Roundtable: 'Convadium' Conundrum, Cal-OSHA Fines SD Companies, Bernie Visits
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March 25, 2016 12:10 p.m.
Lori Weisberg, reporter, San Diego Union-Tribune
Chris Young, reporter, iNewsource
Steve Walsh, reporter, KPBS News
The Chargers want voters to okay big hike in hotel taxes to fund a Convadium, a football convention center combo downtown. SDG&E was among nine employers. Democratic Bernie Sanders brings his presents a campaign the San Diego as the June primary comes into play. This is Mike's hour, the KPBS roundtable starts now.
Welcome to our discussion of the weeks top stories. Mark Sauer I am. Joining me today, Lori Weisberg, reporter, San Diego Union-Tribune and Steve Walsh, reporter, KPBS News and Chris Young, reporter, iNewsource.
The zombie project for new Chargers Stadium is back in the news with significant developments. The Chargers hope city leaders will join them in pushing for a $1.8 billion Stadium convention center expansion downtown and recent state appeals court ruling could make passage easier. The court says a simple majority of voters, not the two thirds threshold can approve a tax increase. A lot of moving parts here.
When we start, at the open, $1.8 billion, that is a lot of money. Tells where it will be?
East of Petco Park, on about 15 acres. Some on own lands, some private parcels. That's the general location.
That is penciled in, it still up in the air Hollywood secure all of that but that's what they're looking at.
The initiative from the Chargers, how would that work?
We're still waiting for them to release their formal initiative and we're expecting early next week.
This is a preview. They have to announce it and published in the newspaper and then wait a few weeks to start gathering signatures to get it on the ballot. You laid it all out in the story, no real public tax money involved but it could start --
Let's be honest. A hotel tax money is still public money.
Even if the tourists are paying.
Yes. Our hotel tax is 12.5%. This would bring it up to 16.5%. It would get rid of a 2% marketing scene is now part of that. Much of the funding for this project would be from this increased hotel tax money. Then 650 million $650 million would be from the Chargers and the NFL. There would be nothing from the general fund that the city and county have been proposing that some county or city money, all on the tourists.
So as we say, a lot of numbers we're trying out. The hotel tax would be 100 million of this and as you say, --
For one part of the product.
There are some bonds that are involved.
Parties for Stadium, part for convention. $650 million -- our radio folks are trying to follow along. It's all on the website, the breakdown on all these numbers are on the website.
That's how they get around saying taxpayers will not be hit for this, will hit people from out of town. Part the little people, won't it make us we appear at the top of what we are taking on taxes when people come to town to do a convention?
The hotel people were in favor at one time to pay for an expansion of the convention center on the waterfront. That is no longer going forward because of a court ruling on the tax part. This will take it up to 16.5% and will give them 2% in marketing money. Right now, that marketing money comes from the hotel approved tax being challenged in court. That could go away if they lose in court. They are in a quandary. They're not getting their expansion on the waterfront, the 2% marketing market -- marketing money is in danger. It would make us less competitive. Anaheim has 17%, LA 70.5. Seven Cisco a little more than 60%. Across the country, the average rate is about 13.5%. We are getting up there.
What are some of the hotel owner saying about this?
They are talking privately. They don't want to weigh in publicly yet but what I'm hearing is there not sure if they want to support this. They're worried about's how high the hotel tax will go and will make it the promised 2% in marketing money? 1% under this plan is for sure. The second 1% is less sure. If they meet the debt reserve, they get the second 1%. They don't get the convention center on the waterfront but they get it in an annexed facility. They haven't weighed informally but I am hearing concerns privately.
The big question is what does Comic-Con think about all this? They used Petco Park for some of the outdoor events but if you get further away, they wanted the convention center to expand along the waterfront, have one big center, not all spread out.
Will this work?
They said publicly, they prefer the waterfront. Also one of their big things is hotel room costs for their attendees will go up. The irony is, of all the connections that could probably work best with a campus like facility would be Comic-Con. They already spread out. Of all the ones that would work for, it worked best for them.
At the outset, the other big development is this ruling by the state appeals court. Everyone thought the two thirds threshold a bridge with you for an out is a simple majority. How might that play?
We're hearing the Chargers are still going with the idea that they have to do a two thirds majority because that court ruling while it's very significant was at the appellate court level, it doesn't have standing, it's not finalized until the candidate -- Calgary Supreme Court weighs in. That could help this measure and many others immensely as long as it's part of an initiative, not part of a government imposed tax.
So this could be a big boost for getting their passage if it really is the law of the land.
We've been going back and forth, are they serious, do they want to stay, are they just going through the motions so they can go up to LA?
Do we know whether or not they are really serious about staying with San Diego.
I know there are many consider cities out there. The time and the money they're spending on this suggests there's serious. I'm not sure they necessarily -- some feel they may be second fiddle to the Rams in LA. All things being equal. That they want to be in San Diego, they can make this work. I think they prefer to be here, it seems like they are serious. They're spending a lot of time on this.
Did they have a couple of plans about architectural drawings of what the Stadium would look like? One of it being on top of --
The stadium itself would be on top and the convention center would be below that. The other idea is beside it or as part of the campus like a separate building. We haven't seen those drawings. I'm hoping we see them next week when it is unveiled.
We mentioned the hotel people and other people, what about the city leaders? Is the mayor on board?
He is not saying much. They keep saying we wait and see. I'm getting a sense that may be lukewarm support. I don't know how they feel. We know the chamber and former mayor who is the CEO to the regional Chamber of Commerce has said, let's take a look at this.
Last question, we have this competing measure initiative from an attorney. What if they both get on the ballot, are the exclusive in some ways? What happens?
They say different things. Will a step aside?, I don't think they will. Is there a deal they cut with the Chargers? Ill be confusing if both are on the ballot because I don't know that they would be seen as complements three measures.
They may seem like rivals.
Will certainly be watching this and the next week if they make the announcement.
Will move along to another topic with roughly 19,000,000 workers, California's down to have a large number of place accidents. Cal-OSHA has fewer than 200 field enforcement officers and only a couple dozen of them speak Spanish even though Latino workers number 7 million in California. Chris, your story this week focused on violations, you lead with an incident last year involving SDG&E. Start what happened to that employee?
There are two workers working in Mission Valley, they were inspecting gas valves. One worker ended up standing on top of a platform -- plywood boards covering an underground vault. They gave way and he fell 7 feet into the concrete vaults. Ricky ate ribs. When state inspectors inspected after the accident, they saw that SDG&E, five years before have found those boards were in disrepair and needed to be replaced. And nothing was done. What they did was slapped SDG&E with a $70,000 fine. That's the maximum penalty you can get under the law per violation. They called it a willful violation. Basically meaning the employer intentionally or knowingly committed the violation. The case isn't closed yet. They've appealed citations so we will see where that and set in a final penalty.
That's the most serious level. That's the one that could cause serious injuries or death?
There are different levels of violation. Serious is anything that could cause serious injury or death, willful is where the employer knew there was something wrong and didn't fix anything that carries the highest possible penalty. You also have repeat offenders when employer continues to have these repeat violations and that's a maximum $70,000 penalty as well.
How many employers in San Diego have faced these penalties in last year.
Last year, I want to make a note the data we looked at for this story wasn't a complete tally of all the violations in California over the past few years. This is taking a look, there's a database that houses safety inspections that result in fines totally $40,000 or more. There are nine employers in San Diego County that had these high violations and more than 80 in California as a whole. Total for the state's $5.6 million of these violations across the state.
It seems like one of the issues is maybe the violation of the penalties aren't high enough to make it a concern. Is there any move -- oftentimes he reported to get settled and settle down. Is there any efforts to raise the maximum?
That's one of the main criticisms. $40,000 is a lot to me but ExxonMobil and others it's nothing.
When you have a maximum set $70,000, that's not a lot.
Just last year, Congress passed a budget deal which, for 25 years we haven't had any increase in the OSHA penalties. They weren't tied to inflation but that will change later this year. They are going to raise, make up for those years were they didn't have this matching with inflation. They will go up and they could be increased as much as 80%.
$70,000 maximum penalty for a willful violation could go up to $126,000. That would be a significant increase that people say that still not enough to keep employers behaving.
You mentioned to the very few of inspectors in California speak Spanish, why is that significant?
There are a lot of Spanish speakers in California. When inspectors go into these were laces to investigate accidents and find out what's going on, with its after an accident or during a planned investigation they want to be proactive, they need to be able to communicate with the workers.
If you don't have a significant number of inspectors who can speak Spanish, that handicaps you you are not able to do a thorough inspection and make sure work places are safe.
There are also too few field inspectors overall.
To put that into perspective, it's one inspector for every 98,000 workers. Compared to federal OSHA, that's a lot worse words one for every 60,000.
They react to an incidence or they do inspections but they can get around to businesses especially all the small businesses.
May prioritize industries they call high hazard industries. Places that see more work safety incidents. They try to plan investigations there to make sure any hazards are being addressed before accidents happen.
In the data taking a look at last year, there are three incidents that would deadly. In one case it was an agriculture incidents. You can't get a full recap of what happened in these instances but when you look through it gives you a brief description of what happened. In one case, there was a farm worker who was pulled into a spreader and ended up dying. There are really horrific injuries and deadly accidents that can happen.
Do you see more funding coming to the agency so they can also do follow up on hazards they know about?
I took a look at the report done last year, analyzing what needs to be done and they suggested the governor and the state should increase the number of inspectors and how much funding they get because they want to prioritize getting those high hazard industries.
It seems like the follow-up is a huge problem. You mentioned the top five years went by before they came back, there's another injury at that our company in the same place and was five years later before they came back and are only there because the been another injury?
That speaks to the numbers we talked about.
There are a lot of things that need to be done.
Most of us work in very safe workplaces but there's a lot of work places, especially like construction industry where it's very dangerous and the need to be able to make sure these places are as safe as possible.
Politically minded San Diegan's are being treated to a rare spectacle this year. Our state primary may actually mean something and can even be true for Democrats a Democrat generate a lot of excitement this year was in San Diego.
Bernie Sanders was in California twice this week. He was in San Diego on Tuesday and then LA. He spoke before the editorial board meeting their for the Los Angeles times and said you're going to hear more than is comfortable between now and Tuesday. It seems clear this is a big part of his strategy to come to California, stay till the end and try to eke out a large victory in the last major primary of the country.
That does wrap it up.
How many delegates are we talking about.
I think of the top of my head, 52 Republican delegates to the Democratic side there are 546.
Right now, he's a little more than 300 behind in the pledge behind Hillary Clinton. You add in superdelegates and that lead gets further.
There are several races before here. Can we expect to see the people on the Republican side come through.
All these people will come through as Bernie has?
We have a new way of running these primaries. He's three when people got behind, they gracefully exited. But the money, Bernie Sanders is raising money. There's not a lot of incentive for people to get out of the race because they have the money to keep going and who knows, maybe they can turn things around.
We have noticed that Bernie Sanders attracts these rockstar style events that draws tons of people and he is raising money easily. Why start translating to more victories? He still considerably behind in the delegates.
When I talk to their supporters, they said the very same thing.
We have these large events, why is it we are not winning in some ink maybe there's something up here or they have a lot of passionate supporters who are coming to these rallies but still a smaller number than Clinton voters who may just be showing up for absentee ballots. That is a lovely segue into a bite we had here.
Margaret from Tehachapi here's what she had to say at the rally.
I am 52 years old, I've seen the middle class and disappear. I've seen unions become an empowered. I was a union worker 30 years ago. And they had power and have watched and have all the power stripped away and how that has affected the American worker and how, now there is no middle class. There's very rich and very poor and nobody in between.
She has for his message down.
Some have waited hours.
Yes, people came from all over California, they waited in line for hours. There was a rally outside City Hall at 1030 the morning and the march to the convention center. When Bernie was speaking later in the evening, there are still people trying to get through security to get into the hall.
That's impressive. Was the makeup of the crowd? Was it diverse? People say his crown is usually younger white crowd but what was the diversity?
It is a younger crowd but it's not completely younger. There were a lot of young millennials. These are people with a lot of debt and have a hard time getting a job. There's a lot of older, traditional liberal democratic voters. People remember the straighter stuff from the 1960s and 70s. They say him as harkening back to that liberal democratic face and they are excited.
With their protesters?
There were no major disruptions inside the hall. It was quiet, not a lot of screaming and shouting exit among supporters, apparently there is a topless woman on twitter. For the most part,, he has a reputation -- I didn't spell any illegal drugs. Whether or not it's a large enough base to win California, Hillary Clinton do the same thing, going to the end and one in California.
The question, will California make any difference in the Republican or Democratic outcome?
On the Republican side, if they are moving toward a brokered convention, anything they can pick up along the wake will work for them. Whether or not Bernie Sanders can get and stay close enough and pull off a large victory in California, it seems like a long shot. He admits he has a narrow path to victory but he also doesn't seem to see any reason to get out.
He stuck to the issues in his speech.
His traditional economic message and keeping money out of politics. Over the last month or so he is trying to expand his base. He had Rosario Dawson introduced him, she is a star in the TV show daredevil and the cofounder of some organizations. She talked about the need for immigration reform he he talks about the need to and deportations. He's trying to broaden that base as he moves into California.
It didn't quite work in Arizona that night.
He lost Arizona which was delegate rich. He won two out of three this week and still didn't overcome Hillary Clinton's lead and the delegates.
To smaller states and one larger state. These are all proportional so it's hard on the other side for Clinton to come and knock him out. These just are the winner take all states that can simply overcome. It seems like he will be fairly close throughout and what happens after that, I don't know.
A few seconds left here.
Everyone adjusted well to him. He didn't make it the centerpiece but he talked about the need to attack ices and defeat them. He talked in terms of working with our Arab allies to make that happen. A contrast to Hillary Clinton who was much more hawkish.
We'll have to leave it there. We will see what happens in June.
That wraps up another week of stories at the KPBS roundtable.
I would like to thank my guests, Lori Weisberg, reporter, San Diego Union-Tribune and Chris Young, reporter, iNewsource and Steve Walsh, reporter, KPBS News. I'm Mark Sauer, thank you for joining us today.