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Controversy Over Port Commission Appointments Continues

Flap Over Port Commissioners
Controversy Over Port Commission Appointments Continues
GuestsMike McDade, Former San Diego Port Commissioner Kevin Faulconer, San Diego City Councilman Katie Orr, KPBS Metro Reporter

CAVANAUGH: Our top story on Midday Edition, there's a flab at San Diego City hall over the appointment of candidates to sit on the San Diego port commission. The City Council agreed on two nominees. That's usually all it take, but this time mayor Bob Filner vetoed the candidates and it recommending a whole new procedure for making appointments to the port. Joining me to discuss the veto are my guests, San Diego City Councilman Kevin Faulconer Faulconer. Welcome. FAULCONER: Thanks for having me. CAVANAUGH: Mike McDade is here, a former San Diego port commissioner. MCDADE: Good morning. CAVANAUGH: And Katie Orr, KPBS metro reporter. ORR: Hi, Maureen. CAVANAUGH: Let's start off with a reminder on how the port commission operates. How many commissioners are there and where are they from? ORR: There are five cities that make up the port commission. San Diego, imperial beach, Chula Vista, Coronado, and national city. Those cities get one appointee each, and San Diego gets three. And that 7-member board oversees the operations of the unified port distribution. CAVANAUGH: And Mike, since you were on the port commission, what is the role of San Diego's port commissioners? What types of decisions do they make? MCDADE: After serving for six years there, I've often time described that role as being similar to being on the Board of Directors of a multinational corporation, because the port has a mandate from the state to manage the tide lines and San Diego bay, which is one. The biggest economic generators for the San Diego region. So it's an extremely important position. The port produces thousands and thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of revenue for the region here. And not having a full complement for San Diego is a disadvantage. CAVANAUGH: Right. There are now two vacancies on the commission from the City of San Diego. Testimony us about the two men chosen to fill the vacancies. ORR: Well, are the first is Raphael Castellanos, an attorney, the president of the Loraza lawyers association. He's a Democrat. And the second was Marshall Maryfield, a Republican, a businessman, he served on San Diego's campaign to end homelessness and was an economic advisor to Jerry Sanders. So council president Todd Gloria agreed to vote with the four Republicans on the council to appoint Marshall Maryfield, and the Republicans supported Gloria's pick to have Mr. Castellanos appointed as well. CAVANAUGH: And both of those nominees are vetoed by Mary Filner now. ORR: Right. CAVANAUGH: Now, the fact that the Democrats on the council approved the Republican, the Republicans approved the Democrat, was that to keep a political balance on the port? FAULCONER: I thought it was a great result. I think what you saw is we do have a split council in term was Republicans and Democrats right now. And the council came together and selected two very good candidates. I think Marshall Maryfield will bring an excellent background due to his business. And Raphael Castellanos is I think a great fresh face. And I think the question that is now before the council is are we going to forward or not? And I strongly believe that we should seat these two Marshall. They went through the process, they put in their applications, they did everything that they needed to do. And I think from a City of San Diego standpoint as Mike was just talking about, we want our full representation on the port district F. We wait until the district 4 seat is seated, as an example, that will be months and month from the now. And the port district in all of their activities are very important to our city. When you look at issues that they're working on right now in terms of the port and master plan update, the north embarcadero visionary plan, we want our San Diego port commissioners to be representing us so we have our full complement of votes particularly when the other cities do. CAVANAUGH: Katie, how did the mayor explain his vetoes of these nominees to the port commission? ORR: Well, he sent out a memo saying that he believes there was a flawed selection process. He believes that district 4 residents should be involved in this election. Of course that seat now is vacant because Tony Young resigned, and they're in the process of filling T. But as the councilman mentioned, that could take months. They have to have a primary election in March, and then there'll likely be a runoff election a little under two months after it so it could be a while. But the mayor had said he wants the city to layout a vision and policy for the port. He wants there to be minimum qualifications, he wants there to be an application process for people who'd like to sit on the board. The mayor, it should be said, are maybe the port a big part of his mayoral campaign, talking about increasing jobs there, increasing exports and imports to the port, making it a niche port to really improve the business in San Diego. So it's something that he has a lot of stake in, and something that he feels strongly he should have a say in. Though I think it's the one board that he doesn't nominate people to. It's the council's prerogative. FAULCONER: That is correct. CAVANAUGH: Mike, you were on the port commission from 1993-99. Have you heard of a port commissioners appointment being vetoed? MCDADE: No, it's the first time this has come up. And I was surprised the city attorney said it's within his purview. I think it's a dangerous thing. And in this age of partisanship, San Diego technically is a nom partisan government, and the appointments to be city should be followed on the same basis. I thought the council act the very admirably in taking the steps they did to appointment the two nominees this time. CAVANAUGH: Councilman Faulconer, you still sound very supportive of these two nominees. And I believe the City Council has perhaps 30 days to overright the veto. Are there the votes to do that? FAULCONER: That's hard to predict. And anybody who tells you otherwise, when it comes to count votes it'll be up to the council to San Diego. And we will do that. But you are correct. I am very supportive of these two nominees because not only of their background, but I want us to have our full complement of port commissioners. Every month that we do not, that means other cities do. And there's just too many important issues. The port is very important to the City of San Diego. The mayor made that part of his platform, and rightfully so. And I think the best way to earnsure that we are actively engage side to have a full complement of port commissioners. ORR: I think in terms of a veto override, all four Republicans voted, as did the president. So that's five. You need six to overturn a veto. I don't know about David Alfred, but he has been fairly supportive of the mayor so far. So a swing vote might be Sherri Lightner. She is a little more moderate, and her district is a little more moderate. But you can never tell what people are going to do. If you were looking at who might provide that vote, she is a likely candidate. CAVANAUGH: Councilman, you made the point how important you believe it is to get a full complement from the City of San Diego on that port commission as soon as possible. Why? Why is it so important to do it now and not three months from now? FAULCONER: Well, first we do have a process that works. The gentleman sitting next to me went through that similar process. But when I look at for example what I credit to Mike here, the whole redesign of the north embarcadero visionary plan, we're finally moving forward on that. We have construction happening, we are tearing up that asphalt, planting trees, we're going to create a public, open waterfront that the city has long deserved. That happens when we have our full complement of commissioners. And as I mentioned before, one of the biggest things to ensure that that 1st Phase moves into a 2nd and 3rd is to be actively engaged on the port master plan process. That is happening now. We need our commissionerce now to help that. Not to mention when you talk about the economic engage that is the port, our shipyards, our restaurants, we have had great commissioners. So I think it's a process we should continue, one that has served our city very well very well recall, and I'm anxiety to get these gentlemen seated. CAVANAUGH: Is there a budget vote coming up on the port that we may miss if we don't have the full complement? MCDADE: Yes, just like the city, they're in budget preparation at this point, and it's very dangerous not to have San Diego's commissioners sitting there. Reflecting back on the north embarcadero plan which I would have to give Kevin Faulconer credit for for pushing it over the go line, that was a major multiyear, multimillion dollars project, and that could not have been accomplished without votes from the south bay as well as from the city of San Diego. So you need your commissioners to be in there, and they need to be adept at arriving at consensus. CAVANAUGH: Some of the points that the mayor made in this memo that he issued along with the veto of these two nominees, he says the city should develop a vision and policy for the port before the nominations are made. Is there some validity to that idea, Mike? MCDADE: I've never doubted that that policy with regard to the port has existed. Every other mayor that I've worked with, virtually all of them over the last 30 years, has had a very clear idea of what he wanted the port to achieve. If he's saying that he wants port commissioners who are compliant and do everything the city says without regard to their obligation to all of the taxpayers and the State of California, that causes problems. The commissioners from San Diego will be vetted by San Diegans on the council and will have the city's interests in mind. But ultimately, this is it a state agency that has broader responsibilities. CAVANAUGH: Kevin Faulconer Faulconer, shouldn't there be some standard -- the point the mayor is making is people are just sort of plucked from various aspects of San Diego society to be on this port. Shouldn't be there an outline of what you need to know and what you need to have done in order to get this appointment? FAULCONER: We do have a very open and transparent process, and it's up to my colleagues and myself to nominate good individuals and go through as we do in other boards and commissions as well. I've entrusted the council to help make these decision, to outreach and say who is out there, who do we believe will fit these qualifications, who share a vision and goal? We nominate them and we bring them into a public setting where they're able to answer questions, to give feedback, to go back and forth. It's let to some great commissioners, great bipartisanship, representation. I don't think we should change it midway through the process. I would hate to see our city underrepresented with only one commissioner. MCDADE: Over the years I would observe that the appointees to the port commission have had equal or support credentials to the people who have been elected mayor and to City Councils around the bay. So it's not as if we were running in a bunch of unqualified people there. People don't apply for that position because it's so sophisticated, unless they are quite well qualified in a number of fields. CAVANAUGH: Something only a former politician can say. [ LAUGHTER ] MCDADE: I have the liberty of being retired now. [ LAUGHTER ] CAVANAUGH: Councilman -- FAULCONER: Yes, I am laughing. [ LAUGHTER ] CAVANAUGH: Your colleague Scott Sherman said "the important of San Diego is too important to our regional economy to be held up by Washington-style political games." Do you think this is all about politics? FAULCONER: I'm going to take at mayor at his word on his veto message. And he has the right to veto. But I think the council has the right to disagree if they choose to. As I've said today, I feel very strongly that we have a process that works that has served our city very, very well. We'll have the opportunity to discuss this veto at a session of the council coming up. President Gloria will docket it I believe in the next week or so. So all of my colleagues will have the chance to weigh Nas well as members of the public. And I'm hopeful that we do move forward. We have two great candidates who did everything they were supposed to do, went through the process, and I think we should seat them. CAVANAUGH: I want to ask both you, council machine, and Katie, this is the second disagreement over appointments between mayor Filner and City Council president Todd Gloria. Do you sense any real tension continue the mayor and the City Council or is this just a process of settling in? ORR: Well, I think officially everyone will tell you it's a process of settling in. Everyone is very cordial to each other so far. I think a lot of people are concerned that the mayor has been in office for a little over a month now and already we've seen some pretty big clashes between him and someone of his own party. I know technically we're a nonpartisan city, but politics do enter into these discussions. And I think we're in for -- maybe not a rocky, but definitely a spirited couple of years. Mayor Filner is a strong important, he wants things his way, and I think he's going to do everything within his power to make sure that they do, which will lead to more exchanges like the ones we've been seeing. CAVANAUGH: And do you share those concerns that Katie said some people are expressing about tension between the mayor and the council? FAULCONER: There is nothing wrong with a spirited debate. And we are likely to have many of those coming forward. And that's okay. But I will tell you, the mayor feels strongly about his position, and I think you're going to see that my colleagues on the City Council feel as strongly as well. We have cobranches of government. It's a strong mayor and a strong council. We both have to function well both. And I believe that the voters want us to work together. There's too many things that are important. So I don't back away from a spirited discussion and a spirited debate. But I think it's ultimately important that we do work together and move forward. People want results for the city. That's what they expect. That's what we should be delivering. And that's what I'm committed to. And I've tried to operate that since I've been on the council for many years now. CAVANAUGH: Thank you all. ORR: Thank you. MCDADE: Thank you. FAULCONER: Thank you.

There's a flap at San Diego City Hall over the appointment of candidates to sit on the San Diego Port Commission.


The City Council agreed on two nominees, Democrat Rafael Castellanos, an attorney, and Republican Marshall Merrifield, a business owner. But Mayor Bob Filner vetoed those candidates and is recommending a whole new procedure for making appointments to the Port.

City Council President Todd Gloria has said he will schedule a meeting in the coming weeks to override the mayor’s veto.

The mayor outlined the reasons for the veto in a memo. He mentioned a vacancy on the City Council, a need for the city to establish a vision and policy for the Port and set minimum qualifications.

But City Councilman Kevin Faulconer said the city already has an appointment process in place that’s worked for years.

"I think we've had a process that has served our city very, very well," he told KPBS. "We have an open process where we encourage candidates to apply, they submit their resumes and the finalists are brought before City Council."


"It's a process that not only has served the city well, but served it well in this round," he added.

The Unified Port of San Diego is governed by a seven member Board of Port Commissioners. One commissioner each is appointed by the city councils of Chula Vista, Coronado, Imperial Beach and National City, and three commissioners are appointed by the San Diego City Council.

In his memo, Filner also stressed the need to make appointees accountable to the city.

But Former Port Commissioner Mike McDade says that’s not the role of a port commissioner.

“This is a state agency that has broader responsibilities,” he said.

The Port of San Diego was created by the state legislature to manage San Diego Bay and surrounding waterfront land in 1962.

Its mission is to protect the Tidelands Trust resources by providing economic vitality and community benefit through a balanced approach to maritime industry, tourism, water and land recreation, environmental stewardship and public safety.

For more on the significance of the Port of San Diego and its regional impact check out the KPBS/I-Newsource Investigation Port Authority.

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