
KYLE: And so I'm not really sure, if you would have added more police to that department, what really would have changed about the incident, because their response was very fast, immediate. I'm not sure that translates to the discussion about San Diego PD, that we need -- obviously more officers would be quicken response times, but it's not like there have been a lot of examples recently of our response times being inadequate, at least to the level that they rise to causing a lot of alarm in a public way.
PENNER: I'm Gloria Penner, and I welcome you back to the Roundtable and our panel. Kenny gOLDberg just had to leave. But we have John Warren, Keegan Kyle from voice of San Diego, and Mark Sauer. Thank you for being with us. It's hard to ignore a warning of more crime in San Diego, especially after what happened last night, even though it was in Colorado. And especially when it comes to the police chief, bill Lansdowne. He's been in his job for several years. The chief alerted a San Diego City Council committee on Wednesday to a significant increase in major crime from a year ago. And Kegan, you're covering this story. What were the circumstances that prompted the chief to warn that rising crime was happening?
KYLE: This warning comes as the police department is seeking $66 million over the next five years to kind of rebuild the department. They want to add more police officer, they want to add more analysts and noncivilian staff. They want to upgrade some of their equipment and buy new equipment as well as repair a lot of their facilities.
PENNER: So that sounds reasonable. Are there objections?
KYLE: Well, I think the concern is there are a lot of arguments that can be made for why these improvements need to be done. If you look at their dispatch system, are the police department said it's prone to failure, and that it can actually drop 911 call, and obviously that's a problem. There are also arguments that part of the reason we've cut so many officers in recent years is that it's moved us away from doing proactive policing. A lot of times officers are just going from call to call each day, and they don't have a time to step back and say now I'm going to address kind of the underlying cause of this crime. So those are both two arguments that you could say this is why the police department needs more money. The concern is when they start saying crime is going up, look at this alarm. We need more cops or else it's going to get out of control. And that's the message that the police department gave the City Council, when he said it's starting to get out of our control a little bit, crime has been going up over the recent months. And what they did is they looked at the time of the last five month, January through May this year, and compared them to the same five-month period the previous year.
PENNER: Any kind of crime or specific kinds of crime? Is it minor crime? Major crime? What are we talking about?
KYLE: These are major, violent crime categories which include murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.
PENNER: Okay, well, that's concerning. Go ahead.
KYLE: Basically what I did is I expanded this comparison to look at additional years. So I went all the way back to 2008. And why that's interesting is because where we are today, even though we've lost hundreds of officers, hundreds of civilian staff, our crime rates are still lower than they were in 2008 and 2009. And they're about the same as they were in 2010.
PENNER: What does that tell us?
KYLE: Well, I think that puts in perspective where we are today, and the need there, that the crime rate shows to add more officers. There are needs that are supported by other things like the tactics that we now have to be using, and the relationship that we want to have with the community. But the crime rate itself, you know, seems to be either LOWER or the same as where we were. This idea that crime is going up recently is supported by this very narrow time period we're talking about, the first five months of this year with the first five of last year. The only reason it goes up is because the first five months of last year markeded one of the hoest crime rates in San Diego history.
PENNER: John, that gives one pause for thought, doesn't it? Does it?
WARREN: No, I mean -- the whole thing is the matter of the police chief deciding, look, we need more money, and how do you get more money? You scare the public by telling them the crime situation is worse than it was before. If we're going to look at the police department, let's look at the leadership of the police department if we're talking about the dollars for T. We have had 9-12 officers indicted in terms of crimes committed by them on the job. We've got all of these precincts or substations that close at 5:00, which is totally ridiculous because in any other major city, if you have a police substation, it functions almost as an independent entity in connection to the overall operation. This place wasted money with the little storefronts where you park a police car out front and that's supposed to keep people from committing crimes. We have had a lot of foolish things done, and we have had a lot of attrition because of the drop program. People have done very well in terms of retiring and pulling out. We're not recruiting across the board. We're going to have an ethically confused police department in the very near future.
PENNER: What does that mean?
WARREN: For me it means it's not going to be representative of the people in San Diego. We are losing African-American officers from assistant chiefs we had to captains down the rank because people are retiring. The police department is not doing any major recruiting in terms of making sure that the officers they recruit are reflective of the population, which is white, Latino, Asian, black, all of those factors go into play. Now we have Lansdowne making this big plea. And I think Kegan, you're very correct in looking at how low the figures were. Because that's all we've heard for the last three or four years is how low the crime figures were.
SAUER: Now, some of this attrition has been allowed to happen because of the city budget crisis.
SAUER: I'm familiar with the fire department, they're finally going to have a couple of academies now. What's been with the police? Have they suspended some academies? I know they keep saying they lose officers to hire paying jurisdictions.
KYLE: Right, they've started their academies back up again. What's happened over the recent years is they've lost a lot of people through retirement, and in some cases, people go into other agencies. Those are both concerns. I think the more long-term concern about the future is that the level of attrition won't keep up with the level of new officers they're now approved to hire.
PENNER: And according to John, the kind of new officers that they're going to be approved to hire.
WARREN: Yeah, they're not recruiting an ethnic balance.
KYLE: So their hope is they can increase the size of their academies and able to return basically to 2009 stacking levels.
PENNER: Let me turn to our listeners on this. You've heard some of the discussion. The chief is asking from under $12 million a year to almost $20 million a year over a five-year period. And I think that adds up to somebody's numbers, $66 million. We'll get into that in a moment. But that is a lot of money. Do you feel that at this point the City of San Diego needs to give a really hard look at increasing its budget for the police to $66 million or whatever in order to control what the police chief says is a trend toward mounting crime and serious crime? Our number is 1-888-895-5727. Mark, you've been in journalism as long as John has, at least. And you've watched those crime numbers drop over the last 20 years. What would account for the shift according to Lansdowne?
SAUER: Well, it's funny when you look at murder, the most violent of crimes, they fluctuate wildly. I grew up in the city of Detroit, which was known as the murder capital for a long time. You'd go from 900 murders a year down to 200. It almost gets back to the previous discussion we had about the tragedy in Colorado. How do you get into the minds of violent criminals? When do they decide? What are the factors? Traditionally, economic down times have seen increases in crimes against property, burglaries, theft. We really haven't seen that much in San Diego or across the country, oddly enough, in this terrible downturn. So it's so difficult to predict these types of violent crimes, assaults, rapes, murders, and how they fluctuate over time.
PENNER: But jOHN, when we talk about the money part of it none of this is going to happen unless money shows up. But during budget cutting, we heard don't balance the budget on the back of public safety. Is that what we ended up doing?
WARREN: Well, I don't think so. That's going to always be a mantra. Whenever you mention budget and cut, the first thing you're going to hear is public safety, police and fire. We can't do it. And so you have to weigh that argument. Let's not forget that also the mayor is a former police chief for the City of San Diego. So he is going to be sensitive to the police department. And so the public has to really just balance this. You just can't go by the cries that you hear.
PENNER: And Kegan, how is he reacting to the chief's budget request?
KYLE: From the mayor?
KYLE: Well, are the interesting thing about this discussion is that the mayor really hasn't been involved in the public discussion. It's been between the police department and the City Council.
PENNER: The whole City Council?
KYLE: Just the committee, the public safety committee. And they seemed generally supportive of restoring the police department to where it was in 2009 for a lot of different reason, not just because of crime. But where is this money going to come from? I think that's the big question going forward. They realize these needs are there, and they agree with them, but they don't know how -- they have no idea how you're going to come up with $66 million over the next five years. Some revenue seems to be coming into the city more, like sales taxes, but not to the levels that the police department or other agencies are demanding at this time.
PENNER: Woo we expect to hear from the mayor? Can we expect him to give his input before it goes to the full council, which is what the committee would like?
KYLE: Well, he's taken a very prominent position in the past about talking about public safety partially because of his experience as the police chief. He's been a face at press conferences that for years have said we're at the lowest point in crime that we've ever been. I wouldn't be surprised if this does go before the City Council. You see the mayor come forward and give his assessment of where we are today.
PENNER: The mayor rings in, and the City Council rings in and says, yeah, we want the money or no, we don't. Assume they're going to say yes. Where in the world will the $66 million come from with a budget that is barely balanced?
KYLE: The two broad ideas are you either take money from other departments or you increase your revenue from somewhere else. And right now, are the city is looking at a couple pots of money. They just had a settlement with SDG&E over wildfires. There's millions of dollars there. The they're looking at projections of increased sales tax downthe road.
PENNER: I wonder who else is looking at this money with covetous eyes.
KYLE: Exactly. That's interesting about where we are right now in the city. In the next five years, we're looking at for the first time having a surplus. And you have a lot of diameters talking about we've all been taking hit for a long time. It's our turn. And I think the fire department is a great example. They have this extensive study of what they need, and it showed that they need more fire stations to keep their response times down. And that's something the City Council is going to have to balance. Are we going to hire more officers with more money or do we want to put that toward fire stations or something else?
PENNER: Melanie, you're on with the panel. Speak up a little.
NEW SPEAKER: This is not Melanie.
PENNER: Oh, Melanie, what happened to you? You must be John.
NEW SPEAKER: I'm sorry, frank.
PENNER: Frank! All right, well, I love it. This is a day of surprises. We are delighted that you're with us. Go ahead, please.
NEW SPEAKER: In the past six years that I've been living in San Diego, I've witnessed several occasions even with blood running down a person's head, a neighbor's head. The police are refusing to write police reports. What I've found out is early 1990s, the FBI mandated all local governments to report crime, especially hate crimes. And no local government wants to be on the top 10 FBI list, so the governments are doing everything they can to suppress any evidence of crime.
PENNER: Oh, I'm sorry. We lost you. Something's happening to the phones. But both Mark Sauer and John Warren would like to comment on what they did hear.
SAUER: So are they tooking the books?
WARREN: Well, they always have cooked the books, especially on the issue of hate crimes. No city wants to release that report. But San Diego made other changes too. Something happens to your car or breaking into your house or whether or not they would send out the crime lab investigators. So they made a lot of internal adjustments separate and apart from even discussing budget, just making the decision they didn't need to do things again. But they have always received large dollar amounts in federal grants from the justice department, just as other police departments have. And we should not be looking at a budget increase without understanding what it's going to be the correlating factor coming from those federal dollars that also come in to help the department.
PENNER: Well, gentlemen, I think that we are about to wrap this one up. I thank you very much for your discussion.
PENNER: Welcome back to the Roundtable. I'm Gloria Penner. I have a panel of John Warren, Keegan Kyle from voice of San Diego, and Mark Sauer from KPBS. For decades San Diego has relied on military spending to boost its economy. And considering the shaky condition of our employment situation, we need every job the military brings. There are differing opinions about how much San Diego stands to lose if automatic spending cuts scheduled for January are approved. Some say that San Diego could lose 30,000 jobs. Some say we'll gain from a new focus on the Asia Pacific region. Sort this out for us.
WARREN: Well, it depends on what you look at in terms of it. We have a lot of programs that are defense oriented. When you look at all of these entity, you could be looking at up to 1.2 million jobs in the first year of the implementation of this budget control act, depending on how you look at the subcontractors and the subsidies, and the indirect elements involved. We have over 100,000 military personnel actually in San Diego. And there's a question of what would happen there. We could see the closure of MCRD. We could see a number of changes over at North Allen in terms of facilities. The new emphasis on the Pacific rim is going to shift military resources from the east to the west coast. But I think we have a bigger issue here. And I want to thank congresswoman Susan Davis for speaking up. If you look at this whole debate, we're talking about $1.2 trillion over a ten year period. We have to remember how we got into this potential mess that will take effect next January and how we still have time to get out of it if we can get some responsible activity coming from Washington. We got into this mess because at the same time that we were doing the debate over a year ago on the raising of the debt ceiling, there was this major element saying we're not going to increase taxes, we're not going to raise anything, and we hit this supercommittee put together, and it failed to act by last November as it was supposed to. And this was the automatic result of it. And so now our former Congressman Duncan hunter, and a number of people have formed a superpac to rise up and campaign against these increases. But they're trying to shift the blame back to the president. And of it's not the president's issue alone. It's a democratic and Republican issue. And basically the Republicans are saying no tax increases in any way, the Democrats are saying in the White House we need to raise taxes in terms of an upper tier income in America, and make some adjustments, I don't think we can just look at the doctor losses here without understanding that we have a major philosophic war going on. And this war can affect all our domestic programs as well as military. Of
PENNER: Mark Sauer, it used to be the war was between the hawks and the doves. Is it still there or is there another war?
SAUER: Well, I think hawks and doves are still there. The two parties have changed, and there are elements of hawks and doves in each party's change. John talks about the big picture. I think we need to go back at least a decade or more. We had two unfunded wars here, never happened before in American history. We can argue whether those were necessary wars or not. Many people think they weren't. Some of the estimates of 2-3 trillion dollars of the overall cost of those war, including veterans' benefits and the deployments themselves. You go back through the bush administration, and the wars that we launched in Iraq and Afghanistan following 911, and we didn't raise taxes. We didn't pay for these. And a lot of people said this is going to come home to roost. Well, it certainly has. That's what we're talking about here.
PENNER: I'm wondering, Kegan, at this point, North County, which is what the North County Times represents, not your paper, we have a certain level of concern because of Camp Pendleton. And I'm just thinking about the areas in San Diego that are starting to get worried about how is this going to affect my area.
KYLE: Right. I think there is a lot of concern for worry, and it's -- a lot of it is based on we don't know how this plan will be implemented. As you said, it could end up kind of being offset by this shift toward the Pacific fleet. And I think a lot of San Diego's concerns may be about this law impacting our local economy, would be subsided if there was just a better explanation about how it would actually impact us. If it came out that a lot of these cuts to defense spending over the next few years are going to be falling on the backs of other places, I think the discussion here would change a lot.
PENNER: And the discussion actually is starting now. But we're talking about January. And January is not that far away. So once again, I ask our listeners how concerned are you about the talk that is getting louder and louder? In fact, I think former vice president Dick Chaney was all over television yesterday talking about it, wanting very, very much to see defense spending not cut. That's his mantra.
WARREN: Well, some seem are saying Dick Chaney has said more yesterday than in the past eight years. Let's understand why. Of the when you look at their business interests, what's the name of the firm?
WARREN: Yes. Texas. They've got contracts all over the place. They made a ton of money in this unfunded war.
SAUER: No bid contracts.
WARREN: And we know that the war cost us over a million dollars a day. So a lot of money went out. And according to this proposed plan, $55 billion first year starting in January, 10% cut across the board. Chaney, hal-Burton, all of those interests are going to feel this immediately. That's what their concern is. Their concern is not in terms of the overall national economy. And that's part of the problem.
SAUER: Well, and you wonder where the former vice president was. Frankly, disinformation was his game back when he was trying to tie the leadership of Iraq to 911, which the president finally had to come out and say that wasn't the case, president Bush. They were gung-ho on the war, gung-ho on not funding them of course gung-ho on the bush tax cuts which are due to expire. The other interesting thing is, politically, you're going to have a very short time from the November election to the first of the year where they're going to have to hammer this out. You may have a lame duck president, you may have a president who's going into a second term. Who knows what will be the makeup of Congress? And a lame duck Congress. Boy, it's really in the dark about what's going to happen in that 6-8 week period.
PENNER: Our mayor and other large city mayors participated in the news conference in the district of Columbia. How important do you think are appearances of city leadership in this kind of debate that goes beyond the city but goes into the national picture?
KYLE: Well, at least they think it's very important. And again I don't think it necessarily goes to saying it's important to preventing the cuts all together. But if the cuts do happen, it's important that San Diego maintains a voice that says the burden shifts to other places and not so much us. In other words, their job may not be to prevent the cuts but to make sure that they don't hit San Diego as hard. John?
WARREN: Yeah, it goes much deeper than that. The mayors are there because of the U.S. conference of mayors, which is a major lobby, association, whatever you want to call this organization, and these mayors have people running for Congress within their cities, and they have influence in terms of local elections. And so the pressure is now being cranked up because the Republican party needs X number of seats to maintain control of the house. Democrats don't want to lose, hopefully can gain some. We have a battle here in terms of Bilbray and Vargas, 51st, 52nd districts, are they going to stay democratic or change? It's a very significant fact that they're there speaking out about this, because they're in a position to influence what might happen in terms of what the Congress looks like.
PENNER: And influence is really the operative word here, are isn't it, Mark? San Diego has been through this threat. They call it sequestration, which I believe are automatic cuts.
SAUER: Right. It's an unfortunate word, isn't it? We see better pride now because our economy is more diversified. John points out about the local leadership, and one of the candidates for mayor is a sitting U.S. Congressman, Democrat bill Filner. So he's seeing both sides of that precipice. I don't know specifically if he's commented yet on sequestration. He may be more concerned with what his opponent is doing. But yeah, I guess the mayors are the lobbyists in chief for their city, certainly. And mayor Sanders is now exception.
PENNER: I was going to go beyond that. We didn't only survive it, remember that? But we actually came out with more military jobs than ever before! It started a big growth spurt. What are the chances that if other bases and facilities and research and development entities are shut down that San Diego would benefit?
SAUER: If a lot of it came this way, especially with this emphasis on the west coast, the Pacific move, it depends on the nature of it. If they're cutting back on ship-building and going more into drones, and we happen to have defense suppliers here that are going that way, and if you're in the gulf coast area and their loss is our benefit, the devil is in the details.
WARREN: Again, $492 billion in cuts domestically, and the $490 billion in terms of defense, and there's a question of what's going to be impact nationally on our security plan. China and Russia are putting more into their defense factor, there's concern are we going to harm ourselves in terms of our liability and leadership?
PENNER: We have a phone call from Charley from San Diego. Hi, Charley.
NEW SPEAKER: Good afternoon. I just wanted to say that I find it interesting that we can't building battleships and aircraft carriers and submarines and stuff, yet we're not fighting any wars with those. We spend a lot of money on that, and then at the same time, you have companies like Lockheed Martin, last year they spent $135 million lobbying Congress to get more funding. To me, that should be totally illegal that they're spending the taxpayers' money to get more funding. Yet, at the same time, I think we should rethink the whole military strategy in that the strategy we have is left over from World War I and World War II. We don't need that kind of stuff anymore. At least not to the level that we currently are building.
SAUER: Right, that's right. We are always fighting the last war. That's true. And the technology is going the other way. We're still spending more than many of the next countries combined in terms of our total defense budget. So the question is how much is enough? I would say the private contractors would say to that point, once they get the contract, the taxpayer money is their money.
WARREN: They're not spending money directly from the contracts. That's against the law. But they do have other business interests. They are selling to other countries, and they have dollars coming in that are not connected. And so they have the 80 to direct those moneys from their own general funds toward lobbying. And I think we need to look at how it's done. But the fact is, it's going to continue to be done. He mentioned the ships, and what we're building. We haven't even addressed the fact that in the bay area we have in effect a naval grave yard, with all kinds of ships that are just sitting in moth balls that haven't been sold and aren't being scrapped, are and it's costing us millions of dollars a year to maintain those ships.
PENNER: Okay. Charley said we need to rethink all this. Who's in charge of the rethinking?
WARREN: Leon Panetta, right now. The Secretary of Defense is in charge.
PENNER: Does he have that power?
WARREN: He has quite a bit of power in terms of the whole defense budget. Remember, that's one of the most guarded entities that we have. It's a large entity, and it's a guarded entity, and yes, he has a lot to say about it.
PENNER: The house is scheduled to vote this week to force the Obama administration to layout how it will impose those cuts.
WARREN: That's just another political move in this whole game. There were members of the House and the Senate in both parties involved in a committee that came together to set up the sequestration plan. So they already know. It all comes back down to they don't want to make cuts and they want to put the pressure on the president in an election year it make it look like it's his fault when the fault rests with both parties.
SAUER: And this thing all came about as you mentioned from the debt ceiling fiasco, which is money we've already spent, and they created this hostage situation in the White House.