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Roundtable: Helping Or Hurting? Immigration Rhetoric On Campaign Trail

November 2, 2018 1:51 p.m.

Roundtable: Helping or Hurting? Immigration Rhetoric On Campaign Trail

PANEL:

Megan Burks, education reporter, KPBS News

Matt Hoffman, reporter, KPBS News

Tarryn Mento, reporter, KPBS News

Michael Smolens, columnist, San Diego Union-Tribune

Related Story: Roundtable: Helping Or Hurting? Immigration Rhetoric On Campaign Trail

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

San Diego is in the midst of a housing affordability crisis is rent control the solution. Voters have the power to approve or deny critical funding stream for San Diego schools. Several districts are asking residents to approve bonds. Prop 64 paved the way for recreational pot in California and San Diego cities are coming to terms with it in their own ways. And truth is a casualty in controversial political ads and immigration rhetoric. As election day looms high marks our PBS roundtable starts now.

Welcome to our discussion of the week's top stories I'm Mark Sauer. And joining me today at the PBS roundtable reporter turned mento of PBS News reporter Matt Hoffman also of PBS Megan Burks who covers education for kape PBS and Michael Small columnist with The San Diego Union Tribune. Well San Diego voters are facing a long sometimes complicated ballot this time around one vexing issue involves rent control it's containments State Proposition 10 in turn just start right there what is Prop 10 specifically do.

Well the first thing that's important to get out is that what it doesn't do it doesn't cause rent control across the state it just would lift restrictions and give cities more freedom to create their own rent control policies and those restrictions which are spelled out in the cost of Hawkin's law or that they can't apply to units built after 95 can't apply to single family homes. And you also can't put limits on how much a landlord can increase rent.

Once a tenant moves out of a rent controlled unit OK and give us an idea just generally how high rents are in our area. They're very high and they're going very fast for a while right.

So there was a report in Utica actually did a story on it it showed that the average rent reached about 8500 9300 dollars in a month in March. That was a 20 percent increase since March 2015. But I think it's important to note that the report only looked at complexes with 25 or more units there's a lot of complexes out there that have far fewer 6 8 twelves. But in the story that I did looking at looking at a landlord that owns a unit in normal heights it was a studio it was putting eighty hundred dollars into improve it but he was going to increase the rent from 13 50 to 9300 or 1975 and I was for a studio.

It's almost 50 percent job now seems like a simple really. Rents are too high.

Who's supporting Prop 10 and what do they say is it's going to accomplish so for donors the biggest donor behind the sun Prop 10 is the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. And that's because they say that a lack of affordable housing can affect the health of their patients. But there's also tenants rights groups and low income earners and those on a fixed income that are really pushing for this as well. And they're saying that like hey rents are just increasing too much wages aren't going up at the same pace and we need something to stop the burden that's being put on Californians I think it's like 80 per cent of households and of low income households in California are rent burden which means 30 percent or more of your income a huge chunk of.

They go into this.

Now who's opposed and what are the consequences are warning about.

So property owners real estate companies are really not having Prop 10. They really don't want these restrictions to be removed. They say it won't work. It'll actually make the housing crisis worse because it creates less investment and rental properties that landlords will want to spend less on maintenance. They don't want to actually invest in the construction of rental units. And they may even actually hurt the supply we already have because some might take their units off the rental market altogether and convert them to condos.

And there's been some studies on this and looking at rent control in California and what are the broad conclusions there.

Well it does keep people. The studies show that it does keep people in their homes longer. But people argue that that means that families as they grow or they shrink might be remaining in units that really don't fit their family size and that it's not always lower income people who actually benefit some people who are earn more money actually benefit just as much as a lower income person might as well. And there was they did find that that did hurt a little bit of the investment in maintenance and actually it possibly the supply with condo conversions.

But there's an argument that local policies can create incentives to address that. Yes.

To ask that there's a measure in National City for rent control. How did they try to address some of those concerns.

So there is a measure you would create rent control and a rent board. And I spoke to some of the supporters and they say if there are significant capital improvements that are required in order to raise rents you could go to the rent for it and request an additional increase beyond what the ordinance already provides each year.

OK a short time left on this topic. Any indications how Prop 10 is going to do state.

Polls are showing that's not doing great. And that probably has a lot to do with the fact that opponents are really really outspending supporters here. I think the L.A. Times story quoted three to one.

OK. And that gives you chose you.

Who are the backers are and whether he looks like the more the longer as we get closer and closer and more money is being pumped into ads from the opposition that support for Prop 10 seems to be declining. OK.

All right we'll watch that one with everything else on Tuesday night. Well another ballot question leaving many voters feeling drift to school bonds. School districts commonly offer bonds to investors backed by property taxes. But how do voters know if a particular bond issue is a good one or not. So Megan start with the basic question. There was a school bond. How does it work.

So it's kind of like taking out a loan with future property taxes as collateral. So you're using that property tax to pay back the bond to pay back investors who purchase these bonds.

OK. And how many districts are asking voters to approve bonds. The them are 11 11 or so. Not every voter is going to vote on all those will vote on their own local district.

Everybody gets for a particular ballot but so a lot of voters here maybe most voters are going to be looking at some form of school bond wherever they are and where their district happens to be. And generally what are these funds used for and how do they come down where the money goes.

So for the most part across all of these districts it's to repair and upgrade facilities there's a lot of aging facilities and not as much revenue in local school districts to keep up with those needs in places like bombs or districts that are actually growing and seeing more development and therefore more kids they actually want to build new schools. So sometimes it's for that. But across the board it's pretty much repairs and upgrades keeping up with things Michael.

As you've reported that particular with San Diego Unified they still have a couple billion dollars in unspent bond money. How does that work and how do they justify that.

So I spoke with them and they said that I think back in 2008 could have an earlier I'm not sure they did a a master plan and assessed all of their needs and they have this big members something like seven more than 7 billion dollars in needed repairs. So they said that they really set out to put a package of bombs before before voters so we had props s and z. And this is really the completion of that package to get them to that large number is what they say.

Is that a tough sell to people and if people know they've got money in the bank even though it is supposed to be committed you know.

So yeah you're right. It's it's committed. So everything has been earmarked they say. I think for the most part I mean that's certainly what the opposition is is. Looking at the most and harping on the most. But school bonds are pretty popular among voters because often the pitch and what you see on your ballot is do you want to improve education for kids and how do you stay out of it.

Now there was a problem they don't often make big news but we had and we talked about on the show Paula we had a capital appreciation bond here that a billion dollar bond. Tell us briefly what happened there.

Yes. So once voters approve this this bond that they actually go to the market and sell these bonds and so a pathway to it as they entered into an agreement where they didn't pay for a long time. And so back loaded. Right. And so interest piled up and up and it went from 105 million to a total cost of a billion.

Real big problem like a homeowner who's got a balloon loan and they get a loan at the beginning and all of a sudden that comes with them the beauty of pushing it off on a future officeholders after they're off the board. Know these board members don't have to worry about that. Now how did voters know if the bonds are a good one to vote for or not and they can't all be expected to be experts in this school.

Right. So I should say that the state has since passed some laws that aim to protect taxpayers from something like that power a bond. So it's not as much of a risk for voters anymore. They what they can do is they can look back at how previous bonds were administered the taxpayers association gives grades based on how transparent they were so they can look back at audits and that sort of thing to see you know did they do a good job of saying what they are doing what they thought they were going to do doing it at cost and to voters usually go for them.

I mean as you said it's so it's a warm and fuzzy sell here to help the kids.

Yeah it looks like about 70 per cent of bonds to pass statewide.

So that's. And then again these are these are narrow issues at local levels. You see a lot of polling on these individual races right so it's tough to gauge what's going to happen. All right. Almost out of time on this topic but you know if I'm an individual and I'm you know conscientious in going over my ballot maybe I'm going early and I've got Google and everything else they're not voting on election day itself. How do we dive into something like this and know if it's a good deal.

Well like I said the one group that does take a look at all of the bombs and say whether or not they endorse them as the taxpayers association there are some items that the taxpayers association look at. That could be seen as partisan. So they don't like project labor agreements that tend to benefit unions. So but you can look at that and kind of suss that out and see where you fall on it. We also put together a spreadsheet looking at some of those nonpartisan Wingnuts of those nonpartisan items on PBS stockhorse you can always look at endorsements and newspaper endorsements et cetera.

All right. Well that'll be an interesting one we'll have all the up as we wrap it all up on election night. We're going to move on. There seems to be a misconception among some California tourists they read that recreational marijuana is legal here. So let's head to the grocery the convenience store and pick some up. Of course that's not how it works. Met start this segment explain how California law regarding recreational marijuana does work.

Right. So you have prop 64 and then this year the Bureau of cannabis control the state regulatory board started accepting licenses and they started obviously accepting and licensing some businesses but they left it up to local jurisdictions to kind of set what they want. You're seeing here in San Diego office the city of San Diego has recreational sales but different cities now are starting to take this out and figure out do they want this do they want to tax this and want all they want to do with it. In many or most do not right now but they can in the future I think is about 50 50 right now maybe a third to two thirds but it's starting to grow more cities are starting to look at you're starting to see some North County cities look at it and then this year obviously we have a number of measures on the ballot.

You know there's a revenue stream. Let's start with some of those measures. Several county communities are looking at that. Start with Lowell Mesa.

Yeah so measure V in La Mesa. So already in La Mesa medical sales are legal. There's only one dispensary right now it's called The Grove. They have a number of them coming online soon and a number of people have applied for licenses. But basically if voters approve this put us up to a 6 percent tax on gross sales also some stuff in there for cultivation like ten dollars per canopy square that Mesa said that they think they can generate about a million and a half dollars at least a year for that to go toward general services police and fire.

There will be more places to buy it. Presumably if that were to pass and then just the one place.

Now what about the Chula Vista Chula Vista Tulis has had a big problem right now with illegal dispensaries and to kind of combat that back in March the city passed an ordinance for recreational sales but that was contingent on a business tax passing to the voters so that's what we have now measure. Q Which basically says at least a 5 percent tax but no more than 15 percent tax on gross sales so sort of similar to that Mesa. They also have something in there for cultivation as well. Now in Chula Vista they say they think they can generate up to 6 million dollars a year off all this once it all gets going I think it would be up to three marijuana businesses per council district.

Two of those could be storefronts. So you could have a number of marijuana businesses coming in there and they say that money would go toward general services but also shutting down illegal operations. I mean when we went there to do our story we were on Third Avenue. There's four or five. I mean they're everywhere they've got guys shake and signs there's no hiding.

That's still a big issue for a lot of cities within the county.

Oh yeah it is a very big issue. I mean Chula Vista they just shut down one that we were filming the other day. The sheriff's department has an issue with them too and unincorporated areas alcohol and Vista's said they shut down a number of them I think like 40 of them over the last few years and Vista is another place that's got to on the ballot this time around. Right. So right now in Vista there's no legal marijuana sales going on. They say they do have a big problem with illegal dispensaries as well.

And this has got three measures going to voters so the first ones a citizens initiative called Measure Z and that would allow up to 11 medical dispensaries within the city just medical marijuana just medical marijuana. And so we're not talking about recreational we're not talking about delivery up to 11. And it also imposes up to seven percent special use tax on those sales. Now the city when that came out the city said oh no we need to give voters a choice. So they decided to put two of their own measures on the ballot so they came up with measure bebi which is delivery only so no storefronts up to three delivery services and up to two testing facilities.

The City Council believes that's a better way for them to be able to track it and they don't want to go from like there there 0 to 100 they want to go from zero to 30. But also after Beebee they said OK we need to taxes so they passed measure a little in the weeds area I know.

But you better not be sampling the product. Pull out the ballot. Yeah.

So physically the voters are really really confused I think by a measure a basically put up to a three and a half percent tax on testing up to 12 percent on retail sales. And so the cities kind of threw a bunch of things. They're kind of preparing for the future. But I don't think the city ever wanted to deal with this one that Citizens Initiative came. They were like Oh no.

Mark brought up the point. People getting confused do you have the sense that I'm sure the city council is very sincere but that some people are thinking this might confuse voters enough that they just might vote no on their role and all that that's sort of the pattern that happens.

Absolutely. I mean the back is behind measures. You know they say that it's just an attempt to confuse voters I mean voters are going to be literally seeing three measures about cannabis on their ballot but prop 64 I can't measure with exact numbers but it was over 50 percent of voters did approve that. So there is a need there. And Mayor Judy Ridder's says she would just rather have deliveries and sort of phase in here instead of going from zero medical shops to potentially a lot of it.

What about delivery businesses that come up in any of these measures.

Yeah yeah totally. Obviously the city sponsored measure is going for delivery only. They say that's a safer way be it an unmarked van. And then you have measures people saying well you don't know where those sales are occurring you don't know what they're selling. So deliveries a whole controversial thing. They say storefronts you have armed guard outside you have cameras you know exactly what's going on. But if you go to the measures the signs anywhere. I mean it's a really really getting a lot of promotion up there.

And the city council is a target with deliveries I'm just wondering does that mean that it would allow kind of like a facility to be within that city's borders and then they can deliver it from there. Or is this allowing you know pot shops in other jurisdictions coming in and having a city.

Right. So it would allow for businesses to be there but there wouldn't be a storefront so like if I wanted to start a business I would have some sort of warehouse where I can myself again now I can walk in and drive the van in and out of there. But that's the big thing they have because they say well how do you know what's being sold whereas in a storefront there's cameras and there's a security guard.

Most of the time on this topic is pot tourism becoming a big thing here and Southern California San Diego and elsewhere.

Oh yeah totally. So the one that we went to is just medical only the mesa that's called the grove. It just opened up there in August. And they said they get about 50 people a day they have to turn away because they think that they they just come out the car to say hey we want to hide. And they said no you got to go to a city San Diego to do that. That's the only place here that allows that right now. Obviously there are ways to sign up for cards quickly and they do that but there is a growing industry here and the owner of the Grove says you know a lot of cities some cities are staying with this like with a 10 foot pole like alcohol.

And some cities are saying hey maybe we can make some money on this like Chula Vista Oceanside allowing deliveries. Obviously right now the Bureau of cannabis controls updating their regulations saying that deliveries from a legal municipality can go anywhere but the bunch is slow and you see the billboards are coming onto the airport here and I was recently done at the beach.

There was a shuttle van wanting to pick folks up at the beach and pick them up to that was in the city of San Diego and it was an ocean beach.

You're familiar with the background and oceans are.

Well another one to watch were several to watch as we go through our list on an election night coverage. Well we're going to move on. It used to be known as the silly season but silly seems far too tepid a word to cover the election's final days. In the time of Trump the president and his supporters the caravan of Central Americans are quote invaders. Fox News commentators have used the term over 100 times according to CNN Trump's favorite nemesis Network and Time to send in the army and repeat after the president.

This is not a stunt. And Michael you wrote about this this week a lot of things to unpack here the immigration crisis here got the attention of three of the president's opponents.

They felt that the everybody was talking about it they were going to civic clubs and people were asking because the president saying maybe Democrats are funding this and the like and they're being asked about that they were sort of surprised. I think that serious people were taking this seriously because there's no evidence of that. Also you got to keep in mind it's a political move by the president. You know he might not call it a stunt but it's all about what's going to happen on Tuesday to divert attention from other things. But these three Democratic officeholders that was kind of interesting because who are political in their part.

It was Congressman Scott Peters Assemblyman Todd Gore and supervisorial candidate Nathan Fletcher they sort of made a habit of taking on Trump they're and very democratic districts. And so this sort of works for them I mean it was sort of interesting when I first came into it I had seen some clips on Twitter that from one of them and had Trump talking about San Diego and how San Diego want the wall or building the wall down there well it's debatable whether San Diego want the wall there or not they're replacing certain aspects of the wall they're not building his new wall down there.

And we've had a wall and a fence for a long time. I thought well that's happened last night you mentioned San Diego again. It was actually a clip from May. And so the Democrats you know kind of pulled that out to bring San Diego into this so they could you know bring their opposition to Trump to the fore which tends to work politically in their district.

Now immigration legal and illegal long been an issue in California especially here in the border region. Do San Diego generally by Trump's contention that this caravan coming from Central America which is still weeks and a thousand miles away or so that that represents a quote national emergency.

I can't really speak for how San Diego feel about it but I mean we've been through this before. I think that people are concerned regardless of what they think about Trump a crisis. I don't think people most people feel that way. I think that you know we've had Caravan's smaller ones come up. It's been you know an issue at the border but people have not been overrunning the border. Do we need 15000 troops along the border. You know most people don't seem to think are a lot of people don't seem to think so.

Again to stay away it's really hard to separate what's real and what's totally political here. There have always been support from National Guard and sometimes troops at times when things get a little dicey and so forth. But I think you also got to keep in mind a couple of things taking a step back. Trump always likes dealing with immigration as an issue politically. It's appalling. He's he's got majorities in both houses of Congress. We have had no real movement at all on comprehensive immigration reform which everybody says they want.

He blames the Democrats but it was really divisions among the republicans that stopped that. And also you know why is there even a need for said the board of the Border Patrol and Border Security was supposed to be so built up and a lot of that hasn't happened.

The you know I mean in a way in addition to try to help the Republicans out on say this covers up for a lot of shortcomings in his policy.

And I was just say I mean with this caravan. A couple of months away in like a thousand miles away I mean when they say you know we're sending all these troops it's not like we're under imminent I mean nothing's coming under attack right. I mean.

Well that's why the word invader loaded it is again you know and that underscores what's really going on here. It's again not that that many people if they make it because in past caravans people have dropped off and they probably won't get anywhere near the numbers that they are marching. But yeah it's a ways down the line. You have to prepare for it. Sure. But you have to you know try to frighten the dickens out of everybody that's another these days coming.

Well that the last caravan caravan that made it to Tijuana I mean a very small number of those people were actually allowed into the United States as asylum seekers or as a.

And that's the point here that these are asylum seekers for the most part. Are there going to be some bad apples there of course but you know it's there is a legal asylum process and most people don't get in.

The rest were very few comparatively of people trying to illegally cross from that last caravan that was going to say it's important to point out that there is an intention for I mean for a lot of them to go through the asylum seeking process which requires a very orderly fashion you know seeking that at the port of entry not you know crawling over crawling over the fences like there's some kind of fear that would actually be happening and there actually believe the secretary of state came out when announcing the cap on refugees saying that the cap is being reduced on refugees to further compensate for an increase in the expected asylum application.

I mean it's unfortunate it's a serious issue and you know we are on the frontlines but in San Diego we've had experience with this and there's a lot of frustration here and elsewhere but to hype it up like this now is I think equally frustrating to a lot of people.

I mean I think you're right it's too soon to tell how much of this is a political stunt and just how many troops will come in the same border. I wish I wish our leaders were speaking out more about what what this looked like firsthand. I mean I saw a military plane flying over my neighborhood this past week and I thought oh like this could be a new norm. And what does that mean for our neighborhood.

Well the president is doing multiple rallies between now and Election Day featuring Of course the build up build the wall chance that he's had three years now. These rallies claimed San Diego supports border wall Californians are rioting over the notion of sanctuary cities. Are those claims playing out with our electoral they Peter.

I missed those three words to say how they play out with an electorate. I think the electorate depends on your political point of view but there have been no riots over the state sanctuary law. There's been a lot of dispute and discussion in various cities and counties have taken actions one way or another. You know he threw that out that he's been throwing a lot of stuff against the wall in the stretch run to the election see what sticks. A lot of it on immigration from the Birthright you know riots and the Sharia law which haven't happened.

You know to fire up his base. Is that going to get enough of the swing districts that are at issue and whether who controls the House. We'll see.

But it certainly helps his base in certain red districts and red states will be going to red districts and House seats we have of course a notable and spotlighted district right here in the 50s. There's been some negative ads from Congressman Duncan Hunter claims as opposed to secret terrorists attempting to infiltrate the Congress which kind of goes hand in hand with some of these negative ads that we've been talking about. Did a deep dive into his opponent Democrat Mark Compean and your family history this weekend. How is it playing out there.

You know well it's it's hard to say it's gotten a lot of attention and it's gotten a lot of criticism. And the fact checkers have all given it the highest negative rating you know for Pinocchio's from the Washington Post which is their worst rating in terms of the accuracy of it Amaar companies Yars grandfather who was killed 16 years before he was born never met was part of a group that was involved in the Munich 1972 massacre of Israeli athletes. It's really unfortunate family history. You knew this was going to come up politically.

I mean despite whatever he says he's condemned that so forth but the reality of it also is is that he's been vetted by the federal government he's received two security clearances because he had sort of middle level posts in the Obama administration. And the irony is as I've mentioned several times in columns that Duncan Hunter has the incumbent opponent is under federal indictment for misuse of campaign funds. That alone probably disqualifies him from federal security clearance. So you know there's ironies abound.

All right we'll leave it there. The irony and we're going to watch on Tuesday night a lot to unpack in this election wraps up another week of stories at the KPP roundtable like to thank my guests they're meant to keep CBS News. Matt Hoffman of PBS Megan Burks of PBS a local folks here today and Michael Small islands of the Diego Union Tribune. And be sure to check out our comprehensive voter guide on our website K.P.. Scott Argee and be sure to vote on Tuesday and listen to us on television radio Tuesday night and Wednesday for our results.

I'm Mark Sauer. Thanks for joining us today on the roundtable.