Roundtable: Fired Up! SDG&E Customers, Escondido Latinos, Mayoral Candidates
Friday, April 6, 2012
Aired 4/6/12 on KPBS Midday Edition.
Guests: Amita Sharma, KPBS News Investigative Reporter
Adrian Florido, KPBS Fronteras Desk
Kyla Calvert, KPBS News Education Reporter
Angry SDG&E Ratepayers: At a hearing this week in San Diego of the California Public Utilities Commission, hundreds of ratepayers showed up to vent their frustration over SDG&E's plan to charge them for uninsured costs for the 2007 wildfires.
Earlier, California's Consumer Protection Safety Division determined that the utility was at fault for the 2007 wildfires, in spite of being denied access to SDG&E personnel and evidence for its investigation. The safety agency said SDG&E violated its own rules and that its lines were not properly designed, constructed or maintained and therefore caused the ’07 wildfires.
SDG&E maintained this week on KPBS that this “was not a finding of fact” because the California Public Utilities Commission never held a hearing. Nevertheless, SDG&E has settled with hundreds of people who lost their homes. In addition it paid a $14 million settlement to state regulators. Those settlements have exceeded the utility’s $1 billion insurance liability limit, and liability for still-outstanding lawsuits could reach another $1 billion.
SDG&E wants its customers to pay the remaining uninsured cost, and all future costs of all future fires, rather than SDG&E shareholders. The consumer safety division says that if the PUC allows SDG&E to bill its customers for its loss, it will be violating the terms of its settlement with the state.
Does Escondido Disenfranchise Latino Voters?: In the last decade Latinos have become almost half of Escondido’s population, the largest ethnic group in the city. But in 123 years, only two Latinos have served on the City Council.
Several Latinos and a union group have filed a suit under the California's powerful Voting Rights Act asking the court to throw out Escondido’s at-large system for electing council members saying it disenfranchises Latinos.
The five council members run citywide, rather than in districts. Four are conservative white males. Olga Diaz, the sole Latina, is regularly outvoted by her colleagues.
Running For Education Mayor: In a debate on education this week among the four top candidates for Mayor of San Diego, some offered detailed plans to change an area they have no current ability to influence.
Bonnie Dumanis said she will fix the budgetary problems of San Diego’s schools within her first term as mayor and wants to add four appointed members to the school board. Carl DeMaio would aid schools by reforming the city pension system and eliminating tenure. Nathan Fletcher would create a foundation to support classroom technology and experimental academies. Bob Filner says the mayor should stay out of school governance, but lobby Sacramento for funds. He supports the Governor’s proposed tax increase.
All said the San Diego Education Association, the teachers' union, should start to negotiate concessions with the San Diego Unified Board of Trustees.
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