Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Roundtable: Gun Violence, Climate Action, Electricity Choice & Tony Perry

Roundtable: Gun Violence, Climate Action, Electricity Choice
Roundtable: Gun Violence, Climate Action, Electricity Choice & Tony Perry
San Bernardino, Climate Action, Choosing Electricity & Tony PerryHOST:Mark SauerGUESTS:Tony Perry, freelance journalist Claire Trageser, enterprise reporter, KPBS News Joshua Emerson Smith, environment reporter, The San Diego Union-Tribune

Another mass shooting, 100 miles from your put the media spotlight on control amid the heated presidential campaign. San Diego city Council will vote on one of the nation's most ambitious climate change plans as residents are presented with a way they can exclusively direct SDG&E toward clean energy sources. We salute longtime San Diego truest Tony Perry as he steps into the brave new world of independent journalism. I am Mark Sauer, the round table starts now. Welcome to our discussion of the week's top stories. Joining me at the roundtable today are reporter Claire Trageser, KPBS News. Tony Perry, freelance journalist Formally of the Los Angeles times and Joshua Emerson Smith, The San Diego Union-Tribune. The top story this week was a horror played out 100 miles from here. The mass shooting left 14 dead and two dozen wounded. The FBI has taken over the investigation and is officially calling it an act of terrorism. San Diego police dealt with its own terrible tragedy in 1984 when a madman shot of a McDonald's in San Ysidro killing 21 people, several of them children. Former police chief and Mayor Jerry Sanders headed the SWAT team and gave the order to a separate to kill the shooter, James Huberty. Here's what Sanders said this week. There is no solution. You have some people who decide to do things you can't predict. If somebody knew they were going to do it, the solution is to call the police or call mental health provider but I think we're seeing a lot of US, this is occurring and it has affected people who probably someone knows something about that they don't think they are going to do anything. Tony, a shocking but it's not a regular happening. In 1984 we were in San Diego when this laid out here. What is it like for editors and reporters to get involved as this is breaking? In 1984 I was a city editor on the desk in this broke in the late afternoon and we heard the police radio to dad, poor dad, tended, children among them. Etc. Etc. It just kept going. It was unbelievable and horrific. Now unfortunately it is just as horrific but it is believable and that is the change. It is a call to arms, metaphorically speaking and we cleared the room that day and sent everyone out in every way he could. I saw the greatest display of newsroom management I have ever seen. She was taking immediate in the day after and the week after and she was marvelous. People, Associated Press, they did a similarly wonderful job in informing public under even more difficult circumstances, minute to minute of the Internet these days. You had to coordinate photographers and reporters back then. They sent me out for three days to talk to the forensic pathologist. It was such a tragedy. Reporter to Ohio. Yes someone went to Illinois. We found out he had tried to get an appointment with County mental health and they didn't have an appointment for him soon enough and as his widow told us later, he decided to go hunting humans. He had been at McDonald's in Claremont earlier in the day, he was on his way and they were living in Tijuana and had stopped in San Ysidro and committed mass murder. We know all these details, three days out. We're getting details about the people who were there. The tragedy with the victims. How big a story to this become now? We had can control as a Bay -- debate. Legislation was pushed in with nowhere after Sandy hook. Does this suddenly become a front burner in a meaningful gun debate? What are your thoughts on that? Are we desensitized at this point? You would know better than I, to you think over the years we have become callous? Them into this because they so many? I will take David Brooks is point. Gun control is a nonstarter, there are too many guns already out there and then there is the politics of that's. Mental health, certainly the can do better in this county Terrence all is government services a very lean we. There is the radicalization potentially of these two killers and how are the class where they with jihadist him and that makes it more frightening and anyone who says it can't happen here is fooling themselves. I wonder about motives. You mentioned in this case we have seen the Planned Parenthood here, they may call that a Christian killer because he talked about baby parts. At the neo-Nazi with the Charleston shooting. Does the motive even matter where we are awash in guns and so much mental illness and zealotry out there. It matters to the extent are we at war and what do we do about it? Now the politicians are debating whether to use that phrase and how to characterize the enemy. Washington Post had a story this week about our failing attempt to counteract the Islamic radical social idea and radicalized in this country and others that our tent has failed, what do we do? We keep people from buying into this death cult that is jihad in many ways. I don't know. We have a presidential campaign will see a national debate on this and all the aspects of it. We will move on now. Using the Paris climate Summit city leaders in San Diego at best a remarkably aggressive climate action plan by unanimous vote the city Council's environment committee has said the plan calling for a 100% use of renewable energy within 20 years for the city Council for a vote. Here is a rundown, there is a report on what the action plan does. Want to change the way people get around. Our 87% of San Diegan's commute by car. By 2035 the plan hopes that will drop to 50%. That means the number of people taking public transit will go from 10% to 25%. Than ever people who walk to work. From 1% to 7% in the number of people back to work from 1% to 18%. To have one of -- 100% of energy come from renewable sources by 2035. That means solar power, wind power and hydropower. Three, to install 30,000 electric vehicle charging stations by 2035. But also once 25% of cars to be electric-. To have 90% of our garbage not going to the Miramar landfill. That means it would be recycled encompass it instead. That lays it out. It is very ambitious. How realistic is this plan? When the Council committee voted this week to send it on they also included instructions for there to be a working group. Is not completely clear what that would do exactly but that would check in on progress as we are going forward, making sure these goals are being factored into city plans. Is a legal document if the city Council passes it. So you have to do this. That environmental groups will come back and see the city saying you passed this but you aren't meeting these goals you set out for yourself. One way to understand it is we have the committee planned groups in the different areas that do the community plan updates. For developments. When we talk about density and transit oriented development saying we don't want that in our backyard. With this plan, those committee planned updates would have to conform to the city's General. plan in the cap that climate action plan. They may actually be forced to do some of those things in the neighborhoods they have been resistant to doing. In several of those committee planning groups have already voted in support of the plan before it was passed for the They're trying to get to do this. We outlined all that with the story from your report but we have a little over 50% now from a fossil fuel natural gas. That sounds like a lot to replace with wind and solar. We don't have hydropower here, we don't use coal on the other side. Cannot happen in 20 years? This goes into another topic of community choice. That is what environmentalists say is needed because that gives the city control over where it buys its energy from. But Maher hasn't committed to that. This is a very ambitious plan to use recycled water, a large percentage quickly. If someone else will pay for it. Is there money for this. It seems that motto is in God we trust while others pay cash.[ Laughter ] We prefer not to pay for things, is there money? A That is the other than Council committee instructed staff to come back when this is passed, the full city Council that they begin to work on it they will need to lay out the full funding plan for it. I think it is too early to know that. I think what you're hitting honest the major point of advocates of the committee of climate action plan have been asking is it okay, is this past we are so happy about this. Is this going to be in everyone's budget memo? Nicole said we had a press conference we're so happy about this but we want to see you put your money where your mouth is. Where is the funding going to come from. That is not in the documents. People -- Sacca Cynical ormer newspaperman here. Firefighters and police in any big country, lots of documents saying we should have more of all these things and it never happens. I feel dust descending on this plan right away. The dovetail on what Tony said, we are talking about a cultural thing a behavior preference, that is regarding what impact one of these main goals. Or by foot, we're talking about 50% of people in 20 years doing take the trolley or the bus, ride your bike or go on foot. We love our cars in Southern California. Doesn't seem realistic? I did a story a month ago that we had 82% of people who tried to work and it had barely changed at all in the past five years. Despite all the bushes. It will need to be a major shift in the other thing is the city doesn't have total control over design public transit, things like that. It is a lots of moving parts. I think it will be a cultural change as well. You have to convince people now we have built these bike lanes or set up more public transit, you need to use it. Event attorneys point on the money in people's preferences and behaviors, if we are going five years down the road are we going to put a surcharge on gasoline and kick this up to eight or nine dollars a gallon and get you out of your cars and use that to beef up transit and by plans. I think it is more in the planning. People use public transportation and bike if it is laid out properly. The city is considered -- conducive to doing so. It gets back to the community plan updates. When we are designing new neighborhoods are they really transit oriented development? Does it make sense? I feel about these ambitious plans their written by and for people who work for government. They may have a view about how life should seed, that does not correspond to how most people don't work in government want their life to proceed. They like the flexibility of their cars and living into macula and driving to San Diego. Hasn't LAC a big investment in their downtime if a structure for public transportation? It seems like someone like millennials really want. It has to make sense. You have to be able to get to your job and back in a timely fashion I think most people would say San Diego is not laid out very efficiently. You don't want to spend your night in the transition because you missed your last train. Flexibility. It was a great success of San Diego was the freeway system. Last question before we shipped, is this really symbolic? We will see how that plays out. If the city Council passes it it will be the law of the land. Let's turn to the first cousin of the city climate energy plan, a program allows customers not the power company to decide whether energy comes on. It has the unfortunate name of community choice aggregation or CCA. Give us a primer on what is CCA and who came up with that stupid name? I don't know came up with the name. This is the idea that the nonprofits the city -- sometimes is a joint authority can come up with a nonprofit that has a board of elected officials staff by energy experts and they make the decision on where they buy their power. Utility still delivers the power over their great and when you get your bill it will have two columns on it. One of your basic at the shelter costs that will go to SDG&E in this case and the other will be your power cost which will be controlled by the CCA. Utility still has its traditional role providing the power but they don't decide to buy a certain amount of power from this seller out here or this winged field over here or the natural gas here. It will be the customers to decide. The state has certain requirements or how much power has to be renewable and utilities have to meet that's. This ratchet it up way about the what the state is requiring. We are seeing hundred percent renewable energy and if the utility can't do that we will form a nonprofits that will take that responsibility and that power away from the nonprofit. Who forms this? The city Council and the Mayor's office would approve it. The county has also been looking at community choice aggregation, the County and the city could get together and forming joint Powers Authority that would then have a wider service area. It would be a vote of the people, it would be a city Council decision and when the Council committee passed the plan, Councilman Marty asked that they moved community choice, a discussion on that up by two years. It is so linked to do this plan. That was her point. Folks would have a chance to opt out if it were passed. There are couple CCA's in California. As I understand it about 80% stay in and how are they in where they working? Marin, Sonoma, of North. There is one in LA County. They worked fairly well as far as I can tell. If you -- the city or the GPA forms this are automatically enrolled, if you want to stick with the traditional utility, you have to opt out. What impact does it have on utilities. What is PG&E upper Northern California lobbied against this. Utilities have been lobbying heavily against this. In 2012 they floated a ballot measure that would have required a vote of the people to a two thirds vote of the people to form a CCA. That didn't pass. Then they tried to force legislation in Sacramento that would have switched it so you have to opt into the CCA rather than opt out. That in pass. Now in San Diego they have taken a step where they have created a shareholder driven marketing to strict to potentially lobbied against the formation of a CCA because they can't use -- dollars to do so. Since those laws passed the only way utility can lobby our community choice aggregation if they found this independent marketing district. San Diego gas electric is the first utility in the states to take that step. They say there won't be lobbying against it but that they just want to answer questions and inform people and her hands were tied and finalists and others say it's clear they will be working against this. The Public Utilities Commission has to sign off on that. It could be held up for a couple of months. I have this feeling this is the triumph of hope over experience. We remember when the state deregulated energy. It's going to be great. Suddenly, unintended consequences, run out in San Diego is it worse than others. It has been working well in other cities. There are some around the country. 3 million is not our problem, the sort of things at work well in Davis or Sonoma, do they work well in a very large city as complex as San Diego? Now they are taking steps to a feasibility study that would show would be cost-effective, would it be possible to do this in San Diego and it seems like they are going to do that for. Should build a windmill in my backyard. I think you'll be okay. What is the Mayor's position? The Mayor's position is similar to most of his position which is -- See which way the wind is blowing. Obviously the mayor supports his climate action plan that he was drafted. Whether or not they want to go with the choice aggregation is a very touchy subject. When Marti Emerald went off script at the environment committee, and said we like city staff to come back to us in April with a plan for adopting CCA, people got very uncomfortable, the chamber and Jerry Sanders came back with a very harsh statement. Speaking of his honor, am I right he does not hold unrestricted press compasses. He doesn't stand up behind a lectern and say asked me questions? The Mayor never holds a press compasses. He will do interviews and you catch him at one of his photo ops and to him a question. [ Indiscernible - multiple speakers ] I think he did it when he first took office that hasn't done since then. Now we go into our last segments. As reporters we try to report the facts and not become part of the story. Will make an exception today. Tony Perry has put the cover on his typewriter up with the copy parts of the last time. Tony, you picked a hell of a week to be retired. Did you miss the big story here? No, it was being handled very well but the Los Angeles time. Bev 29 computers and they did a marvelous job both web and the newspaper. Had it been -- San Diego, if it happens in San Diego, I want to be the first person you call. They did find, they will do fine without me. Let me ask you about some of the big stories aside from the one we're talking about this week. I'm sure the Marines in Falluja, they see this ends that comes to my. I saw them to toys for tots and I thought they have known nothing but war if they've been in the past 10 years. When America goes to war, San Diego goes to war. That is the defining feature of this community that when America goes to war, San Diego goes to war. You come on the show and talk about a lot of different stories. Us old-timers we lose the newspapers and when they lose people they lose a lot of institutional memory. Happens in these institutions when they are shrinking down and so many of us are moving on. They get smaller to be sure. When I was hired in 1987, there were 1300 editorial in place that are 525. We are definitely smaller. Pound for pound, it is still doing an awfully good job. As witnessed what happened the last couple days. What they are doing in Paris and Washington, it emits. They are doing less, no question about it but what they are doing their doing extraordinarily well. While they may miss me, they don't need me. Our newspapers still important to you as younger members here. Any number of sources here? I don't read a print newspaper but I read the newspaper online. We have the digital subscription to several newspapers. And you work at a newspaper. Yes. I think a lot of people got a little disillusioned. As younger journalists, that don't quite remember that, morale will continue to build. Are we stabilized, have we hit bottom? I hope so. Journalism is a profession, it is a calling and a passion. Publishing or broadcasting is a business outside of these hallowed halls. That is different. The passion for people to do what it is they do is not going away. It is increasing because the need for is increasing with a cacophony of weirded out news and what passes for news. I speak for all of us at KPBS and has been a pleasure working with you. Congratulations and well done. That wraps up another week at KPBS roundtable. I would like to thank my guest. Tony Perry, freelance journalist, Claire Trageser, KPBS News, Joshua Emerson Smith, The San Diego Union-Tribune Thank you for joining us today on the roundtable.

It's been an awful week.

As the subdued KPBS newsroom tried to process the abomination in San Bernardino along with the rest of the world, we remembered our own man-made tragedies, especially the 1984 massacre in the San Ysidro McDonald's.

Fortunately, there were other interesting issues to dig into this week as well.

The city's Climate Action Plan

The city of San Diego’s ambitious Climate Action Plan calls for greenhouse gas emissions to be cut by half in 2035 — and that's just for starters.

The plan also calls for the city to use 100 percent renewable energy by 2035.

The plan passed the City Council Environment Committee unanimously Monday. It will be voted on by the full council on Dec. 15.

Under the plan, carbon emissions would be cut by 3.19 million metric tons through the use of community choice aggregation, as opposed to the 0.4 million metric ton reduction through San Diego Gas & Electric. Choice aggregation allows communities to choose the sources for their electricity, rather than rely on utilities like SDG&E to source all of it.

There is a dispute on the council over whether community choice should be moved from the second phase of the plan to the first.

SDG&E says the goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2035 is unrealistic. Unions and environmental groups are in favor of the plan.

Energy choice?

For decades, investor-owned utilities like SDG&E have decided how much electricity to tap from which sources.

Some communities have taken that decision-making into their own hands, however. They have formed nonprofit entities that choose which sources to use.

Will the city of San Diego enter the brave new world of energy choice?

These entities, with the clunky name community choice aggregation, are being challenged by SDG&E and other utilities, which say they jeopardize major investments in power generation contracts that have already been made.

Until 2011, utilities were able to lobby, market and create ballot measures to affect community choice programs. But then a California law was enacted to forbid them from using ratepayer funds in these efforts. Now they have to tap their investors to fund a marketing division, which requires approval from the California Public Utilities Commission. SDG&E last month applied to create such a marketing division.

Tony Perry reflects

Tony Perry spent four decades as a journalist, including 28 years at the Los Angeles Times and eight at the San Diego Union.

Now the Los Angeles Times’ San Diego bureau chief and frequent guest on the KPBS Roundtable has accepted a buyout from the Times. His last day was last week.

Perry covered Camp Pendleton and was embedded several times with Marines in Afghanistan and Iraq. He reported on San Diego’s politics, its aversion to new taxes, bizarre financial scams and scandals. He wrote about the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld, and about crime.

He remembers everything. He knows us well. We will miss him.