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Roundtable: Sandag's Loss, Zombie Spending, Infrastructure Ideas, Oceanside Feud
December 7, 2012 1:35 p.m.
Andrew Keatts, Voice of San Diego
Eric Wolff, U-T San Diego
Craig Gustafson, U-T San Diego
Logan Jenkins, U-T San Diego
FUDGE: Happy Pearl Harbor day! This is Tom Fudge filling in for Mark Sauer. Today we'll talk about a plan to keep San Diego from falling apart. A report wonders why homeland security trained San Diego first responders to thwart a zombie attack, and a plan is afoot to undermine the power of Oceanside's popular mayor. Joining me are Eric Wolff of UT San Diego, thank you very much. Also joining me is Craig Gustafson of the UT. And Logan Jenkins of UT San Diego is in the building, thank you Logan.
JENKINS: Hello, Tom.
FUDGE: And Andy KEATTS of Voice of San Diego.
KEATTS: How you doing.
FUDGE: We're going to start by talking about the San Diego regional transportation plan. The folks at SANDAG thought they had their GPS all carefully programmed but judge Timothy Taylor told them this week to take a U-turn after he looked at the plan. SANDAG has outlined transportation projects for the next 40 years at a cost of $200 billion. The judge's reason for striking it down, the RTP took little or no account of the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And Andrew is going to lead the discussion on this one.
KEATTS: The judge knocked the plan down for basically two reasons, and that had to do with the environmental impact report. And it basically said that it failed to meet reduction levels required by state law T. Does mean greenhouse reduction levels at the 2020 target and the 2035 target. But by its own choice without requirement by law, SANDAG decided to extend the plan another 15 years to 2050, and that bench mark is because on an executive order by governor Schwarzenegger in 2005. And because it wasn't clearly outlined in a specific state bill and because they didn't necessarily have to extend the plan all the way out to 2050, SANDAG basically made the decision that they weren't bound by those greenhouse gas reduction levels outlined in the executive order.
FUDGE: Right. So SANDAG feels that they did nothing wrong.
KEATTS: Sure. They -- all they've said forever since the ruling came out on Tuesday is we continue to support our plan and stand by the EIR. Right now they are discussing what their plan is going to be. It may be to come to the table, it may be that the advocates have expressed optimism that SANDAG would like to come and negotiate and come up with ways to find a resolution. So maybe they'll do that. The other option would be to appeal.
FUDGE: And the judge in this case actually said he expects this case to be appealed.
KEATTS: I think his specific wording was that his ruling was just a way station in the life of this case. And at the hearing last Friday, he repeatedly stopped the various attorneys during their speeches and said I want you to clarify some acronyms, he wanted to have a clean transcript to send over to the eventual appeals court.
FUDGE: What is the state of the law, Andy? Does California law essentially say you've got to find a way to reduce greenhouse emissions?
KEATTS: Sure. There's a couple laws in play. One of them is SB375 which basically said when regional planning groups come up about their transportation plans, they need to come up with a community development plan that promotes sustainable communities. So dense, transit-oriented communities that can accommodate population growth and do so in a way that allows greenhouse gases to reduce over time. This was the first regional transportation plan since that law. It's widely watched across the state, and the reason that's -- that's part of the reason why the judge was so concern it was going to be appealed because SANDAG is really the trial to see what burden is on these planning groups with their sustainable community plans.
FUDGE: Okay. And Eric?
WOLFF: It seems like SANDAG wouldn't have been surprised by this. Environmentalists have been saying for years and years that there was not enough transit in there. Do you have a sense of which way they're leaning toward appeal?
KEATTS: Well, let me say that at the Court hearing last Friday, they did very much seem to be surprised. Despite the fact all of these issues have been brought up in the planning process. But they seemed to be certain they were on sound legal footing, and since then, they're not talking. They released a 1-sentence statement and have otherwise said maybe you'll hear more at the end of this meeting.
WOLFF: If they negotiate, do they have to go back into a public participation? Can they change the plan on their own?
KEATTS: That's a lot of what we'll sort out now. If they come into negotiations, where do we go? And eventually as the prevailing party a judge would be more accommodating if there was some negotiation between SANDAG. But there's a series of open questions. Does this mean that transit fund, the half cent tax increase that funds all reported infrastructure projects, can they redirect that? That's an open question. Do they need to just come up with a new environmental impact report and can keep the plan as it currently is constituted? Do they need to start over? Those are the open questions.
FUDGE: And a lot of open questions, but it sounds like the judge is basically saying you got to go back to the drawing board, you do a little bit better. One thing I know came up in this case is the timing of highway projects versus mass transit projects. What are the plaintiffs saying about that?
KEATTS: The reason that the SANDAG plan came under such attack in the planning phase, and part of the reason they generated the lawsuit is all of the public transit funding, or the majority of it, is pushed into the out-years in the plan. And early on, they spend the majority of their money widening freeways. And the transit advocates say you need congestion to create a demand for public transit. There's no incentive to use public transit if you have no traffic delays on any of the roads. If you can drive places quickly without having congestion, you can park wherever you want, then sure, everyone will just drive their cars. What they would like to do is see the public transit's funding moved upfront, and maybe that's part of the eventual solution that we seek. Of that's what the negotiation process will be all about.
FUDGE: I have actually covered this myself as a reporter a little bit, and I know that SANDAG in the past has been -- the way they have been talking have been so proud of this plan, they say the amount of spending on active transportation, the amount of spending on mass transportation is unprecedented. And they give you numbers to prove that. But I guess it didn't impress the judge.
KEATTS: Well, keep in mind what the judge is ruling on is not necessarily the same thing that's the complaint of environmentalists who want to see more transit. The judge is ruling on the legality of the environmental impact report as it relates to greenhouse gas reduction levels by 2050. So maybe the environmentalists and transit advocates who want that transit funding moved forward, maybe doing that would change the greenhouse gas reduction levels, maybe it wouldn't. But the point is that the environmental impact report was inadequate.
WOLFF: And just in case people think this is maybe not that big a deal, we're talking about $200 billion being spent over the next four years on these transportation projects. Logan Jenkins, what do you want to say about the RTP?
JENKINS: One thing I hear that I'd be interested to hear what you have to say, Andy, is that some of these projects take a long, long time to plan and get built, whereas the highway projects are farther down the pipeline. That's what I hear from SANDAG officials. We'd love to snap our fingers and make everything happen tomorrow but we just can't. That's something that the environmental plaintiffs understand.
KEATTS: Yeah, they do. And what they say, they point to LA, and they say look what's been able to happen in terms of fast-tracking these transit projects that take so long if you get strong leadership from a major political leader from somebody like the mayor in LA who's been able to make some headway. And they think maybe, and I wrote a story about this story today, maybe with Bob Filner now as mayor of San Diego who represents 40% of the votes for SANDAG, maybe that's going to give some. The momentum that's needed to speed up these transit projects.
FUDGE: Okay. Well, it'll be interesting to see what happens by the end of the day. I think you said that the SANDAG board is right now meeting to discuss how they're going to respond to this judge's ruling.
FUDGE: Move onto a new subject, Tom Coburn, a Republican Senator of Oklahoma is a frequent critic of homeland security spending. And he found a story that must have -- he must have just loved to hate. A group of first responders in San Diego were using some homeland security money to train to respond to a zombie attack! And that wasn't the only alleged money-waster in San Diego that was mentioned in Coburn's report. We're going to go to Eric Wolff of UT San Diego to talk about this one. Eric, as I said, Coburn singled out a number of San Diego projects but first you got to tell us about the zombie attack. What was that?
WOLFF: So in order to understand what's happening there, you have to understand what Coburn's big problem is. He was looking at this program that spent $7 billion since 2003. It's a program that has ballooned over those years as people would expect in Washington. Somebody discovers there's money to be had, they want some of it. Of so it started off in San Diego as one of seven cities deemed for this antiterrorism money, then it ballooned up to 56 and got whittled down to 51. Coburn decided to look into how that money was being spent. And he found a lot of ridiculous examples. Three or four of them were in San Diego. So we kept popping up in this report. The zombie one of his favorite, it's our favorite, it's the funniest by far. There was a conference in mission bay for first responders, a 5-day antiterrorism conference. And first responders got their $1,000 fee paid for by this homeland security money. On Halloween, the last day, a demonstration was done by another San Diego company, they did a simulation of a zombie attack. It was designed to show what it would be like for -- in a stressful situation, they had 40 actors, Hollywood style match-up and effects, and it looked pretty amazing if you watch the video. But Halo corporation which put on the conference says no homeland security money was spent on the demonstration. Strategic separations was a sponsor, they paid for it themselves. But $1,000 for each first responder from homeland security paid for the conference. They argue it simulates a stressful situation. Senator Coburn would agree with you it's probably not something we need to worry too much about.
FUDGE: It sounds like they're just saying hey, we have a sense of humor, so we made them into zombies, but they could have been members of Al-Qaeda.
WOLFF: That's their imposition.
GUSTAFSON: Were they more the fast-moving 28 days later variety or the slow-moving walking dead variety?
FUDGE: They were moving pretty slow, the undead were.
WOLFF: They were slow zombies. And the effects were pretty good. They had victims there, you could see all the blood and gore. It was definitely more of the old-school zombie style.
FUDGE: Well, tell us a little bit, Eric, about some of the other things that were mentioned. There was talk of big-screen TVs and all that.
WOLFF: Some of these things weren't actually in the report. They're just other examples that we found looking through the archives. They called out the use of another -- San Diego keeps coming up, there is a San Diego company called Elride Corp, long-range acoustic devices. The company says they're just a really good way to communicate, they project more clearly than a bullhorn. The San Diego sheriff's office has one of these, other departments have these things. The Coburn report says you don't need these things for antiterrorism exercises. And you could probably make a point. Communicating with crowds during terrorist attacks might not be necessary. Not in the report. But in our archives we found money that the City of San Diego spent on cameras for use by lifeguards. Is that really an antiterrorism expenditure? Not sure. They weren't all as completely ridiculous as zombies, just things they're saying, maybe you need this stuff, but is it terrorism money? Is that really what you're using it for?
FUDGE: It sounds like San Diego is the recipient of quite a bit of this homeland security money.
WOLFF: It ends up being $134 million over the years. And that makes sense, we have a lot of military installations, we're near a nuclear facility. At one point, mayor Sanders was concerned that our risk wasn't being taken seriously enough. And he was lobbying homeland security to move us to a tier-1 terrorism risk. He wanted us to get a lot more money.
FUDGE: But San Diego is considered terroristic risk because of big Navy presence, our location on the Mexican border, all these things we've heard before I guess?
WOLFF: Oh, yeah. Sure. I don't think too many people would argue that we should be prepared for a potential terrorist attack. There are reasons that a terrorist might want to do something here. I think Senator Coburn would say, you know what? It could be anywhere. We can't just spend money endlessly to protect against the possibility of something anywhere. And he was also looking at things in Arizona and I think Peoria, something at the San Diego Padres training facility in Arizona, which is in a small town. They put up big barriers against a terrorist attack.
FUDGE: Now, it's possible that you've told your best story, the zombie attack. I don't think there's anything that tops that. But I guess in this Coburn report, there were other examples of wasted money in smaller California communities. What were they? Bakers field, Oxnard.
WOLFF: Some of these communities were spending money on armored vehicles. Other communities were cited for having long-range acoustical devices. It really just comes back to the same thing where Coburn was saying these may or may not be useful, but they're not needed to prevent terrorism. Coburn has an agenda. He wanted to spend les money in the department of homeland security for a while. He is likely to become the chairman of a key committee or other ranking member on a key committee that manages homeland security money. So this is a big issue for him. This report took him a year or two to put together. He was trying to get information, ammunition for this fight.
JENKINS: It seems like it's stealing material from the onion. There was one, I think it was Clovis where some armored vehicle was deployed to surveil an Easter egg hunt?
WOLFF: Right, yeah.
JENKINS: This is great material for comedy writers. But surely something important is being done by this department. And I would assume that Coburn would agree.
WOLFF: Yeah, I mean, he's looking for ways to shrink the budget. Obviously $7 billion -- well, we hope $7 billion was not wasted. Of we know San Diego probably spent some of that money on things that we really needed. And he did all this research, talking to all these law enforcement community, and he's going to write in the report his favorite ones. That's why the zombie one got the pictures, and it had a video, and he mentioned the Easter egg hunt of the that's what he's going to talk about on the Senate floor.
FUDGE: This is obviously part of his agenda, but is he just a gadfly or are there real questions about spending and accountability at homeland security?
WOLFF: He made another good point. I thought his point about the bloat in the program was valid. Going from seven cities at risk up to 56 at one point before they cut it down. Not all those cities were really in that much danger or in anymore danger than the other thousand cities.
FUDGE: Is there any indication that homeland security is looking into any of these allegations about wasted money?
WOLFF: They responded saying we think this money was all spent appropriately. But I was going to say, this particular program was managed by FEMA. And he said, look, FEMA doesn't even have a system for accounting for how well this money is spent. They just hand it out there is no mechanism in place for auditing what did you do with this money, is it a good use of the money, and I doubt any taxpayer would object to them having some way of checking up and following up on how the money was used.
FUDGE: And have we heard any responses from local officials, the sheriff for instance of San Diego? Has he responded to this?
WOLFF: I did get a call from the spokeswoman from the sheriff today who wanted to point out that they spend $31,000 on the Elride, that they did not spend any money on armored vehicles, but that's as far as they went.
FUDGE: San Diego now has a new mayor, and a new City Council president who sets the agenda for the council. And council president Todd Gloria jumped right in with a plan to fix and update San Diego's infrastructure. That's going to be the next subject we're going to be talking about here on the Roundtable. Joining me to talk about that will be Craig Gustafson. What's the problem and what does Gloria want to do about it?
GUSTAFSON: The problem is the city has been in financial woes for about a decade now following the pension scandal. So the city has not been able to -- was not able to borrow money for a certain amount of time. So a lot of projects have built up. Fixing fire stations, libraries, street repair, potholes, storm drains, sewer system, stuff like that. And the total is about $900 million and a backlog of projects. Of what everybody would love to do at City Hall is address this and address it quickly. But the problem is, there's no money. And so Todd Gloria, the new City Council president in his inauguration speech for his second term on Monday suggested doing a ballot measure to address this. For specific projects listed, people would know what the money is going to go to. Two years ago they asked for more money from taxpayers and got rejected because it was a general tax increase that could have gone to anything, and a lot of people thought it would go to pensions! So Gloria wants a specific ballot measure that will have a list of projects, and he's shooting for the 2014 November election. So his idea is to have a 2-year plan. To go to the neighborhoods and ask the planning groups and community groups, here's the projects in your area that we think need to be done, which ones do you think should be prioritized? And once they get a list, they'll bring it back to City Hall, and the City Council and mayor will try to figure out how to pay for it.
FUDGE: If you go to the voters with a list, if you say this is specifically how the money is going to be spent, does it need to pass by a simple majority or 2/3?
GUSTAFSON: It needs a 2/3 majority. And San Diego, there's a history with TransNet, for example, for transportation projects. That was a 2/3 vote. The school bonds have been 2/3 vote. Last month there was one that passed. It was a long list of specific projects. So that would be the idea.
FUDGE: Draw us a picture of the infrastructure problem. Is it -- are we talking about potholes? Are we talking about new libraries that haven't been built?
GUSTAFSON: All of those. Obviously the most visible one is pothole, and that's the one everybody brings up because everybody drives down their sees and sees the pockmarks everywhere. And then the city is down a number of fire stations. Yesterday the fire chief said we need 10 new fire stations to cover the coverage gaps that we have in San Diego so we can get our response times to national standards. And obviously new libraries should be built, and old ones should be fixed up. There's a long list of projects. 9 hundred million that need to be done.
FUDGE: I know is this kind of a new issue, and I don't know how much time you spent talking to Todd Gloria about this, but what makes him believe that San Diegans would be ready to fund a sales tax increase?
GUSTAFSON: Well, he said that a lot has changed over the last two years since the city saw the sales tax increase, and it was shot down by the voters. You've had pension reform passed by the voters in June, and the city has tightened its belt in several areas. So he believes that with those changes, there's a renewed confidence in City Hall. That mayor Sanders has left a structurally budget for Bob Filner to move forward with. So he thinks that there's a new confidence in City Hall as opposed to five, six years ago.
FUDGE: You say that Gloria compares this to the TransNet vote of a few years back. Some people also compare it to an infrastructure bond that I guess was passed in Phoenix, Arizona. Is that a fair comparison?
GUSTAFSON: Yeah, so the model -- what he wants to do is to model after what they did in Phoenix and San Antonio. It's going to be a 2-year process aimed at November 2014. You would start in the neighborhoods saying -- some people call this bribing neighborhoods to support a ballot. But you go to them and say what do you guys want? Then from all the neighborhoods around San Diego, they're all going to get a little something out of the pie. They're going to have a visible representation of what they're going to get if this thing passes. Then you build up from there. And then you go to the City Council and you say what can we afford to pay for, which is probably not very much, and then you say do we want to borrow money or do we want to go for a tax increase and put it on the ballot?
FUDGE: And I'm sorry, is that what they did in Phoenix?
GUSTAFSON: In Phoenix they did go to the ballot. But it was just a continuation a text that is already existing.
FUDGE: And I guess Phoenix didn't have quite the reputation that San Diego had.
GUSTAFSON: But they asked for roughly $900 million and they got it. Research Eric?
WOLFF: It's fascinating to me that people refer to providing services to neighborhoods as bribing neighborhoods. This is what they're supposed to do. Finding out what communities need, and fixing potholes. I have to admit some skepticism on his remark that he thinks this will pass. Probably people do have some more confidence in the city, but he may be looking at this most recent election which was a really liberal electorate. The Obama electorates have so far been super liberal, approved a number of tax increases. But over year elections, a general off year election I don't think tell be quite as liberal.
GUSTAFSON: And he said it could be 2014 or 2016 which obviously would be another presidential election year.
FUDGE: Waysod Eric's thinking, that would be a better bet.
GUSTAFSON: But how long do you want to wait though? Do you want to wait another four years and have it be $1.5 billion?
WOLFF: And Gloria will be done. He'd get it passed and then be out of office.
FUDGE: But then he'd run for something else.
[ LAUGHTER ]
KEATTS: Well, the actual mechanism through which all these neighborhood wish lists would be compiled would be through the community plan updates as they're called. Which is a really interesting aspect here because you've got developers all over the city who have these desired projects that they can't get approved because they don't fit into the zoning requirements that are in each community plan. And so they're trying to get it approved, what they would rather see is an entire community plan update which would allow the neighborhoods to say we'll take on this increased density with multihousing unit fist exchange for better roads, parks, all these things that have built up that we have this backlog about. The issue is there's 52 community plan, I believe, and updating each of those costs about $1 million to $3 million. So you're looking at $100 million just for that part before you even talk about putting a shovel in the ground. So that's a cynical way to describe it because I think we do need to update these community plan, and a lot of the development that the city needs isn't going to happen without it. But I could easily imagine people like TJ Zang who's already in your story saying it's outlandish to ask for this tax increase to spend a lot of time villainizing the process and saying these guys want to spend ones of millions of your dollars just updating code before we even talk about this. And they want $900 million. I think the way that plays out will be interesting because the community plan update is a functional way to get these things done, but you need buy-in.
FUDGE: Catherine, you're on the Roundtable.
NEW SPEAKER: Hi, I'm just going to read something from Todd Gloria's website. When San Diego County voters approved the extension of the TransNet half cent sales tax in November 2004, the measure included a requirement for the SANDAG Board of Directors to act on additional regional spending measures, a ballot measure, and or other secure funding commitments to meet the long-term requirements for implementing habitat conservation plans in the San Diego area. And its current deadline was November 2012. So by the 2004 law, SANDAG was actually required to put something on the ballot. They did extend the deadline two times, but this time they didn't even extend the deadline. So right now, they're basically out of compliance with their own laws.
FUDGE: Okay. Catherine, are you making a point about infrastructure or the RTP?
NEW SPEAKER: I'm making a point about how to actually pay for a lot of these things, even all the different things in San Diego with the sustainability communities and greenhouse gas reduction, we could actually get a lot of funding through not the City of San Diego putting forward a sales tax, but TransNet putting forward the sales tax like they were supposed to do in 2004. So it's kind of like their job to put this through.
NEW SPEAKER: So it wouldn't be the City of San Diego just saying for the city people. It would be a regional thing that has to be pushed by SANDAG because this is what they promised they would do.
FUDGE: Okay, well, Catherine thank you very much. I'm not quite sure how to respond to that because TransNet is for transportation and here Craig we're talking about infrastructure and all sorts of different ways.
GUSTAFSON: Clearly Todd Gloria wants a ballot initiate that was just address the City of San Diego's infrastructure backlog. And what she was suggesting there was more along the lines of something SANDAG would do.
FUDGE: Now, isn't Todd Gloria trying to juice this up sort of by saying that streets are sexy? He's got a motto for this. And I don't know if you get that excited about infrastructure, but what's your reaction?
JENKINS: I get excited about sexy, I guess.
[ LAUGHTER ]
JENKINS: This is great. You come up with a slogan first and a way of getting it done second. But Craig, I'd be interested to know what came out of the campaign in this regard? What is mayor Filner bringing to this? He's not exactly going to say, gee, I'm signing onto everything Todd says?
FUDGE: Well, he hasn't committed it, has he?
GUSTAFSON: Not on this specific proposal. And the actual response was no comment. During the campaign, his whole campaign was based on helping out the neighborhoods, putting the neighborhoods first over a downtown special interest, the evil empire. And this would be right up his alley, I would imagine. This is something I'm sure he's going to support down the line. I guess it just depends on how quickly and how much political capital he wants to spend on something that may be on the ballot two years from now.
KEATTS: The decision isn't necessarily whether he wants these things but where he wants to in his first week in office put his name on something with the potential word "tax in across."
WOLFF: But he did, right? He put his name on it.
KEATTS: Todd Gloria did.
WOLFF: Oh, you mean Filner.
[ LAUGHTER ]
FUDGE: What do we think about Todd Gloria by the way? It's surprising he is City Council president because we didn't expect Tony Young to take a job at the Red Cross.
GUSTAFSON: It's not so much a surprise that Gloria is the president now given the fact that Young is gone. But it was a surprise Young decided to step down. But Todd is a rising star in the Democratic Party. Of he's 34 years old, the second youngest council member. And he's probably the best public speaker on the City Council. People love the guy. His district, nobody even challenged him in the last June in the election. And I think he's going to be a mover and shaker at City Hall. And the first thing he did was say, hey, maybe we should do a tax increase and put something on the ballot to address this infrastructure. He said I want to start a discussion about this. There's no debate, he said, that the city needs to address its infrastructure in a big way. The only question is how do you do it? And is a tax increase appropriate?
FUDGE: He said he wanted to start a discussion. There was a person I think in one of your stories who described this as a trial balloon. Is that a fair statement?
GUSTAFSON: Yeah, you say something in an inaugural speech to get attention. I remember standing there, and as soon as he said it, everybody was, like, oh, that's something new. Let's write that down. Everybody else was just talking in platitudes and saying nothing. And Todd goes up there and says something substantive.
KEATTS: I think another interesting element of what's going on here, some of the groups in town who you would expect to be against this sort of thing, Andrew Pote with the EDC, if that sort of thing starts happening, then the prospects of this going through become a lot brighter. If it's the traditional liberal elements of the city pushing for this, then chances are pretty bad for it unless maybe 2016. If you get by from the Chamber of Commerce, downtown partnership, those sorts ever people who make these things happen in the city, that's when Gloria's proposal really gets going.
>> And that is exactly what's happening. This didn't start with Todd Gloria. This is him spurring it along. Andrew poet who used to be a City Hall bureaucrat, this is his baby. Everybody I talked to about this said you need to talk to Andrew because he's the one that's pushing this behind the scenes. And I talked to him, and like you said, he said the model is Phoenix and San Antonio. They've done these things to get neighborhood buy-in over a long period of time. And you get people invested in this thing, and that's the way you can get a 2/3 vote for potentially a tax increase.
WOLFF: It feels to me, I know I expressed skepticism before, but if presented right, it seems like there's something in this for everyone. We're talking about $900 million. So far contractors are going to want to get a piece of that in, builders might have a chance at some of that money, chamber members might have a chance at some of that money. If presented well, it could be something that all of those groups would get behind.
GUSTAFSON: And that's really the only way you get there.
WOLFF: And if there was one San Diego official I would pick to lead this charge, it really would be Todd Gloria.
FUDGE: And finally, when a reporter is working on a story, the editor always says how are you going to follow up? This is something that might not happen for two year, four years. But what's kind. The next step for Todd Gloria at least?
GUSTAFSON: Well, I think he needs to put his words into action. How are you going to address the neighborhoods' concerns and put their priorities first? That's the plan, to get neighborhood investment in it. So like Andrew was talking about earlier, are you going to start updating these community plans which say costly endeavor? Then you can seriously start talking about a ballot measure and possibly a tax increase maybe toward the end of 2013, early 2014.
FUDGE: The United States Supreme Court will take up California's ban on same-sex marriage. The justices just announced that they will review a federal appeals ruling that struck down prop 8. The Court by the way also said it will hear challenges to the federal defense of marriage act. So it looks like gay marriage is going before the nation's highest court. We'll chat about this a little bit toward the end of the show.
Well, Jim Wood is still mayor of Oceanside. He was just reelected. While he's a popular mayor, it's a weak mayor system that he's ruling in, and he's had to deal with a very cantankerous Republican council majority that has given him fits, even though he is also a Republican. Logan is going to talk about what's been going on since the election. I guess the council, how has City Hall in Oceanside become enemy territory for mayor wood?
JENKINS: Well, Oceanside has always had a bitterly partisan politics. And that partisanship didn't change with the last election. If anything, it aggravated it. As you mentioned, Wood won by a wide margin, something like 24 points over Jerry kern who was challenging him. So most people 52 say, well, elections have consequences. In this instance, Wood's power is radically reduced if the three council men who make up the majority are able to strip him of the ability to name himself as the SANDAG representative.
FUDGE: And there may not be a lot of perks that come with being the mayor of Oceanside
JENKINS: Virtually none!
FUDGE: But that is you get to appoint yourself, or so we thought, to the board of SANDAG. What's going to happen with that? Or what may happen with that?
JENKINS: One of the big campaign issues was local arterials, specifically Melrose, and a highway connection that's been highly disputed. So Wood is seen as someone who is an opponent to those improvements. The three councilmen who are opposing him, the majority, believe that he has been a road destroyer, not a road builder, which is their phrase. And so they feel that they have a kind of mandate to get him off SANDAG and get some of those road projects approved. Wood would push back hard saying he has the popularity. He and his partner on the council, ester Sanchez, are far and away at least this election cycle the most popular politicians in Oceanside. Yet they form a minority.
FUDGE: And yet they're a minority. And now Councilwoman Sanchez is a Democrat.
JENKINS: She is. And Wood is a Republican. He's not really in the favor of the local Republican Party. He's widely derided as a RINO. The other three are pretty staunch Republicans. Pro-business. Wood on the other hand represents the neighborhoods, mobile home parks, and the public unions in the past.
FUDGE: And if you think we're talking about animals, a RINO is a Republican in Name Only.
FUDGE: You were talking a little bit about how Jim would respond to any effort to kick him off the SANDAG board.
JENKINS: His first response was I'll sue ya! And he threatened to at public expense retain an attorney to challenge the majority's right to take away his responsibility regarding boards. It's unclear what his position is right now. He's backed off a bit, saying he's going to consult with the state attorney challenge. But he did use the R-word. He's saying that there was the likelihood that a recall would be mounted if he was stripped of his role in SANDAG.
FUDGE: A recall. And we find a few of those going on in Oceanside, right?
JENKINS: Oceanside politics are a blood sport. And recall is one of the major knives that's used. There was one in 2009 that was against -- targeted Kern, and that was another attempt by the neighborhood groups and unions to get a majority on the council. It failed. Ken won decisively. And I think people don't really like recalls. So it's really unclear in my mind whether a recall would actually make it to the ballot. But it's still there as a possibility.
FUDGE: I can't remember if you told us whether this action has taken place. Has the Republican majority taken steps to deny Wood the ability to assign himself to SANDAG?
JENKINS: They voted on it last week, an initial vote, there's another vote that's coming up. And if it were to go into effect, they would be able to put their person on SANDAG in the middle of January, and to them that's important because that's when a lot of these subcommittees are formed, having to do with local road projects.
FUDGE: And Andy KEATTS, since you cover SANDAG, how significant would it be that a person from Oceanside is going to be pro-highway as opposed to anti-highway?
KEATTS: It would make a difference. There's no question. We got into this a little bit before, but the way SANDAG voting works is you have to have a majority in two ways. You have a simple tally majority out of the 20 votes that are there. Then there's also weighted votes based on the population. Each of the member jurisdictions. And Oceanside I think has the third highest weighted vote total. So they get 5% ever all of those votes. So it makes a difference. It definitely matters.
FUDGE: And in terms of Oceanside politics, this is an interesting situation. You have a very popular mayor who happens to be a very moderate Republican, but then he's opposed by a council majority that is conservative Republican. What does the makeup of City Hall say about Oceanside, some of the demographics and the politics of the city and how they're changing?
JENKINS: Well, I think if Wood had been able to work with a candidate that was better positioned, he might have been able to get a majority. They actually had two candidates that were doing some vote-splitting among the Wood vote. So I think this was their great opportunity to get a majority. And they just didn't -- they didn't make the right political calculations to get that done.
FUDGE: Okay. Before we run out of time, very briefly let's go around the table on the subject of proposition 8. It's going to the U.S. Supreme Court. Andy? What does that say to you?
KEATTS: Well, it's interesting, obviously the Supreme Court's ruling will be a legal one, not a political one. But what I think is interesting is proposition 8 was four years ago, and I think during that time it's a fair question of whether we've reached a sort of tipping point after what we just saw in Washington, Minnesota, and Maryland. And if that sort of changed, it's happening across the country, comes into play now, it might matter that the sport is hearing it today as opposed to two or three years ago.
WOLFF: I completely agree. What you often see in Supreme Court history, they don't typically lead. They typically follow. It's happened with civil rights and some other key decisions. The country will be already shifting. I think with row V. Wade, there was a shift in what some of the states were doing with their abortion policies and other cases. In this case, it's not clear whether we've definitely reached the tipping point, but it's definitely shifting. Not just the three state, but we have had a number of court decision, a few legislatures legalize gay marriage.
GUSTAFSON: National poling.
WOLFF: Yeah, and they may decide. There's a five-4 majority, but Kennedy and the chief justice could both go the other way.
FUDGE: Although 30 states have banned gay marriage. It would be a tremendous decision by them, a very dramatic decision if they actually said no, all those laws are going to be knocked down. Craig?
GUSTAFSON: From a different perspective, from a reporter's perspective, and I've covered in 2008, when marriage was legal in California, you can talk to people about these stories endlessly about, and they're going to say the same exact thing. So it'll be great to just have the Supreme Court decide, and we'll just move on. Let's have a legal decision to put a nail in this thing and decide once and for all.
FUDGE: Okay. Well, Logan? 10 seconds on prop 8?
JENKINS: It will not put a nail on it.
[ LAUGHTER ]
JENKINS: Especially if they find not in favor of same-sex marriage. Because that's going to happen. And that'll be the ultimate question. Does the Supreme Court slow the march of history? Or does it open the door and let it go?