Roundtable: Reflecting On Filner, No Shelter In Escondido, Padres And Chargers
July 25, 2014 1:12 p.m.
Filner Reflections, Escondido Shelter, Padres And Chargers
Amita Sharma, KPBS News
Jill Replogle, KPBS, News
Jay Paris, San Diego sportswriter
MARK SAUER: Joining me on the Roundtable today are KPBS Investigative Reporter Amita Sharma, Jill Replogle of KPBS News, and Sports Writer Jay Paris. The Bob Filner scandal broke a year ago this week when Irene McCormack Jackson announced at a press conference that she was suing the San Diego Mayor for sexual harassment. Immediately, the phrase the Filner headlock entered the lexicon. Many more women came forward to tell dramatic Filner tales. Here's some of what Irene said in an exclusive interview with KPBS this week:
[AUDIO FILE PLAYING]
PEGGY PICO: Why did you come forward when you did?
IRENE MCCORMACK JACKSON: I did it for the other women that I saw this ñ that this was happening too. A lot of it had to do with young women coming into the office to give a presentation to the Mayor and suddenly being pulled into his private office and coming out a few minutes later looking a little shocked. That was in May, and June. I just could not do it anymore, I said this is crazy, it's not right. Something is wrong with this man, he is a predator, he is mean, he is a bully, he needs to stop what he is doing.
[END AUDIO FILE]
MARK SAUER: All right, Amita, you were talking with a lot of these women in private trying to get the story. You knew about it for a long time, the dam finally broke, what caused that?
AMITA SHARMA: Well, in the second week of July, Donna Frye along with lawyers Corey Briggs and Marco Gonzalez hand-delivered letters to Mayor Filner calling on him to resign. At the time, Donna Frye had months earlier quit her job working for the Mayor. She said that she had credible evidence that Bob Filner had been sexually harassing women. She was the first person to make these allegations public.
MARK SAUER: Once Irene came forward, remind us about some of the other women who told you about her encounters.
AMITA SHARMA: Right after Donna came forward it took about two weeks before the first person came forward was an alleged target in this. In this case, it was Irene McCormack Jackson, Bob Filner's communications director. After that, women slowly started coming out. Many of these women were very strong, smart, accomplished women like a retired rear Admiral, a Dean here at San Diego State University, the head of the San Diego Port Association, and a local businesswoman. They had the stories of inappropriate sexual conduct Bob Filner toward them.
MARK SAUER: We should know that KPBS this week, when we did talk with Irene McCormack Jackson, we did reach out to Bob Filner, he did not wish to be interviewed, but to be fair, but he did speak briefly. Remind our audience, back in December, when he was sentenced for some of these crimes, and he said I want to apologize to my family who stood by me, and he said more importantly I sincerely want to apologize to the women I have hurt and offended, and he said the behaviors before the court today will never be repeated. He said the very publicly, but we have not heard from him this week.
AMITA SHARMA: He has been relatively quiet, yes.
MARK SAUER: Okay, let's reflect back a moment. What a difference a year makes, we are in such turmoil last year, anxiety, all of this battle, scandal, the accusations, denials, and finally the Mayor resigns and he was fairly find at that time. Now we flash forward and we have a new Mayor, and we will get to Bob Filner and his progressive agenda in a moment. He was zip-lining yesterday with the Democratic head of the city council, zip lining at Comic-Con, and it is quite a different atmosphere at City Hall than what we were looking at a year ago.
AMITA SHARMA: It is, but Mayor Faulconer is a pro-choice, pro-gay-rights, middle-of-the-road Republican. I don't think anyone would question that. Even at one point in last year's campaign, he sort of bristeled when reporters highlighted the fact that he was a Republican. He is not ignorant, he knows that Democratic voter registration in this town now outnumbers Republican voter registration. He is walking a fine line. Nonetheless, he is not prolabor, he is pro-business. He is against the minimum wage increase. There are stark differences between him and Bob Filner. He was in favor of pension reform, Filner was against pension reform. There are these differences between the two.
MARK SAUER: It's back between the tension and political debates, but the scandal itself is gone, that the whole city on edge at the time.
AMITA SHARMA: It's gone, yeah.
MARK SAUER: So let's talk a little bit about what the voters who supported Bob Filner, as you note it's a Democratic majority in San Diego. They were excited to have a progressive mayor for the first time in a long time in San Diego, and a progressive agenda. That has fallen to the wayside to a large degree. What are some of the things that he did fulfill in his short time in office? He was sworn in in December and was out by August.
AMITA SHARMA: He encompassed quite a bit. He reached five-year contracts with employees city unions, including pay freezes, which is a significant accomplishment. I dare say that the major mayoral candidates in this town would not have been talking about neighborhoods during last year's fall campaign, and the importance of neighborhoods, they would not have been talking about the importance of environmental justice, they would not have been talking about the importance of inclusive government where the concert San Diegans from the poor communities carried as much weight as those with money and power. To his credit, Bob Filner created office hours, one Saturday a month, where citizens could come in and bring concerns to the table. He created a veterans employment office within the office of the Mayor. He created an office in Tijuana to strengthen ties with our neighbors to the south. He also added money to the city arts budget. He did accomplish quite a bit.
JILL REPLOGLE: There are some things I wonder if they would be different if still there were is still in office, for example propositions B and C with the Barrio Logan plan. How might that have had a different outcome if you were running the show?
AMITA SHARMA: He did not have a vote, but he certainly would have backed the community plan.
MARK SAUER: Faulconer and the us this community did not. You wonder about that. And veterans and homelessness as well, he was a champion of that as well.
AMITA SHARMA: Right, he rolled into office, and during his 2012 campaign he said he was going to put an end to homelessness. But we all know that will take hundreds of millions of dollars, that is going to take tremendous political will. That will take the ratification of the mental health system act, as you know Reagan and the Republicans undid that during the 1980s. That is not something that Bob Filner carried the torch for in Congress, would he have been able to do that? Highly unlikely. He wanted to create a bus system that was as fast and frequent as the subway system, but we have all been downtown during rush hour. If you're in a bus, you were sitting in traffic. That was not going to happen. He wanted to expand the port and bring more to San Diego through the port than bananas and cars, but we have shallow water, in order for those tankers to come in.
MARK SAUER: And we don't have the railway to the east.
AMITA SHARMA: We don't have cargo, we have communities that don't want big trucks carrying the cargo out.
JAY PARIS: I think with Filner, he was the first democratic Mayor in twenty years or so ago, talking about muddying the waters, is likely to hurt the progressive party going forward? Will that always be a looking back point, saying look what happened last time that you put a progressive in office?
MARK SAUER: That's an interesting point. We had Carl Luna on, political scientist, at the time of the special election. He said Faulconer may be the last moderate white Republic elected here. The demographics, as we know, are changing. I don't know if the filter legacy taints the Democrats going forward.
JILL REPLOGLE: I have specifically spoken with friends and acquaintances who were really affected by that, for the first time they voted Democrat and they feel like they got burned.
MARK SAUER: Maybe turnoff to it. We will move on now, Escondido seemed to have solidified its reputation as an inhospitable place for undocumented immigrants, again this week advocates for migrant kids from Central America who crossed the border illegally joined the ACLU to plead with city leaders to reconsider their decision against a temporary shelter. But Jill, their decision changed, tell us about the proposal. What were the high points of it?
JILL REPLOGLE: The Department of Health and Human Services, the federal agency that is in charge of unaccompanied children who come across the border illegally, children who are not with adults, they petitioned to have a ninety-six bed shelter put in a former nursing home in Escondido. They had sort of been pushed by the city into this place. They looked at hotels in Escondido in the past that were up for rent, and the city did not think this was the appropriate place to have the shelter. They also wanted the public hearing, they wanted the public to weigh in on the hearing. As we know, about 500 people showed up at the pending commission meeting, which was a big surprise to us. Most of them were definitely opposed to having the shelter in this residential neighborhood. They voted 7-0 against putting the shelter in, and the last vote this week was supposed to be a rubberstamping of that decision. It was on the consent calendar, which means that they were made up their mind, and this was not going to happen. About 200 people showed up to March, and a lot of people spoke in favor of the children saying that Escondido should think of these kids as refugees and that this is a good thing that the city should do, it would create jobs, and once again unanimously voted against it. I think there was one abstention, but the discussion is done.
MARK SAUER: The group that was behind this, Southwest Key, were they politically naÔve coming to Escondido with this?
JILL REPLOGLE: That is a good question. Southwest Key is one of the main contractors that runs these shelters. They have two other shelters in San Diego County, very small, ten to fifteen beds, that is a whole different ballgame. There are also running the big temporary shelter at the mentor at military base, housing about 500 children. One of the representatives kind of answered that at the first meeting. She said the reason we can hear the first place is because you guys have these hotels for rent. You are advertising property, I think they admitted privately since then ñ they won't speak publicly, by the way ñ that they were naÔve, that they did not quite realize what they were getting into.
MARK SAUER: The ACLU is looking at this as a legal challenge, but they have a history in Escondido, give us the background on the conflicts.
JILL REPLOGLE: The ACLU has sued Escondido several times, or threatened lawsuits against private citizens. In 2006, Escondido passed a law trying to make it illegal for landlords to rent to people in the country illegally. ACLU sued, they backed off and did not go through that law. In 2012 they were sued for ñ protesters run checkpoints fairly often, where they are supposedly looking for people who are drunk, but then they also check people's drivers licenses and those get a lot of undocumented immigrants who don't have driver's licenses. They were sued then, because they were not letting protesters show up at checkpoints and film what was going on. They got sued for that, and they settled. This time the ACLU has not announced any legal action yet, but they did announce that they are making a full investigation into how the decision-making process went down.
AMITA SHARMA: What would be the basis for that action?
JILL REPLOGLE: There looking at state and federal fair housing laws and discrimination. This is a planning issue, and often planning issues they look at discrimination in planning decisions, and they look at whether or not they made decisions based on larger political views about federal immigration law, to prohibit this from coming in. Also looking at whether or not these children are protected class as children and potentially refugees.
MARK SAUER: Let's talk about these children for a moment. This was a hot story a couple of weeks ago. We had all sorts of international news and news along the Gaza Strip and immigration there, and the Ukraine situation and the tragedy of the airliner shutdown. This has gone off of the front page for a while, but it is still simmering here. What is going on with the children here, particularly in San Diego County?
JILL REPLOGLE: Not a lot of children have come to San Diego, which is part of the reason it is not such a big issue locally. Most of them are coming across the border in Texas. There's something like 1500 children they have caught since last October in the fiscal year. They're mostly coming through South Texas, and right now the kids, what happens is, they get sent to somewhere where there is a shelter, but the base in Ventura. From there, they are placed with family members anywhere throughout the Country. From there, it gets a little bit of filtering around. The Department of Health and Human Services put out statistics today on where they have placed 33,000 children. There are about 2000 in California, more than that, but the big ones are in California, Texas, New York, where we would expect. Right now, President Obama as we speak is meeting with the presidents of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras trying to come up with some options for dealing with this.
MARK SAUER: There are no easy answers, this is a complex problem with a lot of moving parts. Jay Paris, you are in a different part of the North county, where you live, are they going to welcome a lot of these folks?
JAY PARIS: There are some people in Encinitas that tried to put out a welcome mat, curious why did the numbers leap so dramatically?
JILL REPLOGLE: It still is a bit of a mystery, it seems like there is a rumor mill that got this going. The media makes it look like a huge leap all of the sudden, but we leave the number, first of all you look at last year, the US government was already expecting the numbers to triple from the year before. It has been a pretty steady increase the last couple of years. Some people who really studied the region say there is a confluence of factors, drug trafficking, gangs, family separations that have sort of combined into a perfect storm to push people out.
AMITA SHARMA: Are any of the numbers going down now?
JILL REPLOGLE: They are, actually. The last couple of weeks there has been a dip. I talked to the report of the border patrol union yesterday and he said it may be be the train that takes a lot of people from southern Mexico up through a huge portion of Mexico. It has been derailed for the last couple of weeks, so it hasn't been a popular method of transportation. It is also very hot in South Texas, so they often see a dip in this time of year. No one is saying, maybe it does down, we just may not know for next couple of weeks.
MARK SAUER: The last question I had, does the planning commission have the final word up in Escondido?
JILL REPLOGLE: Anybody can appeal the decision to the full city council. I don't believe anyone has done that yet, it seems highly possible.
MARK SAUER: We will certainly be watching the story as we move forward. To paraphrase Thomas Paine, these are the days that tried the souls of San Diego sports fans. The Padres lackluster lineup leaves the league in futility, and the Chargers appear to either be headed toward a new stadium or may be headed out of town. Jay Paris, let's start with baseball, races are heating up, and a lot of fans are getting excited, not so much here in San Diego.
JAY PARIS: Not so much. The Padres have gone from the boys of summer to the boys of bummer if you will. If you want to see good baseball, I would suggest the Encinitas Little League. Out of 400 Little Leagues, there are only two Little League in California, they are playing this weekend.
MARK SAUER: That's exciting, and the Angels and Tigers are just up the road if you want to see some top major leaguers.
JAY PARIS: That's right, still some good baseball, just not here. The Little League is carrying the water right now. The Padres are where they usually are this time of year, but there is still so much promise leading into the season, that's what raises this one.
MARK SAUER: Yeah, they raised payroll, they had some players they thought would blossom this year, instead we have gotten rid of a general manager, tell us about some of the top players have gotten rid of.
JAY PARIS: Their top reliever was traded up the road to the Angels. Chase Headley, who they really thought was it going to be a cornerstone they could build an entire team around, he was peddled to the Yankees. Very disappointing, he turned down some lucrative offers from the Padres, long-term offers. This of the time of the year, where the trading deadline is coming up, you're either a buyer or the seller, and the Padres have always been sellers. They're not out there actively looking for someone to add to make the playoff push. They are serving almost as a farm system to competitive teams looking to get into the playoffs.
AMITA SHARMA: What is the strategy?
JAY PARIS: The strategy was this was going to be year, 2012 to 2013, ten games under 2500. But there are young players, just like throwing seeds into the garden you have to let them grow. They didn't do so well, so they need to grow a little more. This was the year, instead, the rowdy kid down the street ran his red wagon down the garden and the plants did not come up.
MARK SAUER: Chase Headley is the best example, he went south.
JAY PARIS: Exactly, he went the other way. With limited payroll and where they are, their blueprint is to draft and develop. They drafted these players, and did not develop as they promised.
MARK SAUER: They are still in the middle of the pact as far as attendance. It is hurting them some at the box office, but not that much?
JAY PARIS: Right, attendance is pretty good, and that San Diego. Tourists coming in, Los Angeles comes in.
MARK SAUER: Convention goers down the street, hey it is a nice night, beautiful ballpark, let's go over.
JAY PARIS: The Dodgers are in town they fill it up, the Giants the same way. Attendance is holding steady but you have to feel for Padre fans and patience is being tested every year.
MARK SAUER: Let's shifted over to the Chargers. Training Is this Wednesday of this week. They are hopeful this season, and they are hoping that maybe some success on the field or even getting into the Super Bowl might transfer into support for the new stadium here.
JAY PARIS: It is the twenty year anniversary of 1994 when they did go to the long Super Bowl. They are hoping it's a sign of things to come. It is the second year of Mike McCoy, and the team did make the playoffs last year after a three-year stretch of not making the playoffs. That is happening on the field and they have added some players as well. Off of the field, the quest to find a new Chargers stadium still numbers on. There is always that LA carrot out there that might push people to do something down here. That has made some interesting turns as well.
MARK SAUER: A big story in the LA times last weekend, in the sports section, about LA ruling three teams, the Chargers being one of them, a new push for a stadium, it has been a couple of decades without a team. Of course the Chargers try to hold out, and the NFL does as well, not coming here with the Super Bowl again until they get a new stadium, or move the team, all of that in the mix, and it plays out with what happens on the field.
JAY PARIS: And some things have changed up in LA. The NFL is more motivated than ever to get a team in the national market. The Commissioner makes $44 million a year, they are not paying him to stay status quo, they want to grow the pie, and their stack maybe growing the stadium now the billion dollars that may have cost the owner, they take ownership and the Rams owner has purchased 60 acres next to Hollywood Park. There are rumors of the Rams coming back, if he could buy that from St. Louis, and by that adjacent room at Hollywood Park, there would be room for a stadium. There are a few things in motion, and you have to remember, the Chargers, 30% of their premium revenues are the stadium seats and TV rights. That is Orange County and LA. For them to sit idly by, and let another team come in, they need to be proactive at some point. They are on the seventh Mayor since the search has gone out. They are waiting to hear.
MARK SAUER: It is interesting in football, we were talking in the newsroom earlier, baseball has a different financial structure. Football has salary, fixed costs, and a big rich TV contract. You don't even need to sell a ticket to make money for football. If you build a new stadium with taxpayer money, you only have 10 to 12 football games year, maybe San Diego State comes in, fewer than two dozen events in the whole year. It is hard to rectify that, with a baseball stadium with at least eighty-one home games.
JAY PARIS: That's really the crux of the Chargers most recent proposal, when the vote was coming up for the expanded convention center, they were saying instead let's build a new stadium, we will put a retractable roof on it, marry the two ideas, take the bridge across the harbor, and you have a convention center that can build up the dates. That was derailed the coastal commission said the expansion project can go through. That said again, there are three lawsuits on the table regarding that. It all comes down, football is a game about field position and this is a game about land-use. Anything to work in San Diego the mayor has to agree to use that land and marry together and sell it off or so it and develop it, and have that money that the city donates to a billion-dollar stadium.
MARK SAUER: We have, I talked with fellow reporters here, and I am not a big football fan myself. I must say, I am a hockey and baseball fan. Had you convince us? We're not fans.
JAY PARIS: Right, can't be a stadium for the Chargers. It has to be a stadium for us, the Chargers, final fours, world cups, and the convention center.
MARK SAUER: Many other events in the city.
JILL REPLOGLE: And concerts.
JAY PARIS: Whatever you want to do. I think that the San Diego fans, or voters, if you will, still feel the sting of Petco Park. Petco Park was a jewel, but it was so old, those revenue streams that the new stadium would open up would let them compete for the high price for free agents, and let them have competitive teams. They want competitive visual titles, but it has not played that way.
MARK SAUER: Let me ask Jill and me so, will you support them as taxpayers? Would you give taxpayer money to get that ownership to enrich them with the super suites and corporate seats?
AMITA SHARMA: I don't think the public will.
MARK SAUER: If the mayor had to go to a vote, could they possibly do it without one?
JILL REPLOGLE: I'm just thinking World Cup, Brazil, so many protests about of the money spent on that and they end up losing, it seems to be a common theme.
MARK SAUER: And the Padres, they got the vote after the World Series in 1998, do wonder if they ever would have got it without that success on the field.
JAY PARIS: We go back to the non-field products, if it's a good year maybe it will get traction.
MARK SAUER: We'll see if it does.
JAY PARIS: We will see.
MARK SAUER: That wraps up another week of stories at the KPBS Roundtable. I would like to thank my guests, and a reminder, all of the stories we discussed today are available on the website at KPBS.org. I am Mark Sauer, thank you for joining us today on the Roundtable.