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Roundtable: School Bond Donors; San Onofre Hearing; Homelessness Discussion; Trestles Tussle

Will Carless, a reporter for Voice of San Diego, talks to KPBS about his story on how donations to school bond campaigns can lead to lucrative contracts.


Will Carless, Voice of San Diego

Adam Townsend, San Clemente Patch

Kelly Bennett, Voice of San Diego

Tony Perry, L.A. Times


Big Donations Can Win Big Contracts: The first sentence of the article by Voice of San Diego and KNSD says it all: “If you donate more than $5,000 to a school bond campaign in San Diego County, you have a good chance of getting the often-lucrative contracts that follow.”

A four-month investigation found a “significant correlation” in 13 of 17 local school districts between major donors to their bond campaigns and the companies that were awarded work on the programs the bonds funded.

Donations come from construction firms, architects, lawyers and investment banks. School districts are required to choose the firms that will give the taxpayers the best deal on loans, legal advice and construction, generally through an open bidding process. But several donors were awarded contracts without going through an open, competitive process.

Open bidding is often replaced by something benignly termed “lease-leaseback,” in which the district leases property to a developer for $1 a year. The developer leases it back to the district during construction for a fee that covers the cost of the project and avoids an open bid process.

Many districts do this to avoid having to award contracts based solely on price. The investigation found the correlation between big donors and contracts in Poway Unified, Oceanside Unified, Grossmont Union HSD, Cajon Valley, Encinitas and Sweetwater UHSD, among others.

Adam Townsend, a reporter with San Clemente Patch, talks to KPBS about the California Public Utilities Commission's public hearing focusing on the cost to ratepayers who have been paying for the faulty San Onofre nuclear power plant.

Is San Onofre Still a Hot Issue?: The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station has been shut down for more than a year over a radiation leak. Thursday evening the California Public Utilities Commission held a public hearing focusing on the cost to ratepayers who have been paying for the faulty Mitsubishi steam generators, which now produce no energy.

In addition, state Assemblywoman Toni Atkins asked the Nuclear Regulating Commission to release to the public a copy of a document from Mitsubishi indicating that they and Southern California Edison were aware of problems with the design of the new equipment, but installed it anyway.

Also, the California Independent Legislative Analyst wants an investigation of how the CPUC oversees ratepayers' money that it holds for utilities.

Talking About Homelessness: On Thursday of this week, Voice of San Diego gathered a diverse group of people in San Diego's downtown winter shelter who are affected by, working to end or are interested in the big topic of homelessness in San Diego.

Panelists included social worker Marc Stevenson, director of Project 25; Kelly Knight of the Downtown Partnership’s Clean and Safe Program; Danny McCray of the Check-in Center; Rick Schnell of San Diego Police Department’s homeless outreach team and Kimberly Becker, formerly a homeless alcoholic, now recovering from both situations.

Marines v. Surfers: Between the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and the San Diego/Orange County line lies a two-plus mile stretch of beach known as Trestles.

It is revered by surfers for both its seven primo surf breaks and its place in the history of Southern California surf culture. (Both Trestles and San Onofre are mentioned in the Beach Boys’ song “Surfin’ USA.”)

Surfers have petitioned to have the beach listed in the National Register of Historic Places, alarming the Marine Corps, which owns the beach (they call it Green Beach). Camp Pendleton uses it for training, and they fear the historic designation will lead to civilian oversight, which could wipe out their programs. The surfers say not so, but the Marines aren’t buying it. The State Historical Resources Commission voted unanimously this month to recommend the historic designation to the national group in Washington D.C.

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