Roundtable: Qualcomm Stadium, District 4 Election, Filner And Transparency, Desert Energy Plan
January 4, 2013 1:14 p.m.
Joanne Faryon, KPBS News
Katie Orr, KPBS News
Craig Gustafson, U-T San Diego
Morgan Lee, U-T San Diego
Related Story: Roundtable: Qualcomm Stadium, District 4 Election, Filner And Transparency, Desert Energy Plan
SAUER: It's Friday, January 4th. Good afternoon and thanks for joining us, I'm Mark Sauer. KPBS business and environment reporter Erik Anderson joins us in the studio. The nation's employers add 155,000 jobs in December, a steady gain. Shows hiring held up during fiscal cliff negotiations. The labor department says it wasn't enough to push down the employment rate. How did California stack up?
ANDERSON: Well, a couple of things. California as a state tracked what the rest of the nation did. They tracked very much in terms of the amount of growth that was going on in the job market. Some of the sectors actually represented a big bulk of that, 30,000 construction jobs gained nationally. The state picked up about 62,000 jobs in the leisure and hospitality industries. So there were some sectors that did pretty well here in California and in San Diego as well. The unemployment rates of course are still tracking above what the nation rate is locally. Unemployment rate is 8.3%, and the statewide rate is 9.6% in California.
SAUER: Labor secretary Hilda Soliz spoke with us early this morning. What does she have to say about the outlook in California?
ANDERSON: She was making the rounds today talking about the administration's latest report. Some of the questioning she got, a big topic of concern for this region is what is the possibility or the impact on the labor market of the defense industry cuts that are coming down the road? Some of them are going to be happening, some $400 million in defense department cuts are going to be happening anyway. There could be another $500 million or more if the sequestration issue is not resolved adequately, and that could have a major impact on this region here in San Diego because a lot of jobs are tied to those industries. But she said that it's very important for the federal government to make sure that they're ready to deal with request any kind of a downturn that involves loss of jobs.
NEW SPEAKER: What we need to do is look at how we offset any job loss. We saw many jobs lost over the recession over the course of the last three years in areas of manufacturing overall. So we need to bring that back. That will help to keep those folks employed. So we need to make sure that there's a transition there. And that's why we've really built out our American job centers, and our workforce investment act program making sure that we connect with entrepreneurs and manufactures in terms of what the skill sets that are that are needed and the instruction and the credentials.
ANDERSON: So they're trying to basically ease that transition from a wartime economy to a more peace-related economy.
SAUER: Thanks for joining us.
SAUER: The guests joining me today, Joanne Faryon, for KPBS news.
FARYON: Hi, Mark.
SAUER: Craig Gustafson for UT San Diego.
GUSTAFSON: Hey, Mark.
SAUER: Morgan Lee who covers energy and business for UT San Diego.
SAUER: And Katie Orr who is our metro reporter for KPBS news. Hi, Katie.
ORR: Hi, Mark.
SAUER: I see you over there across the way. We'd love to have you join our conversation today. The number is 1-888-895-5727. Much of the recent talk about a new stadium for the Chargers have centered on downtown. The waterfront, the 10th avenue marine terminal. That changed this week when a couple of movers and shakers cast their eyes back toward Missions Valley. I remember a few years ago, Qualcomm and Missions Valley were mentioned as the obvious starting points for a new Chargers stadium. Not many took that idea seriously. Now it's come back full circle courtesy of Steve Cushman. Remind us who he is.
FARYON: Well, he was a port commissioner, and he sort of ran the port commission for a very long time. He's been on just about every board you can imagine. More than 70 in San Diego, and for the past three years, he has been a special assist not to former mayor Jerry Sanders where he was helping to negotiate the Convention Center expansion. So he spent a lot of time looking at the layout downtown. After doing that, he basically said to KPBS this week, look, I'm not ruling out downtown. But I think the most realistic solution is Qualcomm. Basically it's because you've already got a stadium there, you don't have as many hurdles, and it will cost a lot less money. He wasn't able to put a firm figure on it. He threw out from $1 hundred million to 4 hundred million dollars. And he figures you can do this without asking the public for cash. That doesn't mean there's a public investment because it's city land. And a lot of this right now is speculation, it is talk. One of the things he called for is hiring a consultant to actually look at a proposal: Would something like this work? But he's saying, you've got this land, if you develop some of the surrounding land into apartments and retail, so you're basically offering developers an opportunity that's where you're going to get some of your investment in a new stadium.
SAUER: And there's more to the idea than just a assume.
FARYON: Exactly. We're talking about retail, and he's talking about apartments, and you often see deals like this in the past. When Doug Manchester was given the right to develop at Navy Broadway, part of that deal said you can develop this prime land, in exchange, you build us a new building. So there are partnerships like this. And in turn they invest in these public projects.
SAUER: How much land specifically do we remember? I want to say it was about 160 acres.
FARYON: Yeah, we're looking at just a San Diego County grand jury report. And I think they've got that number in there. So we're talking about a huge chunk of land. And we've got a giant parking lot out there right now too where we see all of the tailgating going on. So would a proposal cut into that? There's the environmental concerns. And this is an idea that was floated a couple years ago. So UT reporter Matt Hall wrote about this in 2011. Back then, there were a number of architects who said hey, we should do this! So it's been recycled. I think the reason people thought it's over is because back then the Chargers said we don't like it! We don't like this idea! So it just became a moot point.
ORR: And back then, they had redevelopment agencies still in existence, which we do not have anymore. And that was going to be the primary way that they were going to pay for a stadium. They never said that officially, but everybody assumed the redevelopment agency was going to be the one that funneled tax increment money into a stadium downtown. And that doesn't exist anymore. And the city just rejected $150 million to clean up a potential site down there.
FARYON: So it may be too that it's just a process of elimination. The less money you have, the more extensive site is clearly going to be downtown. Let's face T. You have to clear a lot more hurdles, it's going to be a much tougher sell.
GUSTAFSON: The key to everything is the Chargers. What do they want? And up to this point they've said Missions Valley doesn't work. It's great that Steve Cushman wants to revive that idea, but unless he has some inside information, he needs to -- the Chargers need to be on board.
FARYON: Well, here's a couple things. First of all, I don't think Steve Cushman is the kind of guy who's going to go on television and publicly float an idea unless he has some indication that this could gain some traction. So I don't know. He told me he hadn't spoken with the Spanos family recently about this. But I also don't think he just gets out there and says a lot of stuff. He's really not known for that. The second thing, I of course tried to contact Mark Fabiani yesterday.
SAUER: Tell us who he is.
FARYON: He is the special council to the Chargers. He basically is helping them find a new stadium. And I sent him a link to the story, asked him what about Qualcomm, and basically he said we're not going to comment on this story. I sort of pressed a little bit. Well, would you rule it out? What about the site? And didn't get a response. So no response? Does that mean that they're just not saying? Does it mean there's some hope for this? I'm not sure.
SAUER: We do have a caller. Brad, you're here with the panel. Go on ahead. &%F0
NEW SPEAKER: My question is the environmental issue. I remember that under Susan Davis, I think, there was a settlement with the fuel depot people and the oil companies over there, and there was some leakage of that fuel underneath the Qualcomm site. And I thought the EPA would not allow developing of that land because of environmental concerns.
SAUER: Right, that's a good point. I think you're referring to what's known as the plume.
FARYON: Right, right so that has been written about. I know Matt Hall talked about that. Of the Amita Sharma did an investigative series about this. There is a deadline. There was supposed to be a lot of cleanup of that area. I think the deadline is actually this year, something that we should be following up on to see what has happened. I think they're all hurdles. I think you're right. And if this idea gets any legs, it's going to take a lot of work in terms of figuring out whether or not it's even feasible.
ORR: I think one interesting aspect is that Steve Cushman Ms. Played a major role in the latest Convention Center expansion. He was the special assistant, I think his title was to former mayor Jerry Sanders and trying to get that project off of the ground. And it's just interesting because at some point, there was actually -- I think you could call it bad blood between the Convention Center proponents and the stadium proponents. At one time, the stadium proponents were trying to piggyback off of the Convention Center proponentent, and they did not like that. They said it doesn't work for their needs. So it's just interesting if maybe this is Cushman's way of saying, no, Missions Valley is where the stadium should really go. He definitely has an interest in the Convention Center down there.
SAUER: Aside from the environmental concerns, you do have a stadium there. Of it's an existing facility.
GUSTAFSON: But I can guarantee you, the people in Missions Valley do not want what you're talking about, a stadium with more retail, more housing in that area. People complain about the traffic all the time there.
SAUER: And we've got that huge development coming in just down the road.
SAUER: Just west of the stadium site which is the old quarry site.
GUSTAFSON: Exactly. Not only is it the biggest parking lot west of Mississippi, it's a parking lot on the streets as well because traffic is insane over there.
SAUER: And that brings up a point. I think that's Lori zap upon 've's, is it not?
GUSTAFSON: Yes, yes.
FARYON: District 6.
SAUER: Has she weighed in at all lately?
GUSTAFSON: I don't think she's ever weighed in on the stadium issue.
FARYON: Huh-uh. Donna Frye at one point proposed making that a huge park area down there if the stadium was ever to go way away. She wanted to make sharight along the river there, to refurbish that area. But I don't think that idea ever really got any traction.
GUSTAFSON: That's kind of a dream that a lot of people on the left have had for a long time for that area. But there's too much money at stake.
GUSTAFSON: It'll be developed in some way.
SAUER: One last question the team's fortunes have been down. We just lost a coach and a general manager. Does this environment play into appetite for a new stadium anywhere?
GUSTAFSON: Yeah, and that's a good point. Remember when the Padres have their vote on their stadium, that was shortly after the world series run. So if the Chargers -- if the City of San Diego had been able to financially work on this plan in the mid-2,000, that would have been the perfect time. They were playing well, they had LT and Philip Rivers. And that would have been the ideal time to have a public vote. Now everybody is pretty down on the Chargers. And the city now is getting a little bit better financially. But I think the window was five, six years ago.
ORR: And I think we should say during the election, Bob Filner and Carl DeMaio had said no public money for a stadium at some point. And if they had ever been able to pull that off, it would have been a huge deal because no stadium in the country has been built without using some form of public money. I don't know if that includes just refurbishing the stadium.
SAUER: Maybe a remodel is different. Who knows?
ORR: But the track record is the public foots a big portion of the tab.
SAUER: For those running the City of San Diego, there's much more pressing concern, and that's like filling vacancies in the City Council. When somebody resigns from the council as Tony Young did last month, there's two ways to replace him.
ORR: The City Council can just appoint someone to fill that vacancy enemy the regular election cycle comes up. But in this case, Tony Young left the council, he's now the CEO of the local chapter of the American red cross. He had about two years left on his term. So they have to have a special election to fill that vacancy. And so he officially tendered his resignation on January 1st. So that started the clock. And the city now has 90 days from that time to hold a special election to fill it.
SAUER: Okay. It sounds straightforward. But in this case, we got a couple of wrinkles.
ORR: Right. Through a quirk of the city municipal code, it's going to be odd. Since 2010 when Young was reelected, the city has gone through a redistricting process. The boundaries of the City Council districts are different. But the code says anyone running to replace Young has to run in the old district boundaries. So that means that some of the neighborhoods that were not in district 4 in 2010 cannot vote in this election. So the communities of red coast village and Rolando park are excluded from voting in this district election. And additionally, any candidates that live in those areas can't run unless they move to within the old district boundaries.
SAUER: So that's come up as a practical matter, has it not? We've got a candidate in that situation.
ORR: Yeah, Ana Orzel-Arnita, she was the president of the redwood village community council. She had wanted to run, she told KPBS she was planning to run in 2014 after Young left office. But since he resigned she was planning do it now, but she can't because she lives in one of the communities that was not included in the district before redistricting.
FARYON: Can't they change this if this is the municipal code?
ORR: They might have to talk to the city attorney, but it might actually be tied up in some kind of state law as well. So it might not be as simple as changing the municipal code. Todd Gloria said it's something he's going to try to work on. And communities that used to be in district 4 that are no longer in district 4 with vote in the district 4 race! So people who are living now in district 9 can still vote for the district 4 candidate even though they won't be represented by them. He says he's going to try and fix it, but it probably won't happen in time
SAUER: Well, they're taking it up Monday.
GUSTAFSON: Well, the vote Monday is going to be to set the date for the election which is probably going to be March 26th because that's probably going to coincide with the state Senate election race to replace Juan Vargas. But about the people who are dissenfranchised about this, it's about 700 people who are now in the new district 4. So we're talking about 10,000 people, not all of them are going to be registered voters. And that's another point. You're going to have a very truncated election. There's going to be a two-week window for people to nominate themselves. You have to get 100 signatures from a registered voter. So you'll probably have a dozen candidates trying to get those signatures in a short period of time to qualififul then you're going to have to raise money, and it's going to be pretty interesting how quickly people can put their stuff together. I think labor is going to have a huge advantage in this because they have the money.
SAUER: Very interesting. We just came off an election, it seems exhausting to even think about it!
ORR: Yeah, and the people at the city I've spoken to say they don't necessarily expect anyone to win the special election outright. You have to get 50% plus 1 of the vote, so they're anticipating likely having to hold a runoff which has to happen within 49 days of the election.
SAUER: That would be the top-two vote getters. So potentially the people in district 4 could be without a representative for five months or so.
FARYON: Why are so many people interested in running for this?
GUSTAFSON: Anytime there's an open seat on the City Council, you're going to get a lot of people. Here you have district 4 is pretty diverse, you have --
SAUER: Tell us about that district a little bit.
GUSTAFSON: It's southeast San Diego, and just south of the college area as well which is is the neighborhoods that have been dissenfranchised from this process.
FARYON: 45% Latino, 20% African-American, and maybe 25% white.
GUSTAFSON: And 23% Asian.
SAUER: Very diverse.
GUSTAFSON: But traditionally it's been represented we an African American.
ORR: And it's a big deal because incumbents don't tend to lose their seats. So if you can get in that seat and serve your term, and then you maybe could sort of handpick your successor, you can set up a whole chain of power for lack of a better word within that district.
GUSTAFSON: And that's why it's important, these people that are being dissenfranchised, whoever wins this election will finish out Tony Young's term, be able to run for two additional terms potentially, and serve for the next ten years until the next redistricting process. So it's a pretty big deal that these people are being cut out of the process.
FARYON: Is Tony Young planning on endorsing anyone?
GUSTAFSON: One of his staff members, Bruce Williams has announced that he's going to run. I would assume that Tony is probably going to support him. But he has not said anything.
SAUER: Okay. What about -- this seems to beg for a lawsuit. Anything you've heard about yet?
ORR: I have not heard anything yet about any kind of lawsuit. That's not to say one won't pop up. Again they're talking to the city attorney about it to see if there's any way they can address it legally. But again, in the municipal code. I was surprised when I went and looked it up because it's pretty black and white. It's just, like, listen if any direct is redrawn and the guy between the time the person resigns and whatever, it fit this situation perfectly. And so it's written in there, and they're just following the letter of the law.
GUSTAFSON: The process is there for a reason, right? The people who voted in 2010 for Tony Young to serve four years are going to be the people that are going to determine who's going to finish that term. So that was the thinking behind it.
GUSTAFSON: Obviously in a perfect world, it's not working out for some people.
SAUER: Now you've still got potholes, trash situations and water leaks and all that. Who's going to handle the nuts and bolts?
ORR: The other interesting thing. We went through this whole thing, we added a ninth council district, a million dollars budget, all of this. I think we had nine members for less than a month, before we were back to eight. So we're back politically speaking to that balanced, 4-4, Republicans and Democrats.
SAUER: For at least another 45 days.
ORR: Yeah, probably half the year by the time it's all said and done. Todd Gloria says he will step up and supervise district 4. The staff who worked with Tony Young agreed to stay on. They can still call the same office they would always call, and the staff will respond. And Todd Gloria says he'll supervisor the staff in the meantime.
SAUER: So at least these folks will be covered. And speaking with a little bit of experience, the city does get a ton of calls and has to deal with that. And under the strong mayor form of government, it ultimately is Bob Filner's battle to take care of this kind of administration. But that face-to-face, hands on contact with your council member in your office is really important. It's not so much the listeners have will called City Hall themselves ever. I certainly haven't. However, it's things like planning groups and things like folks in the district who have business interests and business improvement districts who do a lot of business with the city. And it sounds like they'll be covered in the interim, but it's not a great situation.
ORR: I'm sure all of those people would prefer to have their one person to go to who knows specifically about their district. But what are you going to do? The council member resigned, and it takes time to put somebody in that seat.
GUSTAFSON: And Tony Young did the city a huge favor by waiting until January 1st. Then the 90-day clock clicked in, and he saved the city maybe $100,000. He didn't finish his term, but he extend today to where it saved the city a little money.
FARYON: Didn't he first come into office by filling in someone else's term?
GUSTAFSON: Charles Lewis dies, he was on his staff and ran and won.
FARYON: So he's also someone who could have served for ten years in terms of the person he's replacing.
GUSTAFSON: Yeah, exactly. And he ended up doing about 8.
SAUER: And Donna Frye I think served nine years beyond the two terms.
ORR: And that just reenforces the value of this seat. The person who's in it is in it for potential a decade then has a lot of control over who gets it after him or her.
GUSTAFSON: And the City Council member hasn't lost a reelection in over 20 years. It's a pretty solid gig if you can get it.
SAUER: I'm Mark Sauer. And my guests are Joanne Faryon and Katie Orr of KPBS news, and Craig Gustafson and Morgan Lee of UT San Diego. Craig, before we get to the nuts and bolts of mayor Filner's staffing, how would you assess the start of his administration? Is it as smooth as it was for Jerry Sanders or Dick Murphy?
GUSTAFSON: I think it's been pretty rough, to be blatantly honest. It doesn't seem like he was as prepared as he probably should have been when he took office. He did have a very short transition period, less than a month. But now he's been in office for a full month, and as I pointed out in this story, as a strong mayor, he's the focal point for all information coming from the city, and he is not communicating virtually at all with the media or just in general.
SAUER: Katie, that's been injure impression covering the same beat?
ORR: Yeah, it has been. It has. It talking to other reporters around time, everyone seems to have the same general impression that it's been harder to get information out of the mayor's office in this month that he's been there. You try to give him a little slack because he's transitioning from being a Congressman, he has to hire all these people, there was a holiday, and so I'm sure that that has something to do with it. However, reporters, I want my information when I want it!
GUSTAFSON: But the big problem is, he campaigned for mayor for about a year and a half, and in that time, he was put offish with the media, it's probably countless times that I had to put Filner no commented for a story. And that's all well and good. But then after he won the election, he said we're going to have an open and transparent government.
GUSTAFSON: We're going to be open and meet regularly with the press, we're going to give you whatever you guys need, and I'm going to hire Donna Frye to be my director of open government. And Donna Frye, a lot of people in the media love her for the fact that she opened a lot of doors at City Hall and --
GUSTAFSON: Yeah, as far as getting information and information about closed session items and stuff like that. But in the month that he's been in office, and she's been working for him, she's been silent. And the mayor's office has refused to even give up basic information such as who he's even hired.
SAUER: Right. Let me invite our listeners to get involved if you've got a comment or opinion on this. Give us a call please. 1-888-895-5727. It has been perplexing. You talked about the campaign mode versus the governing mode. And just to be devil's advocate on this point, 20 years in Congress, a staff to wind down there, the whole fiscal cliff vote, transitioning here. But that period is over. What do we expect to see going forward?
GUSTAFSON: Well, hopefully it'll get better. But he just hired a new director of communications, Irene McCormick, who was a vice president at the port of San Diego. And she's a former UT reporter. Has a lot of experience dealing with the media and having worked ins media. So I actually met with her for the first time this morning.
SAUER: That's confirmed then?
GUSTAFSON: Yes, it is.
SAUER: That was part of the fun this week in your story!
GUSTAFSON: Yeah, he wouldn't even confirm anybody who's on his staff. So Irene, today --
SAUER: Which is all public information, ultimately.
GUSTAFSON: It is. And I know people listening are, like, oh, boohoo, the media is not getting what they want. But that's not the point. The point is under the strong mayor form of government, the mayor controls 95% of the information coming out of City Hall. If he's not communicating that information basically on basic stuff, make a request for who works for the city how much they make, that's public information 101. And he for a month has refused to release any information on that. So today, I met with Irene at a press conference, and she said things are going to change, it's going to get better. She acknowledged he's making $125,000 a year which is a lot less than she made before
LEE: Right, she made, like, $175,000 at the port.
GUSTAFSON: Yes, she says she really wants to work for the mayor, it's not about the money. And hopefully with her in there, things are going to improve. But up to this point, it's been pretty ridiculously inept.
SAUER: Morgan, you cover energy and all things green, and are getting information, sharing it with the public, that's very important. How important is this just for public officials to be public?
LEE: Sure, well, what I find interesting here is what Craig was touching upon, the strong mayor form of government. And some of the coverage during the election season, it was pretty startling how many positions have to be filled, how it's just this huge array of political appointees.
SAUER: Well, we've got roughly, if this were a business or corporation, correct me if I'm wrong, but the ball parks are about a $3 million a year budget, 10,000 employees, are God knows how many miles of streets and sewers and all sorts of physical assets, property that they own. This is a big deal!
GUSTAFSON: And the mayor has 200-plus people that he has direct hiring and firing prejudices over. But he's trying to fill some of those positions. And I agree with Katie, you got to cut him some slack, he's coming in. But really, do you cut him some slack? He had a month of transition before he took office. And he won't even answer basic questions. It's not good.
ORR: I would just say, it's interesting because when Jerry Sanders was in office, sometimes he got criticized for the size of his press staff. I think he had four people at least on the press staff, and they were always, you know, and some people say why do you need that many? But when working with them, there are so many different issues at the city that it would be impossible for one person to be up to speed on all of them.
SAUER: You'd never get a phone call returned.
ORR: Exactly. So maybe part of it is he should have beefed up his staff sooner.
GUSTAFSON: And just for a contrast, under mayor Sander, if you asked for somebody's position and salary, you could probably get that information within a half hour. It's been over 30 days with Bob Filner. And in contrast, I asked for the same information from the City Council offices, and they all answered it within 24 hours.
SAUER: Wow. So you've got it there in black and white in terms of what can be done.
FARYON: I'm wondering too if someone has advised him to lay low for a while. He stumbled quite a bit during his campaign. He wasn't up with the issues. And I think he did avoid the media to some extent, and I'm wondering if right now he is laying low on purpose, trying to catch up, get to know the lay of the land, find out what the issues are. And now he doesn't want to make that same stumble.
GUSTAFSON: The flip side of that, is under the state public records act, he's required to provide information immediately if it's available, and within 10 days if it's more complicated.
SAUER: And that's a tool the press has.
GUSTAFSON: Yes, to get information. And he's well past any of those deadlines. So I guess I disagree with that.
FARYON: Right. I find the PRA thing interesting too.
SAUER: Public records request.
FARYON: I didn't have a great experience in the past requesting information through the mayor's office. And I wonder if that's just because not having the relationship with the people in the press office and maybe not even understanding exactly what -- how they want that information.
ORR: Well, I think you bring up a good point. To me, personally, I feel like relationships are a big part of the job. And you have to have a good relationship on both sides. The PR people and the media, there's a give and take there. And one of the things that has hurt his administration in this month is that forming those relationships isn't off to a good start with a lot of people.
GUSTAFSON: Right. And for one example today, at the press conference, it was about the sea wall and the beach.
SAUER: And the mayor wasn't even on the original --
GUSTAFSON: He actually was, and he did show up.
SAUER: Oh, okay.
GUSTAFSON: So I wanted to ask him a few questions, like, why won't you answer my requests for information? And I was waiting for him afterwards, and he turns and schnapps at me, and he's, like, quit trying to eavesdrop on my conversation. And I'm, like, I'm just waiting to ask you a question. So you're right about the relationships. They just don't exist. I don't think he has a good relationship with the media or with anybody in the media. And people will look at the UT and say the UT ownership opposed his candidatacy. But it's not even about that. It's pretty much every news organization in San Diego has expressed a pretty high level of frustration with Bob Filner.
ORR: I think that would be fair to say.
[ LAUGHTER ]
SAUER: You mention the press conference today. On the other hand he has been -- he said he was going to be a neighborhood mayor, and in this month he's been out at every middle school, every place he could shake a hand and smile at somebody.
GUSTAFSON: He's acting like he's a mayor in 1992.
SAUER: What do you mean by that?
GUSTAFSON: In 1992, there was no strong mayor. The mayor was a glorified City Council member who represented the whole city.
SAUER: Weak mayor government.
GUSTAFSON: So you do public appearance, do you all this ribbon-cutting stuff. And I know there's a hashtag on twitter, Filner everywhere. But that's basically what the old role of the mayor was. Now you're running the city. So you need to be a lot more responsible about what you're doing and controlling things, and maybe do a little less public appearances, you're not running for mayor anymore. You are the mayor. So act like it want
SAUER: We've got a caller who wants to join us. Mel. Go ahead.
NEW SPEAKER: Yes, I hear a lot of complaining about the mayor won't give up information, which is you or the UT, or PBS has requested. Under the California public records act. There's a remedy for that. It's called filing a lawsuit under the California public records act. But I see PBS doesn't file any such lawsuit. The UT doesn't file any such lawsuit. They prefer to get on the radio and whine about it.
[ LAUGHTER ]
SAUER: Okay, fair enough! Thank for your call.
GUSTAFSON: Good bless you, Mel Shapiro.
[ LAUGHTER ]
GUSTAFSON: And he has a good point. You can file a lawsuit, yes. But for something as basic as who have you hired, to file a lawsuit for something like that, are the UT would just be wasting its money. This is basic stuff that anybody should be providing in any government agency.
ORR: I wonder, maybe Filner's thinking is what does he care if the media likes him or not? What does he care if it takes you a month to get information you think you should have had in a day? He's been elected, he thinks that he has all the support he needs, so maybe he just -- it's no skin off his nose if we're not happy with him.
FARYON: That's why we've got to get on the radio, and whine, right? To let the public know, this is information they deserve to have!
SAUER: We're not doing this for fun.
[ LAUGHTER ]
GUSTAFSON: I think the bigger issue, and I agree with Mel, whining about it on the radio, get over it, people. But it's about providing basic information to anybody who requests it from him. Lawyers file public records requests for various issues routinely. And if they won't give you basic information on anything, this affects all of San Diego. If the mayor's office goes into shutdown mode, City Hall will shut down and things won't happen. Already they had had cancel the land use hearing set for January because stuff is just backlogged. And stuff is not getting done at City Hall. And I don't think Bob Filner was as prepared as he should have been coming into office, and the effects are already being seen.
SAUER: We're going to leave it there on that topic. We're going to hear much more from that, I suspect.
SAUER: Drive east through the Imperial Valley or northeast toward Las Vegas, and you're overwhelmed by the abundance of sunshine and wind. If the energy in the desert could be harvested, it seems our energy worries would be over. But it's not that simple. You'd think these solar panel farms would have been done a long time ago. But life in the desert is fragile. Tell us what's up.
LEE: Right now, until a little later this month, federal and state agencies are trying to get some input into a plan that's being put together. It's part conservation plan and part of an effort to speed up the permitting and citing process for power plant, essentially. For solar, wind, and geothermal plants. And this is all really concentrate on this huge Southern California desert area that's the size of Indiana or Maine. It's just vast. And it's something where they're trying -- it's been underway for a couple of years, and they've already drawn in a big group of stakeholders. This includes some of the real bluechip conservation groups.
SAUER: Before we get into those, you say they, that is the state and federal folks who are trying to fasttrack this?
LEE: State and federal folks. So this has sort of grown out of two things. One is the federal government's effort to really provide some incentives for development of solar and wind and other renewable energy projects. And California's independent parallel effort, and the main driver there is that California has a requirement that by 2020 we're going to have 1/3 of our power, our electricity, created by renewable energy sources.
SAUER: So I interrupted you. Now there's a bunch of stakeholders who want to work with these regulators.
LEE: Yeah. So in good faith, they've tried to do a really good job of pulling in not only local government agencies but also big environmental groups, the nature conservancy, Sierra club, natural resources, defense council, people like that. And then developers. Some of the big firms that are already building these power plant, Bright Source is one of them, they're building these solar towers in the Mohave that are going up right now. The ones that are behind the Tule wind project, it's a big project in east San Diego County. It's going through some of its final permitting. There's EDF, which has -- they do projects that are based here in San Diego County.
SAUER: So a lot of stuff that's bubbling up.
LEE: Yeah, there's a lot of stuff bubbling up. And the perspective that's coming from environmental groups is that it's not what you'd anticipate. There was this initial debate about are we sacrificing the desert to save the world, to try and deal with carbon and climate change? But what a lot of environmental groups are saying now is the land rush is already on. These plants are going to go up. We need to have a conservation plan that really says let's make sure we're not dividing habitats.
SAUER: All right. We've got a caller. Go ahead, John.
NEW SPEAKER: I actually worked on, in terms of consulting or negotiating with some of these projects. Some of the problem is that right now all these projects are being fast-tracked by the current Obama administration. And what that results is in these pro forma environmental reviews. And basically we don't have a state or national energy policy. For example we have is that 33% of renewable energy supply by 2020, but there's no compensating required reduction in demand, the consumer side. And basically it is like the wild west land-grab that results in the devastation of desert biology as well as the cultural resources of Native Americans, the Ocotillo wind project is basically being built on Native American ancient grave sites. And yet the current administration and developers and the bureau of land management all feel it's okay to do that. And so there's this big rush but I think we're moving way too fast.
SAUER: All right, thank you so much. Appreciate that. Morgan?
LEE: Yeah, Ocotillo is a great example of some of the pressures and the conflicts that are coming to bear right now. It's a small town with maybe 400 resident, surrounded by BLM land. People who move there, whether it's to retire or for health reasons.
SAUER: Or to live at the base of a giant wind turbine.
[ LAUGHTER ]
LEE: A lot of us have thought of these areas as places that would be there forever untouched, now it turns out they're going to be tapped. And you mention a couple things. Yeah, one of the things they're trying to we've been in here, are some of the concerns about Native American cultural sites Bwhat should be done when things turn up unexpectedly. So they're trying to we've been that into the plan. This has become extremely complicated, also because you're layering over it with a lot of engineering concerns. And the closer you can get these power plants to the population centers in California, the more productive they are.
SAUER: Another caller wants to join us. Robert, go ahead.
NEW SPEAKER: Thank you for taking my call. I would just point out, when Morgan says that it's a good faith effort to include the stake holder, it hasn't been a good faith effort. A lot of it's been lip service. I work with a local tribe, and I can tell you they made no offer on Ocotillo wind. They just wanted to ram it through. And where we're used to being consulted, in this case we weren't. We were only invited as the plane was taking off at the end of the runway. And then we found out that's because these projects are fast-tracked. The transparent, when the developers put up met towers to test the wind speed, they say there's great wind speed down there, but they don't have to reveal the data. When they do purchase power agreements with SDG&E, they don't have to reveal that data either. And there's no accountability with the production tax credits, the hundreds of millions of dollars that are given to the developers, there's no bench marks, milestones or accountability.
SAUER: Thanks very much. Morgan, you want to take that up?
LEE: Yeah, these are real valid concerns. And there's -- as these plants come along, I think what this plan is trying to deal with is there's a patchwork of land use rules and regulations, and they're trying to get it all together provide something that's more comprehensive.
SAUER: So they're trying to address a lot of what he's bringing up, what he's saying. Katie?
ORR: I think it's interesting. This just kind of shows you that there's no easy answer to energy, right? No one wants a power plant in their backyard. Someone doesn't want a wind turbine in their backyard. It's so interesting to me, the person that can come up with an energy source that has zero impact is going to be a billionaire.
SAUER: And we're trying to go out in the middle of nowhere here so it's not somebody's backyard.
LEE: Yeah, and by saying that there's being some consultation in good faith, that doesn't mean to say this isn't being fast-tracked. It absolutely is being fast-tracked. That's kind of the point of this. And they want to get these projects going. There's right now, I think within the next by 2015, there's going to be roughly 16 megawatts of renewable energy that's already been contracted, and they've only built maybe 1/3 of that so far. So this is an effort that's really coming along. To put that in perspective, the San Onofre nuclear plant, a really big plant, provides two gigawatts. This is 8-fold.
SAUER: It really is enormous.
LEE: So it's happening. And right now, next Wednesday, if people want to get more details, they're going to have an all-day web cast on it.
SAUER: Oh, a web cast, great! Everybody has access.
FARYON: You said in 2020, 1/3 of the renewable energy? Was that the stat? 1/3 of our energy has to come from renewable sources?
FARYON: Is that the reason for -- how close are we to meeting that goal, and is that the reason that everybody is scrambling to the desert now?
LEE: That's one of the big reasons. They're basically filling out that portfolio that they have to get to. There are interim goals. And they contract these plant, and they put in a little wiggle room in case some of them don't come through or the technology changes. And the three big investor-owned utilities are gradually loading up on those contracts.
SAUER: All right, well, we're going to have to end our trek through the desert there now.