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Roundtable: Money, Polls & Debates in Mayor's Race; Anger Developing Over Linkage Fees

November 8, 2013 1:16 p.m.


Mark Sauer


Joe Yerardi, inewsource

Claire Trageser, KPBS News

Dean Calbreath, San Diego Daily Transcript

Related Story: Roundtable: Money, Polls & Debates in Mayor's Race; Anger Developing Over Linkage Fees


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.

MARK SAUER: I'm Mark Sauer, KPBS Roundtable starts now. Welcome, it's Friday, November 8. Joining me today is Joe Yerardi, Claire Trageser, and Dean Calbreath. Mike Aguirre might not be raising much, but his candidates are. And the knives come out with candidates on an old fashioned debate. Something voters should pay attention as money is the mother's milk of politics. Joe, you've been following this. They've raised about $4 million dollars.

JOE YERARDI: That's right. These figures include funds raised by campaign committees and independent committees. The candidate who raised the most as of November 2 was David Alvarez, he and the independent committees have raised a little over $1.5 million through November 2. Just behind him is Nathan Fletcher, they raised a little under $1.5 million and third place was Kevin Faulkner, with a little over $1 million. In fourth place is former City Attorney Mark Aguirre with a little over $500,000.

MARK SAUER: We'll get back to Aguirre in a moment. How much have they spent in comparison to how much they made?

JOE YERARDI: They're spending the money as fast as they're raising at. Alvarez has raised and spent the most because of all of the committee's backing him. They spent almost $1.3 million, that is followed by Nathan Fletcher at a little over $1 million, Faulkner about $925,000, and Mike Aguirre a little over $3,000.

MARK SAUER: Let's do a correction here. Aguirre did not file electronically like the other candidates. This morning on KPBS we misreported the amount that Aguirre ñ hadn't actually filed in this. And straighten this out for us.

JOE YERARDI: Most of the candidates file reports electronically with city clerk's office but if they spent raise less than $10,000 they can file on paper. That is what Mister Aguirre did and he filed it on time yesterday morning, but it was not posted.

MARK SAUER: And we have updated the story on Let's drill a bit deeper. So with Alvarez, who is giving him the largest share.

JOE YERARDI: David, in terms of his actual official campaign committee is not raising quite as much money as the others, but he is getting a torrent of support from independent committees, one in particular called Working Families for a Better San Diego backed by the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council. They have raised over $1 million on his behalf essentially, and they spent a lot of it as well. They are his main support.

MARK SAUER: What about Nathan Fletcher, also Democratic?

JOE YERARDI: That's right, he's raising money mostly from individuals, as well as some businesses and some of the most well-known are the Jacob's family.

MARK SAUER: And we'll mention that they're big supporters of KPBS.

JOE YERARDI: In terms of Faulkner he's getting a lot of support and business communities.

MARK SAUER: Do you find it surprising that Faulkner's a lone Republican? GOP backing in the big money folks. He's really trailing behind the two which are Democrats. What you think about that?

DEAN CALBREATH: My guess is that he is a shoe in. People might be holding back for the general election.

CLAIRE TRAGESER: Once the primary of Faulkner progresses to run off - it's pretty was presumed that he will ñ more money will be spent then.

MARK SAUER: And we will get into that in the next segment. What about what has been spent so far in this primary phase of the special election, TV ads, mailers and lawn signs, Joe it's different for each candidate.

JOE YERARDI: That's right. By looking at the expenditure reports of candidates you can see a sense of what the weak spots are. A good example of this is Working Families. The committee that raise all this money spent half $1 million on television ads boosting Alvarez, the hope was that they would save David is a tells a number without a lot of recognition the TV audience would reach over larger audience. Look at Faulkner and Fletcher and they've mostly invested in direct mail pieces promoting their respective candidates, trying to highlight how they are the best. And you also have some of the independent committees that are serving us as the attack dogs. They are not related as the officially but they can actually go after other candidates while allowing the official campaign to say that's not us. This example of this could be the Lincoln club, publicist political advocacy group in San Diego and it may have been hammering Fletcher very hard from all sides. They support Faulkner but there independently of sort of been doing the dirty work as you could say.

CLAIRE TRAGESER: Not a single day passed in my house when I was not getting a Fletcher attack ad sponsored by the Lincoln club.

MARK SAUER: It's a funny time for a special election here because most elections are gone, and we will launch into a general election after this but you are that we also have a quality. Where everything sort of goes dormant. How does that work?

DEAN CALBREATH: I imagine things slowing down. I think that as soon as this election is over, there's such a narrow window to get the message out. It depends on when the general election is scheduled. It'll be sometime in January or February. They might have enough time to pump up the message, but I can't imagine it slowing down much.

MARK SAUER: A five-week sprint for the first of the year to the middle of February.

CLAIRE TRAGESER: I say that this at least somewhat unprecedented. Having a selection right after the holidays. The final election is can I decide who will be the Mayor, I don't know what to expect.

MARK SAUER: Dicey to lean on people when everyone is tapped out for Christmas. We will shift now to another part of the mayoral race. No BS is how the San Diego characterized this. No opening statements and no rules for give-and-take. Claire, you covered that event. Tell us what the highlights were.

CLAIRE TRAGESER: Before I would say that it was one of the best debates of this election season. It was an old-fashioned debate one of a confrontations with back-and-forth's and candidates giving and taking in some of forced heated moments and I would say one trend was that both Alvarez and Faulkner and Aguirre were all going after Fletcher because Faulkner wants to face Alvarez and Alvarez wants to beat Fletcher and get into the runoff. We actually have a clip of one of those moments.


MARK SAUER: So that was Fletcher going after Faulkner, and Alvarez jumping into attack Fletcher and as he said rather pinnacles. So what are other examples of people going after Fletcher?

CLAIRE TRAGESER: Faulkner has a line that he uses where he says you know where I stand, a subtle hit on Fletcher because he has gone from being Republican to Independent to Democrat. So Faulkner subtly put that out here at one point Aguirre when after Fletcher a little bit, saying it Fletcher was saying that he you wanted to make it harder for the city to have referendums that would override City Council decisions and Mike Aguirre weighed in and here's what he said.


MARK SAUER: Alright, that was a lot of fun. Some polls out this week suggest that both are going after Fletcher. Tell us more about the polls and what we're learning.

CLAIRE TRAGESER: A poll that came out on Sunday was actually a big shift from previous polls. UT San Diego 10 News. At Faulkner in the lead of 41% and Fletcher at 28% and Alvarez 17% and Aguirre at 7% and 7% undecided. It seemed like a good example of Fletcher and Alvarez may be splitting the Democratic vote at Faulkner in the lead. Presumed to make it past the primary into the runoff.

MARK SAUER: This is a change from about a month ago. These numbers kind of dramatically shift to tell us what happened on the pole from a month ago.

CLAIRE TREGESER: Aa month ago Fletcher was actually in the lead and one thing to note about this newest poll is that the UT actually reported that they surveyed more Republicans than the previous poll by who they happened to call. An unexplained part of the shift going toward Faulkner. It's also a pretty noticeable jump.

MARK SAUER: There was another poll but you had to take that one with a grain of salt.

CLAIRE TRAGESER: The labor Council also produced up in the first place and Alvarez of the second, but the labor Council is heavily supporting and Alvarez as we said. I think most people took that as a thing - most people took that with a grain of salt.

MARK SAUER: Dean, what do you make of these polls? How difficult is it to figure out?

DEAN CALBREATH: It's a difficult poll. Bigger sample areas, national polls are always more accurate than local polls. Leaves it a little conservative. As Mayor Filner was also pointing out if the polls have been right. Carl DeMaio would be Mayor right now. So does typically of the more conservative and as UT pointed out they interviewed more Republicans this time even than normal. They take it with a grain of salt there and a big grain of salt with the union poll.

MARK SAUER: I wanted to ask you all about the fact that Filner is at low 40s, but being the lone Republican if he emerges ñ I meant Faulkner ñ if he emerges, you would think that the Democrats would coalesce over that and I would think that Faulkner has to get better high 40s to get into a shouting distance of having a chance to get to that.

CLAIRE TRAGESER: The most recent poll also asked that if we're just these two candidates, who would you vote for? When they had Faulkner and Fletcher lined up they had Faulkner coming out ahead again. But maybe more Republicans took the poll, so that explains it but that at least provided some indication that maybe that's not the case.

DEAN CALBREATH: There's two things to remember about that is the strategy that the Lincoln club in some the other anti-Fletcher groups from both sides, you don't know where he stands in his a real Democrat all of that there are two goals. One is that Faulkner can get Alvarez in the general because they think Alvarez will be much weaker candidate, but at the same time sort of backup the next best scenario is to turn some voters away from Fletcher. Drive up his negatives. Some Democrats may just stay home this voting season.

MARK SAUER: Turnout is a real wild card when you get to a special election like this.

CLAIRE TRAGESER: They are leading the groundwork for Faulkner to be painted as a moderate. They say he is pro-abortion improve gun-control and pro-dream act and cannot have asked many examples because he is a city council member to his not going to be voting very often on these kinds of things. And his campaign spokesman also sent out a tweet saying that Faulkner will be a Democrat back East and I think people had some funny reactions to that. They're putting in the work now.

MARK SAUER: He has a problem nationally because the Republican brand has been really moneyed to such at the event the government down and take the economy to the brink and to one be running as a Republican right now I would think. Especially for the big city.

CLAIRE TRAGESER: They been talking about even more Democrats registered in the city than Republicans five years ago Filner beat Carl and the Republican brand is by both accounts to suffering nationally.

MARK SAUER: So we'll see in a general if Mister Faulkner will makes it even more running towards middle and towards moderates. We will turn out to big issue. The current leaders of San Diego Tech abysses here. Linkage fees that sounds like a hidden cost that someone might tack onto your car but this name refers to it vital issue in San Diego of affordable housing for low paying jobs. How builders have the responsibility to pay for that. Dean, I don't think many people have heard linkage fees can you get us the high points on that.

DEAN CALBREATH: The because of the business community has linkage fees essentially charge developers a fee. They're beginning to: attacks ñ for affordable housing. It's basically a fee that is set to how many low income workers are brought in to businesses that they are working to develop. So they're actually building and there's a competition formula but how may workers per square foot and its upset about what point assessed at one point about 5% of the construction costs.

MARK SAUER: It's been alone for a long time at a large percent?

DEAN CALBREATH: Is been around for more than twenty years. Since 1991. 1.5% of construction costs but it was cut in half in 1986 and it's never been restored since then has never been ingested for inflation and they're basically paying this from 1991 estimates of their construction costs instead of current construction costs. This immediately went into effect your space of it and if it immediately went to affect there would be a 5% raise in that year up to 900%.

MARK SAUER: These sorts of fees are common in other cities where it's expensive to live. Give us some examples.

DEAN CALBREATH: Oh, and a lot of cities especially in the West coast California in the Northeast. But in San Francisco and Los Angeles and Sacramento. Charge between $8-$16 per square foot. Here is about seventy-five cents per square foot. So even if it rises 500% that's about four dollars. It's much less than other places

MARK SAUER: The idea is, it's really expensive to live here. And a lot of workers and folks are building things that don't pay well, it's well hard to play find a place to live in the distance of this area.

DEAN CALBREATH: And nothing is, and the thing is this is an extension of the mayoral race. Fletcher marvelously consenting. Alvarez said listen if you avoid this field if you don't bring low-income workers. Raise all the salaries for your people and then you will have to pay the fee.

MARK SAUER: Yes give us better paying jobs here but that's not likely to happen. So what constitutes a low-income good job according to this?

DEAN CALBREATH: It's hard because they're different definitions depending on the family size and everything. These are all calculations, but basically it's people like administrative workers and cooks and this washers. People who are making the twenty to 40s depending on family size.

MARK SAUER: And we say it's a split right down party lines on the city Council in a tough debate this week to what about developers? What are they saying now that the counselor passed it?

DEAN CALBREATH: Developers and print threatening to sue. One of these issues as several other suits in the past is whether this is a fee or tax. If it attacks the need to get public support and it needs a much higher threshold. They're going to threaten us sue over that in the are also threatening to put this in. The business community is starting to get practice and they just submitted a referendum for barrio Logan Community Bank might so they're beginning to get these votes in the city Council and they're beginning to really take an active role.

MARK SAUER: And go different route and overwrite the Council. Now, this notion of attacks as it come up in other cities? Is their presidents of about this?

DEAN CALBREATH: It's an open question. There are specific definitions that the city Council needs to make sure that it's getting and he's not sure because there's changing case laws there have been a few cases recently better changing the definition of fees and taxes been so is going to monitor this and says that I'll defend whatever the city produces, but you have to be aware that this can be expensive before this is something that we required to afford this to give this funding for portable housing. When two people who do not want this increase the did have other ideas?

MARK SAUER: Is there an alternative?

DEAN CALBREATH: The reason is that back in 2011 we had the same proposal and that Council President was a swing vote against it and said come up with a better system and will do it. And again. Sit nowhere back to square one. Alvarez says if you will come up with a better system I will listen to it.

MARK SAUER: Some of the developers are more than crying follow, under the thousands of dollars can be assessed in this current project. Tell us about that.

DEAN CALBREATH: All huge projects. It can add up to $100,000.

MARK SAUER: What would be one example would be think of?

DEAN CALBREATH: Yes, major hospitals in major projects. Hospitals are asking to be exams because they provide public services or can. That could add up to several thousand major biotech facilities. High-paying jobs that are being brought in to her also janitors and groundskeepers that also have to be counted for.

MARK SAUER: Their argument is that you're going to hurt the economy and get people to be the county.

DEAN CALBREATH: Ironically one reason businesses have a hard time coming here, one of the first things they list when they're looking at San Diego High taxes at the high housing cost is where we put our employees?

MARK SAUER: And then they've had several years to come up with a solution than nothing there. I don't know, in the war they came up the idea of Linda Vista and they treated that federal come here and the company was turned alternative. That wraps up another week of stories of the KPBS roundtable. I'd like to thank my guests Joe Yerardi, Dean Calbreath and Claire Trageser.