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Roundtable: City Taxi Deal, District 4's Dirty Contest, Barrera Heads Labor Group, City Budget Grows

SD Budget
Roundtable: City Taxi Deal, District 4's Dirty Contest, Barrera Heads Labor Group, City Budget Grows
HOSTMark SauerGUESTSMegan Burks, KPBS News Claire Trageser, KPBS News Wendy Fry, NBC 7/39 Lisa Halverstadt, Voice of San Diego


Taking A Stand For Taxi Drivers

A report released this week by San Diego State University and the Center on Policy Initiatives reveals that city cab drivers endure working conditions that make it very difficult to make a living. These conditions also threaten public safety, reports Megan Burks.

While San Diego’s taxi drivers are technically independent contractors, 90 percent of them lease the taxis they drive. They also pay for their own gas. They are consequently able to earn a median of five dollars per hour, so many work more than 70 hours a week.

They have no health coverage or workers’ compensation insurance and are encouraged to drive when tired and sick, which can lead to accidents. In February of 2011, a cab jumped a curb in the Gaslamp Quarter at 2 a.m., injuring several people. No charges were filed against the driver, who said he may have dozed off.

There are also minimal requirements for vehicle maintenance. The city contracts with the Metropolitan Transit System to regulate the industry. Its contract runs out next month and will be renewed for only one year instead of five as the city determines how best to regulate taxi services.


District Four Election Dirty, Costly

With surrogates slinging one last round of outright lies about their opponents, the race between Dwayne Crenshaw and Myrtle Cole for Tony Young's District 4 City Council seat came mercifully to a close on Tuesday.

Cole won the contest, which some observers called exceptionally dirty, with (as of this writing) 54 percent of the vote to Crenshaw’s 46 percent.

The race featured such highlights as a false accusation that Crenshaw was involved in a crack cocaine deal, a newspaper editorial questioning his qualifications because he is gay and a mailer sent by two different organizations (which seemed to be, but was not, on city letterhead), falsely attacking Cole for an Ethics Commission fine.

More than $630,000 was spent on the race between the two Democrats, which works out to $25.20 for each of the 25,000 votes cast in the primary and run-off combined.

Also on Tuesday, labor leader Lorena Gonzalez clobbered former Chula Vista City Council member Steve Castaneda in the race to fill Ben Hueso's vacant 80th Assembly District seat, 78 percent to 27 percent. Hueso moved to the State Senate in March to fill Juan Vargas’ vacant seat because Vargas won Bob Filner’s Congressional seat.

Barrera Heads Labor Council

San Diego County’s electoral game of musical chairs continues with Richard Barrera, trustee for San Diego Unified School District, filling Lorena Gonzalez’ now-vacant seat as secretary-treasurer of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, says Wendy Fry, producer for NBC 7/39.

The council represents some 140 different labor organizations by supporting policy issues and political campaigns. Some are questioning whether Barrera's new position represents a conflict of interest with his position as a trustee for San Diego Unified.

Barrera says he has received a legal opinion that it won’t be a conflict if he continues on the school board, even though the board negotiates labor contracts. He said he would simply recuse himself when the council takes a position on an issue before the board.

City Budget Grows

Starting with a potential budget gap of $38.4 million, Lisa Halverstadt reports that San Diego Mayor Bob Filner managed to find creative ways to close the gap and add or re-add services to the 2014 budget.

New funds come from increased property-tax revenue, settlements from old lawsuits against tobacco companies, postponement of an infrastructure bond, savings from property leases and workers’ compensation, use of hotel tax money and about $1 million from settlements in the City Attorney’s Office.

The funds will keep the winter and veterans shelters open year round, add four police staffers, create a program to foster innovation, add some arts funding and a seal cam.