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Mayor Filner Talks Vets, Budget And Marijuana

April 8, 2013 2 p.m.


San Diego Mayor Bob Filner

Related Story: Mayor Filner Talks Vets, Budget And Marijuana


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

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: San Diego Mayor Bob Filner talks about his upcoming budget and his ongoing battles. This is KPBS Midday Edition. The city Council is expected to approve the Mayor's revised tourism marketing deal but there's no reason to think the fireworks are over at City Hall. We'll ask Mayor Filner about his continuing controversies and take your calls at 888-895-5727. Equal pay day is tomorrow. Advocates say the message of pay equality is just good for women, it's good for America. Then a preview of the Coachella Festival and why it's good news for San Diego's music scene. I am Maureen Cavanaugh. KPBS Midday Edition is next. First the news. Do you like the news you are hearing out of San Diego City Hall? Mayor Bob Filner joins us to take your questions at 888-895-5727 and we ask why women still make less than men. San Diego gets ready to mark equal pay day. This is KPBS Midday Edition. I am Maureen Cavanaugh. It is Monday, April 8. Here are some of the San Diego stories we are following at KPBS this hour. For the first time in its history San Diego veterans village is extending its winter shelter. Veterans homeless officials say they were asked by Mayor Bob Filner not to take down the tents. It's not clear how long the village will remain open and an airport weather warning is in effect for San Diego's Lindbergh Field for wind gusts 35 mi./h or greater. With strongest winds in the mountains and deserts. Listen for the latest news right here on KPBS. Our top story on Midday Edition San Diego Mayor Bob Filner is here to take your questions and give his update on what is happening at City Hall. We have invited your comments and questions on Facebook and Twitter and right now inviting your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Mayor Filner, welcome back.

BOB FILNER: As always thank you, Maureen.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The veteran shelter I talked about in the newscast was scheduled to close today. You told them not to pull up the tents. What is the city committing to in terms of dollars to keep the shelter open?

BOB FILNER: I talked to many of the veterans who are heading back to the street over the weekend and people who are in very difficult circumstances. People who are own preconditions and will not have a way to get the medicine they need, others who fear the violence on the street. Others who are just not in good shape. And I said I don't care how we do it, we are going to find a way to do it. These are people who defended our nation, who fought for us, many combat veterans and others. But it will take about 200, $250,000 to keep the shelter open through the end of this fiscal year and I committed to them that we will go to the city Council and ask for emergency monies to do that. We have money left over in this year's budget and I think it should be able to be used for this humane effort to help people who are down on their luck who just need a helping hand.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You've already asked and the city Council has approved $300,000 to keep the general population homeless emergency shelter open through June. What does this say about the efficacy of our permanent shelter, I mean, that's up and running now, should be left to do its job?

BOB FILNER: I'm not sure what you mean, we opened up connections housing which houses about 200, 250 people morning we have nine or 10,000 people on the street. There are nowhere near the number of shelter beds we need I'm committed as mayor to get at first all the veterans off the street and then all the homeless off the street but there's nowhere near the facilities that we need for getting just some basic shelter and we have to work on that as a city I think it's not only in an economic necessity but it's a humanitarian necessity and I intend to work on it with all the energy I have.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We asked people to tweet their questions for you and to go on Facebook., We did get in a tweeted question from Voice of San Diego's Scott Lewis. He wants to know when it comes to your plan about new guidelines for medical marijuana facilities he wants to know more specifically how you plan to tax medical marijuana.

BOB FILNER: Scott has found a very clever way to get a question to me by going through K PBS, but we are proposing and the city Council has not yet acted on it and we put it in as a general concept it would have to go through the city attorneys and what we call an excise tax on 2% of the sales of medical marijuana to get the increased enforcement and registration requirements we want to protect the public in doing and that we get the money to do that. There is a provision in the Constitution for an excise tax. It's to be collected through the city, the way we collect any sales tax for example or any attacks on tourists. So, the mechanism is in place, and we have reporting requirements from any dispensaries are set up by law. And have the 2% going to the enforcement actions that we need to do to keep our kids safe while we are providing humane and compassionate treatment for those who need a medical marijuana.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Just a technical question about that there's a technicality about an excise tax being a product where medical marijuana is not a product the sales tax would have to be approved by a vote of the people, would you take that if it becomes a sales tax to that

BOB FILNER: If it's necessary, again I think there's definitions of the excise tax to provide the monies that are needed to regulate the product that is involved. So I think we fall under that exemption and you know, the lawyers will check on it before it is ever put into law.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: When do you plan to submit those guidelines to the city Council?

BOB FILNER: I submitted that they were supposed to go on calendar this month but I think the city Council may postpone that another month because of their own calendar so it will be coming out in the next weeks or so.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Again, Mayor Bob Filner is my guest, the number is 1-888-895-5727. Let me get in a question about the budget because your budget is supposed to be submitted next week. It's the first one and then, for you in the city of San Diego. When we talk about this before we were thinking the city was facing a $40 million budget deficit is that still the budget we are looking at

BOB FILNER: That is the deficit we had to work with. As a Mayor, I'm coming in the middle of a long process, a lot of the budget processes had already been underway. I said I have two priorities, increasing our public safety capabilities and fire and police and making sure that the kind of infrastructure repairs and maintenance repairs that we had fallen behind on get a higher priority so that's what we are trying to do. But we have a significant deficit to start off with. What I've done with that is looked at a combination of our revenue picture is also looking better for next year, combination of increased revenues and I will call them on time revenues to close the gap. I will submit a balanced budget. It will not have any cuts to any services that we've experienced in the last decade or so. We're going to move forward in some respects especially public safety and infrastructure. But I've also, there is one area that I think people need to understand and help me with the Council on this. That is, if we sign a five-year as opposed to the normal one-year agreement with our employees we have additional flexibility in money savings that comes from that but we also say because of the pension calculations $25 million instantly. I could put in $25 million into next year's budget and get rid of the structural deficit if the city Council approves a five-year agreement with the employees. The five-year agreement will actually, even a proposition B that was passed by the voters is in legal limbo that will not be settled for years, the biggest promise proposition B was a $1 million savings because of pensionable pay freeze. And we will ask the employees to agree to that. Have other kinds of compensation, for example, health benefits that will make up for some of the losses that they have suffered in the past, but I think we can produce a five-year pensionable pay freeze that saves us $1 million off the pension problems. But, the Council has not., What should I say enthusiastically endorsed a five-year plan yet and I hope they will.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay we unfortunately can't take it step-by-step all the things you have said about your budget, here, but one thing, have you reached a five-year deal with the city employees?

BOB FILNER: We are in the process of negotiating, but the council has to approve you know, proposals and offers as we go along and we've had difficulty getting a five-year agreement by the Council, so I'm hopeful that they will. I'm hopeful that we could conclude a five-year agreement and again, that not only gives us labor peace for five years, it gives employees some sense that there is hope at the end, there's light at the end of the tunnel. We have more flexibility and we get because of pension calculations $25 million this year, $25 million next year of extra money.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And if that does not go through can you give me another example of one of these one term savings things that you would like to put into the budget.

BOB FILNER: For example we had a legal settlement with SDG&E on certain online bill said they had in the last fire that took place and they give us a check for roughly $25 million. I've had to use that to cover the deficit. I will not have to use that that can go right into the reserve funds if the five-year deal is made with employees.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's take some calls and we should go to Edgar in San Diego Edgar welcome to the program. Is Edgar there, hello, Edgar what would you like to ask Mayor Filner?

NEW SPEAKER: I would like to ask our Mayor Filner if there's anything in particular that he would like to conducting outreach program for recruiting purposes so we can continue to provide employment opportunities for San Diego citizens

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: In average for employment opportunities for any citizens in particular?

BOB FILNER: City of San Diego citizens, or even to combine just, anywhere employees, or job seekers in general, doesn't have to be from city of San Diego, but at least the main point is to continue to promote employment opportunities and since I'm currently in charge of recruiting for the city of San Diego I want to make sure that we are doing the best we can. I'm attending several career fairs.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Thank you, Edgar, let me have the mayor address your question.

BOB FILNER: Let me mention two aspects of things we are doing a half I have been very involved as a congressman with veterans employment we established the first-ever veterans employment office in the city of San Diego and we're going to have within the next 60 days a summit of the major employers in San Diego. And I want for them a public commitment to hiring X number of veterans in the coming two or three more years. The veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan literally sacrificed for us they are facing unemployment rate of close to 35%. That's unacceptable in a military town such as San Diego so I want a military commitment to higher veterans in addition we are revising a lot of our contracting policies that will allow small business people to take more advantage of the contract opportunities that are three billion-dollar operation like the city of San Diego has to offer, so in those ways, in addition we are embarking on a rather comprehensive conversion to solar energy of all the public buildings and that is going to lead to the need of many small businesses to participate in those contracts, so in all those ways we're going to try to expand opportunities for San Diego citizens.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's take a call from Greg in San Ysidro. Good afternoon, Greg, thanks for calling.

NEW SPEAKER: Good afternoon, thanks for the chance to do this the question I'm curious does the mayor believe that there is going to be a greater opportunities in the future for city government to cooperate with County government addressing problems of everything from homelessness to the question of new stadiums to fighting wildfires? It seems that there has not been a lot of cooperation over the years at least since I've been here.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Great, thank you for the call let's have the mayor

BOB FILNER: That's a very good question and a really important one because not only does it show to the voters said government should be and can cooperate but it saves money usually when you can cooperate and the chairman of the board of supervisors Mayor Cox and I have met on several occasions to talk about this we are formalizing for example the county operations center. We will have the lead when we have major disaster issues rather than to competing kinds of operations, we are looking at ways that we can jointly use our facilities better, you mentioned the homeless and our housing funds that will come in, the stadium funding, all those things that we are talking about and will be part of our more cooperative effort we have just decided to come together for example on the renewable energy policy for public buildings. I was talking about that for city public buildings, but the County of San Diego and the school district of San Diego jointed we are going to have the most comprehensive and the most I will say ambitious program in the United States for bringing alternative energy into the heating and cooling of public buildings and that is the city county cooperation that's really going to pay off for the citizens. We are going to join in on some of the programs are offered in terms of solar panels for example, which, because we are doing it cooperatively will bring down the cost, the unit cost of all the things that we are doing

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And John in downtown San Diego, welcome to the program. John, are you there? Hi, John thank you for calling.

NEW SPEAKER: Hi, thank you am I on right now? Okay I live in downtown San Diego and my question is about parking meters. I never have quarters but my work requires that I traveled to Los Angeles quite a bit and I notice they have parking meters that accept credit cards but they are not the kiosk machines that I find terrifying and confusing and inconvenient the meters and LA look like the old-fashioned one at the there. To be solar powered and take credit cards and I'm wondering do you have any plans to consider these meters for downtown San Diego?


BOB FILNER: Thanks John. I also live downtown so I know what you are talking about. I know, I am not as up to speed on this as I should be. We will try, if you call our office later this week we will have better information, but I think there are either meters in operation, or plan to be in operation that can take the credit card, or there are ways that you can pay in advance through a credit card and use a card at the meter is self that will just take the money off like a smart card, phonecard. So I think those improvements are coming. But, get a hold of the office later this weekend I will give you a better answer on that.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Finally again it's unbelievable that we are out of time but I must ask you about this based on a report by KPBS Eye News source the fair political practices commission is launching an investigation into how UT San Diego charged for political ads last year. The allegation is that the paper quoted higher rates for Democrats than for Republicans. Is that what your campaign experience, Mayor Filner?

BOB FILNER: Is it we wouldn't expect anything else but we have campaign laws that are to be better, but they want to have full and open, should be more immediate disclosure. There should be proper enforcement and there should be higher penalties. Because, this is an illegal act, what the UT apparently did, and what if that influenced the outcome of the election? That is, what if they elected my opponent instead of me? What recourse could there be? There really is no recourse after-the-fact, so we have to send a signal through again, quicker disclosure, better enforcement, and much different penalties that this kind of illegal activity stifles democracy, is not good for our role in democratic system and is not going to be tolerated. And so, I hope that the UT will be prosecuted for their crimes if they are proven. But we have got to send a signal that these real techniques that really stable democracy and can hurt us will not be tolerated.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Mayor Filner, once again, thank you very much.

BOB FILNER: Thanks as always.