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Roundtable: City Budget, Goldsmith Vs. Briggs, SANDAG And The Media

Mayor Kevin Faulconer unveils a $3.3 billion spending plan for the city of San Diego's next fiscal year, April 14, 2016.
Kris Arciaga
Mayor Kevin Faulconer unveils a $3.3 billion spending plan for the city of San Diego's next fiscal year, April 14, 2016.
Roundtable: City Budget, Goldsmith Vs. Briggs, SANDAG And The Media

Faulconer proposes budget

CORRECTION: The original version of this story did not include new spending on police and the arts. The story has been updated.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer on Thursday released a proposed budget on Thursday that focuses most of its firepower on the nuts and bolts of the city: streets, sidewalks, street lights and flood control.


The $3.3 billion proposal also includes money for wetlands restoration in Mission Bay Park, youth employment, expanded hours at some recreation centers and homework help at libraries.

Roundtable: City Budget, Goldsmith Vs. Briggs, SANDAG And The Media
City Budget, Goldsmith Vs. Briggs, SANDAG And The Media GUESTS: David Garrick, city hall reporter, San Diego Union-Tribune Lori Weisburg, tourism and hospitality reporter, San Diego Union-Tribune Claire Trageser, enterprise reporter, KPBS News

On today's roundtable, Mayor Kevin Faulconer centers on infrastructure. Legals picture faced by how -- hard-sell for its $200 billion transportation plan. A look at the escalating feud between water leaders in San Diego and Los Angeles. Why Governor Jerry Brown is touted as a pragmatic visionary. KPBS Midday Edition Friday is next. First, the news. Live from NPR, I'm like she's saying. People are believed to be trapped beneath houses and buildings leveled by another powerful earthquake in southern Japan. The US geological survey was 7.0. The broadcaster says the number of broadcasters were coming from residents reporting trapped victims. The USGS is is a good chance of more damage from this quick compared to yesterday's. A deep earthquake, a lot of energy is absorbed before the waves get to the surface of the earth. We shall earthquake, those waves are not absorbed some people on the surface around the shall earthquake will feel the effects more severely. Between the two major quakes, there have been dozens of smaller aftershocks. The city of Boston is commemorating the third anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings. Residents were due to observe a moment of silence to mark the time of the first of two explosions for the finish line. Please stand by for realtime captions. The Boston youth and family centers are collecting donations and shoes are being collected for the homeless. There'll be a moment of silence as afternoon. The moment the first bomb exploded, Adrian is a survivor. I will be partaking in ceremonies and some other events throughout the day and taking me time to reflect on the past three years. She lost half of her left leg and is running the marathon to raise money for it charity that provides for study claims. Please stand by for realtime captions. Documents say she received her European audit last year alleging serious deficiencies. She said she hadn't seen such a review and that's what he told parliament yesterday. Announcing the departure they were clearly displeased. It is unacceptable he says, he was not informed of the critique of the airport. A member of glass on staff warned earlier in a now leaked memo there were well known jihadists working at the airport. Dow is down 26 points this is NPR news. More money for broken streets and feeling water price. They try to push their $200 billion transportation plan for sophisticated and expensive PR. I am Mark Sauer . Roundtable starts now. Welcome to our discussion of the wheat's top stories. Joining me at the roundtable, David Garrick, city hall reporter, San Diego Union-Tribune and Lori Weisburg, tourism and hospitality reporter, San Diego Union-Tribune and Claire Trageser, enterprise reporter, KPBS News. There's more money for street repairs, the homeless and youth employment in San Diego, with the Mayor Kevin Faulconer proposal. He addresses the city's ambitious climate action plan. Here's what he said when he released the budget. We're holding the city accountable. They will be helpful to us. We are proud of the work we're doing and solar installation. As a part of how we will start moving forward and implementing the plan that I am proud of. A planet has to be monitored over the next several years to make sure we are achieving these benchmarks we set out. It appears there is less revenue to work with than anticipated last year. Yes. That has been increasing during the economic recovery but it's plateaued. We don't have as many new initiatives that you did. This is his third budget since elected and you have a lot of new interesting initiative -- initiatives. He's adding a smaller number. How did the numbers total overall, how do this the current budget compare. It goes from 3.2 million to 3.3 billion. A small increase. The general fund fire police, parks and libraries, that increases about 38 million. It's a small increase very small. We have another soundbite from the Mayor. Here's what he says. We are focused on the parks. We upgraded playgrounds. Focused on expanding rec center hours. All the hours were increased last year are bringing new hours to do that. I have had a real focus on libraries, rec centers, neighborhood street repair over the last several years. It's starting to pay off. The fact of the matter is we have a lot more work to do. Let's get into some details. He mentioned some of the priorities. Which are getting more? Streetlights, sidewalks, drainage channels which became a large issue last fall. The state anymore people studying them and figuring them out. They will triple that from 2 to 6. They'll be doing six channels a year. The ones that are most troubled and vulnerable. We have talked a lot and you have written a lot about the big backlog of infrastructure. People want to do a make a bond issue deal. That's not what the mayor wants. He has been consistent. His main argument is the city is not capable of spending that kind of revenue that a giant make a bond yield. He says small incremental and they are wrapping it up. The improvement budget was 139 million when he came to office and that's 370 million. He has more than doubled it. He thinks it's a mental approach is the right way. A ballot measure called proposition eight. His credit by Mark Kearse called rebuild San Diego. It is to take future sales tax revenue and pension savings and develop that infrastructure it will be a reliable consistent funding stream for infrastructure because big picture, and the argument is a got neglected during the pension crisis and the reception. You don't want to cut library hours. As he continue to put things off, they get worse. They are talking billions. Is the one area of the budget that intrigues me. As long as I can remember, the backlog has been high. It keeps growing every year and realistically, what they are devoting to it is great. It's a drop in the bucket. How long can you keep making that statement? We don't have the ability to spend all that money, it is a drop in the bucket. It will only get worse. I'm surprised Council members aren't a little more upset about that. Those running for office are that I don't hear much to -- from council members themselves raising the issue. The city did have an efficient method for spending the money. There's a lot of overlap in bureaucracy. The mayor has tried to streamline the process. His argument is we don't want to give them a mega bond you have a wasteful process of spending the money. Let's make sure the process is efficient and clean and uses the money efficiently and effectively before we do something like that. When the taxpayers Association and Chamber of Commerce and/or the Mark Kearse initiative, they said this is not the solution but this is a step toward a solution. This is something we could use as a first step and then do a mega bond later. From the perspective of hearing this. No one is saying this is the solution. They are saying this is a positive step in the right direction. When we have extra revenue but devoted to that as opposed to other things that are not as that's and bolts. In the past, when the city was flush with money they didn't focus on infrastructure. Now they are doing that. Let's talk about another chronic problem. Homelessness. He did a housing 1000 veterans. That's part of this budget and part of the current one and a new program. He keeps it at the 1.9 million. He doubled it from 1,000,000 to 1.9 million and that has allowed them to have a year-round shelter which was an important innovation. They have ramped up a lot of different housing models to get people off the street as quickly as possible. Stuff to have been doing. They are adding two things. They will increase from 32 to 60 in the program and there's a lot of people like that, frequent fires. A lot of those people put stress on getting picked up by MS and they deal with police that the initial cost is 200,000 to go from 32 to 60 beds. They yank the Portland luau. They had yank it out. They're paying hundred thousand dollars to have 24-hour bathrooms near St. Vincent de Paul shelter. They are right next to their for the homeless congregate. At the outset, we mentioned the problem of retaining police officers in the city we talk about that quite a bit. What's the budget say on that? It doesn't do anything new. Parker's case say the city Council approved a $92 million package of compensation increases for police. This is higher paid homes and couple years but they are more take-home pay because they have uniform allowances, leave, etc. A lot of people thought that would solve retention crisis. They keep losing officers like 14 a month. A lot of people thought it would solve the problem magically. We increase the size of the police academy two years ago, let's see if these things work as opposed to making additional compensation increases. Councilman Alvarez says we need to do more and now. We need to do a lot of other additional things. Let's wait and see big changes we made may have the effect we're hoping. They are still losing officers. We'll move on. There will be public hearings, revisions, it's a whole process. It will be finalized until mid-June. San Diego city Atty. dumped buckets of ice water on the citizens initiative. That's the one for environmental attorney for hikes hotel taxes for a variety of purposes. Signature gathering is underway for the measure but the double-barreled blast could make the road to November ballot a steep one. Widest base -- why do they say it violates the law? He cites a half-dozen reasons. One, the citizens plan covers a number of topics trying to get money for convention center, tourism marketing, redevelopment of QUALCOMM site. Second are the elements of clean water? Yes. A number of things. He argues that violates the single subject rule. They can only address one single subject. That's California law. Yes. Congress will put a bill together on one thing and soon will tax something incompletely out of the blue. Cory Briggs will tell you we are focusing on one thing. An amalgamation is our single subject. It's an umbrella topic. There's also the city attorney bringing up what he calls the poison pill. If anyone portion of initiative if anyone portion is found illegal, the whole initiative goes down. The six for -- Cory Briggs said this is meant to be a compromise. We put that in consciously so if one thing failed, the rest should fail because it was a compromise because all the elements have to work. He said that was delivered. Jan Goldsmith says it puts the city at risk ? Do you know why that is? Because if one thing fails, you can sue on multiple branches. Would he be an example of the convention center where they weren't sure the hotel the Wesley also they didn't start. The dangerous thing here, typically would collect that money to pay off and sell bonds to get money to build the convention center and that money would pay them off. In the process of doing that and you get sued on one of the other elements and you lose the whole thing falls apart, you're in the middle of paying out these bonds and you lose the revenue. There's a parallel that we have a 2% surcharge on hotel bills. They have been collecting money. It's under litigation. If Cory Briggs prevails, they can potentially have to pay back a lot of money they have been collecting. I want to get more into that in a minute. The city attorney Jan Goldsmith attack -- here's what he said. Tax funds, revenue must go to the city's treasurer. They do get allocated. This initiative allows the hotel operators who collects tax revenue from the guest to simply pocket the money. And reimburse themselves for certain expenses. That's illegal under our charter and in the state law. There isn't any doubt. They can't do that. Brix says Goldsmith is wrong about every point he makes. Here's what he said at a press conference responding to this. The memo is not a serious legal memo. It's a political document. It appears to me it is the beginning of a process the city intends to implement to prevent the voters from once again weighing in a big issues affecting the city's future. If you take a look at the memo, one of the options discussed is the radical and undemocratic idea that the city would simply refuse to put the citizens plan on the ballot if we get enough signatures. That is unprecedented to my knowledge. Is the correct? Is the city attorney and other people on his side playing politics with this whole thing? Probably to a degree. The bigger issue is, he raises a good issue. We spent a lot of money and collected signatures, we presumably will qualify for the ballots should the city Council or attorney not deny that right. They have powers you but should they do that? Then you really turning into political territory. Who asked the city attorney for opinion on this. The mayor is the political situation. This is part of a bigger, wider debate about the Stadium. It is dueling initiatives. If they mayor would like to back the initiative, this going away would help make that a clearer more coherent decision. How is the average voter supposed to support all this out. We've read all kinds of things. Even if you have a Hummer you could give us on a bumper sticker. When they collected signatures, their message was keep Comic-Con in San Diego and the Comic-Con said that's not what this will do. Complicated matters, there's charges that we don't know if it will qualify later this month. You have to ballot ventures to raise the hotel tax for different things. They are also in talks for things. Maybe they will combine but they say they won't do that. Is this good news? Is a good use for the Convadium multiuse stadium facility? Only if the city were to try to get it off the ballots and clear the way. The special advisor said we would love to only have one initiative but we are not backing off. Then you're back to your original question, is there voter confusion? If the city Council does sue, I think it's a positive development for the Chargers. There's one more soundbite for this. This is Cory Briggs challenging the existing hotel tax of the tourism marketing settled. I'm confident I was told at the meeting there was a unanimous vote to accept the settlement one term of which is the organization would endorse the citizens plan. Tell us what the lawsuit is about and is there a settlement or not? It that's a good question. His lawsuit challenges learning about the 2% surcharges and he says that should've been voted on by the public. It's a classic he said she said. The tours of marketing district said a statement that we didn't vote on a settlement privately saying they didn't. He says he has permission to say they voted. They were announcing the settlement and people get there and he won't say anything about what it was. Where does Mayor Kevin Faulconer stand on all of this? Mayor Kevin Faulconer hasn't taken a stand yet on the charges of initiative. There's Council members that have taken a strong stand not in favor. There are hotel you are saying this is too big a jump and will make us competitive. The mayor's office so far has been silent and sometimes criticized for being silent. Some council members have endorsed the citizens plan as well. Mostly Democrats. At some point we go. Hopefully these don't go until November. There's a lot that needs to be sorted out. We'll watch all your stories. Four years ago the San Diego Association of governments created a plan to find future regional consultation needs. It didn't go well. They sued the Association for doing not enough and they've lost twice and lower courts and could lose again. Determined to avoid that fate with its newest $200 billion transportation plan they launched a corded public relations effort spanning half million dollars in outside consultants. Let's start with the transportation plan. It's 35 years and they have to revise it every four years and outlines how chess notation tax dollars will be spent whether they go towards highways or public transit, bike paths and things like that. How we shape it going forward. Tells about the PR plan their targets in the media and you were one of them. The reason I became interested was because they said we want to meet with you. It turned out to be me and several other KPBS staff members. They brought Councilman Todd were with them and I said what is going on? This is strange. I asked whether emails about KPBS and voice of San Diego and things like that. In those emails it was revealing the idealistic get all the various political leaders and everyone on the same page selling this wonderful plan to go forward. Yes. They had an outside media consultant who outlined this plan which had different facets. One was to publish these offense in different local distributors one was to brief reporters one was to monitor social media, things like that and a schedule for them to follow leading to the October vote on the plan. So they have robust communication staff. I saw the responses as to why the communication staff could not handle all of that. After all your research at the end of the day, did you deal, they had enough in-house staff they could have done what they needed to do? They said they only had one staff member devoted to answer all the questions and the outside people they didn't say this but it seems clear they weren't handling reporters questions or setting up interviews. They were the picture strategy. I don't know if you would use a staff member to do something like that but they have the head of the communications department and seems like she could have done that. They don't necessarily need to hire outside. They say they never hired outside media consultants so this is unique. As we said, once we are twice shy they want to get people on their side. To play devil's advocate, an agency like this agrees in a plan they want to put their best foot forward and get the public behind the this is unusual. I don't because necessarily unusual, it was a picture of how government agencies do things like this. I think people on the other side say it's one thing to be putting the information out there and telling people here's what's in the plan, it's another to be pushing to say this plan is really good, everyone should support it. One thing I found disturbing was the focus on the voice had to be the same. All the officials are supposed to say the same thing and they are laying over one another and negotiating with people and saying let's see who's going to put their name on it. There is an ethical thing. The issue of authorship when talking about a journalist or politician. If someone's signing their name for public consumption, they should be the one who wrote it or be fair about it. IHeart communications to go after the story rather said I would never do something like that. People find out that's the person whose name on it didn't run on it people get upset. Not everyone signed up. They originally wanted a different local leader and business leader and every community to sign on and they only were able to get to. They wanted category and Jerry Sanders to sign one together that didn't happen. They ended up having the same two people sign most of them because they couldn't get other people to sign. You have that email. Do you think they saw was going on and they did think we should be a part of something like that? I think the plan can be controversial and a lot of internal groups don't like it. Say you are the mayor of Solana Beach. You may not want to put your name on something that will support something and they still end up voting for it but they don't want to be out there saying this is a good plan. You have account of been trying to respond to negative tweets. They had a staffer who spent several hours a week going through social media. She would send all the tweets and posts have mentioned SANDAG and they would confer and decide how to respond. There is one is a barrage of negative tweets and they said maybe we could spend all day going through every single one of responding to we have to come all through legal and I thought that was funny. What about the plant itself? They had the lawsuit as we've said. They're trying to push it forward but has a lot changed or is it still not public transit panel people want to see? Depends on who you ask. They say this plan really fretless plug district public transit and they say no. With the global warming, a lot of environmentalists feel it's very important for a 35 year transit plan to prioritize mass transit but there's also people who want Highway 70 widened. There's a lot of competing interests. If you need two thirds approval, you have to please all the people all the time and is difficult to do. What response had begun. This is been one of the most popular stories I've ever done. I haven't heard anything from SANDAG. They say this isn't anything unusual. As we belong maybe there's Apollo. That wraps up another week of KPBS roundtable. I would like to thank my guests, David Garrick, city hall reporter, San Diego Union-Tribune and Lori Weisburg, tourism and hospitality reporter, San Diego Union-Tribune and Claire Trageser, enterprise reporter, KPBS News. All the stories we discussed are on our website. Thanks for joining us.

Here are some of the highlights:

• $109 million for street repairs

• $372.7 million for infrastructure projects

• $130 million for the climate action plan


• $16.5 million for flood prevention

The general fund is budgeted to increase 3 percent, or $38 million — a slower increase than the recent past.

The budget also includes $8.3 million in funding for four police academies and $5.9 million for the second year of compensation increases in the five-year police contract. Also included: an increase of $1.4 million in arts and culture spending for a total of $14 million for 2017.

Jan Goldsmith vs. Cory Briggs

San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith really, really doesn’t like the so-called Citizens’ Plan to raise hotel taxes.

Goldsmith says the problems with the plan — created by San Diegans for Open Government, whose attorney is Cory Briggs — could force him to recommend that the City Council not place the measure on the November ballot and perhaps file suit to block it.

Attorney Cory Briggs says Goldsmith's analysis represents an attempt by the city to disenfranchise the voters.

Among the problems Goldsmith finds with the measure: It addresses more than one issue in violation of state law; it gives hoteliers improper control of city tax money; it widens the number of potential litigants against the city; and it includes a “poison pill” invalidating the entire measure if any provision is found illegal, which Goldsmith says would make it very difficult to sell bonds.

Briggs also announced this week that he had come to an agreement with the San Diego Tourism Marketing District, which he sued on behalf of San Diegans for Open Government. The tourism folks, however, said a settlement was news to them.

San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith at council meeting February 25, 2014.
Milan Kovacevic
San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith at council meeting February 25, 2014.

SANDAG and the media

The San Diego Association of Governments spent $500,000 in 2015 on outside consultants to help it craft a media strategy for its $200 billion transportation plan.

That fact might be unremarkable, except it is taxpayer money and the association already pays its own 12 communications professionals to the tune of $1 million a year.

The previous plan was panned four years ago by environmentalists, who sued over the lack of measures to limit the emission of greenhouse gases.

The current plan has been panned for not focusing enough on public transit, so the message SANDAG wanted to get out was that the plan balanced spending for roads and public transit.

It is not unusual for public agencies to put out information on plans, actions and initiatives. But a public agency trying to shape media coverage to persuade the public by pitching stories and offering guests can be questionable.

The agency used social media with limited success and coordinated messages with elected officials. The SANDAG board unanimously approved the plan in October 2015.

Traffic on a San Diego freeway is shown in this file photo, Nov. 22, 2011.
Associated Press
Traffic on a San Diego freeway is shown in this file photo, Nov. 22, 2011.