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Roundtable: Mayor's Race; Arevalos Victim Accused; State Of The State Of The City

January 17, 2014 1:10 p.m.

HOST

Mark Sauer

GUESTS

Sandhya Dirks, KPBS News

Sara Libby, Voice of San Diego

Jonathan Heller, Freelance Journalist

Related Story: Roundtable: Mayor's Race; Arevalos Victim Accused; State Of The State Of The City

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.

MARK SAUER: I am Mark Sauer, and the KPBS Roundtable starts now. Welcome it's Friday, January 17. Joining me are Jonathan Heller, Sara Libby, and Sandhya Dirks. Lawn signs are sprouting, TV ads are rolling, and boxes are brimming with glossy candidate mailers waiting for the recycle bin. It's the race to replace Bob Filner and it's back from holiday hibernation. David Alvarez and Kevin Faulconer are headed into the home stretch this week. Let us start with a quick clip from that debate.

[ [ AUDIO FILE PLAYING ] ]

KEVIN FAULCONER: 80% of the support for my opponent comes from one source, unions. We look at the spending: $3 million. The same unions that nearly drove the city into bankruptcy.

DAVID ALVAREZ: Kevin will listen to and do whatever the special interests tell him to do. The developers and big corporations, those that have enough money to have a lobbyist and have high paid consultants, not everyday citizens.

[ [ END AUDIO FILE ] ]

MARK SAUER: Is that typical of the debate? Do we get some fireworks there?

SANDHYA DIRKS: It went negative pretty quickly. And it went negative in a very limited way. There were just negative talking points to both candidates went in with and just stuck with an repeated over and over. It was basically just Kevin Faulconer saying David Alvarez is in the pocket of the unions and I am independent and on the other side it was Alvarez saying that the one who is in the pocket is Kevin Faulconer and she is the packet of big business and corporate interests and it was really them coming out swinging and we might remember that time not so long ago every time they were in a debate with Nathan Fletcher they would say my good friend and colleague David Alvarez, but no longer is that rhetoric at work.

MARK SAUER: So the gloves are off when it comes to these two. We will get back into that, but our interim mayor gave his agenda and it was fairly progressive, will these candidates pick up that baton?

SANDHYA DIRKS: We can see from both of their responses that Todd Gloria made out what side they fell on. There are a lot more times when Alvarez would agree with Gloria because they're both Democrats and a fall of the more aggressive side of the spectrum, I do think there are a lot of things that lineup between what Alvarez is said and what Gloria put forth in his ambitious seat of the city speech. So much so that we have Todd Gloria coming out and he has endorsed David Alvarez for mayor. That was today. A lot of people were speculating that he would step back and say in the shadows with his endorsement.

MARK SAUER: No endorsement in the primary for Todd Gloria, right?

SANDHYA DIRKS: He turned up the stakes with his progressive agenda and also his endorsement saying that Alvarez is the right guy. It's interesting to see that he has cast his vote.

MARK SAUER: He had endorsement yesterday from another notable San Diegan. Did they mean anything, did voters pay attention?

SARA LIBBY: Todd Gloria was surprising because he is the at the height of his career right now and he can do no wrong, you so Republicans even praising this really aggressive agenda that he laid out this week, and I think that one could certainly resonate but when you're talking about special elections like this will be the people who are very devoted and very partisan are going to come out, I'm not sure how much these endorsements really reached the bottom operation.

SANDHYA DIRKS: And endorsements are a tricky kind of math because you have people coming out for their sort of owned reasons but they get coded in a certain way to the press and to the public for, for example when you had an organization that went out for Faulconer, that was basically touted as his moment of does diversity and inclusion, the same way when it put couple of African-American pastors also stood by his side, it is also this kind of code that doesn't necessarily represent this sort of sort of truth demographics, yet they look past the narrative that they're trying to cast, when you get something like Todd Gloria you actually get a sort of bigger moment and as he said this is a guy who has been lauded for bringing the city back from the brink.

MARK SAUER: He seems pretty likable and popular.

JONATHAN HELLER: Never more so, for David it was crucial for Todd to have vicious credentials. Having taught in his pocket refutes some of the arguments that David is too far to left. This is huge one for him. They would let us talk about this for a minute here, we talked about the debate and how they keep coming at each other and you are supported by all of these special interests that you are supported by these guys, who are they supported by? That is so with Kevin Faulconer.

SANDHYA DIRKS: There is some truth to the accusations they are leveling at each other although they are taking it very far by calling the other one the bagman for these special interests.

MARK SAUER: It must be a political campaign!

SANDHYA DIRKS: You see Kevin Faulconer supported by the same people who supported Jerry Sanders. In fact he is often said that he was to be a candidate like Jerry Sanders. Sanders 2.0. He does have the establishment and there is an act of and the debate that I was told where when they wanted to prepare for the debate, before the pack cameras went on, Kevin Faulconer walked in and said that he and he had a group of professionals dressed to the hilt behind him and he was prepared and ready and David Alvarez walked in and he had two younger casually dressed staffers and a backpacker slung over his shoulder, that kind of says something. It may say different things to different people, some people might say that Kevin Faulconer is prepared and has the infrastructure to do this, while Alvarez is an, other people it might say that Kevin Faulconer has establishment and Alvarez's grassroots, which way you read that it's just going to determine which way you vote.

MARK SAUER: We talk about Kevin Faulconer and the business establishment and what is Alvarez main backers?

SANDHYA DIRKS: Kevin Faulconer said that David Alvarez is 80% supported by the unions, it's true. The unions wanted to continue what they thought they had started when Bob Feller was elected. The city sort of went Democrat and they want to continue that, but he says that he is independent and Alvarez has gone against the unions before, and he is not always been their guy, but his argument is that the unions are supporting him but he is still the grassroots guy.

MARK SAUER: We had a poll here, a poll that has come out in the last couple weeks or so, the initial poll had kind of a dead heat in this one shows Mister Faulconer ahead and I believe the numbers are 53 to 47, I think that is curious because it was 47 to 47 four. Can you believe these polls and are they accurate in a short campaign?

SANDHYA DIRKS: They weren't last time, if you take them from the very beginning of the race and to the end of the race and David Alvarez was the underdog and people still see him as that underdog, and he does have a lot of ground to cover in the next few weeks. Faulconer, because he is attached to so many known knowns, he has the endorsement edge before this morning. I think Gloria sort of even some out and we will have to see how the campaign continues. If the negativity continues it can turn people off.

MARK SAUER: What kind of turnout to predict?

SARA LIBBY: Is incredibly low, the election that October 1 he was bolstered by Obama voters voters and people voting up and down the ticket, this is only a citywide election and this is all that is on the ballot. Only out for people are actually paying close attention and it will really depend on who they are able to get out what type of voters they are able to get out to determine this thing.

MARK SAUER: Quite a different dynamic. We have quite a few weeks between now and the election. The woman who first accused disgraced San Diego police officer Anthony Arevalos of sexual aggression was hailed as courageous by police chief William Lansdowne. Her report was the first of several and led to the arrest and conviction on multiple charges involving multiple victims. But the city's response to the original accuser's federal lawsuit against the city does not use the word courageous. Sarah, remind us about this case and what he did and what eventually happened.

SARA LIBBY: So he was a San Diego police officer who was ultimately convicted of a felony counts in a survey over eight years and is serving over eight years in prison for soliciting sexual brides from people he pulled over. He was someone who print primarily due to drunk driving arrest and arrests and that involves a lot of proactive police work. The city has settled with a lot of the other women who are involved in this case. This is someone the city held up as being courageous and thinks her for coming forward and this is a new base with this argument.

MARK SAUER: The specifics on this and the idea was that this officer pulls her over for a delay and says you can't make this go away if you would like to. Is that the detail of it?

SARA LIBBY: She did relent under duress most people would argue. He's got the gun and the badge and it was his prompting that sparked this, but she did relent and so the city in a filing spotted turned that around on this woman and said she should not be awarded the damages you seeking because she was actually bribing the officer and so putting this on to her, which was quite a change

MARK SAUER: Quite a different argument and it was a good story this week and of course it suddenly through the spotlight on this and a lot of water cooler talk about outrage and it was in our newsroom here, the city attorney, turn around the next day pulled that argument off the table.

SARA LIBBY: He didn't initially he defended the move right after the story was released and then it obviously sparked a big bash last backlash and wonder why this was necessary, and within a day they had a separate filing that kind of removed the argument from the case and they are no longer making it but it's out there for all of us to see.

MARK SAUER: It's interesting that Jan Goldsmith has backed off, but he did point out that there are thirteen of these cases and twelve of the said all that I will point out that in the Jane Doe's case that lawyer has demanded outrageous sums of money, but our thoughts on that, they are pulling back from this and we're not going to call the victim guilty of bribery, but the point is that her report lawyer is really acting out of line compared with the other settlements.

SARA LIBBY: Her lawyer was outraged at this similarly and they are both not budging, the city is still saying that they should not have to pay this and they don't want to pay out more money to her, and so her lawyer told quite an intense press conference still slamming the city it was the rejection of this argument, neither said once the bunch and they both really want what they want out of this.

MARK SAUER: You would think a case like this would settle and I don't think that the city wants to put this in front of a jury and who knows what might happen. You did work for the city attorneys point at one point, do you want to put this in front of a jury if you only happen?

JONATHAN HELLER: Obviously that is not the preferred outcome here, I think what we're seeing here and what everyone really knows and the practice of law making of lies not pretty to watch and when you're in the position you have to protect the interests of the taxpayers it may not be popular.

SANDHYA DIRKS: The problem that becomes and because the attorney has made himself in such a political figure, you have him sort of doing what is actually saying and doing it becomes politicized very quickly and it's not just live in itself in a bubble, it is infused with hot air of the public.

SARA LIBBY: A good look for it because Jan Goldsmith was one of these people reading the charge against Bob Filner presumably on the behalf of these victims and then stepped into the spotlight and then you have a different case but still a victim of someone who's gone through something terrible and this is the argument that the city is making against this woman.

SANDHYA DIRKS: Even in an earlier filing about Irene MacCormack Jackson, the first victim to come forward back in the solar case, when they are defending Bob Filner, they got the statement that the mayor had done nothing wrong, you have him in the public face where they're trying to get them out of us and taking credit for getting them out of office music that is tried to arrest Filner but on paper he says he is innocent and the problem here is that you have this huge disconnect at the risk of him being headed for being called hypocritical.

MARK SAUER: You have in common with these two cases you have an attorney in Irene's case and begin the city is saying and they're asking from an anonymous sum from taxpayers here. There's a parallel here, they're not something that the victim was complicit, but she did not go through the process are four filing the claim property and getting that right kind of went DEFCON 1 and missed of the city process.

SARA LIBBY: You can parse the particulars all you want but the ultimate message that the city is given that some of this fault of the victims and I think a lot of people have some strong advance objections to that and for good reason.

SANDHYA DIRKS: Especially when what is being said publicly is a different story and it helps to make you doubt the integrity and the father.

MARK SAUER: Will we see a monitor of these citizen complaints? Watch these officers under this controversial thing.

SARA LIBBY: I know we're watching the police department very closely and there is more of an appetite to hold these agencies accountable.

MARK SAUER: Okay we will leave that there and we will hear more as they settled those cases. Taking San Diego's temperature each year is that duty and the opportunity for every mayor each year, and while we can wax poetic about striving to be the necessary of the hill, sometimes being a visionary totally impractical. You look at the state of the city address over the years, and how did you get the idea?

JONATHAN HELLER: I was very interested in the idea that Todd Gloria was going to give a speech and then three weeks later not be directly responsible for carrying out the policy of the speech, I had wondered if that was the case in the past and the process he would take in delivering his speech, and so I talked to Sara about it and we decided that was something we could look into as a retrospective and exit turned out to be pretty interesting in terms of what we found in the past, but overall you can see some real patterns and trends, what makes a good state of the city speech you want to strike a balance between being ambitious but also being realistic, you want to put something out something that while the people and also protect the past taxpayers, you want to get the troops fired up and you want to set an agenda and strike just the right tone, that is very difficult and Todd Gloria did achieve that on a lot of levels, but he also is walking a fine line between putting out a lot of ideas that will be difficult to make reality in the future.

SANDHYA DIRKS: I think that is true but he is a completely advocate political power and he has some ability to set the agenda as a City Council President, but we basically heard the City Council President state of the city speech is the one that is highly unusual but not unprecedented.

JONATHAN HELLER: Yes, back in 1986 the deputy mayor of the time Ed Struiksma took over after Roger Hedgecock was convicted of conspiracy and perjury charges which was later overturned. The difference there was that he was one of 12 to 13 people running for mayor to replace him and in this case Todd Gloria from the beginning said he would make his decision and not run for mayor said he can focus on getting through the transition period, and in that respect it was a different kind of speech than what Struiksma gave.

MARK SAUER: And we will get back to the whole progressive agenda that Todd Gloria laid out, one thing in particular you talk about with minimum wage. Let us hear what he said there.

[ [ AUDIO FILE PLAYING ] ]

TODD GLORIA: No one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, according to the Center on policy initiatives 20% of full-time year-round employees are less than $30,000 which is needed to live so sufficiently in San Diego. A full-time minimum-wage job in San Diego pays about half of that amount. Although California's minimum wage is scheduled to increase in 2016 that child translates into an annual salary of less than 21,000.

MARK SAUER: So he sort of made the push toward but he didn't get specific.

SARA LIBBY: He didn't, we crunched the numbers and ultimately he is talking about more or less a $30,000 salary and that is what it takes to live in San Diego, we have a high cost of living and so we sort of determined that he is ultimately talking about $14.50 an hour for minimum-wage. His office said they had not crunched the numbers but that looks reasonable, that is an enormous increase and so this is a bold idea.

MARK SAUER: What is the audience reaction to that and the other ideas he is laid out? Is it like they don't care were these are some ideas that will contend with?

JONATHAN HELLER: You saw David Alvarez stand up and immediately applied as soon as he mentioned the minimum-wage initiative, and I think that is your key connection.

MARK SAUER: And was Mister Faulconer on his feet as well?

SANDHYA DIRKS: I think he politely sat, I think that is what is the best way to put it. But you would expect it, I know that we don't get partisan labels to people of the Council, but if we're being honest Todd Gloria is a Democrat and David Alvarez is a Democrat and Kevin Faulconer is perhaps a moderate Republican, these two have party line resonance with that.

MARK SAUER: And Gloria talked about the infrastructure bond as well and I can be controversial as they go, what reaction to that? Is that something that the new Mayor is going to deal with this?

SANDHYA DIRKS: That was also a sit and stand situation and again David Alvarez stood for that applauded while Kevin Faulconer stayed seated. Another one where it comes down to the stark differences between these two men.

MARK SAUER: And also the issues for infrastructure or talking about all sorts of delayed maintenance?

SANDHYA DIRKS: It is for all of the delayed maintenance which has caused a broken infrastructure, one thing that you will with your both candidates saying all our sidewalks are broken and screaming this to the skies, and in this case part of what infrastructure is as simple as fixing the pothole.

MARK SAUER: Speaking of getting upset some mayors have used this speech to just as the power that these, Jerry Sanders was he agrees well, what was he grew with that that speech?

JONATHAN HELLER: In 2005 he gave his first speech in January 2006 and it was in and extraordinarily dark time for the city, you remember Mayor Murphy had resigned and the city had no bond rating and those of pension underfunding schedule, and Sanders basically kind of took everybody to the woodshed and said that this is but we have to do and we can do this and we can do better than we have to. And a lot of people look back at that time see that as the key turning point.

MARK SAUER: So it worked in large measure, that is what you are saying.

JONATHAN HELLER: It works in various degrees. They do have a bond rating now and you can go back and the city can borrow money. But there is still a lot of work to do.

MARK SAUER: But a lot brighter than when he made the first speech. Several years later he made his last speech and how did the tone change?

JONATHAN HELLER: Kind of a victory lap, and you may remember the video where they had the young boy at running from the not so great neighborhood to downtown with all the great projects, and clearly Jerry Sanders had an idea and a vision for the messages he wanted to put across with the video, and it was on many levels it was inspiring into a lot of the prize and accolades, but not everybody agreed that it was a positive message for the city's neighborhoods.

SANDHYA DIRKS: It's interesting because the narrative except has that a flip since then, now what everybody has to say sidewalks of the next word out about this neighborhoods.

SARA LIBBY: Not just any politician but Jerry Sanders. And I have Faulconer say he's the guy to fix neighborhoods, is elicited admission that neighborhoods were not being paid enough attention to the Sanders administration.

MARK SAUER: We still have a little bit of time left, tell us about the proposal.

JONATHAN HELLER: This is an idea to create a canal that linked San Diego harbor with Mission Bay which of the talked about but generally as not practical, which took a lot of flak from that event from fellow Republicans and it's great to get up there and get ambitious, but sometimes you don't want to overreach and this wasn't a case where she was accused of overreaching.

MARK SAUER: I'm glad that you did that story, and a lot of journalist of all of the speeches in a you made a very appreciative it Mary you made it very interesting and I appreciate it. I would like to thank my guests. I am Mark Sauer, Senior News Editor at KPBS and thank you for joining us today at the Roundtable.