Skip to main content
Visit the Midday Edition homepage

Roundtable: Power Shift In San Diego Politics

December 14, 2018 1:09 p.m.

Roundtable: Power Shift In San Diego Politics

PANEL

David Garrick, city hall reporter, San Diego Union-Tribune

Andrew Bowen, metro reporter, KPBS News

Brad Racino, reporter, iNewsource

Maya Srikrishnan, immigration reporter, Voice of San Diego

Subscribe to the Roundtable podcast on iTunes, Google Play or your favorite podcatcher.

Related Story: Roundtable: Power Shift In San Diego Politics

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.

Women take charge in San Diego politics. The new faces joining the City Council and the priorities for Democrats as this new super majority shipyard security on the San Diego Bay. News Source investigation reveals security gaps that could replace Navy warships at risk and a divisive debate on the border. The harmful rhetoric aimed at asylum seekers Marks Sauer the KPBS roundtable starts now.

Welcome to our discussion of the week's top stories on Merc's hour joining me KPBS roundtable today David Garrick who covers San Diego City Hall for the San Diego Union Tribune reporter Brad Racino with a new source KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen and reporter Maya Sharee Krishnan with the voice of San Diego. Change the word at City Hall. San Diego City Hall this week there is new council members new council president new super majority for Democrats and a majority of women for the first time and Dave start right there with the new council president who issued this will surprise us.

She's Georgette Goma's from City Heights. And I would say two months ago it might have been a surprise but it became clear after the election that there was a lot of momentum behind her and now to everyone it just seems like the most obvious thing ever.

OK. Take a step back. Remind us why what the president's role is and are stronger than the.

Well yeah I mean you set the agenda for the council. You assign committee assignments which can be very political and can affect sort of how committees tackle big issues like racial profiling and climate change and police reform and a lot of important issues.

OK and so I was just going to say one thing that we've learned in the past couple city councils is that the council presidency is really only as powerful as the individual who occupies that position. So when Gloria was council president he led this council this Democratic majority on the council to pass the minimum wage increase and some other progressive policies. When Myrto call was the council president over the last two years we didn't really see her at least utilizing that position to really kind of lead on Democratic issues.

GREENE Sheri Lightner in-between. Gloria and Cole was that same idea I think the mayor wanted Sheri Lightner unmoral Cole in there because he's a Republican and you want to make the Democratic majority to be less aggressive on legislation. I think he got his way and it looks like maybe now he'll be less able to get his way. One because I think Georgette has an aggressive agenda too because it's six votes instead of five.

Well let's talk about that agenda. What were the priorities.

Well we've heard from her many times that her focus is going to be on equity so she feels that her district and other districts in the city have been historically under served. You know if you go to City Heights southeastern San Diego some South Bay communities you see you know really poor condition of sidewalks really dangerous streets with no fast driving cars that people are just trying to get through. And without the kind of safety infrastructure like crosswalks or traffic calming that neighborhoods like La Jolla have. And so I think that her focus.

You know she and other supporters of her have seen this mayor's idea of you know how to budget. The city councils the city's money is kind of giving each council district their share of the budget and each council member gets to say well these are my priorities and he gives them you know what he can and she's fields that really what should be happening is that these underserved communities like southeastern San Diego City Heights et cetera should be getting more money because they're further behind on infrastructure and other things that we all want in our neighborhoods.

Well we've got a bite so so that's of will come right back to you. Will we get a bite from the new council president to that.

Definitely very mindful of having the super majority. And it is it's definitely something that I'm going to try to work very very strongly to to keep a strong coalition together. But having said that I am very hopeful that I'm going to be able to come to the mayor and really lay out our vision as a council and hopefully move it forward in a way that it's not going to be as challenging that we're all embracing that.

But if need be yes I'll definitely will be using the supermajority Well I was just going to say I think Georgette views herself with Vivian Murena who was newly elected to represent District 8. Monica Montgomery who's the newly elected to represent District 4. Those are the three most low income district council districts by a mile. And I think she views that as sort of a triumvirate where they can lobby together aggressively for what Andrea was talking about. That's because communities like Rancho Bernardo and even Clairemont and certainly La Jolla they have developer impact fees.

They're just structured so differently. Tax and Revenue wise that these other communities are so far behind. And the question is should be should it be an equitable distribution of tax and property tax revenue sales tax revenue or should we have an equal and equitable distribution to try to help these other counties catch up. And I think Georgette wants to go with the left that is unfair it's inequitable to try to equal things out.

I think that she would say that is equity that you know that equity is is trying to lift all the neighborhoods up to the same level and in order to do that some neighborhoods might need more resources than others.

So make sense. Well she has a environmental background here climate change of course is the the key issue local state federal International. We have a pretty aggressive climate change action plan.

It's going to employees when we do a lot of critics say that the mayor has said all the right things there's questions about how he's financing stuff both short term and long term and whether the goals they've set they can actually meet. So I think Georgette might be a little bit more of a no excuses type of approach and that with them and the mayor controls the staffing and how that gets handled but the council can certainly hold him accountable and be more aggressive and more critical when they don't think he's you know meeting the goals of the Climate Action Plan or has a viable plan coherent plan to get there.

And I think one thing that you know we haven't mentioned yet is that the council president also gets a seat on the sandbag board of directors. Because chargit county governments and the regional agency that distributes transportation spending across the county. And so George has been a fierce advocate for the safe active transportation infrastructure so biking and walking also public transit. She does chair the board of directors of MT Yes. And so I think one thing that we can expect from her being a new voice at sandbag is you know trying to prioritize these more sustainable and greener forms of transportation as Sandberg puts together their next regional transportation plan that they've been under a lot of criticism for a longtime from environmentalists about prioritizing or putting too much money into roads and freeways which are the driver of climate change here.

And I think all that's true about that. Keep in mind the number one issue at City Hall is the housing crisis. Every council member will tell you that there's not enough affordable housing in San Diego has been blamed for the homelessness crisis. You know it's a big part of the whole thing. And I think Georgette take would be that we need more housing. We need more housing particularly for lower income and middle income people and that developers are going to have a lot harder time getting their projects approved at City Hall the way they have been in the past.

I think she would say business as usual is over. There's going to be a more aggressive stance by the council to make sure that projects include onsite low income units subsidize low income units.

No there a new member of the Council of scientists to is something different physician. Gen. CAMPBELL citizen of this background what will she bring now.

Yeah so Gen. Campbell representing District 2 she unseated Lauries af. Who had been in there since 2010. And so I think from Campbell she's a bit of a wildcard she's a political newcomer she's never held elected office before. The other two new council members as David mentioned Monica Montgomery and Vivian Marino have worked at City Hall before so it kind of have to wait and see what we hear from Campbell's office. Anything.

I think it's interesting that you could say it's scientists but I think the reason she called herself that is to point out that she might look at things from a different perspective from a scientific perspective and we should mention that Monica Montgomery is an attorney. Prior to her election there were no attorneys on the city council. So now we went from no attorneys and no doctors and we have one of each. It should be respected. Eddie I'm not sure what is going to bring to the table. But I think it could be helped.

We'll find out before we leave or a segment on politics. You heard the entry exit interview this week Ron Roberts but our own part about growing government hooked on bloats years. Tell us what's his take. I mentioned the housing crisis and we're going to get to a bite from him at all but give me a couple of high points of what he said in your interview.

Yeah well we talked about a lot of things we talked about public health. You know he started his career in public office during the AIDS crisis. He was pretty instrumental in establishing the city's first AIDS hospice. He's been a leader on the county's Getting to Zero campaign which is the goal to get to zero new HIV infections by 2026. So I think he's really proud of that legacy. You know he ended his term with the haveI crisis. I think that's kind of a black mark on the county's record. And you know he has his explanations for why things played out the way they did.

But in terms of housing he's really a big supporter of low income and affordable housing.

From the county he's tried to get a number of projects approved in order to you know get that fill that void that really exists in San Diego a real moderate Republican move mostly set up or Boit from Robert Sewell to but the fact of the matter is there was a time I think when we responded in that case and I think over 3000 units were built in very very short order. We couldn't do that today if our lives depended on it. We have rules and regulations that are well intended but are used by people largely to say no we don't want we don't want housing.

And if you say affordable housing we don't want them. The fact of the matter is right across the board we're not building adequate numbers of housing in San Diego.

So Roberts was referring to the fact that he grew up in public housing and housing that was built during World War II and you know very large projects that had since been torn down that he's saying you know we used to actually take this problem seriously and since then we've got we've gotten kind of we've lost our way and we haven't really made this a priority.

Well we'll see what happens going forward because we're out of time on this segment but the new faces there as well. Not all Republicans anymore will talk about the supervisors more shows to come. We're going to move on now. Well it's been nearly 20 years since the deadly terrorist attack on the USS Cole in Yemen. Ever since the Navy has been well aware of threats to ships being worked on imports like San Diego. But gaps in security at the main shipyard here are raising alarms and Brad strt there with the rest responsibly rest Navy ships that are being worked on in the bay.

So there are three shipyards in San Diego Bay. They are hunting Ingle's industries BP systems and NASCO. They fixed the ships that are at that 30 second station and they are responsible under contract with the Navy to provide security for those ships whether that's on the water side or on the land side. So the contracts that the Navy gives to these ships which are these shipyards which are worth billions of dollars we pulled data from 2017 2018. It was more than two billion dollars just to these three shipyards. Those contracts come along with the requirement that these shipyards adhere to these federal regulations which say in black and white you need to have this many patrol boats 24/7 patrol boats need to do this this and this.

But we've found that they're not always providing that you know getting those contracts say that they've got to have the security and black and white and the Navy has confirmed that those contracts say that as well we've been fighting for those contracts for more than a year with the Navy. But it shouldn't be on public record or I mean well it depends who you talk to. Yeah I think they should.

We were talking about I mean we have to be fair to them we're talking about security issues are not going to give you the nuts and bolts of the details to work for everybody but we already know how much the contracts are worth.

Those are public. But what we've asked for is the line items within those contracts how much are you allocating specifically for security that we cannot get a handle on even. I talked to Congressman Scott Peters. His office asked they will not even tell him. So we don't know exactly how much they're paying for for security.

You know we mentioned the outset the concerns or gaps in the security vulnerabilities. What are we talking about specifically.

So the shipyard should have one waterborne security patrol boat for every three Navy warships that are in the shipyard. I went out three different times over three different months and looked at each shipyard saw that Huntington Ingalls never had a patrol boat ever. At one point in September they had two Navy warships stationed there NASCO B also had either one patrol boat or not. And they had anywhere from four to six navy warships stationed there. So what we saw was just this very apparent lack of patrols.

You think it's laziness or incompetence or the contractors trying to short change the Navy in that paid service.

I can't say why they're doing this. It seems these are. I should point out these are not small companies the ship is these are multinational publicly traded companies. And with billions and billions of dollars. So it doesn't seem like it would take that much just hire an extra vote to have it there. I don't know why they're not doing it. I think a lot of the responsibility rests on the Navy. I have asked them multiple times for how many times have you been out there in the last year.

How many times have you ordered these shipyards and they just keep coming back with the same line which is the shipyards are in compliance and we're not telling you any more information.

Now you did quote in your story a Navy lieutenant commander about security. What did he have to say.

Who is he and what did glummer within navy commander. His name is Joseph Allen. He's the CEO of six maritime maritime security company based in Florida. They do some work here. I was just at an industry conference a security conference where he was speaking along with the captain the harbor police and some others and he made this statement about these gaps in security that he saw and asked them later about it. He wouldn't go into specific detail but he said what he sees on the bay scares him. And so we spoke to some other people one guy in the story and Michael Owen former Marine who was out with a buddy fishing couple of years ago and noticed this.

He said they have a combat mindset and limited body while fishing saw the shipyards and said this scared them. So they actually wrote to Peters in 2016 about this.

And so what's the answer here is that you know somebody will infiltrate this area and then steal our technology is it that you know there is somebody will come in and sabotage your ship. What's actually the reason for all this security.

I think it's all of that but I think the main one is sabotage. It is not ship those shipyards are right next to the lane insignia of the shipping lane. So you could just take a hard left and the barriers that they have there not barely barriers at all. You could drive any boat right into there and do whatever you want into those ships if you were so inclined.

No you try to get some comments too from a dry eye some of the big contractors here who have these furder contracts for the repairs and they're not talking to each other.

He just says they're fully compliant. So each of these shipyards I offer to send them all my photos and all my videos and all of my notes showing in black and white there's nothing here. I would not respond to that. They just said they're in compliance. Be issued a similar statement but they have since put out another boat. So they appear to be in compliance NASCO the same thing. They have not taking up my offer to send photos and videos but they said that they are in compliance and they made reference to some deal they've worked out with the Navy or one of their ships that was under repair didn't need to be secured.

They noticed any changes since they become aware that your snooping around. Oh yeah they have. Like I said a second boat in the water.

I've heard from sources out on the water that they're taking this seriously at least that's going to be a. I have not been out in the last month or so to see exactly what's going on with Huntington Ingalls but as far as I know they are still not putting boats out there.

Well just as a citizen taxpayer long time resident here and it's been my amount of time down in the bay and everybody has seen those ships in the Rick Perry urging corner of a bridge you go across it would think you'd think they'd want to be a show of force. You'd think they want to have these boats out there kind of showing the flag and anybody who says any nefarious thing in mind. Hey we're here folks we're on the job.

Yeah you would think again going back to the coal lessons learned. This was a top priority after the coal of waterborne terrorist threats are a huge thing. It was they called it the Achilles heel of the U.S. Navy. And these boats again are not just there to if an attack happens to respond. But like you said deter their show of force they're there to show that we are protecting our assets here in San Diego. And this is the home of the Pacific fleet. This is not a small you know this is a Navy town.

And so you would think that this would be a priority for them.

We've found a little time left in this segment I think we might see hearings on this even closed hearings in Congress and we get the Democrats coming in with the House maybe some watchdog on this issue.

So after I talked to Congressman Peters he said that he has put out the request of the House Armed Services Committee. There are two different subcommittees of that overall committee. I think he's waiting to hear back. I reached out to Congresswoman Susan Davis and she has not had a comment on this. I reached out to others as well. But I think within the next couple of weeks we're going to see some action as to what's going to happen in the New Year as possibly hearings at the priorities in the Senate.

So watch for follow up on this story. Well we're going to move on the fierce political rhetoric and debate over refugees seeking asylum in the United States is not known for subtlety and nuance. A war of words rages from Washington to the border. Both sides of it and as in any war truth is the first casualty in your store story this week it was really interesting and focused on thousands of asylum seekers and said to America we talked a lot about this on the show it's been in the news of course but start there what's being said about them in Tijuana.

Well so they've been facing a lot of criticism from people in Tijuana even from the mayor and other government officials basically for their requests for food and shelter for some of the process that they put on and things like that. They're being criticized as kind of ungrateful and willing to kind of work and pull themselves up by their bridge gaps.

So it's the it's and we are doing a little earlier. It's kind of the idea that the the new folks here are just kind of demonize us what we do with immigrants and it's kind of a universal thing. Well let's talk specifics now. Your story features a young Haitian immigrant who was in this position himself along with thousands of others just a few years back fleeing these horrible conditions in Haiti and he's a young man who's written a book about his experience. Who is he and what's the book about.

So his name is Steamfest Gallagher's song. He is a Haitian immigrant in Tijuana he's 25 years old and he arrived two years ago. He left Haiti in 2014 after the earthquake. And like many Haitians he went to Brazil because there is a lot of work there. Around the time of the World Cup when the World Cup ended some of the economic opportunities in Brazil also ended for these immigrants and they made the journey from Brazil to Tijuana. Many were hoping to enter the U.S. because there was a special temporary status for people from Haiti at the time.

But some people missed the cut off when they got here decided that they didn't want to cross. And now there's a population of roughly three or 4000 Haitians.

And in Tijuana fairly fairly large community in the sense of how big Tijuana is. But a few thousand people. So what does he say about how members of the Haitian community in Tijuana are actually being used to discriminate against refugees from places like Honduras and Central America.

Yes. You're hearing it all the time in Tijuana I heard it from everyone from taxi drivers and the mayor himself has even said it multiple times. And they'll say you know why aren't the Central Americans like the Haitians the Haitians came they didn't cause any problems they didn't ask us for anything. They just started working. And the very kind of use that to paint Central Americans as kind of lazy or ungrateful or kind of not doing what they should be doing.

So pitting one against the other.

Yes. It's kind of creating a model minority situation. Of I.

Now what what is his reaction to to this kind of stereotyping.

He does not like it. He doesn't appreciate it. He kind of feels that all immigrants have been in a similar situation and know what they're going through. And he thinks that it's a way of criticizing one group and at any point that it can be turned against the Haitians at the same time. And he feels that no one understands what the Central Americans are going through as well as groups like these Haitian immigrants who made you know essentially a very similar journey on foot to get here.

Right. And that's the commonality that write them and he talks about that and your story talked about that.

Yeah. You know he talks about kind of what it means to be so desperate and to want you know either asylum or you know the economic opportunity to cross Mexico and Central America on foot. I mean I don't think that it's it's not an easy journey at all and I don't think it's a decision that people tend to make lightly.

The main part of his message is as we said that common experience and the horrors that they were fleeing in Haiti they're are different but they are they're just as extreme as these folks in Central America that that are coming in and trying to seek asylum.

Yeah I mean there's some differences but in general there's very little economic opportunity and there are governments that don't seem to be able to provide anything to their people.

Right. And you know that's something is lost in this debate and of course you heard Trump in his administration and the Republican side frankly demonize a lot of refugees and the terrorists are coming in and gang members are coming in that sector here. But you know it gets lost that the conditions in these places are horrible that's why you have these international laws and the trees that were part of to seek asylum in the first place here. I mean as much being done at all from Washington aspect to try to improve conditions in Central America to try to keep things better so people will stay home try to thrive in their own countries.

Well the most recent thing that we've actually seen has been Mexico stepping up and trying to provide significant on money to Central America to try and help better the situation there. The U.S. has had some programs in the past to try and combat gang issues in certain neighborhoods in Honduras and things like that. But this administration the priority seems to be what's happening at the border rather than the root of the problem.

And of course we had that terrible story just in the news in the last 24 hours of the 7 year old girl who was has died in custody. Yeah. Which brings a whole other aspect to it. I wanted to to wonder if in a few years we might be having the same discussion about the Central Americans if they stay and form a community in Tijuana some thousands of them perhaps where they would be assimilated and accepted and maybe some other newcomers from somewhere else will be demonized.

I mean it's certainly possible to want to kind of up the U.S. front door and it's one of the largest cities along the U.S. Mexico border and realized just how big do you want to is. Yeah I mean and it's right on the coast and it's right at San Diego's doorstep and so it's going to be it's always been a place where immigrants come from all over Mexico and now from other countries as well.

I did want to know another thing we touched on earlier before the show a U.N. refugee agency reported some 68 million refugees from war conflict persecution in shelters worldwide in 2017 to the incredible number 16 million that were just displaced last year the year. So it seems like we're going to be dealing with this issue climate change may create millions more refugees with an election season coming up. It's just going to be a topic of asylum seekers and immigration.

Oh definitely. I mean this is something that this presidential administration has always made a centerfold of its policies and we saw them ramp up rhetoric against the caravan back for them in terms. It happened during his presidential campaign and 20 16 and I think that will definitely be seeing it in the next year and a half as they ramp up for 2020.

Right now Trump dominated this issue in the 2016 campaign that you're you're referencing. And of course just emerging now are some of the Democratic candidates. It's difficult to take the opposite tact everybody talks about border security. How do you get a nuance thing when you have a kind of demonization going on and the rhetoric.

It's kind of difficult because right now it seems like a lot of the Democrats are just reacting to things that happened and they aren't really presenting a plan on how to address anything either. So it makes it harder to kind of sell a message relative to Trump's overall immigration even legal immigration cut out all immigration so his message is very clear.

This reduced immigration which seems you know shortsighted anyway because of the worker shortage and birth rates and other issues that can get into on another shows since we're out of time.

Fascinating stuff a lot of angles to that story. Well that does wrap up another week of stories at the PBS roundtable. And I'd like to thank my guest David Garrick of the San Diego Union Tribune. Brad Racino of new source. Andrew Bowen of KPBS News. And my Essery Krishnan of Voice of San Diego. And a reminder all the stories that we discussed today are available on our Web site KPBS dot org. Well thanks for joining us today I'm Mark Sauer.