Roundtable: City Labor Deal, Colorado River Talks, Homeless Children, Grandal Returns To Padres
May 31, 2013 11:53 a.m.
Alison St. John
James Riffel, City News Bureau Chief
Tony Perry, San Diego Bureau Chief, LA Times
Susan Murphy, KPBS News
Jay Paris, sports writer
Related Story: Roundtable: City Labor Deal, Colorado River Talks, Homeless Children, Grandal Returns To Padres
ST. JOHN: With me at the Roundtable, James Riffel of the city news service.
ST. JOHN: Tony Perry of the LA Times. Great to have you here.
PERRY: Always great to be here.
ST. JOHN: Susan Murphy, KPBS reporter.
MURPHY: Good afternoon, Alison.
ST. JOHN: And Jay Paris, a sportswriter.
ST. JOHN: We got word this week of an agreement with City of San Diego employees that will reduce the city's ballooning pension deficit and restore some of the furloughs that employees have been subjected to. Jim, remind us why this 5-year labor pact was necessary.
RIFFEL: Well, it's important because when you're budgeting for the city, you need to have a certain amount of certainty because there's already so much that is projection, projection, projection. And when SD SERS, which is the employees' retirement group, when they project out, it's from a very long time. You're talking about a year and a half for some of these numbers to be able to work through.
ST. JOHN: That affects the budget hugely, doesn't it?
RIFFEL: Absolutely, and you have to build in for all kinds of contingencies. So this gives the city a certain amount of certainty for a number of years so they know what the contributions that the city makes to the retirement system are going to be in a few years. So that's going to be able to save them money that they couldn't save on a year to year basis.
ST. JOHN: So tell us what are the provisions for the employees.
RIFFEL: They start getting their money back. In 2009, the city having hard times with their budget had to impose a 6% pay cut. And this was put in with furlough days and that sort of thing. And employees have had to endure this ever since 2009. And now this starts to restore that for the employees. And for most of the employees, it's getting back 1.75% for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins on July 1st. And that's generally giving back some of those furlough days. You don't have to take them anymore. Changes in healthcare contributions and that sort of thing. Then 1.75% the next year, and the same the following year. So the total over three years, 5.25%.
ST. JOHN: Still not quite getting back what they lost a couple years ago. But the most important part with the city is the 5-year agreement base pay calculated for retirement.
RIFFEL: Right. And what they're doing is they locked in this major controversial part of Proposition B which was passed by the voters last June in which just their base pay is going to be what's calculated into their future retirement payout. So for the next 5-year period, only base pay.
ST. JOHN: Why is this a good deal for the city?
RIFFEL: For the city it means lower contributions into the retirement system. And a member of the supporters of prop B, they said over $1 billion in savings until 2040.
ST. JOHN: So how much is it going to save the city in the near term?
RIFFEL: In the near term, this next fiscal year, it'll be $25 million according to mayor Filner, and $20 million of that will be in the general fund. The city has all kinds of operating funds in their budget. The general fund pays for public safety, libraries, parks and rec.
ST. JOHN: Day to day stuff.
RIFFEL: Day-to-day operations. And that will be $20 million.
ST. JOHN: That's good!
RIFFEL: $20 million to the general fund this upcoming year, then the next year tell be the same amount. Then down to $10 million after that.
ST. JOHN: And Tony?
PERRY: Who should get the praise or blame for this decision? The mayor of the City of San Diego or as our friends in Missions Valley would suggest Kevin Faulconer Faulconer? Who was the driver on the management side?
ST. JOHN: And Kevin Faulconer is not the greatest friend of labor.
PERRY: And happens to be Republican.
RIFFEL: It's interesting how it worked out. Mayor Filner has been calling for a 5-year labor deal since he started his campaign, basically. And so he was a big pusher of it, obviously the unions wanted to get their share and get that 6% back and build some. They wanted -- I believe they were talking about 14.5%.
ST. JOHN: That was an ambitious goal.
RIFFEL: But it's a starting point.
ST. JOHN: For negotiations.
RIFFEL: You start big and work your way down.
PERRY: What strikes me about this is we are once again in public-employeeville, where things are different than they are on the private sector. How in this economy can you have a multi-year agreement to pay this much, this much, and this much? We could have some sort of geopolitical event that crashes our economy right down around our ankles, and there the City of San Diego is obligated to pay more money each. Those other years to its employees with less money coming in!
RIFFEL: And that's the risk. It's a risk for the unions too because of what happens, for those general employees, we're talking about 1.75% in each of the next three years, and then they have the option to reopen some negotiations to try to maybe get some more money in there.
ST. JOHN: So it's --
RIFFEL: As Tony was saying, the economy could go downhill again! And the economy is cyclical. So in the next three years -- they're projecting the economy will be fairly strong. But it could drop dramatically.
PERRY: Aren't we learning there are things about the economy that aren't as sweet as we'd like? Isn't that the basic of the dispute between Filner and the tourism folks, that the money coming into that fund is less than they thought it was going to be, which suggests maybe that tourism, or golden goose, is if not sick, coughing and wheezing a tad?
RIFFEL: The TOT revenues for the city have not exactly been very strong, and those are the baseball room tax revenues that you get from the visitors who spend the nights in the hotels. But that really has not been very strong. The real big part which increased the budget or the revenue for the City of San Diego has been property taxes.
ST. JOHN: So it's a gamble for the city as well.
RIFFEL: It is.
ST. JOHN: But it is obviously a lot less for the employees. They were not happy about this. It sounds like they had to have their arms twisted at the end to accept it. If it does benefit the city with $20 million, I thought under Proposition B the city was going to be paying in the short-run, that it was not going to be making any money off this.
RIFFEL: And that's how it was going to be originally. Until you got this. Now that you have the 5-year deal in, that changes.
ST. JOHN: Because the certainty has changed the equation. Okay. Will the city still get the savings even if Prop B is determined in the Courts to be illegal? The pension reform?
RIFFEL: That's a good question.
[ LAUGHTER ]
RIFFEL: We're going to see.
ST. JOHN: Okay. What about police and fire? How do their compensations increase?
RIFFEL: Well, the City Council and the mayor have been very concerned about not just their salary, but the issue with them has been overall take-home pay. And what we're hearing from the police department and from the police union has been that take-home pay differences between San Diego police department and some of the neighboring police departments are even $1,200 a month. So what they've done is they've tried to front-load these races to the police and the firefighters. For example, instead of getting 1.75% like the general employees are, the police will get 2% this first year. And the lifeguards and firefighters will get 2.25%. So hopefully, that will come out in their take-home pay and more believe retained. That's the hope anyway.
ST. JOHN: And the police, a large proportion of the force is set to retire in the near future. So it's a big issue whether this increase will be enough to attract new people to the police force.
RIFFEL: Absolutely. In the next, say, four years, a very large percentage of the San Diego police department is going to retire.
PERRY: Can you imagine any world in which the San Diego police department cannot attract people? I mean the possibility of practicing police work in one of America's largest, most interesting cities?
ST. JOHN: What they argue is that they're only more in Chula Vista now.
PERRY: We love Chula Vista. A city of a smaller size. This is a big city. If you want to be a police officer, big cities allow you to exercise certain skills and challenges, it would seem to me.
RIFFEL: If you listen to the arguments of the police department and the San Diego police officers association it is not attracting the police officers, it is keeping them. Once they're eligible to move on, they tend to get attracted by these other smaller agencies. So retention, that's the real problem with the police officers.
MURPHY: I'm wondering as the abilities of unions to negotiate good pension deals diminish, does it make you wonder if the number of seniors have a hard time paying a mortgage will grow in the future?
RIFFEL: You know, it could. I do think that one helpful item right now is that mortgage rates are just so low that if you can refinance -- my wife and I are talking about refinancing, we only did that, like, five, six years ago! And we're talking about refinancing again. These things have a way of kind of balancing out.
PERRY: If you were to give me an unless, how would this have been different if we had a mayor named Carl DeMaio? Would he have signed off on a 5-year plan like this or held the line in even tougher years?
ST. JOHN: It's only a 3-year plan in terms of the pay basis.
PERRY: Yes. Would DeMaio have gone for this? Hard to say, but --
RIFFEL: Yeah, we're kind of speculating. Bob Filner during the campaign made a fairly interesting point. I'm the only person who can get this 5-year deal done.
RIFFEL: Because he's friendly with the unions, and the unions trust him. I don't think they would have trusted Carl DeMaio in order to pull this off. But they trusted Filner. And when their friend came to them and said, hey, if we're going to do it year by year, then we're talking zero in terms of raises. When Filner comes and says that, well, that makes them think a little bit. I think that was the real difference.
ST. JOHN: Interesting combination with the mayor obviously there looming, and also Kevin Faulconer who was actual a point person in the negotiations. It wasn't an easy agreement to reach, was it?
RIFFEL: It was very difficult, and the difference between the numbers was very wide. And eventually it just came down to a numbers game. The unions wanted a higher number, the City Council particularly wanted a lower number, and they found a happy middle. The unions rank and file need to ratify, so they have some votes scheduled primarily for next week. If that goes smoothly, then the council president, Todd Gloria, are has scheduled a June 10th vote. It might have to get delayed. We'll have to see how things work out. But that's the tentative schedule right now.
ST. JOHN: Okay, good. June 10th. But it is a key element of the budget.
ST. JOHN: An important agreement to have reached.
RIFFEL: And at the same time, that's the scheduled date to approve the city's budget for next year.
ST. JOHN: Ah, ha. Okay. A lot at stake!
ST. JOHN: Let's flow into our next topic here on the Roundtable. Water. 40 million people depend on the Colorado River. We here in San Diego County are 3 million of those people, and we are at the end of the pipeline. People from seven states came to a meeting here this week to talk about ways of facing up to the fact that there's a good chance the river will not be able to meet demand sometime within the next 50 years. So Tony, you covered this meeting, who attended it?
PERRY: Lots of folk, a lot of water Buffalos if you will from the seven states that depend on this 1,400-mile river. Including farmers. This river irrigates land that providing 15% of our food. Also Indian tribes and folks that worry about Los Angeles and Phoenix and Denver and Las Vegas, and San Diego here. Everybody was there. The Department of the Interior called the meeting to say the hydrology is bad and getting worse, and by October 1st, the two big reservoirs on the river might be less than half the capacity. In other words, everything we've done heretofore, okay, got to do it more. Just pull out all the stops, desal, water reuse, water sales from farmers to cities, let's put all of that on the table. All three committees that were formed are going to have to come back by the end of the year. Of the municipal users, the enviros, and the farmers. Because 75% of the water from the Colorado River goes to the farmers, and the big person at the trough on that, if you will, is the Imperial Irrigation District in Imperial Valley. So essentially what it is saying is that we have to make even greater efforts at conservation. In San Diego, they've done a bunch of thing, and they cut a deal a decade ago with the farmers in Imperial. They're moving down the road on desalination in Carlsbad, and some other things do. But seeing in the macro-level, not enough anywhere, back to square 1, leave your lawyers at the door.
ST. JOHN: That's the interesting point about this. Throughout history, people have been shot dead over water rights! There's a lot of competition over water.
ST. JOHN: Now they're saying we cannot solve this without cooperation. So this is a pretty interesting meeting if that is the beginning of cooperation. But I have to ask you, were some of the biggest warring factions like the Metropolitan Water District which is at war with San Diego --
PERRY: Or vice versa.
ST. JOHN: Were they both there?
PERRY: They were monitoring it. But their presence physically in the room was less significant than actually watching it. And there were other things going on in waterworld, the plan for the delta up in Northern California was just about ready to be released. But they're either on these committees that have been formed, being told to get something ready by the end of the year. In water world, that's lightning speed. These disputes take decades. So to get something ready involving seven states, all sort was partners by the end of the year? That's lightning speed. But the call to arms is very, very strong from the feds who control that river.
ST. JOHN: Jay?
PARIS: Where's the drop-off? Demand? Supply? A little of both?
PERRY: Both. Demand is going up. The populations are increasing, even though the per capita consumption is going down. It's being outpaced by population increases. The supply is declining. Last year was the 5th driest year in a century, this year is worse. It'll be the 4th driest if it continues. So you've got a really bad trajectory. Increasing demand, falling supply. And that spells bad for everybody involved.
ST. JOHN: Go ahead, Susan.
MURPHY: I'm just going to say that I also covered some water issues in San Diego. I talked to some water authority folks recently. And they seem pretty confident that mandatory conservation is not needed right now. But yet it's the first time in five years that they're dipping into our state reservoirs, our storage. So what do you think of that?
PERRY: Yeah! There's all sorts of signs that while we have made progress, San Diego has a figure that says per capita consumption is down. But they're dipping into reservoirs, increasing the capacity of the Vincente reservoir. And of course we have the desal going on too. Essentially it means everything before has been good. But we're going to have to do more. And he's, leave your lawyers at the door. Now, the deal between Imperial and San Diego, biggest sale of water from farmers to cities in the nation's history, was only done after extreme arm-twist big the federal government. Those farmers out there were not going to let loose of that water if their arms weren't being twisted and threats being made to take it away. And that sale is not terribly popular out there. In fact it's very unpopular.
ST. JOHN: In fact there's a legal issue going on right now as to whether the City of San Diego can take as much of imperial's water.
PERRY: Yeah, and it's all up in the superior court of Sacramento. And I think a decision will be made soon, but tell be appealed.
ST. JOHN: But those parties were all present at this meeting?
PERRY: They're all aware of them. And Imperial, one of their officials is going to be on the agricultural committee. She's already been quoted as saying we gave it the office. We like to farm. We're not jumping at the idea of selling more water. We like to grow carrots and cauliflower rather than sell water. So we'll see whether the biggest user of water from the Colorado River in seven states will come aboard and sell some more of this precious commodity and fallow more land or whether they'll say, no, thanks. We gave it the office. And if they do, will the feds step up as they did a decade ago and say if you don't sell it, we're going to take it from you. That's what happened a decade ago that led to the big sale from imperial to San Diego.
ST. JOHN: What is your impression about how important this new process is? It is a new process to try to bring people together who have been warring factions and have them talk about cooperation. Does it look hopeful?
PERRY: It depends on -- it depends. It's what you call the stakeholder approach. Not terribly successful other places, I must point out. The planning on the San Joaquin/Sacramento delta, for example, is stakeholder, everybody who is involved from the envireos on the municipal to the Southern Californians, everybody tries to sit down and hash it out. If you look at what it takes to get the desert to bloom so much, they were figured out with five guys sitting down at a table and arrogantly deciding to take the water from here and ship it to there. The stakeholder process is the modern version of how we do things. But I'm just not sure that it's got the speed built in to allow them to meet a quick deadline.
ST. JOHN: What about Mexico? Were they involved in this one?
PERRY: Not this one. But earlier in the fiscal year, there was an agreement struck involving them where we will allow them to store some of their water in lake mead. The earthquake a couple years ago knocked the heck out of their system. And they've yet to really repair it. So it's complex. They're going to sell some water on this side, they're going to get a lot of money, but as always, it's who pays and who gets. Imperial is not keen on the idea that metropolitan out of Los Angeles is buying this water. They're going, yo, this water ought to be ours. Also there's a plan to build a turnout from the all-American canal in Imperial to allow water to go through the canal south to Mexico. As you talk to the people from the Imperial irrigation district, they say it's called an all-American canal for a reason. And plan can't go forward without them. So lots of complexity, and the devil's in the details, and water is nothing but details.
ST. JOHN: Jay?
PARIS: It just seems funny with that big old blue ocean out there, here we are talking about water. And I know desalination is expensive. But at some point, do the numbers say it's not that expensive anymore to go that route?
PERRY: It all depends, as the great Mulholland said, water is worth what it costs to get it. And if you don't got it, you're willing to pay a lot. Now, it's been tried some places, Santa Barbara, for example. And the feeling was it didn't pencil out at that time. Now San Diego has cut a deal to build a plant as we know. And it will cost, and we'll just see. And now will people buy that water from them? Because the San Diego County water authority is a wholesaler. And we'll just see. The technology has gotten better. And less expensive, I'm told. So far the Carlsbad proposal has gone through the regulatory agencies and seems to be moving. And desal is one of the things that the fed when is they came to town were talking. And water as a whole, if X person uses less or finds another source, that then allows person Y, agency Y, state Y to possibly be able to get a little more water that they need and not take a cutback. So think of a big family, big warring, angry --
ST. JOHN: Yes, I was going to say! What kind of a family!
[ LAUGHTER ]
PERRY: Suspicious family, that's what we have in the seven states that are totally dependent in many ways on this great big river. The most litigated river in America.
ST. JOHN: Was there some discussion of the fact that San Diego is the first one to jump for desalination in the state and the biggest plant in the country?
PERRY: Yeah, San Diego is trying to -- not really blaze a trail, because the trail is there, but to show that the trail which may be had been discredited because of some attempts elsewhere in the country, that the trail is doable. So we'll see. But we won't see quickly enough for this process. They want -- the feds want something by the end of the year out of these three committees!
ST. JOHN: Ah, okay. That's interesting.
PERRY: The ages and the enviros. I can't emphasize enough what lightning speed that is! They're still complaining in the Coachella valley about things that happened in the 1930s! In San Diego, we're still mad about things that happened in the '40s!
ST. JOHN: Maybe as warring children in California we cannot do what needs to be done to meet this crisis. And the feds are having to step in.
PERRY: We'll see. The big sale of water from Imperial to San Diego was only accomplished through threats, litigation, arm-twisting led by the federal government. We'll see whether this current administration really wants to go down that route and wrestle the farmers or the municipals or the environmentalists to the ground on this.
MURPHY: Do you think part of the urgency comes from the fact that also in the Sierras we had the driest winter on record? So 30% of our water is diminishing as well?
PERRY: It does. The snow pack comes down as part of the California aqueduct and feeds metropolitan and they fan it out from there. So you're right. It's dry everywhere! It's dry in the Sierras, it's dry in the Rockies! Long-term, Colorado River is like the stock market. You're going to be okay. But in the short-run, you can lose your shirt. And that's what they're warning now. We could lose our shirts here in Southern California and also the six other states.
ST. JOHN: And they're also talking about within the next 50 years, our children's water supply, right? It's not going to hold up.
PERRY: No. As we know in San Diego. Nature gave everything in San Diego for a wonderful life. It gave us sunshine, beaches, mountains. KPBS. But what it did not give us was our own water supply. And that hunt, that desperate search for water is the history of San Diego. It's also the history of Southern California. And that hunt and search is not going to end when we shuffle off. We're going to hand it off to our kids. We may hand off the situation if we're not smart, the situation where the fussing and the feuding over the river has really hurt everybody, and we're all tied up in litigation while the river gets drier and drier and mead and Powell start to look like bathtubs.
ST. JOHN: This was really the result or came out of this extensive report that the U.S. interior secretary put out last year, the Colorado River basin water supply and demand study that showed a looming crisis. And they came up with a lot of different solutions, including icebergs!
PERRY: Yeah, they threw everything at the wall. Icebergs, not going to happen. Aqueduct, not going to happen. What's going to happen is conservation, learning to use less, learning to grow less. Learning to put another brick in your toilet. Using less. That's what we're heading toward. Icebergs -- not going to happen.
PARIS: I find it interesting too, you mentioned San Diego, what we're blessed with. That goes with a lot of nice, big, green golf courses.
PERRY: Yes, but I think if we got the golf folks on the line, they'd tell us about their wonderful reuse, their use of purple water, if you will. They would explain all that. And if we got the lady who runs water for Las Vegas, she would explain reuse and she would make a thunderingly strong case that she's actually very conservation-minded. She's a big person in the whole water world, and she can --
PARIS: Refute those, huh?
ST. JOHN: It's true the golf course in Escondido is just about to -- fighting that now about how many houses they can develop because they cannot sustain the golf club anymore.
PARIS: That's true.
ST. JOHN: And there's another one in Poway.
PERRY: And speaking as a bad golfer, yes, it looks wasteful. But on the other hand golf courses do great. A $26 billion recreation industry, jobs, etc.
PARIS: And a nice green belt.
PERRY: And the rattlesnakes that come down from the hills there in the Oceanside muni, they're looking for water also, unfortunately.
PARIS: That's what you're blaming your game on? I gotcha.
[ LAUGHTER ]
ST. JOHN: Well, water is not a problem that's going to go away anytime soon. Thanks for bringing us up-to-date, Tony.
ST. JOHN: You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition Roundtable. Joining me today at the Roundtable are James Riffel of city news service, Tony Perry of the LA Times, KPBS reporter Susan Murphy, and sportswriter Jay Paris.
(Audio Recording Played)
ST. JOHN: Homeless child. We've heard for years how the homeless population is changing. Years ago, most of those living on the streets were adult men. More and more women and now whole families are a part of the homeless population. Susan Murphy produced stories this week that highlight how many children are living the life of the homeless. The numbers are shocking and the implications are serious. Susan, tell us about a growing number of homeless children spending their nights in a San Diego rescue mission emergency shelter and days on the streets.
MURPHY: Well, I visited the San Diego rescue missions, women and children's emergency shelter the past couple of weeks. There were complex children that night. Half were under the age of 6. And in addition there were 43 women. They don't have an emergency shelter for the men. So the situation is they're seeing a growing number of children. In 2012, the rescue mission sheltered 683 children in its emergency facility. And that's up 200 from 2010. So just to give you an overview of the shelter, it has a capacity of 60. But they're over capacity every night for about 2-3 years. They hold a special services envelope, it allows them to add 20 more beds if needed. But sometimes they reach a capacity of more than 100. They don't like to turn people away. They just squeeze them in wherever they can.
ST. JOHN: What are the conditions like?
MURPHY: The women and children sleep together in one room. Basically you look at the room, and it's blanket-covered mattresses all over the floor. The sides are lined by bunk beds. Women sleep in the hallways on mattresses, every inch of space is taken. They have some startling statistics. 2,400 children were sheltered in 2012, and more than 40% of the children were under the age of 6.
ST. JOHN: So why do little children end up on the streets all day?
MURPHY: Well, are the shelter is only licensed to be open from 7:00 PM to 7:00 AM. Most of the children go to school. Most of them attend monarch school for the homeless. There's also Washington elementary nearby. Buff the little children, the babies and toddlers, they end up with their mom on the street for 12 hours during the day. The shelter is licensed --
PERRY: Is this just a lack of aggressiveness on the district attorney's part in seeking child payments from the fathers of these children?
MURPHY: With our economy, I know that a lot of families have been -- suffered hard times. There's a lot of tough situations out there.
ST. JOHN: Okay, so now one of the possible solutions that the rescue mission is talking about is a preschool or daycare center to provide more normal childhood for the children.
MURPHY: Right. I wanted to touch on some of the dangers that these kids face for just a minute. There was a 5-year-old who was recently hit by a car as he was leaving the rescue mission's shelter. Some moms have drug addictions. They aren't carefully watching their children at parks. A lot of the moms have abusive relationships. So kids are witnessing physical and sexual abuse. Some babies and toddlers end up strapped in their strollers all day while their moms stand in line for welfare services. So a preschool or daycare is one of the solutions to keep kids safe.
ST. JOHN: I think a lot of people aren't really aware of the fact that even if you live in a shelter, you don't get to stay there during the day. And when it's adults who are out on the street, you may not notice them. But now we're talking about hundreds of kids, right? Who are having to find -- and baby, who are in the parks and the libraries.
MURPHY: Right. And when you see them, you wouldn't necessarily know that they're homeless. They look like everyday people. But a lot of them hang out in the parks. They put a blanket out in the middle of the park and just sit there all day long.
ST. JOHN: Talk about what you discovered. Your second story there was looking at how one mother took her baby to the park. What's the challenges of raising a baby in the park?
MURPHY: He was a nine month old, his name was Charley. The mom Christie, and the dad Charles. He sleeps under the bridge and meets them near Balboa every morning. They pretty much have to keep this baby who's just learning to crawl constrained on the blanket. They don't want him crawling off and picking things up and eating it off of the grass. They said there's whiffs of marijuana, there's some dangerous people that pass by, and there's all sorts of challenges.
PERRY: The City of San Diego is -- recently announced rather proudly that the homeless shelter for veterans will be open 12 months a year. So we're going to get some veterans off the streets. That's cool. What about these families? What does the City of San Diego with its new mayor, what is it doing to help these folks who are living on our streets?
MURPHY: That's a really good question. I know that there is a shortage of shelters. The waiting list for long-term shelters is at an all-time high. Some of the shelters have told me they used to be 3-4 weeks as of a couple of years ago. Right now, presently, they're 2-4 months. In the meantime, the only facility that women and children can go to in the City of San Diego is the San Diego rescue mission's emergency shelter.
PERRY: So if I roll up with father Joe with a couple kids, can I not get in there? Is he maxed?
MURPHY: I think there's different criteria for who makes it to the top of the list. But overall, there is a 2-4 month period, and most of them are sent to the rescue mission.
PERRY: Are these folks arriving from elsewhere hoping San Diego's streets are paved with gold? Or are these longtime residents?
MURPHY: I asked that question to several of the shelters, and they're trying to get to the become of why there are so many families in need this day. And they said it's kind of a combination. Some families come here because there are services, it's warm, there are families who are suffering hard times from the economy, being laid off. I talked to one mom, rosy, she's staying at the YMCA family center. She was a victim of domestic violence, but also they lost their job, and she was evicted from her apartment and ended up at the rescue mission, then to the family center.
ST. JOHN: Tony, let me reflect on this. I remember covering the end of welfare as we know it in 1996, and over time that program has shrunk. And cal works is now -- they just had a 6% reduction. If you've been on it for a couple of years, you're kicked off. The safety net for families has very much frayed and disappeared in recent years. Don't you see this as being perhaps the consequence of something we've seen developing over a long time?
PERRY: Sure. And there's what they call compassion collapse, and people remember that quote in the Bible that says the poor will always be with us. But it does strike me as a scandal in San Diego where we have -- we're building wonderful convention centers and hotels that we have children living on the streets. There are studies that say you can't extrapolate from a bad childhood what you're going to be like when you're grown up. But that said, it's just horrific what we're learning here.
ST. JOHN: And up in North County, there's a similar situation. Solutions for Change is taking families from shelters and putting them through a 2-year program to help them get back on track.
PERRY: The thing we're not mentioning is mental health. People that like living under bridges. There are issues there.
ST. JOHN: That's one aspect.
PERRY: That's not -- you've not really got all ores in the water when you're living under a bridge and like that. That's not right.
ST. JOHN: How many evidence of that would you say of that you were seeing?
MURPHY: It's hard to judge without having a conversation. But there was a big mix. There were some moms that I talked to that were just struggling financially. There were people that just didn't seem quite right. There were seniors, a lot of single senior women, and a lot of these children, the innocent children are born into this, some of them did have healthy home, and now they're living at the shelter in the chaos in the evenings of all these babies crying and kids running around and wresting, and not much sleep going on. So yeah, and with this preschool, there's a study underway. And Sherry Hauser is the director there, and she just hopes they can get a preschool to provide a normal childhood for them, so they have some kind of normal routine, daily routine. And a lot of them have behavioral issues.
ST. JOHN: Right. So this is the rescue mission's program. And I believe the City of San Diego does have a shelter for homeless women and children. But that sounds like a really good way to approach it, a daycare program for the children.
RIFFEL: Have they talked about the funding sources for this sort of thing? How long it might take to implement? Where they might put that sort of a thing?
MURPHY: Well, they would put it at the rescue mission, I believe. They are -- the feasibility study is underway, and they weren't able to provide details yet. But I'm sure the information will come out soon, and I plan to follow up on the situation. But the program's director envisions a beautiful classroom with contemporary playground equipment. When I was there in the Court yard, kids were pushing each other around on carts and playing with old toys. And it's their backyard, basically. They're able to come in at 5:30 at night, and the doors open at 7:00. And she envisions this place that's open during the day where kids can play and have social interaction and play with kids, instead of being taken and standing in lines with their moms in welfare services.
ST. JOHN: Well, I think this series is really going to bring it home for a lot of people. And I want to just say that the video that Susan and Katie produced is on our website, KPBS. And it's really worth taking a look at.
ST. JOHN: Sometimes we all wish Joe demaggio would step in and be our hero! And we're talking about a particular returning player who will be the hero, we hope, of the Padres. Jay, you are a longtime sportswriter and one of our favorite sports analysts, and you were among the North County workers laid off this week by UT San Diego. Did you have any indication that was coming?
PARIS: No, I kind of felt like Philip Rivers last season. I got blind-sighted. But it had been six months since the UT purchased the North County Times. There were some initial layoffs. It seemed like things were settling in. Everybody had their beats, and people were there, fired up, because they're doing some innovative things down there. But 23 years of sports writing ended in a three-minute conversation Tuesday morning, and here we go.
ST. JOHN: Well, we sure hope it doesn't end here, jay.
PARIS: That's right. It's not how far you fall, it's how high you bounce.
[ LAUGHTER ]
ST. JOHN: Let me just ask, how will this affect sports coverage at the UT?
PARIS: Well, guys will have to do more with less. And what a great newspaper are the voices. And there's fewer voices now that can represent the community and tell all the great stories that are all around San Diego, not only sport, but a lot of guys on the news side lost their jobs too. So anytime you take a knife to your staff, I know it's all bells and whistles on the website and all that, but when it gets down to it, it's reporters providing content. And when that takes a hit, it hurts your product.
ST. JOHN: So North County lost its sports section. Another victim of the changing process. You've been covering sports from all over the region. So let's talk about the Padres. How have they been doing? As well as you expected?
PARIS: Yes, and that meant the expectations weren't real high. This is a rebuilding process, and if they win 75 games or flirt with .500 this year, they'd be success for them. A lot of these young players are hoping to grow into big-league reliable ball players. Their business plans there were small, medium market guys. We need to draft well young, we have to say who we want to keep around and maybe sign them up to long-term contracts before maybe they're eligible. That's their MO. They need to draft and develop, they're not going to be big free agent spenders. In that vein, they're doing right. And I know most San Diego people have one thing in mind every season, be better than the Dodgers. And right now, they are!
PERRY: And you're right, the jury is still out on the new ownership. Do they have the brain, do they have the money. But I'm concerned when I see they can't seem to get Chase Headley, our best hitter, on a long-term contract. Is it him? Is it them?
PARIS: It's a little of both. And they missed the boat. They signed up three young players a few years back, they forget to get Chase Headley. And he was the potential All-Star.
PERRY: Is he going to end up in Los Angeles?
PARIS: Los Angeles, New York, pick your big city. But they preach, preach, preach, draft and development. Homegrown stars. And here's the guy, they drafted Chase Headley, they were patient with him, they developed him. And they invested so much in him, and he's -- and he can be the face of the franchise. Especially the face of a franchise that doesn't have a lot of players you recognize.
ST. JOHN: And the big news this week was the return of Yasmani Grandal to the lineup. What got him in trouble?
PARIS: Performance enhancing drugs. It came out in November that his urine test was dirty, and it was a 50-game suspension. And I think the organization was blindsided as well. He accelerated so quickly, they thought he was a key piece. Switch-hitter, young, good behind the plate as well. Then they got struck with that. So he's back now. Nick Hunley who's been filling in, his average has been going sideways this last four weeks or so. So they have to decide there. Baseball is such a culture that it was bad what he did, but it was almost -- the worst thing you can say about a ball player is that he's not a good teammate. And Trevor Hoffman, when he retired him, that was the title he clutched to so much that he was always known as a good teammate. When you do something selfish by trying to enhance your own individual performance by doing something illegal, the other guys in the clubhouse say, hey, that's great for you. But you took 24 other guys down with you.
PERRY: What does a 24-year-old need with additional testosterone?
[ LAUGHTER ]
PERRY: You're a test oft reason delivery system at 24!
ST. JOHN: There seem to be some complaints that he didn't say he was sorry about it
PARIS: Here didn't get PRed up very well. He said he let the teammates down, you always got to throw the fans in there. And I think it would be more in bouncing back and getting better quicker.
ST. JOHN: How have the other players reacted to his return?
PARIS: I think that's ongoing. I think he's rebuilding that trust. He did aggress the team out in Peoria in spring training, and he addressed a few of the veterans. Second chances are what America is all about. And it's America's pastime, baseball.
ST. JOHN: Thank you very much.