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San Diego Mayor Bob Filner Discusses TMD, City Unions, Revised Budget & La Jolla Cove

June 3, 2013 1:02 p.m.


Bob Filner, mayor, City of San Diego

Related Story: San Diego Mayor Bob Filner Discusses TMD, City Unions, Revised Budget & La Jolla Cove


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: Mayor Bob Filner, fresh off a new showdown over tourism marketing funds is here to take your calls. This is KPBS Midday Edition. San Diego's mayor has kept up his frenetic pace, taking up issues from the border to Balboa Park join the conversation with your questions or comments at 888-895-5727. Then a KPBS favorite, story corps comes to San Diego to record the memories of veterans and their families. And a foodie movement in San Diego that moves beyond locally grown and into the wild. I am Maureen Cavanaugh. KPBS Midday Edition is next. First the news. From budgets to Balboa Park, San Diego Mayor Bob there is here to talk issues and take your calls. And the story Corps visits story Corps is here to record the stories of veterans. This is KPBS Midday Edition. I and Maureen Cavanaugh. It's Monday, June 3rd. Here are some of the San Diego stories we are following in the KPBS newsroom. Japan's former prime minister will be in San Diego tomorrow to talk about nuclear disasters like Fukushima. He'll be joined by the former head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. A renovation project at Moonlight state beach in North County is finished with upgraded facilities and additional recreation areas will open to the public next week and state Treas. Bill Lockyer leaving California Democrat has announced he'll retire from public office when his term expires in early 2015. Listen for the news to the day right here on KPBS. Our top story on Midday Edition San Diego Mayor Bob Filner reached last-minute deal with the tourism marketing district over the release of funds. The mayor is here today to talk about that and other topics and he will be taking your questions and comments. The number is 888-895-5727 or you can tweet your question @KPBSmidday. Mayor Filner, welcome.

BOB FILNER: As always, thank you for allowing us to be on every month or so.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now you released funds to the tourism marketing district on Friday the TMD in turn gave $500,000 to the Balboa Park Centennial celebration committee should we expect the sounding showdowns to continue at the tourism marketing district?

BOB FILNER: I hope not. This is not good for San Diego. It's not good for tourism these kind of spouse occur. We made an agreement. You may remember it was a long drawn out process where we came to an agreement that they would get money, they would give a specified amount of money to what is going to be the most important touristic for the next few years that is our Centennial of Balboa Park is going to be a national and international exposition that will attract tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of tourists and they agreed to give a certain amount of money, 5% of the money they got to Balboa Park.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The city attorney said that it was not guaranteed.

BOB FILNER: They guaranteed it to me and it says so in contract but more importantly at last week's meeting they were just jerking around the Balboa Park Centennial committee and said we have to give this to the sand at two that you may not get any money and I said look if you cannot accept your group about not giving money to Balboa Park we will not release the funds to you are in violation of the contract Indica secreted the next meeting to give the 5%, which now totals around 500,000 to the Balboa Park, so we release the funds but I hope they don't do this every time that the money is released to them, that, I want the money off the top to Balboa Park. This is a group by the reader was whining about me not paying the bill. They gave me the bill a few days before that, they know it takes three or four weeks for the audits and the invoice to be checked, that they sent by the way this is not affecting the additional bonuses we are giving to the head of our effort which is the head gets almost $500,000 a year now they're giving him additional bonuses and whining about not having enough money for this or that. So I'm taking them less and less seriously. The city should be out of this by the way totally. This is a private group funding private advertisements for private hotels.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: With the TMD, so what you said does seem to confirm that you have a fundamental problem with the tourism marketing district and this is just being played out in slow motion.

BOB FILNER: I have a fundamental problem that we can to an agreement until the court decision came down on the legality of the tax itself and expect them to live up to it, it is as simple as that.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: let's move on to what's happening with the Bible at Centennial. Where's the money going, where are the plans for our Centennial.

BOB FILNER: We have the Balboa Park Centennial commission has been in operation since Mayor Sanders appointed a predicted working at many levels marketing, fundraising, programming and My suggestion, they hired full-time they had producers for the extravaganza of people who had done this international kinds of shows in the past including the Mexican, the country is Mexico's 200th birthday, this group called autonomy. So I think we have ratcheted up really the level of what we are going to be doing and we will roll out their first, the first indication of their plans a couple weeks from now. What their concepts are, international kind of concept, innovative San Diego kind of concept, making sure that of course we have incredible cultural events throughout the year. The best defense from around the world from music and art and exhibitions. So I think San Diego is going to be really excited about this effort. We've moved it up but it's going to need money and we will have to raise money, but we expect to bring in again hundreds of thousands of tourists to this.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Staying in Balboa Park for a minute, the UT San Diego did reported this week in support of the clusters of Panama plan that is the plan to reconstruct the plan to direct cars out of the plaza they are appealing the legal decision that put a halt to the plan. Reporter Roger Shirley had treated this question for you, he says what is your reaction to the prosody Panama appeal and if the group points would you implement the Jacobs plan.

BOB FILNER: We've already moved beyond this we have instructed and we're going to begin actually next week the moving of cars out of the center of the plaza of Panama and having the circulation that supposedly the Jacobs plan wanted to have a $40 million both bridge and parking structure to do it we are going to restart things, re-asphalt, we are going to bring in some trees and other beautifying elements and we're going to move disabled parking to focus our gardens, we are going to move the valet parking that is supposed to be behind the restaurant

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: that was supposed to happen by Memorial Day

BOB FILNER: We have drafted (INAUDIBLE) there were some scheduling problems there, but we are moving forward on it and it's not going to cost 40 million. It's going to cost you know, basically a few thousand to do all of the striping and people are going to begin to get used vastly improved pedestrian experience. Letter after the summer is over we're going to be closing the Laurel Street bridge on weekends to have a greater experience for pedestrians and we're going to have to get used to this Marine, new traffic patterns, even if we were not interested in these and such better pedestrian experience because the Laurel's street bridge is going to be closed by Cal Trans for seismic upgrades from January 20 14th through May. So, people are going to have to get used to hold a way of getting into the park. We want them, they're going to approach from Park Boulevard. There's going to be expanded parking outside the park and there's going to be expanded tram service to get people into the market should make it better for all of us.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So Mayor Filner is that they know if the group succeeds at the judge allows the Plaza of Panama plan to move forward he would not implement it?

BOB FILNER: I just don't think it's necessary and it's going to take another few years, we can't wait, I want to do the pedestrian experience now, the bridge is going to be closed anyway, the Centennial is coming, nothing that the suit involves could be ready for that so we are going to move forward and we will deal with anything after that. Remember the original plan was to try to have the whole plan in effect by the Centennial. It can't happen now. So I think it's good, not going to have much effect on what we're doing and we will deal with the issues. It's nowhere been said where Mr. Jacobs is involved in this, which was the funding source so if they don't have funding they cannot move forward anyway.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's take a call we're taking calls at 1888-895-5727. Ron is calling us from Mission Hills. Hi Ron, welcome to the program.

NEW SPEAKER: My question is is there something called East Mesa the thing called the other side of the Florida Canyon that's a large hill I think it was a top at one time if it was leveled off at pivot it could hold 4 to 600 cars. A pedestrian bridge or shows what just work fine it would be a 5 min. drive to over by the fountain, the other thing you could use it for alternative parking when things are going on downtown. Jennette before to other people and I've never heard any reason why not to use East Mesa.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay, Ron, thank you

BOB FILNER: 25 years ago I was on the city Council representing the ballpark and we put it the master plan that exactly what you're talking about it's just never been implemented. We can make this into a parking operation, we can use trams to get in and so we will have to use during the Centennial.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's move on to the labor deal that was announced last week the city announced a five-year agreement you would negotiate with employee unions to increase wages but frees pensionable pay. This relates to one of your major campaign promises. Now, did you get the deal they wanted for the city?

BOB FILNER: Basically yes this is an historic achievement by the way, Maureen, we've never had a five-year deal. A long-term deal gets you labor stability it helps morale, it lowers the cost, you don't have to. For negotiating, don't have to spend weeks and weeks on this, but more important, proposition B which I did not support I said because it is in effect now it has to be implemented is called the biggest savings was a five-year pensionable freeze and just suggested that could not mandate it, it suggested that would leave over 30 years a billion-dollar savings for the pension. We got that. We got five-year pensionable freeze which will save the city $1 billion over 30 years, but we were able to do better for employees by doing non-pensionable pay things like healthcare benefits just as one example it puts money in their paycheck, but it does not increase their pensionable pay. Second thing by the way why a five-year plan was so important. Because the pension payment is calculated on projections, now we have a five-year certainty. We have a zero of employee contributions. They can recalculate or they are recalculating our payment. Will go down $100 million over the next five years, our payment, so we save 110 million so we're selling onto good.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Michael Zacarias, municipal unit was on this program last week he said that since it's a five-year plan for pensionable pay but it's almost agreements becauseit's a three-year deal for salary negotiations. They automatically reopened. Is that something that you wanted, didn't you want five years for both the pensionable pay and the salary increases?

BOB FILNER: What happened, this is not again when you look at the process itself, the outcome was great, the process generally was not pretty. You have half the Council do not want the five-year plan and would defiantly agree to it, they wanted. Minimal salary compensation increases. So we have to compromise on all that. The compromise came out was three years that guaranteed a 5 1/4% of non-pensionable pay increases with what we call openers in the fourth and fifth years. That is, we can talk again about compensation, non-pensionable pay, but compensation. So it will be open for the fourth and fifth years to do that and if the budget and revenue sees as projected there might be some more flexibility for our employees.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We are taking your calls at 1888-895-5727. Jimmy is on the line from the college area and Jimmy, welcome to the show

NEW SPEAKER: Hello thank you for having me I ride bicycles and motorcycles of the college area and recently they've done a road repair type project going down Montezuma and I'm curious, is there any quality control that oversees the finished project of when the fixes are done because man is the roughest section ever after they were done installing the bites and I've noticed potholes and things also that they are just not smooth and on the basically know you feel everything of course and


BOB FILNER: There should be quality control think you will have to look into that thank you Jimmy by the way I hope you notice also on Montezuma the first week all class I bikeway in San Diego where there is physical separation between bikeway and cars to make it far safer for both. That is, where (INAUDIBLE) and Montezuma has moved the bike lane out from the curb lane with a green, with a green painted link, but it separates the right turn lane. Also the major traffic with these barriers. And we're going to do that at intersections all over San Diego and we're going to bring within a few years I hope a complete bike infrastructure to San Diego where you can bike virtually from any point in San Diego to any other point in San Diego in a Safeway that should help all bikers, the environment get rid of reliance on fossil fuels and bring San Diego into the 21st century with regard to bikable abilities.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: thanks for the call, Jimmy. Mayor Filner, the city Council scheduled to vote on a budget next Monday you were able to revise them budget because revenues increase by more than $13 million but you still did not implement the $80 million bond for infrastructure that was the most severely criticized part of your original budget, so why not bring that back in with the extra money?

BOB FILNER: You know we have I was able to do a balanced budget and with our economic situation improving we're on the verge for the first time in a decade or more of what we call a structurally balanced budget. That is, our income and are resources and spending are balanced we don't rely on gimmicks and one time this or that and so with regard to the infrastructure we have to improve that mightily and we've improved certain bounds to try to put more resource into that, the problem is that the bond that we are operating under now has not been fully spent. We have hundreds of millions of dollars that we have not spent yet. It does not make sense to put out a bond issue, pay interest rates on money that we are not using it. All we did was postponed by a few months so we will begin to pay the interest rates next year instead of this year. That will save us a ton of money, but we have not spent the money that we already have. My adequate resources and pay interest when you have not spent the money. I'm looking into how we do that quicker, more efficiently and get the citizens understanding that we are filling the potholes hopefully with quality control that we are fixing the streets, that we are doing sidewalks, whatever has to be done that we put more money in our history that impacted our budget.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's take a call from Joe in PB oblige a look up to the program.

NEW SPEAKER: Hi, I want to thank you Mr. Mayer for attacking the birds dance program in La Jolla and La Jolla Cove area I'm surprised it's taken this long to get some kind of a solution but with regard to the company you selected and all, is their track record pretty good as far as these kind of cleanups?

BOB FILNER: Well you're getting into one of my most sublime areas of operation, the bird poop. When I came into office I could not believe that this was an issue, as you said, it was hanging around so long and they told me would take another two years to get the right permits. You could hurt the ocean, you could hurt the air, the cliffs, the mammals, the birds. And yet, we were hurting the economic health of the community and the fiscal health of the community. I told the permitting agency that if they do not give us the permits very quickly I was going to vacuum it up or do something myself, so we got the right permits the federal law allows us exemption if I declared a health emergency which I did and we hired, went out to look at all the possible options and we hired a company called blue Eagle distributing, which will use microbes to basically eat the poop, if I can use a layman's approach. They have done this in other cities, they've done this in other regions, has no environmental impact

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Who's going to be monitoring the process that it has no impact

BOB FILNER: We've hired both the biologist and geologist full-time who are there on the scene to make sure that no mammals, numbers, no cliffs, no water discharge takes place. And so, we are pretty confident that they will be able to do the job. The smell is already dissipating because of a solution of microbian, microbes that they have laid down, it will take a few weeks to get through all the guano that the birds left and then we are going to have to look at longer-term solution. Do we have to do this every six months? There is a fence that was put up to protect kids and people fun going out on them list but that allowed the birds to come in and poop without without interference so we look at have to look at how the weather the fence is needed

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Again I'm out of time I wanted to talk to about your role as co-chair of the US-Mexico border mayors Association we will have to do that when you come back next month.

BOB FILNER: Thanks so much, Maureen.