Roundtable: SD Mayor, 52nd Congressional, District 3 Supervisor Races Getting Personal; Sweetwater Getting Weird
November 2, 2012 1:18 p.m.
Katie Orr, KPBS News Metro Reporter
Alison St. John, KPBS News North County Reporter
Chris Cadelago, U-T San Diego reporter
Ricky Young, U-T San Diego Watchdog Editor
Related Story: Roundtable: SD Mayor, 52nd Congressional, District 3 Supervisor Races Getting Personal; Sweetwater Getting Weird
SAUER: It's Friday, November 2nd. Good afternoon, and thanks for joining us. I'm Mark Sauer. My guests today on the Roundtable are Katie Orr, metro reporter for KPBS news.
ORR: Hi, mark.
SAUER: Alison St. John senior reporter for KPBS.
ST. JOHN: Good to be here.
SAUER: Chris Cadelago for UT San Diego.
CADELAGO: Hi, Mark.
SAUER: And Ricky Young, watchdog editor for UT San Diego.
YOUNG: Good morning.
SAUER: Good afternoon, yes.
YOUNG: Oh, excuse me!
SAUER: As we've seen nationally with the presidential election, there's a gender gap when it comes to the presidential race. Katie, Carl DeMaio responded this week by enlisting a notable public figure, a staunch political foe of his.
ORR: Bonnie Dumanis came out and endorsed him at a news conference. But she spent more time talking about why Bob Filner would be a bad choice versus why Carl DeMaio would be a good choice. And specifically she focused on Bob Filner's attitude towards women. She says there are a lot of women out there who don't like him and have had runins with him but don't feel like they can come forward and say something. She was of course the only woman in the primary, and she says during the primary she felt disrespected by him, he wouldn't look at her, wouldn't acknowledge her. She told a story about him coming up to some deputy district attorneys, a group of women, and joking about how he could fire them. So it was just putting out this message that he doesn't respect women and women should not vote for him. And we saw that with the infamous Joanne ad that the Carl DeMaio campaign is now running.
SAUER: This is an offshoot of a grander theme that DeMaio is saying Filner is a loose cannon.
ORR: Right. And been who's worked with Filner knows that, he says he pleads guilty to being passionate. He gets fired up about things, but he has run-ins. In 2007 he had an incident at an international airport wahe had an altercation with a baggage handler there. He ultimately pled guilty to misdemeanor trespassing. But now it's an ad the Carl DeMaio has featured, this woman the baggage handler in this ad talking about if, saying that she was scared that he wouldn't stop, that he said he could do whatever he wanted. So it's again just trying to highlight the fact that the DeMaio campaign is saying that Bob Filner is not a good candidate for women.
SAUER: Now, didn't Dumanis say she would not endorse anyone after the primary? That it wasn't proper for a da?
ORR: She has said that in the past. She said she wouldn't weigh in on political races because she does have to work with whoever is in the office. She has said if she feels it's a big deal, she will make endorsements, and she has made endorsements in several cases. On this particular one she felt like she wouldn't stand on the sidelines, she said, because she thought Filner would be such a poor choice for San Diego.
SAUER: Ricky Young?
YOUNG: Yeah, I think it's not just an issue of that she has to work with the people. It's an issue of she has to prosecute them!
[ LAUGHTER ]
YOUNG: Soap there's a public integrity unit, and she needs to be watching and be a fair arbiter of yesterday and investigating if something does something wrong. So I think it is particularly tricky to endorse somebody and I think that's why initially she promised not to do that. And it's not really clear to me what her criteria is for the ones she does get involved in.
ST. JOHN: I think it's interesting your comment that she was focusing more on anti-Filner than proDeMaio. And I think this sort of reflects this issue that both candidates in some ways have quite a lot of critics. And perhaps in the case of Republicans, they're more prone to tow the party line. It's a much more cohesive party, and loyalty is more emphasized. Whereas Democrats are a lot more scattered. And Filner is having trouble rounding up the troops.
SAUER: What was that old will Rogers line? I don't belong to an organized party, I'm a Democrat?
[ LAUGHTER ]
YOUNG: The Democrats largely are supporting Obama, I think. But it's interesting in the mayor's race that Carl DeMaio is not endorsing Mitt Romney.
SAUER: That is interesting.
YOUNG: And so I don't know that the Republicans are as lock step as you're suggesting.
ORR: I think one of the messages too on this was we have not had near the polling in the local races as on the national level, but from the polls we have seen, a majority of Dumanis's supporters and Fletcher's were tending to go toward Filner. She said also do not write my name in on the ballot because it will not count. Vote for Carl DeMaio instead. That's really the message that they're getting because we have seen polls that put the undecided voter anywhere from 13% to 18% of the population. Craig Gustafson just had a great article about how San Diego is used to two moderate Republicans running for this office. And we've got these two party extremes, and people don't know what to do.
ST. JOHN: I guess I would say that the Republicans have shown who have stepped in and endorsed, including mayor Sander, a certain reluctance. It's like, I got to just do this because they're afraid of getting a Democrat, Filner in the position.
CADELAGO: It's certainly worth looking at what these endorsements even mean. We saw Jerry Sanders, the mayor, endorse Bonnie. A lot of folks were wondering what good that did her.
ST. JOHN: She kept 10% in the primary?
CADELAGO: A distant 4th. Now she's coming out for DeMaio. So these are things we tend to look at and talk about and try to dig into. And I don't know that the average voter out there is really concerned with. Especially an endorsement from within the party. I guess what Katie was saying is the comments about Filner were probably more an important aspect of this endorsement than the endorsement itself.
ORR: Right. And it is interesting to see that. Of course Irwin Jacobs, Democrat, he supported Carl DeMaio.
SAUER: Big check writer for the Democrats.
ORR: Absolutely. Bill Clinton called him a friend. Bill Clinton came out and supported Bob Filner this week.
SAUER: The robo calls are going out.
ORR: Right. Which Filner said was a big deal. He said Clinton wasn't going to endorse anyone below the congressional level.
ORR: So he said this is a long relationship. But again, like Chris was saying, is that going to convince someone who's on the fence? Maybe.
SAUER: Hard to tell. Well, Bob Filner doesn't take these claims lying down. Tell us how he responded regarding this accusation he can't get along with women.
ORR: It was interesting. Just from being a political observer, because for a little while now, Carl DeMaio has been making the claim that Filner is unfit to be mayor. But it seems like when he brought the women issue into it, that's what Bob Filner stepped up and said I'm not just going to take this anymore. He had a news conference featuring his work on veterans' issues. But at that conference, he had a woman, her name is Tara wise, and she's founded an organization for women's veterans, and she was saying when she was in the military, she was sexually assaulted, and because of this, she became suicidal. She didn't know what to do. Eventually, she approached Bob Filner and she said he helped me. And they proceeded to work on all these veterans' issues. They wrote a women's bill of rights for women's veterans. But it didn't make it through the Congress. It was supposed to be posted in VAs you will over the country. And they worked together on that.
SAUER: That was pretty powerful. You told me it was dramatic.
ORR: Oh, yeah, her story was great. She is an amazing speaker. I don't know why she's not in all of his commercials because she is an amazing speaker. But that was his way of trying to counter these claims that she's not. And of course he's a liberal Democrat, he's got the women's issues quote unquote, friendly voting record. But in his defense, Carl DeMaio doesn't have to deal with those issues on the City Council so he couldn't be expected to have that same sort of record.
CADELAGO: I think it's interesting to note that you talked about how Bob Filner came out and said he's pled guilty to being passionate. And he hasn't really come back with this life story about being a freedom writer until a lot of these attacks. I was surprised that was not more of a centerpiece of his campaign early on. He talked about being on the School Board more than he did about being a freedom writer. And that was his retort to Carl DeMaio saying he was sort of this loose cannon.
ORR: And he's talked a lot about his work with veterans. Obviously it's a huge issue here in San Diego just because of the number of active duty and veterans' issues. And today, DeMaio had a news conference talking about support he's gotten from veterans as well. So they're both trying to, you know, attract these big groups of voters in San Diego. And again because we know that they've got pretty firm support from their base, their party base, but it's all about getting those people in the middle who aren't quite decided on which way they're going to go.
SAUER: How many debates?
ORR: At least 30.
SAUER: Oh, really. I think you covered the last one the other day. How did that go?
ORR: Someone asked me the other day if these candidates are civil to each other. And I said they can stand next to each other, sometimes they have two debates a day. So they can stand next to each other for hours on end. You have to be able to get along with someone in that regard. Really what Thursday's debate at Fox 5 was all about was just summing up when she's candidates are all about. And again, making that appeal to people, are moderating their message, really trying to say listen, this guy paints me as someone who flies off the handle. That's not who I am. And Carl DeMaio was asked about people who think that he is hard to work with. And he said well, are the people that think I'm hard to work with are the government insiders and the union bosses.
SAUER: The groups I'm going after.
ORR: Right. But I build coalitions. And they were both saying that same kind of message, just trying to put it out there that they are the moderate guy that can push San Diego forward.
YOUNG: DeMaio did make a point of saying we like each other. And the moderator asked them each to say something they liked about the other. And it was interesting when DeMaio talked about Filner and how he respects that he has an active lifestyle. Which sort of sounded like marketing for an old folks' home to me.
[ LAUGHTER ]
ORR: It was funny, yeah! And then Filner said he really appreciates that DeMaio has come so far for having not been around very long.
[ LAUGHTER ]
SAUER: Right. So the backhanded compliments are flowing.
YOUNG: It was an odd format. It was outside, and there was wind, and there was a pumpkin over Filner's head. I wonder if there's time for one more debate between the veterans woman you talked about and the woman down at the border facility. Let's get them to talk about the Filner women's issue!
[ LAUGHTER ]
ST. JOHN: Is it worth bringing up this point about the fact that a lot of people around town are still thinking who am I going to vote for? What is the percentage of undecideds?
ORR: Depending on which poll, it's been 13% and 18%.
ST. JOHN: That's pretty high.
ORR: I think it's really high.
ST. JOHN: And then there's this issue of the registrar having the write-in place, some people might be tempted to not go for either. And that will invalidate their vote.
ORR: Right. The write-in option is there. It was also there in 2008 for the general election and it didn't count either T. Didn't make a big difference then. If this race is that close, who knows?
ST. JOHN: So there's no writing in Nathan Fletcher.
YOUNG: I think this is an issue. I think it was printed there by mistake. And you're throwing your vote away if you do that. And there's sort of an invitation right there, throw your vote away.
SAUER: We should make that clear as we get closer here into the walkups to the election. Let's move north to the 52nd congressional district.
SAUER: My guests are Katie Orr, Alison St. John, Ricky Young, and Chris cata laggo. The 52nd congressional district race, this race has taken some unusual 21sts and turns lately. One is the ad Brian Bilbray is running which features his daughter.
ST. JOHN: This is an ad that really appeals to the heart string, and bearing in mind that we've seen probably $8 million of negative ads in this campaign, people are sort of relieved.
SAUER: That's a lot for a congressional race.
ST. JOHN: It is. Although in the swing states they're seeing something like $18 million.
ST. JOHN: But this ad, his daughter stands there and speaks right into the camera. And it's a very personal ad. She says I have cancer. My cancer is terminal. And my dad, the work he's doing to cure cancer, I want -- basically he should be reelected because of the work he's doing, to get more funding for research into cancer. It brings it right down, it's very, very personal. It's a woman in the ad. Of course one of the big questions --
SAUER: I was going to say, there's several nuances to this, and I want to get to several of them. But I did want to ask Chris, let's talk about the risk of just what Alison described, the personal nature of the ad.
CADELAGO: This ad is still out there, but they're rotating two other ads, one is a hit piece on Scott Peters on his pension vote. So they've sort of I guess you could say scaled this one back. And it could be because of some of that negative reaction. I think people are -- he ends this ad with a line he had been tested at press conferences, some things are more important than politics. And some people looked at that line and said if these things are more important than politics then why are you putting it all on the line to stay in politics?
ORR: Right. Thought as a viewer, I'm not covering that race, I would always hear that line and be, like, what does that mean? This is a political ad.
ST. JOHN: I think the fact is though that there is some truth to it. And we do get glimpses of the truth from the candidates in these ads. And early OI was having a great deal of trouble getting come callbacks from Bilbray's campaign because he was taking time out to be with his daughter, which you can only respect at a time like this.
ST. JOHN: And then there are some real questions about whether this really has changed his motivation about running, keeping his hand in politics.
CADELAGO: I think there's a lot of reasons why he did this. One is that she's been involved in all of his past campaigns. She's 25 years old and his stage 3 melanoma. And she really wanted to do something where she felt like she was involved in this one. She apparently wrote a script on her own and brought it to his consultants and him and said do that. And they apparently told her for a few weeks we don't want to do this. This is not a smart thing to do. Then they decided to do it. And I think for Bilbray, part of what might explain his reason for doing this is throughout this campaign, people have sort of looked at his record and said what has he really done? Can you point to a signature piece of legislation? One of them is obviously on immigration, something you can't highlight in a more moderate district. So he's had to look for other focuses and being on the energy and commerce commission, which is a committee that basically approves FDA trials and health-related issues. There's a place where he thinks some of these issues have not gotten headlines.
SAUER: Go ahead, Alison.
ST. JOHN: It's interesting that the whole issue of his backing of the life sciences, because those are some of his main endorsers. When you go to PETA's website, there's a whole page devoted to endorsements. You find that a lot of his endorsers are BIOCOM and the life sciences. These are large industrial people as opposed to perhaps small business, and he's laying himself open to some criticism that he's got the backing of big business, oil companies, biocom, the life sciences. So I think there's no denying that he has done a lot of work to bring money into San Diego for the life sciences.
CADELAGO: The other thing this does on a political side is it sort of boxes Peters into a corner. There's not a lot he can say negative about this ad. And he hasn't to his credit. But he also can't really dig back. There are obviously instances where Bilbray may not have committed on a vote full NIH funding or something like that, where Peters is not going to come out and say that. But it's so human and so real that nobody wants to be the one that's politicizing it.
SAUER: Tell us what you think of this commercial. Join us our conversation. Give us a call. 1-888-895-5727. Ricky?
YOUNG: I was at dinner Wednesday with some nonmedia, nonpartisan people who had seen the ad, and they just like it was exploitive and seemingly an odd message for a Congressman. Your whole campaign is about this? So I don't think that Peters needs to say anything negative. To some extent, people will react strangely to this ad on their own. But Chris, one thing I noticed in your story, apparently he wants to fund cancer research with a tax on tanning salons. And I wonder if that constitutes breaking the Grover Norquist no new taxes pledge.
SAUER: Let's get into that a little bit. He did also vote against cancer research funding within the Affordable Care Act.
CADELAGO: His explanation of that is that this is a tax that's already in the affordable care act.
YOUNG: Which he opposed.
ST. JOHN: He opposes the affordable care act.
YOUNG: He wants to repeal it.
SAUER: Which is a head-scratcher.
CADELAGO: He's basically saying like a lot of politicians do, figure this tax is here, I'm going to use it for the thing I want to use it for.
ST. JOHN: Well, are yes, it sounds like first yesterday they were saying this is the source of funding, and it just happens to be in the affordable care act. Then toward the end of the day, they said actually what the Congressman wants to do is to separate that source of funding which is part of the affordable air contact, the tanning salon tax, separate it from the affordable care act, and make it stand alone. I think this raises a lot of questions. If the affordable care act's goal is to provide funding so people who can't afford healthcare have access to healthcare, is it right to be saying here's a nice source of funding? I'll take that for my particular interest group?
SAUER: That's a very valid question. I wonder if they've -- reconsidering this ad, we said it was risky, and I guess time will tell.
CADELAGO: Well, they're certainly not committing as much money into playing this particular ad as they initially meant to. They've gotten some certainly earned media. We're talking about it now. There have been several stories about it. That can't hurt. Of the polls show this event in a lot of recent polls. So there are other benefits beyond having it run.
ORR: I think it's sort of like the issue that you raised with endorsements. Do endorsements matter? Do ads matter? I know political scientists have done research on this.
SAUER: Negative ads work.
ORR: That's why they do them. And they get into your psyche, even if you don't think about it. But I wonder if there are -- I'm sure there are some people that are appalled by it and don't think it's right. But there might be other undecided voters who say this makes him human to me. He's dealing with some issues that a lot of people deal with. I would be interested to see what kind of impact those ads actually have.
SAUER: We have a caller. Barbara, go ahead. You're with the panel.
NEW SPEAKER: Thank you so much. I enjoy your program, and thank you for being there. I have a question about Bilbray and his daughter, Briana, who is suffering from terminal cancer. Wasn't there a point not too long ago when she came out with a column or something in the newspaper about the fact that she takes cannabis, mac to alleviate the symptoms of chemotherapy and radiation? And her father was against legalizing marijuana for medical uses?
SAUER: Okay, well, thank you. That's a very good question. Thanks for your call. Alison?
ST. JOHN: Well, yes, that that is the case. She has said she supports the use of medicine 58 marijuana, but she also supports her father getting reelected. And he's taken a stance, he's not going to back down on this one. It's a federal position, and he continues to be against it. That's right.
CADELAGO: Going all the way back to -- in one of his first terms in Congress, he signod with folks like Newt Gingrich, Bonnie frank, to at least study declassifying marijuana as a schedule 1 drug. He's certainly been on both sides of it. I think it's oversimplified to just say he opposes medical marijuana. But he's also kind of taken some steps forward in terms of aligning with her by talking about supporting legislation that would test the --
SAUER: The efficacy of it?
CADELAGO: Of the THC, and move that forward.
ORR: It reminds me of the situation with mayor Jerry Sanders who was so opposed to gay marriage, the Republican party line, and his daughter is a lesbian, and he came out with that famous news conference crying saying he's changing his position.
SAUER: Made national news.
ORR: Right. Now he's an advocate for same-sex marriage. He recorded a statement that played at the Republican convention, urging people to support it. So it's just interesting. These politicians are people. And they have lives!
SAUER: Who would have thought! Politicians are people! I can't imagine.
[ LAUGHTER ]
ST. JOHN: There's one good thing that comes out of this. I guess it's pretty obvious that the Congressman has put a lot of energy into bringing money into the life sciences in San Diego. And if he weren't to get reelected to Congress, he could make a very good living continuing to be a lobbyist for those people. And that seems to be really where his heart is. I really do think his daughter's cancer his changed his priorities. Of
SAUER: There have been some nasty ads and pac money. Let's talk about them. What is the nature of -- on both sides, with Peters and Bilbray in this race, some of the nasty stuff that's gone back and forth?
CADELAGO: We've seen almost a unified message from the pacs supporting Brian Bilbray and opposing Scott Peters. Americans for tax reform, the Grover Norquist group came out with an ad that basically tagged Peters for supporting the affordable care act. And it got out soon that this was an ad that's not going to work in the 52nd district. They've jumped on with the same ads that the national Republicans are doing, which is really just going hard at Peters on this 2002 pension vote, calling him things like the father of the pension crisis. Lately some of the Bilbray folks have been calling him the Bernie Madoff of San Diego. Which -- you know, people committed suicide over the Madoff thing, and the guy is serving 150 years in jail. So it's over the top. On the other side, most of Peters' ads are calling Bilbray a lobbyist, looking at his votes on women's issues, not supporting funding for planned parenthood, cutting some funding or not supporting some veterans' funding.
SAUER: Nasty both ways. Okay, we're going to have to leave it there.
SAUER: Welcome back to the Roundtable. I'm Mark Sauer. My guest, Katie Orr, and Alison St. John of KPBS news, and Chris cata laggo and Ricky Young of UT San Diego. That old gang of Republicans who have run the county Board of Supervisors could be broken up Tuesday or not. Give us a thumbnail sketch of this 1st District up for reelection. Who are the guys vying to replace the currently Republican?
CADELAGO: The way I sum this up for people, and there are many people who need it to be summed up because they aren't exactly following it, is that Dave Roberts a Democrat, are the deputy mayor of Solana beach, should be sort of running, you would think would be running as the outsider, right? He's a Democrat, the rest of them are Republicans. He has the backing of Pam Slater price, a Republican who is retiring. So he's sort of saying that a lot of things that the county does are things that he would continue to do. Of then you have Steve Danon who worked eight years at the county for Diane Jacob and Ron Roberts, worked for Bilbray, who is runs as the reformer. He wants to do to pensions in the county what they've done to pensions in the city. He wants to slash office cut, cut a car allowance that supervisors get that is applied to their pension. He wants to really cut into the $5 million a year neighborhood reinvestment program which is a hot issue.
SAUER: The slush fund?
CADELAGO: That's the slush fund. He sort of made that a big issue in the race. Dave Roberts says he'd rather see the money distributed within the community to some of these deserving groups than to go to Sacramento or Washington or another black hole that he thinks Danon wants to see it go to. And there's been a good amount of money in this race. We just learned yesterday that the deputy sheriff's association is sponsoring a TV ad in the supervisors' race, which I don't know if anyone has ever heard of a TV ad in a supervisors race.
SAUER: It's struck me that the focus and the spotlight seems to be on the city, but the county budget, doesn't it dwarf the city's budget and
ST. JOHN: The county's budget is $5 billion. A lot of that is earmarked. They only have discretionary control over a little bit more than $1 billion. But yes, their responsibilities are enormous. They affect indigent care around the county, and a lot of the sheriff's deputy, the da. They affect all the manning in the backcountry. They really have a huge amount of responsibility.
SAUER: Food stamps, famously.
ST. JOHN: Right. People who require help from the government are dependent on the county's money which comes from the state. And as the state cuts Tthe county cuts it. But there are some major differences in San Diego County and the way that the county is handling these reductions.
SAUER: The two candidates are the same age are they not? Do they have anything else in common?
ST. JOHN: Well, I got to agree with Chris, in some ways it is a new face. We'll have a new face on the board for the first time in 16 years. And that's good. But they're still both white guys, one of them is a Democrat, the other is a Republican. When it comes down to it, the Democrat Dave Roberts who is endorsed by Republican Pam Slater price has spent a lot of time going around talking to the other supervisors making sure that he establishes common ground where he can find common ground with the other supervisors. He has said that he would not raid the county's very substantial reserve fund in order to backfill where some of the cuts for social services are really shrinking social services as a time that needs them to grow.
SAUER: This is Steve Dannon, the Democrat?
ST. JOHN: No, this is Dave Roberts, the Democrat.
CADELAGO: And that be Danon came out and said maybe we should. We've seen them sort of do what they think they need to do to win this race and maybe sort of not be the caricature that some people think they are.
SAUER: So we've got a bit of an overlooked race and a confusing one from the standpoints of the candidates.
ST. JOHN: When you look at the background, I think Dave Roberts has a good deal of background in healthcare, and I think that's a huge issue for the county as funds shrink. We don't have a county hospital, but we are providing healthcare for the indingent. He accuses Steve Danon of being in politics all of his life in the private sector. It might affect that area of the county more if Dave Roberts were to be elected. But in terms of the major issues, it isn't a clear cut race.
CADELAGO: These are both sort of very nice guys. You talk to both of them, and they come off as very genial. Another contrast from the mayoral candidates. But the other thing, Dave Roberts has an interesting story that we haven't totally dug into, but he's gay and he's married and he's actually adopted five kids from the county.
CADELAGO: Yeah, five adopted kids from the county. So he has a really interesting personal story. And Steve Danon has a ton of experience of the he's put his family out there well, a couple kids and a wife. So we don't know. If this were the mayor's race, we would know a whole lot more about these guys personally. But there will be somebody that's sort of middle aged instead of later in life as the supervisors are. They're all a little older and have been around for quite a while. So I think the dynamic on the board will change in some ways.
SAUER: All right. We have a caller who wants to join us in this race. Oh, I'm sorry, the caller just backed away. He did have an interesting question though. Has any superintendent incumbent ever lost?
CADELAGO: I think Roger hedge coke beat an incumbent when he ran.
SAUER: That's a long time ago in the early '80s?
ST. JOHN: It's well taken that the incumbents build up these huge war chests, so it's almost impossible to defeat them.
SAUER: And there's no term limits in effect at this point. Though they are coming down the road.
CADELAGO: The most fascinating thing is going to be in two years when Ron Roberts reruns. His district has changed so much, it's so dominated by Democrats that it'll be interesting to see who runs there and whether Ron can keep that seat.
SAUER: Maybe we'll see him switch parties.
YOUNG: Another factor in the incumbent protection that the county has that some other organizations don't is what you called the slush fund. It used to be $2 million a year each of them had to hand out to community groups. Now it's down to $1 million. But that's a good chunk of change, and it builds a lot of community --
SAUER: A lot of good well will over that four years.
YOUNG: So that's part of why it's been the same five people since 1995 or something.
ORR: And I think too a lot of people don't have contact with the county. If they do, they don't know it. You know? The City Council in San Diego as far as if you have a pot hole on your street, you call the City Council. Or you have a problem with the school, you go to the School Board. If you don't have a reason to seek out the county Umight not.
ST. JOHN: You pay your property taxes, but they send it up to the state.
ORR: Right. If someone is running for reelection, and he says I've been doing a good job, okay! You've been doing a good job! You know?
[ LAUGHTER ]
SAUER: We noted at the outset here, because of the nature. How people pay attention or frankly don't pay attention to the county supervisors, the incumbent has even more power to roll over.
ORR: There's two issues there that really are important: The development in the backcountry. Everybody loves to take their car and drive off into the backcountry and see our rolling hills. And there's pressure. The population is growing. Where is the population going to be? There is definitely going to be development in the backcountry. And that is a key issue in this race.
CADELAGO: Yeah, and we've seen that Roberts has benefited greatly from the organizations that back Slater price, Sierra club, a lot of these organizations are fully behind the Democrat in this race. And Danon has said that he wants to follow sort of a managed growth approach and not approve things where there aren't adequate schools and water and those things. But at the same time people look at well, who's supporting them? And that's been Dave's line on the campaign trail has been I don't want to pave over paradise. We'll see how that goes. Of
SAUER: That's one of the hot button issues. Another of course has been in recent years the handling by the county Board of Supervisors and these five incumbent Republicans of the food stamp issue which has made some national headlines. Give us some background, Alison.
ST. JOHN: Well, yes, in other counties around the state, some of the counties have decided that as the state money shrink, they will bolster the food stamp program in order to prevent there being more families who cannot feed their kids at night. And hunger is becoming amazingly enough, an enormous problem. And it's almost like we're becoming a third world in segments of our community. Now, when you think about the voters, is it true to say, and I think it is, that people who can hardly afford to put food on the table are the ones who are least likely to go find time to vote or have computers and research into who would vote for their interests. And yet they're the ones who perhaps --
SAUER: Most directly impacted.
ST. JOHN: They and developers are the two most impacted groups by this particular election.
SAUER: Any other issues coming on the immediate horizon once the new immediate takes office?
ST. JOHN: Well, are realignment is another big issue.
SAUER: Explain that.
ST. JOHN: Well, the county is now responsible for an extra two thousand people who have been shifted from the state responsibility in order to save the state money. The state is giving the county some money to take care of them. But is it enough and will they continue to keep funding the county?
ORR: And jails.
ST. JOHN: Well, some of them are in jails and some of them are out in the community because they finished their sentence. But instead of being under the jurisdiction of the parole department, they're under the jurisdiction of the county Probation Department. So we have a lot more people in our communities on probation who have just came out.
CADELAGO: We've heard the county say about this, they obviously don't like this. But they feel like if they -- if this is funded adequately, part of that money would come from Brown's prop 30, that they think they could do a better job than the state. And I think Dave Roberts has taken that approach. Steve Danon has talked about some of the downsides of this. The philosophy of the County is if this is funded, we will do a better job than you of carrying this out.
SAUER: We're going to have to leave it there on our supervisors race.
SAUER: I'm Mark Sauer. And with me on the Roundtable today are Katie Orr and Alison St. John of KPBS news, and Chris cata laggo and Ricky Young of UT San Diego. Ricky, you kind of need a scoreboard to keep up with all the interesting things going on down in the south bay's Sweetwater Union High School District. Elections for two seats on the board. One candidate is in some trouble.
YOUNG: Pearl QuiÒones, she's under indictment -- not indictment. She's been charged by the District Attorney with a number of felony counts. First it was felony count of failing to disclose gifts and meals and things that contractors have given her. The DA has suggested a quid pro quo for millions of dollars in school bond contracts that they got. And later that happen upped not in severity but the way it sounds to charges that she outright accepted bribes. That was not in the initial charges that came down in January. But the DA has continued to make the case over time. And that doesn't look good for her, of course. She's pled not guilty.
SAUER: Adds a little sport to the reelection.
YOUNG: It sure does, yeah! So it's not unprecedented for someone facing charges to run for reelection. But I think a fair number of people would just throw in the towel and say let me focus on my legal defense.
SAUER: What does she say about the charges?
YOUNG: Well, she's pled not guilty to them. In some discusses with us, the attorney has compared the DA's choices in prosecuting he's cases. We were just talking about supervisor Pam Slater price who accepted hundreds of dollars in opera and theatre tickets that she failed to report. And instead of being prosecuted for that, she paid a $2,000 fine using campaign fund, not personal funds, and moved on with her life. So you can look at a number of cases where gifts have been accepted and not reported, and it hasn't been a criminal case. So I think at one point, her attorney told us she thought that maybe there was some unfair prosecution going on here.
SAUER: So that'll certainly be an argument
YOUNG: We reported last month the Poway School Board took free meals from the people who push those bonds that have been in the news recently and failed to report those! And all they did was refile their forms and their life went on. So I don't know exactly what pearl QuiÒones's defense will look like. But is it fair for her to do the same thing or similar to what has been done by some other politicians and she gets prosecuted and they don't?
SAUER: If you've got an opinion, question, or comment, give us a call. 1-888-895-5727. So she was the grand marshal of sweetwater high's homecoming parade recently.
YOUNG: Well, we're not 100% sure how they came about. We can't get anyone to tell us. Dr. Oram, the superintendent of the neighboring national city school district was asked to be the grand marshal of the Sweetwater Highway parade, and he was called and told no, the ASB has picked someone else. And it turned out to be Pearl QuiÒones, and she got in her red hang and waved and went in the parade. And we sent a reporter there, Katherine Poythress, who covers Chula Vista for us. And she kind of asked around, and nobody would really fess up to putting Pearl in the parade. Pearl said she didn't remember who asked her or when, which was sort of odd! You think you'd remember something like that. Doctor Oram had been told that --
SAUER: She's are the students, the associate body of students
YOUNG: Oh, yes, yes, I'm sorry. The ASB, we talked to the advisor, and he said he didn't have anything to do with who the grand marshal was. So it's mysterious. We heard some talk, maybe it came from the district office and the principal was asked to implant her as the grand marshal. So it's been a little controversial in town.
SAUER: To say the at least. What about the other board seat down there? Any other candidates facing troubles?
YOUNG: Well, there's all sorts of interesting stuff going on there. Of Bertha Lopez, there's two incumbents, pearl QUinonez, and Bertha Lopez, and Bertha has drawn a challenger, Burt Grossman, who used to be a Charger, and was on the cover of sports ilstraited in 1990 with the headline big mouth!
[ LAUGHTER ]
YOUNG: He was very outspoken as a Charger, and he's been very outspoken in this race. He had some comments to make about Pearl saying she acts more like a beauty queen than a School Board member. So there he's showing his big mouth again.
SAUER: It'll be fun if they both wind up serving.
YOUNG: That would be extremely interesting. So he's challenging Bertha Lopez. Bertha has never been charged, although her house was raided, and I think some of her political opponents think that that shows some level of involvement in all the craziness at Sweetwater. Although, you know, she's always been with us very critical of things that went on there and does not seem to have been a part of it.
ORR: Forgive me if I'm wrong, isn't Sweetwater also dealing with that testing scandal as well? The teachers were giving the kids the answers to the tests?
YOUNG: I think that's a little overstated. We looked into that, and the teacher did read some material to the kids she wasn't supposed to. But it -- honestly, we've looked into some different test scores and issues at Sweetwater that we thought might be problematic, but this one does seem like a mistake.
SAUER: We did a story too. It was small potatoes.
ST. JOHN: But the behavior you're describing suggests that Pearl does not think that she is guilty. And one of the things is, is the culture down this such that under the former superintendent whose name is I -- Jesus Gandara.
ST. JOHN: Right, who left under a cloud, that the whole culture was, like, well, this is just the way we do things? And now Ed Brand is reappointed. Has he done anything to change the culture there? Has he shown evidence on cracking down on the feeling that the whole district is prone to conflict of interests? There's other stories down there about people using canteen money and things for their own benefit.
YOUNG: Things are a little rough and tumble down there.
ST. JOHN: Do you think he's done anything to improve?
YOUNG: Well, keep in mind, he works for the board. And he owes his job to the board. And I don't think it would be appropriate for doctor brand to put forth reforms. Those need to come from the board.
ST. JOHN: From the voters
YOUNG: Right. On the watchdog team, we've done some stuff on Sweetwater schools but don't cover the board meetings week to week or month to month. But I don't remember a reform coming through and saying okay, we're going to stop taking money from contractors. One thing Burt Grossman has said about Bertha Lopez is that she took tens of thousands of dollars from contractor, and she's not facing any charges. So another little dust-up that sprung up is one of the candidates, Jessica Saenz-Gonzalez, who is challenging Pearl had her car broken into by a young man and tried to blame it on the QUinonez campaign, and Pearl said in fact he's a supporter, but he's supporting his own family, not her.
[ LAUGHTER ]
YOUNG: So it was not a campaign operation. But apparently he did do it.
SAUER: Oh, that's fun! Chris?
CADELAGO: Yeah, we talked about Pearl being sort of thinking that she's maybe in the clear by running and stuff. There have been -- I read a local endorsement from one of the papers down there. They seem to think the same thing that there are people out there that think this is maybe a witch hunt or maybe not onto something. We've seen some of the investigations from this District Attorney's Office down there fall through before. There were other endorsements in this race, no? Notable ones?
YOUNG: Well, the Teachers' Union is backing Bertha Lopez and a guy -- I'm sorry, I forgot his name. The one I haven't mentioned. But it's a very interesting race.
SAUER: We're going to have to leave it there.
YOUNG: Oh, I'm sorry, George Cameron.
SAUER: Ah! There you go.
YOUNG: So for people who one way or another are swayed by unions for or against the candidate they support, there you go.
[ LAUGHTER ]
ST. JOHN: A fresh face at least. Okay.
SAUER: I want to thank everybody on our final edition of the Roundtable before Tuesday's big election.