Roundtable: Bad Water, Convention Center, Gas Tax, Tenure And Border Biz
Friday, April 7, 2017
Lead In Drinking Water, Convention Center Vote, Fixing California Roads, Working With Mexico
Wendy Fry, Reporter, NBC7
Michael Smolens, Politics & Government Editor, The San Diego Union-Tribune
Chris Jennewein, Editor-Publisher, Times of San Diego
Jean Guerrero, Fronteras Reporter, KPBS News
Unsafe drinking water in schools
Lead and other chemicals have been found in four San Diego-area schools: Emerson-Bandini and Co-Operative Charter, both in Southcrest; La Mirada School in San Ysidro and San Marcos Middle School.
The lead at Emerson-Bandini was found in drinking fountains and classroom sinks. Lab results were provided to San Diego Unified School District officials on Feb. 9. But NBC7 found that children were still drinking from fountains at Emerson-Bandini on March 2.
San Diego Unified said it would test the water at all schools. That testing began on Tuesday.
Municipal water providers believe that the problem stems from pipes at schools built before 1986, the year lead plumbing was banned in the U.S.
The City of San Diego is only required to test 50 homes every three years for lead contamination and has never tested the water in Southcrest or San Ysidro.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego, sent letters to all superintendents in her district urging them to ask for free tests available from water suppliers.
Another Convention Center vote?
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer wants the City Council to put a measure on the ballot in November to increase the hotel tax.
The measure would fund a $685 million waterfront expansion of the San Diego Convention Center.
Voters have been down this road before, most recently with Measure C, defeated in the November 2016 election. It's not going to be any easier this time.
First, the ballot measure will need 60 percent of voters to agree to it. After that, there's Fifth Avenue Landing to deal with. That development company holds a lease from the Port of San Diego for the property in question, and not surprisingly, it has plans for the site: a $300 million hotel complex, in fact.
The mayor’s planned increase in the Transient Occupancy Tax, or TOT, will raise some $5 billion over 40 years, about $600 million for the Convention Center and $900 million each for street repair and homeless services.
The measure may have company on the ballot. La Jolla-based FS Investors wants to put their initiative to redevelop the Qualcomm site into Soccer City on the ballot as well.
The state of our state's roads
Gov. Jerry Brown is aghast about the condition of California's highways, roads and bridges. And he wanted something done about it.
Brown personally appealed to the legislature to pass a measure that would increase gas taxes by 12 cents per gallon and include a new-vehicle fee based on the value of the car. That would amount to $5 billion annually.
And the legislature said yes. It passed the measure Thursday evening.
The state estimates its backlog of neglected repairs to be $130 billion. It has not raised its base gas tax, now 18 cents per gallon, in 23 years.
Assembly and senate Republicans opposed the plan, as did farm groups and environmentalists.
In California, a teacher is granted tenure after just two years of probation. Some experts believe this probationary period is too short to evaluate a teacher's real potential and would like to change the time frame to be more in line with the majority of states.
Efforts to reform tenure have gone nowhere because of opposition from teachers' unions. Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, has introduced a bill, AB 1220, to increase the probationary period to three years. It provides professional development and mentoring for some teachers who don't make the cut. In Weber's view, it is impossible to determine whether a teacher will be effective in just 18 months of teaching.
Several teachers unions are already lined up in opposition.
Advocating for cross-border cooperation
Road trip! Ninety politicians and business leaders from San Diego and Tijuana traveled to Mexico City last week with the objective of promoting cross-border collaboration and strong ties to the Mexican government.
The delegation was there to show that collaboration can work, even in the face of anti-Mexican rhetoric and threats to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, emanating from President Donald Trump.
The San Diego group included Mayor Kevin Faulconer and San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce President Jerry Sanders. They and the group from Baja California want both to preserve key elements of NAFTA and initiate more border infrastructure improvements.
To that end, chamber officials signed a historic memorandum of understanding with Mexico’s senate to establish a working group from both countries to collaborate on Mexican legislation related to ports of entry, trade and immigration.
They want the legislation to include Otay II, a toll-operated port of entry planned for Otay Mesa in 2020 or 2021.
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