Mayor Filner Weighs In On Sequestration And More
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Is San Diego prepared for the impact of the sequester? Mayor Bob Filner will be here to answer your questions. This is KPBS Midday Edition. Across the board sequester cuts could hurt San Diego's economy. The effects of the sequester along with the tourism industry in San Diego city attorney. You can call with your questions at 888895KPBS. Surgical errors like operating on the wrong body part should never happen, but they do. Hear what San Diego hospitals are doing to stop the mistakes. Here in California we cope with the lower population of children. I am Maureen Cavanaugh KPBS Midday Edition is next. First the news. Mayor Filner assesses the potential impact of the sequester on San Diego and he is here to take your calls. A new report investigates surgical mistakes and how hospitals are working to avoid them. This is KPBS Midday Edition. I am Maureen Cavanaugh, it's Monday, March 4. If you have a question or comment for Mayor Filner give us a call right now. The number is 888-895-5727. Here are some of the San Diego stories we're following in the KPBS newsroom today. An independent living facility in Bakersfield is defending the actions of a nurse who refused to perform CPR on a patient despite pleas from a 911 operator. Paramedics arrived and performed CPR but the 87-year-old woman was pronounced dead at the hospital. More loud booms will be heard around Camp Pendleton today. Marine Corps officials say they are using explosives for mine clearing exercises. The booms will continue until this evening and a marathon run to raise awareness of hunger and isolation among seniors begins today in San Diego. 59-year-olds Philip W of Colorado plans to finish district in Maine this September. Listen for the news right here on KPBS. The top story on Midday Edition, we welcome back San Diego Mayor Bob Filner. Mayor Filner has been waking headlines recently by holding up money slated for the city's tourism marketers, developing a new parking plan for Balboa Park, clashing with the San Diego city attorney and lots more. We will be taking your calls and questions the number once again is 888-895-5727. That is 1-888895 KPBS. Mayor Filner, welcome back. BOB FILNER: Hi, always good to be here at KPBS. How can you describe a nice mellow guy like me with all those fighting words? MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Squabbles and clashes. Let's start with the sequester, now that it's gone through defense industry jobs are to be cut thousands of Navy employees here in San Diego are said to be furloughed one day per week if the sequester continues. How do you see that affecting San Diego's economy? BOB FILNER: Clearly it is a disaster for San Diego but it's a disaster for many communities around the nation. In fact it drops the GDP by 2% so I don't get it that it Congress allowed to get to this point. I think it will be short-term and duration, I just can't believe I always say that Congress is dumb but it's not stupid. That is a will not play on much longer because of the incredible negative impacts on every community. We are in a military town, we are a Navy town so we will fill up most rectally there. We are also a health top, lots of health research, one of the best places in the nation to do that, NIH's going to be impacted, National Institutes of Health and it's going to impact us in several way. I hope Congress will move toward a more fruitful compromise what I have to do as mayor is continue to take steps to diversify the economy. Whether we are looking at the port for example to increase the cargo in and out of the port training in and out of Mexico all of those give us ways to keep moving forward within the context of the sequestration. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You had predicted that this will not last long but you also predicted that it would not happen. What is your prediction now? BOB FILNER: I can't believe they would allow this to go because every community, San Diego is probably more affected than most, but every community and the nation will have impacts. With the congresspeople get a full impact when they are home about the impacts. I think they've got to find a way out of this. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Just one last question about this you know there is some real concern about how the cuts might actually impact, services, housing services here in San Diego. I'm wondering if this does continue what you propose some of the city's budget surplus this year be used to shore up some of the cuts and appendix pending? BOB FILNER: I just submitted to the county midyear budget proposal it's pretty small in the scheme of things to in fact do just that to make sure that the homeless services continue over the next three months of the fiscal year, to for example put in public bathrooms where people can have some common sense of dignity to try to make sure that the kind of parking plan which I know you want to talk to later in the Plaza de Panama is actually the intent carried out. So we are trying to, shoring up the police and fire services, so we're going to take whatever steps we have to do to keep the services going. But, long-range we have to diversify the economy and that is what I intend to do. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Again, Mayor Filner is here to take your calls 188-895-5727 is the number let's go to Brian in San Diego and Brian welcome to the program. NEW SPEAKER: Thank you very much thank you Mayor Filner for taking my call. BOB FILNER: Sure. NEW SPEAKER: Just speaking but the city's budget surplus 3.6 million and we heard that 1.9 of that came from TOT revenues from hotel occupancy. Since we know that the city needs cash to the general fund to support things like the programs you were just mentioning why not expedite the TNT funding early so we can continue to have the budget surpluses to fund the programs you were just speaking about. BOB FILNER: Thank you for the question let me step back for a second. Clearly tourism is one of the three most important parts of the economy and we have to do everything we can to encourage it. The TOT transit occupancy taxes attend and a half percent tax on tourists that gives quite a bit of money into the general fund, so you are right that is very important. But what is going on in the so-called GMT, the transit, tourism marketing district is that a small group of big hotels, multinational hotels, Marriott, Hilton, the host industries, what they have done is say that we are going to collect $30 million from people who rent rooms in our city and we're going to spend that in marketing San Diego but, in a way that is exactly what we want to do. It is taking basically a public tax which is illegal by the way because there was no public vote and this is being challenged in court, and without going to city Council or any budget process to $30 million to use as they want including paying into the so-called Congress authority, the CEO who makes more than 450,000 a year. I don't think it is a good deal for the city. It's a illegal tax. It's not accountable. And if it is a private deal with hotel owners there making $600 million of the marketing, why doesn't the city get 100 million instead of 60. I think the city is being shortchanged it is a sweetheart deal for big hotels and I intend to speak up for the vast majority of people in San Diego to get a better deal. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: let me put this in (inaudible) but the fact is this was an agreement negotiated by the city Council at the tourism marketing district that was agreed to, and what, there is a question now, Mayor Filner, as to where you come into this. I mean, how much legal authority do you have to going and negotiate with the tourism marketing district and say okay well I want to change the terms of this agreement that's already been approved by the city Council. BOB FILNER: Obviously any change would have to go back to the city Council it be approved again. Let's keep in mind what the hotel industry in previous mayor did was try to rush through this thing before I became mayor. After the election were I was elected they decide that might have a problem with this so they decided to try to get the deal done before I became mayor a four-year deal which gives them 1,000,000,000 ½ dollars of public monies without being accountable. They made one error in rushing it through, did get the signature of the mayor on the final contract so it comes to me for signature so I have the authority under the charter under the strong mayor form of government to sign or not to sign contracts. I decided we needed a better deal. If I can negotiate a better deal it comes back obviously to city Council for approval of that. So I think I have the authority to sign or not sign contracts. That is given to me by the charter of the city of San Diego. I think it is a bad deal. Think it is illegal and by the courts will decide the future but it's a bad deal for San Diego in the I'm going to affix my signature to a bad deal. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now the tourism industry is suing the city they want you to sign the agreement and I'm wondering since they have filed the lawsuit and they already said that they have not gone through with the summer multimillion dollar marketing campaign for San Diego because they do not have the funds released. What is it that you are waiting for now? BOB FILNER: First, their statements are completely erroneous. If they have money to carry out a think they have left for monies in the fund but I sent the vast majority of hotels in the city, by the way did not vote for the tax to be imposed. They don't want it. But five or six hotels control a weighted vote in this situation. We are talking about Marriott, Hilton, we are talking about these big guys they have the money to advertise if they want to. They don't need the city. I've asked them why do they need the government impulsiveness there are the first people who see government as wasteful or not necessary. They want to privatize everything, manage competition. So I said okay, just take it. They have the funds to do this. They want free money. They wanted from the public and the smaller hotels. As I said several times it is a bad deal. They could market San Diego, advertising anytime they want. They don't need me, they don't need the government they don't need anybody, they just do it. So to say that they need the government to private marketing think is absolutely ridiculous. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Are you waiting for the present agreement to expire at the end of the month? BOB FILNER: The present agreement is going to expire I told him I would be happy to sign an agreement that has some modifications say less of a term may be one year at a time for example or that included more indemnification when the city does get sued. I want perhaps more money, but as of matter fact they are meeting today to consider what I asked for which is not let's not go to court, let's continue to talk and let's get a much shorter term in which we can talk about these issues with some breathing space to do that. I'm always willing to talk to these folks. They wouldn't listen to me. They laughed and said what I'm talking about is illegal. We can't do it. And they refuse to really negotiate on it. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's take another call, can we are taking calls for Mayor Filner 1-888-895-5727. Don is calling from Hillcrest and welcome to the program. NEW SPEAKER: Thank you very much. On the issue of the tourism marketing board district I understand there can be differences of opinion and obviously you have differences, Mayor, on this with the hotel industry, but I did watch the video, part of the video of your being that the city attorney's press conference, and I have this question for you. Don't you think that it's very important for the mayor of the city to have, show a certain level of civility as a leadership figure in this community in order to be an agent of progress? MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Don, thank you for the phone call. BOB FILNER: Yeah of course I do but you also have to have a mayor who stands up for the people and for regardless of the office I think you should ask the city attorney why he would read an article in the morning paper, decide I was doing something illegal and he calls a press conference rather than calling me up and saying, Bob, you are off on a limb here, let's talk about it, you are my client, I am his client, he should talk to me in a confidential privileged fashion without going to the press. So I decided if he's got the press there I will give you my side. So the civility I think has to work everywhere. No, he had a lower tone of voice, perhaps, but he was being. Unethical and unprofessional as an attorney to go to the press to talk about my ideas or my actions, and the client. He should be talking to me in a privileged, private fashion. So I think you should talk to them about what's of the leadership ought to be. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Mayor Filner are you working with city Atty. Jan Goldsmith to have that kind of relationship where he would call you and basically give you that kind of advice, or what is your relationship like? BOB FILNER: This is a work in progress. I've been in office only two months in San Diego has been described you strong mayor, strong city Council, Strong city attorney all elected by the people. They'll have to figure out how to work together and those relationships are being worked out now. We have a different here with me that we had previously so the kinds of relationships have to be refigured out. And recontoured. And so we are trying to figure out where each of us are. I do not believe that the city attorney's job is to have public press conferences to give the Mayor private advice. We are talking about that and he has a different view of that. So it is built in, every city where there is an elected city attorney did I know about as these tensions because it is a built-in system of tension because then you have this case you have three elected bodies as it were, each one with certain prerogatives and responsibilities and they intersected 100 different ways every day. So to work out the relationships is very portent. I'm always willing to talk to the mayor or city attorney about this, but they have a different kind of smear that they had previously, and we are going to have to adjust all those relationships. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's take another phone call. Nadia is calling from El Cajon. Nadia, welcome to the program. NEW SPEAKER: Thank you for taking my call. My question for the areas about the technology companies in San Diego, specifically QUALCOMM. My husband is an engineer for 30 years a networking engineer and lately QUALCOMM has been actually hiring a lot. They do the interview, just to meet certain legal he's been having a hard time finding a job. With all his experience in San Diego. So, is there anything that you can do about the technology companies that are hiring people from outside the country and hiring people locally because they don't want to pay that? MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Nadia, thank you for the call. BOB FILNER: Obviously I can't interfere the specific hiring decision by a private company but I will tell you there are public policy issues here mainly from the federal government of what kind of visa folks have, and what requirement that companies have which give them a visa. They are supposed to approved by the way before they give anybody with the kind of visa that you talked about a job, they are supposed to show that they cannot find somebody you know, who is a US citizen to take the job. And, I can help you do that, ask for an investigation of that through the immigration department. They are supposed to guard against the using of these visas that we give to foreign students and foreign workers to take jobs that Americans ought to have, so it will help you if you can call my office we will help you get that looked into. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: let me squeeze in one less question from a listener you have a plan to change parking at Balboa Park that would get cars out of the Plaza de Panama. A story about your proposal prompted some discussion on our website and TD asked the question, doesn't changing the parking lot which a judge recently ruled has a reasonable use, doesn't that violate the city municipal code that the Jacob's plan did? BOB FILNER: Look, the Jacob's plan was a very expensive and a very, involved amendments to amendments to the plans of Balboa Park what I want to do on a temporary basis to see if it works is an actual is not only to plan but the plan I wrote 20 years ago when I was on the city Council representing Balboa Park which gets the course of the park in this case the Plaza de Panama, relocating the working as needed let's say four disabled, to places that are convenient out of the center, keep the circulation of cars in Balboa Park in some way, and to have a tram system to bring Carson from the outside. That is not, we are not asking for any major change is the Jacob's plan is, in the structure or the topography or geology or geography of the park. That was the problem with the plan that Mr. Jacobs advocated. It was a major change in the nature of the park and required certain findings. I'm just really restricting certain things, moving certain parking spaces, changing some of the signs and traffic patterns and I'm doing it on a temporary basis. That is we are going to see how it works and we have to do this anyway. The Laurel Street bridge, the Cabrillo Bridge that is on the west side of the park is a one lane situation now for repairs is going to be totally closed for four or five months next year for seismic kinds of reinforcement so we are going to have to figure out a change in the pattern simply want to do is get people to see if those changes can be accomplished in a convenient way where we have the pedestrian experience enhanced at the center of the park but we're some of the conveniences of circulation and parking are preserved. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I want to thank you we are out of time again too soon, San Diego Mayor Filner and all of the callers who joined us. BOB FILNER: Thanks again Maureen as always
San Diego Mayor Bob Filner answered questions from listeners on KPBS Midday Edition, addressing sequestration, his ongoing dispute over tourism funding and his relationship with City Attorney Jan Goldsmith.
Filner has been making headlines recently by holding up money slated for the city of San Diego's tourism marketers.
On KPBS Midday, Filner said tourism is very important to San Diego's economy, but that the contract with the tourism marketing district is a bad deal for the city. He said it gives the TMD $30 million to do whatever they want.
"It's an illegal tax, it's not accountable, and if it's a private deal with hoteliers, why aren't we getting more?" he said.
Filner said he intends to speak up for the "vast majority" of people in San Diego to get a better deal. However, because the TMD's contract was already approved, there are legal questions about whether Filner can require it be renegotiated. Filner said the previous mayor and City Council rushed the deal through before he took office.
"They made one error in rushing it through, they didn't get the signature of the mayor on the final contract, so it comes to me for signature," he said. "So I have the authority under the charter under the strong mayor form of government to sign or not to sign contracts. I decided we needed a better deal. If I can negotiate a better deal it comes back obviously to City Council for approval of that. So I think I have the authority to sign or not sign contracts. That is given to me by the charter of the city of San Diego."
The tourism marketing district is suing the city over Filner's refusal to sign and said it is delaying a summer multimillion dollar marketing campaign for San Diego. But Filner called that "erroneous."
"They could market San Diego, advertising anytime they want," he said. "They don't need me, they don't need the government, they don't need anybody, they just do it. So to say that they need the government to do private marketing I think is absolutely ridiculous."
Filner said when the present agreement expires at the end of the month, he "would be happy to sign an agreement that has some modifications, say less of a term maybe one year at a time for example or that included more indemnification when the city does get sued. I want perhaps more money, but as a matter of fact, they are meeting today to consider what I asked for, which is not let's not go to court, let's continue to talk and let's get a much shorter term in which we can talk about these issues with some breathing space to do that."
Because of Filner's recent public dispute with City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, a caller asked Filner if he thinks the mayor should maintain "a certain level of civility as a leadership figure in this community in order to be an agent of progress."
Filner said he does, but said "you also have to have a mayor who stands up for the people."
"I think you should ask the city attorney why he would read an article in the morning paper, decide I was doing something illegal and he calls a press conference rather than calling me up and saying, 'Bob, you are off on a limb here, let's talk about it, you are my client,'" he said.
Filner said Goldsmith may have had a "lower tone of voice" during the dispute, but said Goldsmith was being unethical and unprofessional.
Because of the city's change to strong mayor, Filner said all of the relationships between the mayor, City Council and city attorney will need to be renegotiated.
"Every city where there is an elected city attorney that I know about has these tensions because it is a built-in system of tension," he said. "Because then you have this case, you have three elected bodies as it were, each one with certain prerogatives and responsibilities and they intersect 100 different ways every day."
Filner has also proposed developing a new parking plan for Balboa Park that involves changing traffic patterns and removing parking spaces. The user TD posted on kpbs.org asking whether Filner's plan violates the same city municipal code that the Irwin Jacobs plan violated.
But Filner said unlike Jacobs, he is not asking for any major changes to the park.
"I'm just really restricting certain things, moving certain parking spaces, changing some of the signs and traffic patterns and I'm doing it on a temporary basis," he said.