Roundtable: Guns, City Budget, Redevelopment, Homelessness, UC & East County Images
December 21, 2012 1:56 p.m.
Katie Orr, KPBS Metro Reporter
Roger Showley, U-T San Diego
Kelly Bennett, voiceofsandiego
Matt Hall, U-T San Diego
SAUER: It's Friday, December 21st. Good afternoon, and thanks for joining us. I'm Mark Sauer. My guests today are Katie Orr, metro reporter for KPBS. Hi, Katie.
ORR: Hi, Mark.
SAUER: Kelly Bennett, reporter for voice of San Diego.
BENNETT: Hi, Mark.
SAUER: Matt Hall, columnist for UT San Diego.
HALL: Good to see you.
SAUER: And Roger Showley who covers growth and development for UT San Diego.
SHOWLEY: Hi, Mark.
SAUER: Join our conversation with a question or comment. 1-888-895-5727. Today marks the fifth straight year that San Diego police and sheriff's deputies are offering gift cards for gun, no questions asked. Katie Orr was out covering the event. With the tragedy last Friday in Connecticut and the national gun policy debate launched by President Obama, it seems to put this year's gun exchange event in a whole new light. Set the scene for us. Where is the exchange taking place, who's participate something
ORR: It took place in southeast San Diego off Euclid avenue at a community center. And really people came from all over the county to turn in these guns. You stay in your car, basically, sort of like a drive-thru, and the exchange started at 8:30. And cars were already lined up waiting to file through and turn in their guns. They tell police how many they have, whether or not they're loaded. They're told to have them unloaded, but they like to check. Then they file through and get their gift cards.
SAUER: And what's the idea?
ORR: The idea is just to get guns off of the streets. They were saying that it wasn't -- we certainly don't see a lot of hardened criminals driving through here and turning in their guns. What it is is a lot of people who might have shotguns left over. They say they get a lot of widows whose husbands have passed away, and they don't know what to do with these guns that the husband had kept. So they bring them in and turn them in that way.
SAUER: Just don't want them around the house.
ORR: Right. People who don't want these guns around the house for any reason. They don't know how to get rid of them. And the police say that it is beneficial because if these houses were ever to be robbed or anything like that, they wouldn't have these guns there. They can't fall into the hands of little kids who might be curious with them. So it's a good thing all around to get these guns off of the streets.
SAUER: How many last year?
ORR: About 200 guns a year on average. This goes till 1:00 this afternoon.
SAUER: So we're right in the middle of it.
ORR: So we'll call and get an update to see how many.
SAUER: And you learned there's been some surprising weapons turned in over the year.
ORR: Yeah, they were saying -- so I saw rifles and handguns today. That's what I saw. And I believe it was Debbie Baker from the UT had a picture of two handguns, automatic handguns that are actually illegal that were turned in. This is a no questions asked event. They don't check. The only thing they do is check to see if the gun is stolen, and if it is stolen, they'll contact the legal owner. But they don't look to see if it was in a crime or anything like that. But they say that in the past they have seen assistant police chief Boyd long told me two years ago, someone came in with a grenade. They had to clear everyone out.
SAUER: The bomb squad.
ORR: Right. Because it was a live grenade.
SAUER: Two gift cards for the grenade?
ORR: I didn't ask!
[ LAUGHTER ]
ORR: But they actually along those lines had to stop giving out gift cards on a per gun basis because the organizers said that people would bring in so many gun, people are collectors, have stockpiles of these things, and for whatever reason they can't trade them or sell them, they would bring in all these guns, and they were running out of gift cards. But people had, like, bazookas, things like that, things you would never need at your house. But collectors have these things.
SAUER: I don't imagine many residents need that bazooka. More on the gift cards in a minute. But the mental health issue has been a big part of the debate following the tragedy in Connecticut.
ORR: That's what the law enforcement people who were there were really emphasizing, the fact that so many of the crimes that they deal with involve people with mental illness. And he was talking about how the county jail is one of the biggest mental health providers in the entire county.
NEW SPEAKER: So the services they need, we can get them stabilized. About 30% of our inmates are on some type of psychotropeic drug. We get them stabilized, they go back out in the community, and they don't have these continuing services. That's one of the things we have to focus on.
ORR: And he was just saying you can do programs like this, you can get the guns off the street. But if you can't treat the people who need help, then it's just a cycle.
SAUER: Right. And we've been hearing quite a bit about that in the national debate this week on mental health and that whole element. Roger?
SHOWLEY: Well, this sounds very nice, but 200 guns to me is a token effort in this whole thing. I can imagine maybe 2,000 were bought this week in San Diego and many thousands more around the country in reaction to the tragedy last week. What more can be done than just voluntarily turning in your gun?
ORR: Well, that was a question they got a lot. And they were saying we know. It's 200 guns, again it's not from the hardened criminals who use them on a daily basis. But it's something. They were pressing the message that if we get one gun off the street, it means one less person will be shot, that's good with us. They were promising that within six months, they'll have more of these changes throughout the entire county. So if you have more, presumably you'll get more guns off the street. But I think that's a valid point. No one was saying this is a cure-all. It's just a way to try and address the problem. And it actually originated five years ago because two teens in southeast San Diego were murdered. And this was a way to be proactive, and let's at least try to get some of these guns off the street instead of just reacting.
SAUER: And tell us about the gift cards. Where does the money come from? $50 and $10,000?
ORR: Yeah, $50 for a handgun, $100 for a rifle. And the money comes from asset seizures. When the sheriff's department goes out and does a drug bust, they oftentimes come across large amounts of money, and they put that into a fund and use that to buy these gift cards.
SAUER: Why do it once a year? Why not have a standing offer? Or do they?
ORR: Well, I think this group does it once a year. But it sounded like they want to start expanding it. Because they have people who come from all over to drive down and turn in these guns. So they want to try and have one in the North County, east county, so we might be seeing these more frequently.
SAUER: Let's leave it there on the gun exchange program. We're going to shift to redevelopment or what's left of the redevelopment program.
SAUER: I'm Mark Sauer, my guests today are Roger Showley and Matt hall of UT San Diego, Kelly Bennett of voice of San Diego, and Katie Orr of KPBS news. Roger, your story this week provided details on the wet blanket that state officials are throwing on development plans here in San Diego. And before we get to the list of vetoed projects, remind us why the state finance department is making these decisions for us rather than our own redevelopment agency.
SHOWLEY: Well, this isn't as dramatic as gun control. But it's equally interesting a serious issue for San Diego and the rest of the state, and that is, how do we fix our broken neighborhoods, solve our infrastructure problems? And for 60 years, California has had redevelopment, which was diverting property taxes to improving neighborhoods, basically and promoting economic development. Last year Governor Brown said that has to stop. We need the money for state budgets. And the reason why there's a link is because under redevelopment, school district money was going to redevelopment, and the state was making up the difference every year, and this is coming to be a couple million dollars a year. So part of his plan for plugging the budget hole was to end redevelopment.
SAUER: So what did the state -- or I'm sorry, what did San Diego. The state to approve?
SHOWLEY: Well, in the running down of redevelopment, what money is left over, what obligations do you have? So San Diego had requested -- county wide it was $160 million for the next six months. This is a 6-month approval process, and only 45% of that was denied this week by the State Department of finance which has the final say.
SAUER: And some of the projects that got left out in the cold here, the site for the Chargers stadium was one, some bond payments.
SHOWLEY: Well, there was two partings to it. The San Diego City letter, one was the 6-month period they mentioned, and in that was an affordable housing project downtown that was just about to start. And they needed $22 million from redevelopment to makes up the balance. And the state said no, that contract was too late, and the city well, are it's your fault because you didn't approve the other money until after the deadlines. On the Chargers thing, the city created a list of about $4 billion in projects extending in the 2040s. And one of those was the proposed Chargers site in the east village.
ORR: And I remember covering that. The $4 billion wish list. And I think just the impression I got, everyone knew it was sort of a shot in the dark, right? Some of these projects didn't start for, like, 30 years or something. And they were just hoping that by putting them under some form of contract that it would count. And I can't imagine that anyone at the city is very surprised those projects got denied.
SHOWLEY: What struck me was not so much that it was denied, it's just that at the same time this is going on, we have the election and Todd Todd Gloria was appointed the chairman, president of the City Council, and first thing he said was we need $900 million in fixing our neighborhoods. And it's just not even counted in this $4 billion total. So you're talking about San Diego City alone, maybe $5 billion in needs over the next couple of generations. On top of that, all the other cities and the county itself. So I'm just guessing maybe $10 billion in infrastructure for the next 30 years, and we're talking about peanuts. So the bottom line of all of this is that California and local cities and counties have to come up better solutions for solving their infrastructure problems.
ORR: Have they begun discussing that? Or are they still just trying to get over the hump of not getting this money?
SHOWLEY: The city could tomorrow set society X amount of their budget and saying this is for infrastructure. They never do that. They take the money for special operation, and the infrastructure comes from special accounts like the water fund or the sewer fund. The city for many years has not addressed its infrastructure funding that way. So they will not get redevelopment back the way it was, and the thinking is that perhaps after all this is taken care of next year, Governor Brown might come back and say we'll lower the voting requirement to approval bonds, we'll make it easier to have taxing agencies and assessment districts. So my conclusion to that is taxes will go up somebody, sometime soon to do any of this if we're going to do it.
HALL: What's interesting about this politically, this isn't a surprise to anyone. But it's happening at a time when we have a new mayor and council president in San Diego. So it'll be to see how they handle this, what their approaches are. Jerry Sanders was in office, knew this was coming. Now it's not his problem anymore.
SHOWLEY: Well, I guess the answer to that is that Filner is a Democrat, governor Brown is a Democrat, the Democrats control the legislature and the City Council. If you have Filner making a case, we need your help, perhaps Sacramento will come forward. Of I think the bottom line of that though is that the state looks out for its concerns before it looks after anything local. Of so it'll always be the state priorities ahead of the local.
BENNETT: And won't some of the money that would otherwise be going to redevelopment be coming back to San Diego in some form, whether it's to schools or other state or county budgets in San Diego?
SHOWLEY: Well, the hidden secret of all this is the schools don't get a penny more in money from this redevelopment shifting. It's just replacing state money with property taxes. The City of San Diego as an example gets about $17 million back, but it was getting before $80 million or $125 million from redevelopment every year. And all that $17 million that we got back last year was thrown into the general fund for the city, are not a penny as far as I know went into infrastructure.
ORR: And it comes at a time too when the city is going to have to deal with the cost of implementing prop B, it's going to have to deal with any losses because of proposition A which bans project labor agreements, and the state has said it will not give contracts to cities with these PLA bans. So that is a huge loss of money for San Diego as well. It's an interesting juxtaposition of we had Sanders in saying we have this surplus, I fixed the structural budget, everything's good. And then we have Filner coming in saying from my point of view, that's not true.
SHOWLEY: And the time thing to all this is that for the last 30 or 40 years, it's been downtown San Diego that's got the lion's share of redevelopment money for the reason that redevelopment was site-specific to Zip Codes, basically. Under this new arrangement, it's a citywide situation. So the city is now responsible for looking at all those redevelopment project areas and saying what are our priorities, what are we going to spend? Creative minds need to come forward and come up with some plan. But there's no free money.
HALL: And that's interesting too. Of getting back to the point of the politics, Bob Filner was elected talking about neighborhoods and the importance of neighborhoods over downtown special interests. This happens at a good time, frankly, because we can have a candid conversation about what we need as a city and a region. And are sidewalk improvements more important than a stadium?
ORR: I did a story once on how redevelopment is not universally successful. It's been very successful in downtown San Diego. But for instance, the college area is a redevelopment zone. And it has not been successful. There are a lot of projects they planned that just did not get off the ground. The money raised in that area has to stay in that area. So you can't spread it out around the city. And maybe that's something they'll have to look at if it ever does come back.
SAUER: Nicholas wants to join us. Oh, I'm sorry, the caller is not there. Katie, how much of those redevelopment funds is San Diego on the hook for that the city wasn't planning to have to pay for?
ORR: Now they have to take over the $11 million annual payment for at the time co park, and $3 million a year for the Convention Center, the second expansion of the Convention Center. So about $14 million. But Jay Goldstone said mayor Sanders anticipated that and worked it into the budget. So they are saying that is not an unexpected cost.
SHOWLEY: And as I mentioned earlier, the state did approve a lot of money, $73 million county wide for all these agencies to continue some of their project, not just in San Diego but other places. And many of them are simply contracts, bond payments and things that are obligations. The question is these longer term agreements. Cooperation agreements, are they going to go forward and make a case of that? This was done statewide.
ORR: Did San Diego, do you think, do everything right and got as much money as it could? How did it compare to other cities in the county?
SHOWLEY: I don't know about whether they could have done any better. Their timing -- I think people who follow this would point out that they were caught in a bind because the legislature passed two laws in 2011. Of then they made the mistake of appealing to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court overturned one of them that would have saved redevelopment. So they kind of cooked their own goose on this whole thing a year ago, and they have been stuck with it ever since. I'm sure they're kicking themselves for being litigious beings.
SAUER: Have we lost a year? Have we spun our wheels and boxed ourselves in in terms of time?
SHOWLEY: Now it's as Matt said, a giant political problem out there because the state has its priorities, the city -- there's no money left over. The schools don't get anymore money. So it's going to be a big fat mess.
[ LAUGHTER ]
SAUER: These redevelopment funds aren't the only hit to the budget, right? Tell us about the news delivered by mayor Filner and Jay Goldstone about the cost of pension contributions.
ORR: They believe it's going to cost about $27 million to implement Proposition B. That is the proposition that voters approved in June that switches now city employees, excluding police officers, switching from a pension to a 401K. Everyone knew there would be costs associated with making this change. You have to basically speed up your pension payments to close out the program sooner, and it was just a question of how much. And it looks like it's going to be $27 million on top of our normal pension payment, which is I think about $230 million next year. So that is going to create with the redevelopment issues, about a $41 million extra payment. Bob Filner called it a deficit, that we're going to be facing because of these extra payments.
SAUER: It gets confusing to the public, does it not?
ORR: It's confusing to me.
[ LAUGHTER ]
SAUER: And you guys follow it all the time! Mayor Sanders was saying things are hunky-dory. We've got this surplus going forward, then we hear, no, we don't. Then there's pensions and redevelopment! What does the average person think?
ORR: The thing is, I believe SDSERS, the pension system will know its final numbers in January. That's when they'll have a more decisive figure for the city. Now they're just kind of going off of scenarios. Before Filner took over, mayer Sanders said we had a surplus, and the independent budget analyst came out and said no, we don't, we're going to have multi-million dollar deficits. Things could definitely shift and change as we get the final numbers in. If you talk to a lot of people at City Hall, it seems like can they're saying you look at these budget numbers depending on, I don't know, what you want the message to be.
SAUER: Which glasses do you have when you're looking at them?
HALL: This is clearly political. Jerry Sanders is leaving office, Bob Filner is coming into office. Sanders wants to say everything is great, I'm the best mayor ever. And Filner wants to say, wait a second here, are the budget is not hunky-dory. There's still some major issues out there budgeting is as much a science as an art. You can craft it and explain it in different ways. Bob Filner has I think all of the city labor contracts to start discussing soon and to put into play later next year. So that is something too. He was elected with the help of labor and announced in his first speech that labor is a friend of mine. So we'll find out what that means.
SAUER: How friendly they are.
BENNETT: I trickier position to be in might be that of Todd Gloria's, who was with the mayor in saying mission accomplished, we balanced the budget, the days of library cuts are over, I'm excited to bring all these new services to the neighborhoods. Now he's in this new position of leadership on the City Council facing the same shifting budget, huge hole for next year, the new payments that the city will have to pay. And he's got to come back to constituents and to a greater number of them who look at him as a new representative of downtown, and a bunch of other responsibilities as council president. And oh, it's not as good as I thought.
ORR: And he's already clashed with Bob Filner. He doesn't want to take that money from the liability fund and put it toward public safety. That was Filner's first big press conference as mayor, he was going to take that money from the SDG&E settlement and put it toward public safety. And Todd Gloria said no! We're going to keep that money in there. It'll be interesting to see how they interact with each other. Bob Filner through his whole campaign was neighborhoods first, now he's telling people neighborhoods first, but your pothole might not get filled as quickly as you want it to. So he's sort of tempering the expectations that he set out there.
SAUER: Political complains and political reality.
SHOWLEY: A couple things, one is the shift of 401Ks and the $20 million premium they'll have to spend on that.
SHOWLEY: And secondly, Filner's idea of a bond issue to kind of charge the pensions toward a long-term payment.
ORR: Oh, yeah, the pension obligation bonds.
ORR: He has abandoned that issue now. He says that prop B is passed and he will implement it.
SHOWLEY: Is that true though?
ORR: I don't know. He has not talked a lot about that since the campaign. It was sort of an idea he floated and then it kind of went away.
SHOWLEY: And the employees I guess, like all of us, we're waiting for salary increases, and they haven't had one for several years, and I suppose he would like to give the employees some payback of a little bit more in their pockets.
ORR: And that's a fight I believe they're having right now, the 5-year pensionable pay. That's a big component of Proposition B. The current employees wouldn't get pay raises for five years, and the unions are not huge fans of that.
SAUER: Are there anymore budgetary surprises coming our way?
ORR: Yeah, well, proposition A could be a huge hit to the city.
SAUER: Tell us about that.
ORR: Proposition A bans project labor agreements in the City of San Diego, meaning the city couldn't get into any of those projects. And state says we won't give you any business because 've that.
SAUER: We've got a caller, Mark Wyland.
NEW SPEAKER: Hi, I think you're talking about some really important issues. The first one on redevelopment was a very, very difficult -- for everyone in the legislature. And as I recall, there were several Democrats who didn't want to take that money. And Republicans, a few, thought it was wasteful. So the genesis of that was simply to get the state more money. And I think the underlying issue with all of these things is how do we grow this economic in California? And that's the issue that we're going to have to address.
SAUER: Right, well, thanks very much. I appreciate the call. We're going to have to wrap it up there on redevelopment. Thanks for that robust discussion.
SAUER: Welcome back to the Roundtable. My guests are Matt hall and Roger Showley of UT San Diego, Kelly Bennett of voice of San Diego, and Katie Orr of KPBS news. More than 1,000 people live on the streets of downtown San Diego at various times. Not surprisingly, it's the largest concentration of homeless in the county. Bob Filner and Todd Gloria are pledging to end homelessness downtown. They're joined by a business group, the downtown San Diego partnership. You're doing a series, Kelly, on homelessness in San Diego. Why don't you start by telling us about Liz Hirsch.
BENNETT: When we told our readers we were going to start this look at homelessness in San Diego and kind of focus for several weeks at least, we heard from a woman named Liz Hirsch, she's newly homeless, living in normal heights and had been laid off a couple years ago. Had unemployment for a couple of years that covered her rent for her apartment, then stayed with friends and family, and went through the options she had there. And right when she e-mailed me, she was a couple of nights away from sleeping in a shelter for the first time. She's been sleeping in hotels where is she can find them, for $45 a night. Everything has been getting to the bottom of the money that she has, and over the weekend, last weekend, she slept in the rescue mission for the first time. So we've got this mole into homelessness who's been sharing with us a really compelling story of somebody who is 58 years old who has lived in San Diego for a number of years, has been a regular at the Starbucks in normal heights there at 33rd and Fulton, I think it is. And just tells a really interesting story of somebody who says I would be working if I could. She's on Craigslist all the time looking for odd jobs here and there, but she hasn't been able to find anything.
SAUER: Sounds like a fairly unfortunately normal story for millions of people in this terrible downturn we've been going through, and you're putting a face on it. So her situation is maybe not typical of the homeless downtown.
BENNETT: It's a really complicated population, believe on. Just like any population, there's as many stories as there are people. In her case, she represents a portion of the homeless population in San Diego, I think who have run out of work, have run out of their unemployment, whatever benefit or help they can get from family and friends and are relying on these services that are most often provided by nonprofits or a mix of nonprofit and government funding. There's also people living on the streets who have mental health issue, drug and alcohol dependency issues, all the manner of family complications that mean that they're not in touch with the people who might be able to help them. But every single one of those stories is different. And a lot of them are pretty complicated. So it's difficult to paint at these politicians have been doing this population with a broad brush, especially to say we're going to do something as audacious or maybe overstating it --
SAUER: Overall ambitious to say we're going to end it.
SHOWLEY: Homelessness has been with us forever, really.
SHOWLEY: And the face of it has changed, but the problem remains. And I wonder whether we're going at it the right way. Under redevelopment, they were hoping to build another transitional shelters so there'd be this stepladder approach to solving people's individual problems. That's not going to happen immediately. Have you heard of any other solutions around the country where homelessness can be fought more efficiently?
BENNETT: There's an interesting point. There's always this en vogue approaches. I remember in 2006, everybody in the county who talks about this stuff was really excited to be talking about chronic homelessness. Not in that they liked it but they felt like they had an approach to take the people who cost the most out of the services that we do have.
SAUER: The frequent fliers, they're called.
BENNETT: Yeah, and house them and match those people up with permanent supportive services. And they're doing that in San Diego. That's actually going to be sort of the next phase of what we look at in the series that I'm working on: What is being done? There's a project called Project 25, that actually has 35 people.
SAUER: And these are the worst of the worst, the most chronically difficult.
BENNETT: This guy cost the hospital emergency room this much, and he also calls the police all the time and is getting picked up and is having all of these issues. So they've got those people in their own apartments, they have people coming and knocking on their door, maybe even once a day to give them medication, to make sure that they're going to the doctor and things like that to try to cut down on some of these expenses. Downtown partnership is doing something similar and has a couple hundred people in housing. So there are approaches out there that are trying to take certainly not $10,000 but smaller numbers of people, especially these individuals who do need a lot more help or services to try to say what if we invest in these upfront instead of kind of reacting to the cost that they are to these other emergency type systems?
ORR: I was wondering, I've heard of those program, and it seems they are so labor intensive on one person. And I understand that it's worth it because they just cost the city and the county so much in medical bills. But do you think just in your coverage that that is a principal way to end homelessness? Having 10 people focusing on one person?
BENNETT: Yeah, it's a great question. I think that the jury is definitely out on this approach. Permanent supportive housing is working in other cities. They have -- everyone that's talking about that here is looking at cities like Denver and New York City, there's an example of an approach for Times Square where a bunch of coordinated efforts asked -- they tried to get individuals from Times Square into this kind of housing.
SAUER: And in LA, right?
BENNETT: Exactly. There's Project 50 in LA, and their homeless population is five times the size of ours or something. Their population is also larger than San Diego's.
[ LAUGHTER ]
SAUER: They have like a skid row beat. The LA Times just constantly refers to it as skid row there.
BENNETT: Yeah. And I've talked to a couple providers here. The group that's opening the new homeless shelter in January, they do a lot of work in LA. And I've heard from a few different people who do work both in San Diego and LA that a lot of time when is they bring their LA people down, they'll take them to east village and take them along island avenue, and a lot of people who are used to seeing this in LA are surprised to see the numbers of people who are actually out on the street in San Diego, which was an interesting thing that I learned. Of
HALL: Every big city in American has the bottoms, right? Where a segment goes to live by choice or happenstance. I think framing this discussion as ending homelessness, I said it's laudable but laughable. We're just not going to end this. To write that column, I spent 90 minute business at God's extended hand which is say mission, and people there will say I'm here to get a meal, I'm here, and this was the most incongruous thing someone told me. There are drive-byes in San Diego, and it's good-hearted people with gloves and food and sandwiches going down there and handing these folks food and glove and sandwiches. And it's enabling. They know if it's cold, they're going to get a pair of gloves from some nice woman driving by in a car. So we can't end this. We should reframe the debate and talk about what we can do to minimize it and help the people who need and want to be helped.
BENNETT: I thought you pointed out an interesting nuance in your column. From these politician who is temper what they say on the stump versus in real conversations. These conversations that are happening out in the public I think are a little bit different when you talk about ending homelessness. In a lot of cases, they're saying if we end it for this one person, and this person is able to stabilize whatever mental health problem they have -- one of the biggest things they're doing with these permanent units is that if somebody gets discharged from the hospital and has had a surgery or has some kind of wound they need dressed, imagine the difference between changing the dressing on your wound in a clean house versus on the street.
SAUER: And it gets back to that whole idea of frequent fliers and the chronic folks, and investment is the word. A lot of people say if you want to be heartless about it, let's just look at it in a dollar and cents situation.
SHOWLEY: Well, I guess the most interesting thing you said today was other agencies thinking about this. Until now it's been social services. And if you add up all the cost of police and hospitals, dealing with these people, it's millions of dollars much more than the homeless direct services they're getting. If they'd only see the savings they would make by solving the problem at their end through the interventions at the beginning, the homelessness could be managed, maybe not solved, but at least it could be managed in a holistic way. And that's why I think there's a homeless task force, and people meet all the time on this, they just have to be a bit more obvious about what they're doing.
BENNETT: And I think they'll be going to Sharp and Scripps and some of these organizations who stand to see considerable savings out of their own charity care bottom line to say, hey! This population cost you $10 million last year. Would you give us $1 million toward our efforts to house 25 more people. Of
BENNETT: That math is all made up, but however that would work.
[ LAUGHTER ]
BENNETT: You're right. It's not like if the cops save money picking up fewer homeless people the first thing on their mind is how can we give a bunch of money to solving homelessness downtown. It's how do we hire more cops, how do we give our existing police the salaries or benefiting we heap we can give them? So changing that equation too, and making sure that the saves that are realized, it's a great argument from an economic standpoint to a taxpayer. Do you want your public money going in these reactive ways or in a proactive way?
SHOWLEY: And you're focusing on downtown, and people forget there are homeless all over San Diego County.
SHOWLEY: Little pockets in Encinitas or Escondido or whatever. And they have to be brought into this conversation in a bigger way.
SAUER: A caller, Mel, you're with the panel.
NEW SPEAKER: I see a simple solution. It's called the moth ball fleet. It's retired Navy ships. They're just rusting away on the west coast. And they housed sailors, and they could house homeless people. They have country, they have bathroom, they have everything. And you can put the services on those ships, and you don't have any problem with the neighbors objecting to homeless being in their neighborhood because they're on the bay!
SAUER: All right, thanks very much. What do you think?
SHOWLEY: Well, I can just imagine the vision of homeless ships out there. When you get tired of them, just cut the anchor and send them off into the deep blue sea.
[ LAUGHTER ]
SHOWLEY: I don't think the ships are available for this sort of thing. It would take a lot to solve to deal with them. Of and the management of the personnel.
SAUER: Well, are the maintenance and the cost of the ships themselves.
HALL: To Roger's and Mel's point, if you look at the last numbers from the City of San Diego, downtown is now No. 2 for pockets of homelessness, and the beaches and the bay, there's a sliver of folks there that is slightly larger. So it is a widespread problem. And I think these folks who are doing it, and Kelly's reporting is going to show, it's a regional response that's going to help this. If you try to stop it in one place or minimize it in one place, it's just going to move elsewhere.
ORR: And one of San Diego's obvious problems is that we have nice weather, you know?
SAUER: I was going to make that point.
ORR: It's a lot easier to be -- well, be easier, I shouldn't have said that. The weather lends itself to homeless people more here than say in Chicago.
SAUER: Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia.
HALL: I think it's the third largest homes pocket in the country which makes sense because of the weather but also because of the economy. People come here for shipping jobs and then lose those jobs and don't have money for a bus ticket.
SAUER: We're going to have to leave it there. Thanks very much.
SAUER: Welcome back to the Roundtable. I'm Mark Sauer. My guests are Matt hall and Roger Showley of UT San Diego, Kelly Bennett of voice of San Diego, and Katie Orr of KPBS news. A picture may be worth a thousand word, but a funny-looking logo might be worth millions! Matt, you weighed into the out rage over the university of California's photo with a column that didn't mince words. And this is radio, so do your best.
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HALL: It's awful. Does that --
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SAUER: Let's move on, yeah.
HALL: The UC system wanted to rebrand itself, the system itself, meaning all of its collective ten campuses and medical centers and labs as something for people to be blown away by. And they certainly were, but in the wrong way. The rebranding effort which was essentially on online advertising and brochures for new opportunities was a big blue U with a yellow C kind of nested inside of it. And the C looked to some people like that perpetually loading icon on your computer? Also like a flushing toilet.
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ORR: I didn't notice that until I read your column.
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HALL: It's been in play for months. But the Oakland tribune did a story a Friday ago, and it got twittered all weekend. And they had a petition that went up almost instantly on Friday night, and it had 20,000 significants by the time I sat down to write my column, and had 50,000 after that.
SAUER: A logo meant for the Internet and social media and all, really got the tide rolling against it.
HALL: What was interesting, in this day and age, anyone who doesn't take a controversial idea or invite responses on something that is meant to invite responses, use social media to your advantage and sidestep the whole controversy. I got four or five columns out of it. I also had a contest inviting readers, and I said give us your finest replacement logos. We'll throw five out there for a readers' poll, and the winner gets a mug.
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SAUER: Let's get to that in a minute! I want to invite our listeners here. 1-888-895-5727. What happened with the contest?
HALL: Well, we got a few more than five. Of but probably four really good ones. And one that a reader said took him 17 seconds to make. And because it was funny and I appreciated his humor and honesty, I made one that one of the five finalist ers. And as you know, by my buildup here, that's the one that won. It was a lobster, a U and a C listened together, and a couple of claws. Done by a sports blogger, Brady Phelps, who calls his readers lobsters. And just today I learned that someone has made these on a sweatshirt and is selling them for $15 a pop. The American dream lives.
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SHOWLEY: I asked Matt if I could have one of the mugs. I thought it was cute.
HALL: We made two, one for the winner, and we also said we would send it to the UC president to took him thinking about what could have been.
SAUER: So the university official did defend the original logo for a time, right?
HALL: Yeah. I think part of the uproar was in a misunderstanding that it might replace the seal. The UC system dates back to 1868 and has untold alumni and 220,000 or so the students who on their diplomas get the seal, which is this classic Victorian seal, and the phrase "let there be light" underneath it. And to think you might get a diploma with a flushing toilet on it rubbed some people the wrongway. It wasn't going to replace the seal. It was more of a rebranding thing, something separate for advertising. But even Gavin Newsom sent them a letter.
SHOWLEY: Apart from the logo itself, why do you think people get so worked up about these things?
HALL: That's a good question. A lot of people I think got worked up in individual silos for people at UCSD or Cal or UCLA who have these iconic institutions because of football or science or whatever. Attack might not be the right word, but they thought it was kind of like a knock on their good name, maybe.
SAUER: I want to shift gears a little bit here. Of east county, a book is riling up some folks in a similar way. It's called the far east, everything just as it is. And as the title suggests, it's a warts and all look. The far east here being east San Diego County. Who put this together?
HALL: This is a local writer named Justin Hudnall, who knows a lot of artists in town. He works with a collective called so say we all, and a really great guy, talented artist. And he got the idea. He grew up in San Carlos, which isn't in the east county. But he told me that I think he was 22 by the time he went on the other side of the 15 and spent a lot of his formative years in east county. And he got some of his artist friends, major artists from east county, Steve coit, a poet, Marilyn chin, and a bunch of unknown artists to do this warts and all book relaying the real east county. And it wasn't meant to be a brochure T. Wasn't meant to have pictures of sun setting over the Cuyamaca mountains. It was done to show how these people understand east county, what it was like when they grew up. And some people took that personally.
SAUER: A gritty look. What was your take on the book?
HALL: It's a tall order in 163 pages to get at anything's identity, let alone in a column. But it was -- I think -- my takeaway from the book despite some locals' consternation and quips that it made east county look like something out of Deliverance, was that there are some talented artists in east county! That was my takeaway. They care about where they live to take the time and do something they are passionate about, and then to have all these people come together and put it all in a book? East county has some talented people.
SHOWLEY: If you put UC and east county together, it shows you that people are very attached to San Diego and neighborhoods. And when something attacks them through the economy or a natural disaster or a shooting or anything out of the ordinary, they come together at the local level, they're very protective of each other, and when somebody from the outside has some dumb idea, they rile up against it. Will I'm a umside graduate, and I thought the logo was unnecessary. But the tritan isn't anything to be proud of either. And the president's office did not hire a graphics artist apparently to do it. And I noticed in your column, some people said if they'd hired a professional, they would have gotten a better job. Well, not necessarily.
HALL: Then they would have been criticized for spending money.
SHOWLEY: Our newspaper was laughed at when it came out because it eliminated the words union and tribune.
ORR: And it's about a sense of ownership. I went to Arizona state, which has a questionable reputation among some people, a party school. I for the record loved it.
SAUER: And you never partied.
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ORR: Never did. I don't do that.
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ORR: I can say whatever I want about that school, but you can't say anything about that school!
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SAUER: I'm from Detroit. So that should end the discussion about people being protective of places! Was the artist surprised at this reaction, Matt?
HALL: I think that he knew that he might get some blowback. I didn't think he thought it would be as vociferous as it was. The main critic was Miriam Rafferty who runs east county magazine for about three or four years.
SAUER: She wasn't happy.
HALL: She told me she has never written a negative review in her life. And this was a first. So she obviously felt very passionate to do that. Justin's response, similar to what was just said here, and I think that's why he had east county artists do it because it's our family, you can talk smack about our family if you're from it. But don't let an outsider.
SAUER: That's getting back to the point Katie was talking about.
ORR: Yeah, I think it's just natural. And the UC thing, people pay a lot of money to go to these schools, and they invest a lot of their time and energy, a big part of their life, and they don't want to be represented by anything they think is subpar.