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Roundtable: Filner Saga Rolls On, North Park vs Jack In The Box, Issa Denies Climate Change

August 16, 2013 1:01 p.m.

HOST

Mark Sauer

GUESTS

Tony Perry, LA Times

Dorian Hargrove, San Diego Reader

Susan White, InsideClimate News

Related Story: Roundtable: Filner Saga Rolls On; North Park vs Jack In The Box; Issa On Climate Change

Transcript:

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.

SAUER: Welcome. It's Friday, August 16th. I'm Mark Sauer. And joining me at KPBS Roundtable today are Tony Perry, San Diego bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times, Susan white, editor of InsideClimate News, and Dorian Hargrove of the San Diego Reader.

(Audio Recording Played)

NEW SPEAKER: You suggested that you could go eight hours, but Mayor Filner, we don't care how long you can go, we just want you to go.

SAUER: There was plenty of news on Mayor Filner's sexual harassment scandal this week, including another city employee coming forward saying the mayor planted an unwanted kiss, made the lewd comment that was referenced there. It had to do with Filner allegedly telling the employee that he could go "eight straight hours." The reference was not to a typical working day. Tony Perry, the mayor earlier this week filed his response to the recall. He ignored the sexual harassment allegations in a complain flier.

PERRY: He essentially said you get rid of me, you don't know what you're going to get. You need me for your neighborhoods, etc, etc, without me everything goes straight to blazes. We're five weeks into this now, and we're still at a point where we're waiting for him. Unless he resigns, the mechanisms to forcibly push him out are weak and iffy and will take a long, long time. The Gloria Allred suit filed on behalf of Irene Jackson, that's a civil suit. And that could be a year! Recall, if it works, it could be for before we have an election. The city attorney thinks he's found some obscure part of the city charter. Not so sure that that's going to work. The Sunroad, $100,000, I don't think that's going to go anywhere. We are where we were five weeks ago when Marco Gonzalez said and the next move, Mr. Mayor, is up to you. We're still waiting for his move.

SAUER: And another city employee, 67-year-old, great grandmother, very upset with Gloria Allred by her side. Peggy Shannon, she did not file a lawsuit, but she has filed a claim with the city. What comes of these claims?

PERRY: I think as a matter of hardball politics, not a lot. It's unclear whether these nonlawsuit claims will ever be part of the Jackson lawsuit. They'll be fault very vigorously.

SAUER: And you wonder what the consequence is anyway.

PERRY: Indeed. And we should be shocked at what he allegedly did and said with a 67-year-old great grandmother, but we shouldn't be surprised. He's already told us that his behavior over a long period of time was disrespectful and dreadful and he has no excuse for it. And as he said in the video, I need help. So we can be shocked, disgusted, but probably not surprised. He's told us this is what he's been doing for years, of course he didn't tell us until he was caught. And you're right, Ms. Shannon, 67 years old, is No. 16. And we may have more before this controversy ends.

SAUER: Susan?

WHITE: And in the meantime, as this drags on, even if nothing happens as a result of each of these individual claims, it's drawing the story out. So it's diverting attention from everything the city needs to be doing. And I'm getting updates from my mother who lives in Florida because I don't usually get time during the day to catch up on the local news. And I do all my news viewing and reading at the end of the day. But when I've walked my dog, my mom fills me in on what she's seen in the national news! And last night she said, can you believe! A great grandmother!

SAUER: I got the same thing from my father this morning in Michigan.

PERRY: There is something about San Diego that's mockable. Maybe because we preen, and "America's Finest City" and all of that. And it's just so nice here. And when we slip and fall or are pushed and fall, other folks have a great time. St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Dallas, you don't mock them the same way you do San Diego.

SAUER: Let me ask you this, the mayor this week has come out of the two-week psychological clinic, and personal time. This is a guy whose very oxygen is being out among people. What happens when he goes back out in public? Can he even go in public without petition gatherers, people can signs hecklers?

HARGROVE: I the way it's going now, I don't think it'll go real smooth when he finally appears or comes out of hiding. Especially if they're centering a press conference every week with a new woman coming forward. So I don't think it's going to go smooth, but we'll see. He's an in your face guy, in more ways than one I guess.

PERRY: And his chief of staff said that essentially, he can't be the kind of mayor he's been. He's out and about, blustery with the council. On the other hand, when he comes back, he is still the strong mayor. All the departments report to him.

SAUER: That's true. Manages everything.

PERRY: Building permits in San Diego, he can veto council actions, he's in control of how San Diego is seen in Sacramento and Washington. A strong mayor is strong. And if you strike at a king, you must kill him. He's metaphorically politically bleeding, and he's not dead. If he decides to come back, don't count him out.

HARGROVE: And you're starting to see the city attorney and City Council try to take more powers away from that.

SAUER: Let's talk about that. The council, all nine have come out unanimously saying he should resign. And the council president this week, Todd Gloria, said, look, you haven't replaced these lobbyists! There's federal money, state money, interests to be made there for San Diego. Where are these guys? What's going on? It's not functioning.

PERRY: Well, I think they're trying to keep the momentum going that he's got to leave or the city would grind to a halt. That's a tough sell. Park and it is rec, firefighters, all doing their jobs. Policy matters? That's a real problem. Businesses expands coming to San Diego, also a problem. But still very hard to sell. What we have against this mayor is egregious, despicable conduct, allegedly. We don't have malfeasance yet in office.

SAUER: I want to quickly go to this clip, UT TV did a Filneresque parody of a popular song on YouTube.

(Audio Recording Played)

SAUER: In is the silly and the sublime.

PERRY: A couple of my colleagues had a little fun with that. All the crazy things that go on in the media, this one doesn't bother me. As the editor over there said this is not the city desk staff here. These are some news readers. Hey, the UT is trying to stay alive in a very difficult media landscape, as is my newspaper. If they do some silly stuff and it keeps them alive, I can live with that.

SAUER: There was some news yesterday from the city attorney's office, the mayor, aside from the recall we've talked about, the mayor could be removed for malfeasance, something about credit cards not being paid, and did he buy a blender or juicer? It seems like small potatoes.

PERRY: Never been enforced. 1931 it was put into the charter. An officer, and lees clearly an officer, can be removed if he's found to have approved an unauthorized payment. Folks say that maybe $1,000 of his credit card debts were for silly personal things, a juicer, and meals and such. And so Jan Goldsmith finds this section in the city charter, but it's never been used, and it's not clear how it will be enforced. So in a memo to the council, he said okay, if you want, council, we will pursue this. We'll build a case and take it over to the judge. I have trouble thinking a judge will go all right! Yeah! I'll jump in to a territory no one else has ever dealt with. Now, there is precedent to removing someone for credit card abuse. I give you Martinez, 1986, $1,800. But those were criminal charges.

SAUER: City Councilman.

PERRY: So he resigns as part of a plea bargain, charges brought by the San Diego County district attorney, then next year, there is an election to fill that seat, and that is won by a San Diego State professor, and former School Board member, Bob Filner.

[ LAUGHTER ]

PERRY: So we go round and around on these things. I could be wrong, but this has never been used, it's untested. And I'm not sure if the council is going to say, yeah, let's see if we can bring him down with this backdoor way of a criminal charge.

SAUER: We're going to move onto our next topic.

[[[NEW SEGMENT]]].

SAUER: Another issue involving city government and the mayor. Neighbors in Northpark have been long upset about a Jack in the Box. This outlet built before prohibition took effect, it has long been a drive-thru. But the restaurant is being upgraded, and that sparked a new controversy. Tell us the issues that the neighbors are so upset about.

HARGROVE: Well, they have been going on for a long time. If anyone lived next to a fast food restaurant, they're going to have late-night noise, deliveries, grease trap removal, and I think that's what it was at first. And then Jack in the Box came up with this plan to renovate. It has been there since 1961. Their plan however was to add 300 square feet onto the building, reconfigure the whole drive-thru, and they started running into way more opposition from neighbors.

SAUER: So are they playing by the rules?

HARGROVE: Well, that plan got defeated by the planning group.

SAUER: The planning group in the neighborhood.

HARGROVE: And then it got defeated by the planning commission. So they approached the planning department and said, hey, we're going to just remodel this. We're not going to change the existing footprint. We're not going to remove existing walls. We're just going to remodel it. And they got permits that way. So it's hard to say if they played by the rules or not.

SAUER: So they're kind of playing fast and loose with the rules.

WHITE: I live a few blocks away. I don't have any of the problems. I live far enough. But in the neighborhood we watched and we understood that they were not allowed to tear it down and rebuild. They had to remodel. But we all watched as all the walls came down. And that was interesting. In your story, you mentioned they had said we're not going to tear down the walls, and they did. This gets back to the Filner story in a way. In our neighborhood before the scandal broke, we're thinking he stepped in and something was wrong. And what I don't understand about that story is they weren't supposed to tear down the walls. And tell me if I'm wrong, they went ahead and did it, and they built. And then the city said oh, they're too far along, and we're going to get sued if we stop them.

HARGROVE: Well, and this goes back to the centerpoint issue. There is a building over by the college here.

SAUER: Nearby.

HARGROVE: That Mayor Filner came in and put a stop to the construction.

SAUER: Tell us quickly about that building. It's a large residential building.

HARGROVE: Mixed use building. And what he heard, the mayor heard that it was going to be a rent by bed type facility, which would basically be a large dorm. So he put a stop to it. Since, the city was sued over that by Centerpoint. And I think the city took a hit on that. So Jan Goldsmith said, hey, a strong mayor is a strong mayor, but you cannot come in and put a stop to things like that.

WHITE: The downside of that is why wasn't the city -- they knew going in that this was a really controversial remodel. So why weren't the inspectors out there doing what they do?

SAUER: Saying hey, you can't get rid of these three walls.

WHITE: You tore down the walls, you're not supposed to, stop. So if it goes through, they tore down the walls, did what they said they weren't going to do, then what is the message to other businesses?

SAUER: Right.

WHITE: It's like go ahead, and if you get your construction far enough along, no one is going to complain.

SAUER: And Tony mentioned the Sunroad project. They were building a way there before they actually got that variance.

PERRY: And it would seem to me, looking from the outside, this plays right into what the mayor has been saying for some period of time, that business interests roll right over City Hall, and he is needed to stand up to them at Jack in the Box and other places. If we get to a recall election, we're going to hear a lot about these kinds of things. And it will come down to this kind of formulation. Are you so mad at the mayor for his egregious conduct toward women you never met, or will you put up with that because he will represent your economic and neighborhood interests?

HARGROVE: And it's really interesting to see the dynamic now. Because you have the city attorney/mayor type of battle here. So they're in court. And according to unofficial transcripts from it, Jack in the Box is arguing basically that the letter from the -- well, there was a letter from the then interim development services department raising red flags about this Jack in the Box and saying is this a bad thing that's happened, basically. So the jack in the box lawyers are saying that letter was all condrived. And the city attorney is saying the same, that Vince Hull ghost wrote it.

WHITE: So they're saying it's written after the fact?

HARGROVE: Yeah.

WHITE: But that should be provable.

HARGROVE: Well, the letter was issued July 3rd. So who knows if this is -- it appears to just be a court stub.

PERRY: But it does seem to go back to one of the mayor's assertions before the scandal. That is, very in your face to the city attorney essentially saying we have a city attorney who doesn't get it done for the residents. Just isn't very good. I don't know if that's true or not. I'm not taking sides. But that was his assertion. He of course in his blustery, are confrontational way threw more dust up than he needed to. But that was his assertion. And I think again, particularly in the city attorney's idea of this obscure city charter provision is the strategy that the council uses, from the mayor or the mayor's people, and there are people supporting him, there's going to be a rally next people of pro Filner people, I think we're going to hear more about this, that for neighborhoods, you need Bob Filner. That's going to be the assertion.

WHITE: This makes this so sad.

PERRY: Yes, it does.

WHITE: This whole situation. It makes it really tragic. Because the things that have happened with the women are terrible. And that's horrible. But the fact that this is totally derailed with the things that maybe need to be done, and action that needs to be taken in the city.

PERRY: And he will claim, you derail me, you derail that, and you get somebody you don't like as mayor. The labor unions will have to cross that bridge. Will they support him? Yay though they are fairly disgusted about how he's treated city employees, Jackson was a city employee, Ms. Shannon is a city employee, they'll have to cross that bridge. And people will have to ask them, what's really important to me? Punishing someone for egregious conduct or looking after my economic and neighborhood interests? Tough decision.

SAUER: Right. And in this case here, when does a remodel become bulldozed and he's the guy standing there saying I'm the sheriff.

WHITE: In your article, they did what they said they weren't going to do.

HARGROVE: They're saying they found damage and they had to respond to that damage.

PERRY: And they have heavyweight lawyers.

WHITE: And I am a patron too. It's pretty convenient there.

SAUER: We're going to have to wrap it there.

[[[NEW SEGMENT]]].

SAUER: The southwest remains gripped by drought this summer with a record number of wildfires being fought across the region. Environmentalists this week targeted more than a dozen federal lawmakers who refused, some of them vehemently, to concede the scientific conclusion that climate change is real and caused by humans. KPBS interviewed a professor of geosciences at Scripps. He said "the science is very, very clear. People who are in denial about climate change are downright dangerous." Susan, it would seem that Darryl Issa here of San Diego would fall into that category. I'm not calling him dangerous. But tell us about this protest this week. Who are the folks they went after?

WHITE: Well, they went after the people who get a lot of publicity in Congress who get -- they deny things, and they immediately get a lot of traction. And I think it plays in -- they feel it plays into their base. Issa after this put out a statement saying he does not dispute that the climate is changing. What he objects to are the Obama administration's, what he called radical plans to deal with it want

SAUER: Which would be fossil fuel development and burning domestically wrapping up.

WHITE: Right. But we're in a time of dramatic change in the world. And it's as if we have to take our heads off and spin them around and put them back on again. The change is so dramatic. We have to take into account climate change if you believe 97% of the world's scientists, which I tend to believe. So we are going down that path. And the question now is are we going to do it now? Are we going to keep delaying? And right now, the things that Obama has proposed are not radical. He can't propose anything that's sweeping because it won't get through Congress. What he has proposed are all the things he can do without congressional approval, which are sort of small potatoes.

SAUER: Tony?

PERRY: I agree. We're on the cusp here. And we have 70 miles of coastline. If that ocean starts rising, we're in real hurt. And the temperatures are already rising in La Jolla. I've seen that. But what about that 4-letter word? Jobs. Is that really what we're talking about? What the Obama administration is suggesting could cost jobs?

WHITE: It can cost jobs. It is a transition. It should not cost jobs, but there say transition.

SAUER: So there will be other jobs in alternative energy, which we've seen in Germany.

WHITE: My organization, we've produced a book on the Germany energy transformation. And they have really tackled this, and they have been going at it since the '70s.

SAUER: And it's a big job creator.

WHITE: It has been a job creator, but they're creating industries. So yes, there is going to be job loss, and you feel for that. You want people to have those jobs. But it's inevitable. It's a change that we can't control. So people use the Keystone Pipeline as an example, and they say it's going to create 4,300 or something jobs. Most of those in the end, it will create maybe 200, 300 permanent jobs, and the rest of half-time jobs that will understand when the pipeline is built. But when you say we can use our technical expertise and our scientists and our creativity to go into this new world where the switch to renewables is going to happen

SAUER: Let me ask you about your story. Two interesting congressmen in our neighboring state of Arizona, and of course you've had the tremendous fires, the tragedy with the 19 firefighters killed in that wildfire. But they've responded Eric Democrat and a Republican quite differently to this dramatic event there.

WHITE: Yes. The Democrat, he's taking action. He's doing everything he can because he sees what's happening. And the Republican, he is in the other camp, and he's still saying that we don't really have this problem.

SAUER: That this is a hoax.

WHITE: Yeah, that it's a hoax. And so people can say it's a hoax, and they can keep doing that for a while. But it's inevitably going to catch up. We're going to have to admit the reality. And in the interim, all of the delays that we're making are going to make the job of repairing the damage and preparing for the future more expensive and more difficult.

SAUER: Let me ask you about the Republicans going back. It wasn't always this way. Mitt Romney, John McCain, talking about a cap in trade, Romney in Massachusetts when he was governor, and Tim polenty taking action. How they've flipped. How did that happen?

WHITE: Well, they say that it could win votes. And it's about their office. And I can understand wanting to be reelected. But inevitably, it's going to change. And in our story too, they said that polls now of the public, even including conservatives say that the tide is shifting. And I'm wondering if this is going to be one of those times when the public is ahead of their leaders. And one of the things that to me was very reassuring, there's a clip circulating on YouTube about Dana Rohrabacher, who was talking to a group, and it was billed as a group of tea party people. But I'm not sure.

SAUER: Very conservative Californians.

WHITE: Right. And he was saying this is all a conspiracy to allow the UN to take control of the government. But the people, if you watch the clip closely, people really fought back at him and got in his face and say no, no, no! So to me, what he said wasn't surprising. The new part is that people are saying no, no, no.

HARGROVE: And that's still in California. You have to think that even the tea party group in California probably are still a little maybe more progressive than -- either way, I don't know what more evidence they need.

PERRY: It might be different in Ohio or Detroit where there are blue collar folks in their 50s wondering if they lose their job, can they be retrained in some high-tech green job?

WHITE: But it's not going to happen -- it's not going to be something that happens overnight.

SAUER: Although the Republican leader, to your point, Governor Christie in New Jersey saw hurricane sandy and seems to be stepping up. So it depends where you are and what's happened to you.

WHITE: But the change doesn't happen overnight. It's not that we stop using fossil fuel. That's not going to happen. Fossil fuel, gas, and oil, are going to be essential to this for a long time.

SAUER: But the start of the change --

WHITE: The start of the change has to come. So it's not that all these plants are going to be shuttered immediately.

SAUER: We're going to have to leave it there.