Roundtable: Wall Furor Affects Workers, Businesses And San Diego Politicians
January 11, 2019 1:07 p.m.
Michael Smolens, San Diego Union-Tribune
Chris Jennewein, Times of San Diego
Charles T. Clark, San Diego Union-Tribune
The Federal Government's record setting shutdown and political standoff heads into a fourth week with no end in sight. And San Diego is feeling the strain. Meanwhile we have a new governor with ambitious plans in Sacramento. Two new members of the county board of supervisors and two announced candidates for mayor of San Diego. I Mark Sauer the 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 Charles Clarke of the San Diego Union Tribune Chris genuine editor and publisher of The Times of San Diego. And Michael Samoans columnist for The Union Tribune.
Well a partial shutdown of the federal government these past three weeks has idled 800000 workers and triggered impacts in all 50 states. Workers are missing paychecks today for the first time federal contracts are going unpaid. Thousands of businesses and federal facilities are affected. The shutdown which Donald Trump said he's quote proud to own is key to his insistence that Congress appropriate money for a wall to be built on the southern border.
Here's some of his reasoning.
Over the years thousands of Americans have been brutally killed by those who illegally entered our country and thousands more lives will be lost if we don't act right now.
And Michael the president said the wall is needed to end the quote growing humanitarian security crisis as the reference there is really true.
Well there are a lot of problems along the border. Usually the reasons he gives for his wall really aren't going to be solved by the wall. I mean he talks about these colonels and these are horrific situations they have happened. Changes need to be made but probably more an immigration law and law enforcement strategy. Did these people across the border illegally. I don't know. But just throwing that out there. You know it's interesting we've got this stalemate and government shutdown and there's a way out of it. Everybody talks about this new wall on the southern border.
Well it would be new but we have fences and walls here through almost 700 Zimbabwe's 650 650 700 miles.
It's their ongoing upgrading them fortifying them and even expanding them and so forth. It seems that there's a deal to be had or you could somehow alter that make it sound new and add in other border protections along with immigration. You know call us a little and stuff like that. And I think both sides could come away with it. But what's happened here is both sides have really dug in. You know it's a wall or nothing for Trump and the Democrats who have supported fencing in the past are absolutely opposed to this.
So that's where we're at right now.
It's a it's a symbol of his candidacy. I mean the wall was what you build the wall was what you heard and rally after rally in 2016 and even more recently. So it is going to pay for Mexico is going to pay for which he now says he never he never meant to say. And when you fight over a symbol it becomes really really bitter. The irony and we know this living in San Diego is there isn't a crime crisis in the border town Nagin in fact is the safest large city in America both in terms of murder rate and overall violent crimes.
If indeed there was a crisis on the border you wouldn't you'd expect to see Ms 13 on the streets. Drug smugglers all over and you don't see that.
Well the big issue these days is the asylum seekers that there's been a big crunch of asylum seekers that are going through the system legally. The problem is that they're sort of being abandoned nowadays by the immigration authorities because they say they're overwhelmed with that. And in the past they said you know help these people at least get started going to their sponsors and start telling the local officials to try to pick up the pieces here because you know having lived through the hepatitis crisis they want they don't know the health status of these people.
They need to make sure they find them and have them checked out. Would they rather be spending their time on something else. Of course. And even you know Republicans and Democrats on the County Board of Supervisors are upset with the federal government for not doing their job.
You know it's really fallen on nonprofits here in San Diego to help these people. Something called the Rapid Response Network has come into being it's led by Jewish Family Service Catholic Charities SEIU the ACLU. They have shelter in San Diego. They won't say where it is because they don't want any bad publicity for it but they're handling about 100 people a day mostly women and children. They give them food shelter medical checks and then they get them bus tickets and gifts so they can get to family. But there is some good news for what they're doing.
Governor Newsome in his budget allocated an emergency five million to help these nonprofits not just in San Diego but in Imperial County as well to deal with this.
Now Chris I want to ask you about the Democrats gristly now control the House of Representatives. How are they responded to Trump's claims about the need for a war.
They basically said it's immoral and they leap to the whole symbolic idea of the wall as Chuck Schumer said in his response to the president's address. Our symbol should be the Statue of Liberty not a wall along the Mexican border. You know in the past of course both parties people from both sides have supported a fence they've supported higher security. Nancy Pelosi will say we need something more sophisticated than a 4th century wall we need drones we need we need more. We need sensors we need more and more border patrol personnel.
But the war is very much a symbol. I agree. Michael there's a there's a deal to be had somewhere here a fence or something in return for perhaps a deal and the dreamers. Today President Trump floated the idea of H1 b visa is a faster route to citizenship for them.
There's got to be a deal there somewhere and I think you know smart political people could find out what they need to do also is to give the other side something that they can assuage their or mollify their core supporters saying see I did my job and so far they've far to have to give had a little bit of a when these two sides don't seem to be wanting to do that because there is such bitterness. But we've seen brinkmanship before so we'll just have to see how the way it stands now.
The Democrats have put up I believe one point six one point seven for enhanced border. A billion that is for enhanced border security as Chris was alluding to and that a lot of people are critics of this are saying Trump really hasn't put up Daco or anything on his side so far. So where does the bargain come from. I wanted to talk a little bit about the the Oval Office and of course there was some criticism from the networks carrying this Oval Office address because it really wasn't wasn't news are much different from what he'd been saying for a long time.
But there were some fact checking going on the president's claims about how the wall will stop drug trafficking and got into this yesterday and that periods of McAllen Texas where they had a pile of cash and drugs and some weapons there. All of which were guarded by officers from people going through the border at a place where there's a wall. So you wonder how does that square with what he's been using.
He's been throwing many things against the wall to see what sticks so to speak. And a lot of it just doesn't stick. The drug aspect it's you know even the administration's own data shows most of that comes through the ports of entry and through tunnels and other means. I was not going to stop that. It's not to say wall doesn't have certain tactical advantages in areas where you know certain areas of San Diego are much calmer now than that. The mad rushes over the border back in the 80s as you remember.
So yeah the fact I can tell you getting back to the networks the president wants to address the nation. I think that they should carry it. But the reality is that they need to do some sort of good if not in real time fact checking. It seemed like there was too much time between the Democratic response and the Republican presidents speech but also then you look back at consistency when Barack Obama President Barack Obama wanted to talk about immigration since 2014 that works declined by claiming it was political what could be more political than what Trump did the other day.
Sometimes there's got to be some consistency there.
Charles I want to come to you in terms of the county and we're going to get to some more specifics on the new faces there and what's happening. But we alluded to this earlier in terms of they have to pick up the slack on some of the failures by the government with this shut down with the asylum seekers and all those other grumblings down there among the County Board of Supervisors.
Yeah I mean you know certainly the county board very publicly expressed their dissatisfaction with the federal government and in particular the Trump administration. I mean Supervisor Dianne Jacob flat out said You know we wouldn't even be having this conversation if it were for president Donald Trump. In response though it did push them to act you know to essentially prevent what we talked about earlier a potential public health crisis. That's a primary goal of the county to say no one wants a repeat of the hepatitis crisis.
So really they broke it up and they took kind of four major measures that they passed and we're going to get in some of those details in a minute but speaking of crisis Trump threatens to declare national emergency now as a way to maybe get out of this over illegal immigration and by pass congressional Democrats talking about taking over.
Tell me where are they talking about taking money away from well from the Army Corps of Engineers and even targeting some money that has been targeted if not officially allocated for some flood and water projects in California and other states also have talked about FEMA funds.
What I think might happen here is that Trump seems to be leaning more towards doing that a way out of this. Not the best way but is that he does that even some Democrats. Surprising to me. I don't think that's such a bad idea because they think it would be tied up in court. Trump would be able to say see I went around the Democrats I got funding and these darn judges are holding me up now. And the government gets reopened or the government gets reopened people can move on. It sounds so simple.
Is that good government. Of course not. But there's a bigger concern actually from conservatives that this use of executive power really opens up.
You know it can go down a rabbit hole or in a couple of years a president convalesced might talk about an emergency.
They're very concerned about greenhouse gases and I should say I should note that during this week a new report shows alarming ocean warming here spike in US greenhouse gas emissions after several years of a down trend here. A lot of people would say we do have a crisis here and it's not the border it's it's global warming.
President can declare a national emergency dangler right down you know polluting plants. Who knows.
And that's a slippery slope. All right we're going to shift now from the federal down to leadership in Sacramento. Gavin Newsom new governor sworn in this week after eight years of the Brown administration.
He immediately went after Donald Trump and here's what some of them the new governor said about term there's an administration in Washington that is clearly hostile to California values. And California's interests. You know California has always helped write America's future. And we know the decisions we make would be important at any time. But what we do today is even more consequential because what is happening in our country.
All right so a governor of California a blessing a Trump administration maybe that's not also new but what are some of the what are some of the new theories that he was being hostile California a lot of California politicians been hostile to that lawsuit.
You know the budget's very interesting. It's an expansive budget. Times are good in California. There's just a windfall of unexpected unanticipated tax revenue. So he's putting a lot of money towards or proposing a lot of money towards schools higher education tax credits for the for the less fortunate and low income. But the two key things that are really interesting are health care and housing. He wants to expand Medicare to include more unauthorized immigrants. Right now if you're up to 19 you can qualify. He wants to expand that to 26.
That's very controversial. Housing is a huge problem during his campaign. He talked about needing three point five million housing units in the next seven years which California I don't know has ever built at a rate like that. It's like quadrupling in the boom days. But what he has done here is taking a carrot and stick approach with local governments that if they don't build according to what their plans say they need and should. He's threatened to withhold transportation funds which is huge because right now cities have to provide a plan to deal with population growth in those plants sits on shelves because there's no teeth for them.
He wants to do something like that. Even some Democrats are rural areas.
That's a real switch.
It is a real switch. But what it might do is address the NIMBYism that holds back a lot of housing construction now in California. This is a very expensive state to live in. It's driving out people because of that. And he actually it was interesting looking at the response from state senator Patricia Bates who basically said she liked the initial budget. I mean she had some concerns which he liked the idea. So it's the first time in a while I think we've seen that kind of bipartisan welcome for a gubernatorial budget.
One of the things that he did that got the Republicans to be happy was to increase the rainy day fund and to put some money toward paying down the unfunded Cowper's and costers pension funds. So yeah in many ways you know he was he was expressing a desire to move California into the future with preschool education with building more houses with increasing the health care for all. But at the same time he was saying we have to do this on a strong financial foundation.
So how are we going to pay for all.
Well it's interesting because there's a lot of money now and there are there is money going into some ongoing things like we mentioned education. We're California in the past has gotten into problems as they've had you know a big bump in surplus and they've really bolstered or create ongoing programs and created new programs when the economy turns bad. They're holding the bag and they have to pull back on those. There's a lot of one time funding in this a lot of the housing stuff is one time funding he's got. He's been able to do all this and still keep that big surplus.
Chris mentioned so he believes he said and I haven't checked it in a way that this is more financially astute than what Governor Brown did who was pretty tight fisted in his own way in terms of making sure that fund was there and inherited a whole different situation. Correct. And let's face it that the economy is good but I think a lot of this is also due to Governor Jerry Brown. He got taxes raised and got them to people to lift the sunset. So they're here for until they removed them and created a big circle.
Well I did want to shift now back to County politics and Charles tell us about we got two new members of the county board coming on this week start with the nature and Nathan Fletcher. He's probably gotten more publicity so far than the gym does mentalists served with the right certainly.
You know Nathan Fletcher is obviously a very well-known name in San Diego County a former Assemblyman at the time Republican Democrat a Democrat he ran for mayor twice and lost and turned to the private sector before coming back around for County Supervisor Don you know on the campaign trail. He really was a very vocal proponent of being this change on the board and pushing more aggressively for the county government to attack issues that frankly people view as plaguing them for a long time being homelessness the housing crisis both of which are priorities of supervisor Fletchers and then Jim does.
We'll get to Michael in a second you had a column on him today but introduce us to him.
It's supervisor as the former mayor of San Marcos and a airline pilot he was actually mayor for 12 years. He's very much a conservative very fiscally conservative and conscious of. And you know very big on government accountability which you know Michael discussed with them and a great column today. Thank you.
So did he surprise you in some of the things that he was saying.
For one thing he's commuting by mysterious which you might not expect to be being represented the new representative in North County. So much of San Diego policies San Diego media so San Diego centric which is why and Nathan Fletcher isn't very interesting story so he's been sort of a little bit of the forgotten man but I think that he's shown in the first meeting he raised some questions and got some changes in that whole asylum action that they took. So I don't think he's going to be the quiet man. He is a conservative.
I think we'll see how he acts. Some people say oh he's sort of more of the same of the long term Republicans who have been there for decades. He's new blood. He's a new face and he might have some different ideas. One of the things while he wants to keep the county's finances pristine which some people think they've been overly obsessive but that as Charlie Charles mentioned you know not spending enough where they need to but he also realizes their needs and particularly with mental health which I guess the term people use now as behavioral health.
That's a real problem the county has been moving in that direction.
But he thinks it's going to take some big stuff housing and long term programs and not to get away from this sort of revolving door of people in and out of treatment and institutions. And he acknowledges that's going to be very expensive.
I want to I've got a clip here I want to I'm going to come right back to you. Chris I've got a clip I'm going to set up here from this meeting. We touched on this topic a little earlier. This is the asylum situation.
Let's hear from some supervisors on the I believe our priority should be take care of our first reality is we have the capacity to help.
We have the ability to help. And I agree we should take care of our own. And in America when you when you come here and you have legal status I believe that makes your.
All right Chris you're going to.
What was it talking about supervisor Desmond was very interesting in that silent vote that he voted along with the majority to authorize the county to look for property that could be used temporarily for a shelter even though the supervisor Jacob Jaspar both voted against it. So while he's conservative he in that sort of key vote he leaned more toward the less conservative side of the suit.
CHARLES And for those of us watching on TV here we were noting pretty full gallery there. Is it your sense that with these two new faces on the board the dynamic has changed or are you going to see a lot more energy in this board people paying more attention to the Board of Supervisors which they intend to do.
I feel like that's very likely the case. I mean being there at that meeting there was obviously a lot of energy. But more than that you know when you talk to other supervisors on the board even some of the mainstays they certainly are really energetic. I mean supervisor Jake supervisor Cox obviously been really public and you know their excitement about these new board members I was his supervisor. Cox was one of the leads on this whole asylum issue along the supervisor muncher the supervisor Gaspar I believe. Similarly the public has been vocal about excitement around the new board.
So the favorable vote was that expected that Chris was referencing. So you know.
I think it's kind of a mixed bag. I think it would be hard at the first meeting for them not to have some compromise especially on an issue like that where it increasingly is being viewed as you know kind of a crisis. On the other hand I think even the supervisors themselves who proposed it certainly would say that they weren't taking anything for granted. And as you noted his supervisor Desmond. Interestingly enough especially to during the meeting he ended up being kind of a pivotal moment on one of those issues.
So be very interesting going forward and you know for those of us who've been around here a long time the San Diego City Council gets all sorts of spotlights and the mayor and the courts it's a big city in the county but the county budget is much bigger and you could argue it affects everybody in this county not just the residents and just the government structure is more dynamic in the city you've got a mayor now a strong mayor and city council so that's a smaller version of what we have in Washington and in Sacramento.
And I think you've had more dynamic players let's face it most of the people on the county Board of Supervisors have certainly done a good job on finance but they've been there for more than two decades and a lot of people I don't think really knows what the county does. I mean you know. OK. So it deals with social services and things like that but it doesn't seem to have as direct of an impact as noticeably. Even though does the city it'll be interesting to see. Are we going to see more focus on this is it going to be a more dynamic political entity and attract more media attention than it has in the past.
Well let's go now let's zero back down we burn federal state and county let's score it down into the city of San Diego seems look are still catching our breath from Burma's elections and everything that happened leading up to that but we've got two folks have already thrown the hat in for mayor.
That's not talk next November is what they want next March in terms of the primary.
It's now I mean the early March primary as Chris alluded to that change the whole timetable and we always think November 2020. But people could start raising money that a lot of them start raising money January 1 and they want to get in and get known to their potential supporters because a lot of these people are going to be vying for the same support so they don't want to be left out. And you know the race is on.
So let's start about the race. Who's who's in so far and we got the two members this week or two city council.
Well former City Council member Todd Gloria who's in the state assembly Democrat and Barbara Brea city council member also a Democrat. And there interesting they're there. They have a lot of support and people like them I think in the business world in labor although during the past was not was out of favor with some labor groups. But I think he's patch that up. Their backgrounds are very interesting. Todd Gloria as you know is multiethnic. I forget them all but you know a Mexican background or Latino background Filipino you know and he's gay.
He wouldn't be the first openly gay mayor in San Diego. Barbara Bree it comes from a business background she's only been on the council for two years but a very accomplished businesswoman. And you know Harvard pedigree and but it's instructive she talked about not only being not a politician which of course she is but a relatively new one that you know she's had this white woman privilege I think she's had she wants to make sure others have that power. So they're all looking for you know out for the growing ethnic and minority vote as well.
You know Bruce Breece background is very similar in some ways to Gavin Newsom Newsome was of course an entrepreneur before he entered politics. He developed a chain of wine stores in the San Francisco Bay area. And Barbara his background is pro flowers. Working for connect. She started a online news site San Diego News Network with her husband Neil Centaurea and I worked for them at that at that new site.
So very interesting background but she also started about the same time in San Diego News Network run women run which was an effort locally to get more women involved in politics. And I think we've seen that with more and more women running for various offices throughout San Diego County. Gloria one interesting thing about him is the unique bills that he has sponsored in Sacramento the new gun gun training law that was signed into law by Governor Brown more recently that effort on the wild horses that were going to be slaughtered in an effort to save them.
So he brings sort of an interesting focus on policy as opposed to the day in day out policy.
And on this day a city council he was one of the lead advocates for the minimum wage increase within the city of San Diego. He also was a big backer of the Climate Action Plan.
So and also let's not forget he was the acting or interim mayor for a while after Bob may have resigned or while he was council president was sort of elevated when Bob Filner resigned after a multiple harassment scandal.
And really when you know it was lauded across the spectrum throughout the city I think also that happened after he decided not to run for the in the replacement race. But most people thought he did a pretty good job.
All right a few seconds left. Other candidates Scott Peters Megan and the congressman Republican side.
Well that's pretty slim pickings. You know it's become a Democrat increasingly Democratic town. People still talk about Mark Kirsi Republican City Council member but the one everybody's really looking at is Shellie Zimmerman the former police chief. She's a registered nonpartisan. But the Republicans are the business you know that power structure really does like her and she's very close with Mary Faulkner.
All right. Plenty of stuff to look at as we move forward here as the head toward that March primary here in California. Well it does wrap up another week of stories at the PBS roundtable I'd like to thank my guest Charles Clarke of the San Diego Union Tribune Chris genuine of the times of San Diego and Michael Smolan also of the Union Tribune. And a reminder all the stories we discuss today are available on our Web site. Oh gee thanks for joining us today and join us again next Friday on the roundtable.