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San Diego Lobby In D.C.: Military Cuts, Transportation and Balboa Park

September 17, 2012 12:47 p.m.

GUESTS:

Todd Gloria, San Diego City Councilman (District 3)

Ruben Barrales, president San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce

Related Story: San Diegans Lobby Washington To Keep Federal Dollars

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Our top story of Midday Edition is a report on a major lobbying trip by San Diego and Baja California officials to Washington DC last week. 100 delegates representing both the public and private sector stocked with federal officials. The main topic was the impact on San Diego across the board federal spending cuts at the end of the year. I'd like to welcome my guest San Diego City Councilman Todd Gloria and welcome to the show. Welcome back.

TODD GLORIA: Thank you Maureen.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Ruben Barrales is here he's president of the San Diego regional Chamber of Commerce it's good to see you.

RUBEN BARRALES: It's good to see you too, Maureen.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me start with you Councilman Gloria. Who are the delegates and what do they represent?

TODD GLORIA: The represent public-sector private sector people on both sides of the border elected officials and average city against to really communicate our missions to the delegation and decision-makers back in Washington what is important to San Diego naturally as you mentioned the impending cuts will substantially affect our community really all sectors but of course we focused on the defense industry and the fact that one out of four jobs in the community are directly connected to defense spending but on a host of others aboard the Beagle homelessness public transportation Bill ballpark so you know talking about the fact that politics is personal and a face-to-face meeting with people to communicate these concerns is really valuable even in 2012.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Councilman Gloria give us the idea of the kinds of officials who went on this trip. Obviously you and Ruben Barrales. Who else?

TODD GLORIA: We had Mayor Jerry Sanders, Councilman Rob Roberts, myself, Lori Zaph (inaudible) Wagner but other folks people who have businesses along the waterfront the folks that are just civic boosters people who dedicate their lives to public service and it was a really great cross-section because I think we are able to communicate really all of our community in terms of all the concerts and really what is ultimately a bipartisan message of asking the folks in Washington to put together, to make some tough decisions particularly relevant to this budget so we have the kind of certainty we need to make sure the economic recovery continues.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: There were so many in this contingent did you sort of divide up who would take on which issues that can you tell us a little bit about that?

TODD GLORIA: In a way it was a kind of divide and conquer approach because Rubin at us all of the District of Columbia trying to get the message of the cross so for example I went to specifically to advocate for ballpark at the Centennial celebration in 2015 to advocate for the expansion of the trolley is particularly up to UCSD and really focus on the things we are doing relative to listeners and make the message clear to I think a great success on all three fronts. My colleagues councilmembers have found cognitive a lot of time on defense issues. Councilmember Alan Alvarez the salon focused a lot on border issues I really think the team effort will yield results for San Diego in the short term. You've already heard from our federal legislators message received and we will get on that in the months to come as we seek decisions made on the budget instantly after elections what we really want to see progress on projects like 2015 and the trolley expansion.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You know, Ruben Barreles, people listening, people reading about the trip of 100 delegates of San Diego going to Washington DC are maybe saying couldn't they just e-mail them? They couldn't just give them a call, or why is that sort of face time important in this day and age?

RUBEN BARRALES: It is really important to make that case face-to-face. We do continued e-mail and communicate with our lawmakers and officials at the federal level and Washington DC. But really developing these relationships face-to-face gives you an opportunity to learn things answer things that you want to just over e-mail or the telephone. Along with Todd and Mayor Sanders and other Council members from San Diego. We also had with us Jerome Stocks from Encinitas and Mayor Jim Jenny from Imperial Beach also Carlos Bustamante who is the mayor of Tijuana and other two on councilmembers. What we are able to do is check to advertise right here in our own region with these officials and the business community but also create opportunities to work on issues. We are not just making an appeal to our Washington officials we are trying to do is build relationships to solve problems right here in San Diego.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Go ahead. I'm sorry. I was just wondering while you were talking this is really to both of you can you give me an example of perhaps a connection was made or a case that was delivered that really changed the game so to speak in the legislators I said I really great they really sort of understood this better than they have in the past?

RUBEN BARRALES: Sure. I will tell you one issue that we are really very focused on because it is so immediate is the area of border infrastructure and specifically the scene is secure port of entry. The federal government has made a commitment to expand the port of entry. The Mexicans are just about complete on their side and we unfortunately have three phases, one of which has been funded and is nearly complete and two more that are not yet funded and I think we made the case very strongly and got the message across that we need the funding for that infrastructure so that we can decrease the border wait times, decrease the impact on San Diego and Tijuana of those wait times. So that is something you will be seeing more activity here in San Diego as we bring federal officials adhere to focus on issue but there are others like sequestration them cuts to the Defense Department the Navy and Marines which are so important to San Diego's economy again, making the case law because the Pentagon meeting officials in there and making sure that lawmakers are in line with our desire to make sure the Marine and Navy presence remained strong in San Diego.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Councilman Gloria you touched on this when you're giving us an overview of what you guys were doing in Washington DC but I believe probably the number one issue is what Mr. Barrales was just talking about, that is the threat of the automatic cuts and especially the cut that if these cuts to the defense industry here in San Diego. Could you remind us if you would, Todd, about the potential effects on San Diego if those cuts are made?

TODD GLORIA: It could be devastating from the standpoint that we know one out of four jobs in our community relies on funding from the Department of Defense but of course the cuts are across the board from the federal government. So when we were talking to HUD about affordable housing programs that help 15,000 families in our community the list goes on and on, they have real impacts and I think what we were trying to articulate was the need particularly for us locally because we do receive federal funding to know with some certainty what we will get. For example, some of our homeless service programs are provided for, funded by the federal government. How can I tell those service providers that the funding will still be there a few months from now if the automatic cuts are not presented. No one is arguing for the status quo. We know there are real issues with the federal budget but the still be approach where neither side is really interested in speaking with one another the people who are harmed in the process really are local governments like the city of San Diego like the nonprofit service providers and we are trying to make that particular case but obviously and if you're listener should be in touch with your house members and 7% say please come to the table come to a solution because the deadline is looming, coming January 2 and I think the outcome is allowed to happen will be very harmful certainly to our economy.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: In a city this congressional delegation is made up of both Democrats and Republicans I'm wondering did you get any sense that there is going to be this reaching across the aisle to try to find some answer to this fiscal cliff that we are facing at the end of the year?

RUBEN BATTALES: Well it is an incredibly tough environmental figure and we understand that there are different incentives and issues that are pushing folks in different directions but we were very pleased to meet with the representatives from San Diego. We got a commitment from them to join us here in San Diego to talk specifically about the border issue. I know that Congress member Duncan Hunter is having a session about it cuts into sequestration specifically UC San Diego later in the month so we are very optimistic that by bringing the issues up to them, letting them help that they are important we will focus more of their energies on bipartisan solutions and Maureen let me just mention anything about sequestration and the military budget that Tod mentioned one in every four jobs in San Diego is dependent upon the military budget here. There are folks that have nothing to do with the defense industry or the military but their jobs actually are affected by the economic stimulus. About $34 billion economic stimulus. So whether you work in a restaurant or a hotel or a financial services company or for transportation company, those dollars circulating in San Diego help to create jobs in many industries across our region.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm speaking with Ruben Barrales, he's president of the San Diego regional Chamber of Commerce and San Diego City Councilman Todd Gloria. Do you, Councilman Gloria, I seem to recall that there was some kind of a trip like this last year. You do this about once a year?

TODD GLORIA: This actually was my first trip that I took with the chamber but this has been going on for many years now, and I think the reason it continues is that it has shown to be effective and I think Ruben got to some of the things they've been able to deliver on. But I would tell you even just in the few days it's been since we got back one of the few things I did was to go visit the Smithsonian Institution and advocate for the Balboa Park Centennial and we like to think of Balboa Park as the Smithsonian of the West. The meeting with the mayor to the assistant secretary for the Smithsonian yielded I think what will be several exhibits that we will get from them for the 2015 celebration. So automatically we are already seeing stuff that content from the one trip and I think the opposite our message that we communicated the priorities that we laid out will be stuff that are members of Congress and the other folks of the federal bureaucracy will be able to work on in the months ahead. Hopefully we'll have some is relative to funding for taking the trolley up the I 52 UCSD to the veterans hospital and UTC mall. Those are kinds of things you will see in the months ahead and those will be real tangible results because the trip.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: He also met with officials on the subject of homelessness and what was the result of that?

TODD GLORIA: We met with the (inaudible) secretary for HUD and what was really interesting was that he was aware of the initiatives that we have going on in the city. They are watching San Diego's particularly efforts to town in San Diego to address homelessness and whether it is our connections to housing project, 365 day a year, the services Center that opens this December or January they are watching closely and I think what we are trying to articulate is that if you like what you are seeing with these initiatives, if they are making sense to you we hope that you will continue to help us fund them and potentially expand the because we know the problem is not exclusive to downtown San Diego but we also have extensive homeless populations in Mission Valley along the San Diego River and the beach community. So actually I was really encouraged because I wasn't carefully prepared to (inaudible) but the assistant secretary looks at me and says I know you are and I know what you are doing and I'm really impressed. So we are hopeful that that again will yield results for problems that we absolutely have to be on top of.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now while you were there, Ruben Barrales, in Washington DC the Fed announced a stimulus package that is pointed in part to try and revive the I'm wondering what might be thing that my to for San Diego

RUBEN BARRALES: Well to help folks hopefully that are interested in purchasing homes or interested in refinancing knowing that interest rates will be low for a longer amount of time. It is a challenge though because what you would rather have his economic growth rather than these kinds of programs. But all things considered it will make Less expensive for quite a while. And I think that's a good thing for San Diego a good thing that was a result of the trip we met with the Brookings Institution's (inaudible) said San Diego will be a city that they will specifically be working with on their export initiative which is to help small and medium-sized businesses understand that there's a huge market out there in the world and help them, help us develop a system within San Diego to help our San Diego businesses export their services and products which is really a way to create jobs here. And also Kevin Faulkner councilmember Wagner has led work with the IRS. Lynn is one of the few Americans actually goes to the IRS voluntarily when we go back to Washington DC. But he and others are working with them on issues to clarify the pension reform measure proposition just passed, making sure that provisions there allow as much flexibility as possible for existing employees so they may have options to choose their retirement scenarios, defined contributions for example.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me ask you both about the main subject of your budget, the sequestration, fiscal cliff that people refer to. Coming back from your trip to Washington DC, to you first, Councilman Gloria, were you heartened or daunted by the idea that the two sides would be able to come together to make sure that doesn't happen at the end of this year?

TODD GLORIA: When we met with our members the singular delegation the majority of them felt as though this would be avoided and with good reason. No member of Congress wants to be associated for the downgrading of the US credit or increasing unemployment. But I guess I remain hopeful about all of it because he seemed lesson right here in the city of San Diego. You know when I joined the city Council four years ago we had a massive budget deficit. Certainly a number of fiscal problems and while we are not necessarily fully the clear we've made great progress at stabilizing city finances, actually having a budget surplus in addressing the long-term liabilities relative to pension and healthcare reform. If the city can do this on comfort the federal government can do that and again I think House members from San Diego indicated that they understood that that would need to be done. I think what's going to happen though is that it will happen after the election and so we will have to wait that much longer to know whether or not there's that much certainty to the funding programs and jobs we are concerned about.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Ruben Barrales, are you just as optimistic or do you have some concerns that there could be compromises?

RUBEN BARRALES: I'm cautiously optimistic. What will happen after the election it may have to happen after January and there will be compromise. Our focus is on those sectors of the economy to create jobs in San Diego so as it relates to the military, as it relates to tourism and the work that taught and others to with the Smithsonian. As a relates to poor infrastructure in the innovation economy I think San Diego is well-positioned and trips like this help us get our message across and connect us more with decision-makers in Washington DC. For example, in today's we are having the director of the national Institute of science and technology from Washington DC here in San Diego to show off what we are doing here in cyber security and other tech area so that hopefully we will be able to get more support in terms of policy and grants if possible for things that we are doing in San Diego.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Sounds like you both consider this trip a success.

RUBEN BARRALES: Think so.

TODD GLORIA: Absolutely.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I want to thank both of you. Thanks for coming in.

BOTH: Thank you.