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Roundtable: O’Connor Falls; Prop B Stumbles; Trolleys Unprotected; Sidewalks Crumbling

Aired 2/15/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.

GUESTS

Katie Orr, KPBS News

Tony Perry, LA Times

Brad Racino, I-Newsource/KPBS

Liam Dillon, Voice of San Diego

Transcript

Maureen O'Connor in court: The former mayor of San Diego was arraigned in federal court Thursday on charges of embezzling some $2 million from her late husband’s charitable foundation so she could continue to gamble.

Initial reports that O'Connor gambled away $1 billion dollars, while sensational, were not exactly true. She did indeed admit to winning and losing about $1 billion over 10 years, but her actual losses were between $13 and $15 million, still a substantial chunk of change.

She pleaded not guilty, but agreed to a deferred prosecution agreement and acknowledged misappropriating funds from the R.P. Foundation. She has agreed to repay the foundation $2 million. O’Connor acknowledged her addiction to video gaming had led her to lose the fortune she inherited on the death of her husband, Jack-In-The-Box founder Robert O. Peterson.

O'Connor, who was mayor of San Diego from 1986 to 1992, has also suffered major real estate losses as well as the loss of her health due to a recent operation for a brain tumor. She is 66.

Prop B May Be Improper: An administrative judge with the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) has ruled that former Mayor Jerry Sanders violated state labor law by taking Proposiiton B, the pension reform measure, directly to the voters without first negotiating the plan with employee unions.

Prop B, approved by a big margin in June, 2012, replaced guaranteed pensions with 401K-style plans for most new city hires. This finding does not require the city to stop implementing Prop B, but it is the first step toward a court ruling which could make that determination.

Jan Goldsmith, the San Diego City Attorney, disagreed with the judge's ruling, saying San Diegans have the right to use the initiative process.

Is It Safe To Ride The Trolley?: The frontline protecting San Diegans from mishaps, mayhem and emergencies along our rail corridors is made up of poorly trained, poorly paid and poorly equipped private security guards, a lengthy investigation by INewsource and KPBS has found.

The guards themselves, many of whom are armed, are worried about the situation

Hired to be “pro-active enforcement” officers, the guards are empowered to patrol, protect and arrest. They are employees of Universal Protection Services and are contracted by the Metropolitan Transit System and the North County Transit District to perform first aid, maintain order, and assist rescue operations.

The private security company guarantees its officers are trained and prepared for these jobs. But our investigation found that much of the necessary training hasn’t taken place in five years, so that many have no idea what to do in case of a train crash.

Is It Safe To Walk The Sidewalks? Most San Diegans don’t know that if the sidewalk in front of their house or business is crumbling or otherwise dangerous, it’s their responsibility to fix it, according to state law.

If somebody falls, however, the city is legally responsible. But the city doesn’t give homeowners or businesses much of an incentive to maintain sidewalks, but it does bear the liability.

Voice of San Diego’s series looks at bad sidewalks, no sidewalks and the city’s policies, with a little help from its subscribers.

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