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Roundtable: California Politics, Criminal Probe Limits, Rocks For The Homeless

Kamala Harris, left, and Loretta Sanchez, right, are pictured in these undated photos.
Kamala Harris / Loretta Sanchez
Kamala Harris, left, and Loretta Sanchez, right, are pictured in these undated photos.
Roundtable: CA Politics, Criminal Probe Limits, Homelessness
Roundtable: California Politics, Criminal Probe Limits, Rocks For The Homeless
California Politics, Criminal Probe Limits, Rocks For The HomelessGUESTS:Michael Smolens, government and politics editor, The San Diego Union-Tribune Amita Sharma, investigative reporter, KPBS Ron Donoho, editor, San Diego CityBeat

Welcome to our discussion of the week's top stories I am Mark Sauer. Joining me is Michael's Mullins politics editor of the union Tribune. Good to have you back again. Amita Sharma is also here. Ron Donahoe. I think for having me. California used to being the political caboose in month-long primary season but not this year. On June 7 decisive on the Republican side of the race, a number of state and local races also engage voters. Let's start there. Kevin Faulconer appears to be in a strong position, could he win as mayor? He certainly could. We will have to see. Ed Harris, one of his opponents is really making a charge of him particularly on public safety. The mayor is pretty popular. I think people equity has been doing. Just because of the stability. That is Kevin Faulconer's mainstay copying stable. There has been a lot of problems for the police department and a lot on the response times and 9/11 calls. There are some things that he and others are attacking him on. That's what I wanted to ask. He came out to remind everyone the sexual harassment of his predecessor and strengthened us in a relatively short amount of time. Is that the stability? Yes. We have been comfortable with moderate Republican white no mirrors. We have had a string of them was a mix -- exceptions. I think is done a very good job. He won in a special election which benefited him work had he run in a normal year it may have been different. He also has in a political sense been doing a job of working the neighborhoods that he would be most vulnerable in. He has been doing a lot of time self aligning. Is the have and have not divide. He has been saying things in bringing things down there. I think that has worked as advantage. We will have to see. The turnout is the wildcard. Let's talk about opponents. You mentioned [ Inaudible ]. He was a councilmember. He agreed to serve under the condition he run -- not run for reelection. He is a pimple. He is a gruesome guy. That is not negative. He is a tough politician. He is -- she is running as a Democrat. She has a strong following among the progressive liberal Democrats. Again, the more high profile murky Democrats took a pass on this race. People wanted others to run with a thought Faulconer was too strong. It is possible he could win outright if he gets 50% plus one. The two agree, does that dilute the vote enough? I think they needed a second person. Ed Harris was in and then Lori came in. I don't know if the dynamic worked or they just split whatever vote would have gone to one or the other. If there were only one, somebody would win outright in June. Their hope is and they are honest about this, they are not going to win in June, one can get to a runoff with Faulconer and hope for the best in November. Are there any dynamics in the presidential race that might influence mayoral race? Latino registration has been boosted because of Trump. Might that help anyone of the candidates? It could. It is a hard dynamic because dude transfer politics to the mayor's race is a little bit dice. It is partisan. Kevin has done reasonably well on paper in a democratic city with a debt minute Craddick voter registration. Might benefit because by June 7, there will be a lot of enthusiasm on the Democratic site. I think he will have it wrapped up if not entirely certainly all but. California will still be the determining thing in the race. They may have a larger return -- Republican turnout. The turnout will determine everything. One state politics? We have camera Harris. She seems to be in charge for the U.S. Senate race. Yes. We could have a unique and I think the first time in California to Democrats running for U.S. Senate in November. We have the top two primary were the top two vote getters, not by party go. It is interesting that the first debate this week, Sanchez was the target of the Republicans. There are three Republicans who are way down in the polls. They are hoping somehow lightning strikes and they can rise above Sanchez. They don't have the resources to run that kind of race in California so unless something happens we will see Harris Sanchez runoff in November. That would be totally unique. It would guarantee a Democratic senator. Very unusual. One thing, clearly, the styles of Harris and Sanchez are different. Policy wise, there is very little to distinguish them. Water voters left with? Democrats in the state? Based on style? I think so. It is style I think there is all -- also an ethnic policy six to it. Sanchez seems to be a little bit more Centrex. She has said things in terms of Kashi made comments about Muslims that were pretty controversial and She didn't back away from that either. ) What I find interesting is when Hearst was elected, she was immediately be christened as this big political star that had a national future. Sanchez is a gritty fighter. She has reasonable expectations time again and now she is a member of homeland security and a ranking member of the armed services committee. She is trying to play her foreign policy experience which you have is really don't have. We will see. If they doing up in the race, it will be a tough one. Harris would still be the odds on their best favorite. You are hosting a form? On May 10. It will be@7:00. We will look forward to that. Let's shift to the presidential race. The one that has gone unnoticed? As you mentioned, will Republicans in a deep blue California be the ones to put Donald Trump over-the-top are not works I think he is going to be the nominee and I think it will happen here. I would've fallen off this sheriff you would've said that a year ago. Keep in mind it is a Republican primary. It is not an huge margin. That is a matter November. He is competing among Republicans in California and the interesting thing that will be worth watching is Ted Cruz has been organizing California for very long time. Everybody across the board that the is done a very good job. Whether he can do enough to overcome Trump, Trump has a populist appeal and polls show him leaving or neck and neck. What it comes down to is not a statewide popular vote but congressional district by congressional district. You pick up three delegates and so you can go into the blues district and make it easy on themselves to go into those districts. Gets very complicated. I think somebody did surveys showing him leading -- Ted Cruz? No-trump. We had a showdown in costa mesa? Guy got bloodied up and there were arrests. Are we going to see a lot more of this? I can't predict whether or not that will happen. I certainly hope not. There is so much at stake. There's no place for that. We're not going to see it on the Democratic side. That is just not called for. This weekend is a Republican state convention in Burlington in San Francisco. Trump had spoken at noon on Friday and there were big protest outside. It was unclear whether they -- things did get a little violent at Costa Mesa. I think a police car window got smashed. People were trying to rocket over but then they clear them out. Okay. A couple seconds left, Trump over-the-top in California? I think so. There is a possibility that he will fall little short but regardless, the -- despite all the big open convention stuff it would be very hard for them to overtake him there I think the Republican establishment is finally close to giving up this whole beating Trump thing. It has not been working. We have to see how blessed primaries play out. There is still a long way to the election in November. Speaking of Connelly Harris, she handled a criminal investigation into the [ Inaudible ] settlement. Show secret deal that hung hairs over the crippled plant. There was a critical deadline that has now passed. Tell us about that. In fact Harris own investigated team discussed the chain of events. It puts her on the hook for $3.3 million. They say that that secret meeting between the regulator Mr. Peavy and an executive from Southern California Edison, violates a couple of different laws. One is you can't have explored a communications. A secret meeting like that while there is an ongoing investigation. At that time the public utilities commission that Michael was the head of open-ended investigation into who bore responsibility for the radioactive leak and who should pay for it that was a violation on that account. Secondly if you do have an ex parte communication like that, that could constitute obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice. The latter is more serious work it is a felony. That secret meeting, took place in March 2013 so the statute of limited -- limitations is three years on conspiracy to obstruct justice. A legal clock when it -- Radano that last month. The other two, the legal clock on that is about one year. That has already run out as well. By letting this investigation go in the clock run out, is there anything that they can do to step in and get involved on the criminal side even though they are still investigating? It is unclear at this time. Southern California Edison has accused Michael Peavy of pressuring the company to contribute $25 million to UCLA for greenhouse grass and gas emission research., La Harrises team says that is inappropriate interference. Basically, he pressure on us to make this contribution in return for his support. It is hard to imagine how a jury would convict him of pressuring an energy company to contribute million.-- millions of dollars to UCLA for climate change research. However, I think the reality is the jury would probably be infuriated, find objectionable the fact that Peavy, the head, the judge flew thousands of miles away to Poland to meet insect great -- secret to write a deal that then charged consumers the other side that was not present billions of dollars. You wrote is about a similar situation in San Bruno California, remind us of that event? Back in 2010 there was a natural gas pipeline explosion. Eight people were killed. There was evidence showing that PG&E did not properly maintain the safety of those pipelines., La Harris did open investigation into that. The federal government handed down indictments in that case after the state statute of limitations ran out in a case. She did not issue indictments they are either? We were working hand-in-hand with the feds in that case. Jerry Hill whose district includes Sandra a said look, California has a judicial system. It would have been nice to have state charges in this case. It was in her own backyard. That would've been with federal charges. Is there a wide? Is it negligence? These are huge cases where people died. There are billions of dollars at stake and yet the clock ran out. Is there something else there? I pose the question about the statute of limitations to her spokesman and he said he could not talk about an ongoing investigation. However, the suggestion has been made that she is trying to deliberate on out the clock until after the election after her US Senate campaign is over. Her office is responsible and says they will go where this takes us. If there is a statute of limitations why are they still investigating. There may be other elements that we at this point are not privy to. Just going back to the political discussion we had earlier, she and Loretta might not be a lot of difference between a philosophical leak when we look at records these things, these are big. If that is the question that swirls around, especially with Jesse McDonald, she has written a lot on this. I think people in San Diego County and people in probably parts of Orange County were familiar with [ Inaudible ] and who have been following this closely know about her investigation a little bit Dirk even that might be a stretch. How many people know, how many people care, that is unclear to me. I don't know that any of her puzzlement -- opponents will seize upon this issue in her bid. With the US attorney here in involved? I pose that question to our US attorney and she said she didn't know. She didn't know enough about this case to offer an opinion or make a decision. Avenue B the US attorney and not know this is kind of a big case. For the past two years this case has been in the headlines. What would ratepayer advocates like Mike Bulgari like to see happen ultimately? They have been beating the drum to have the feds come in and to say the initiative in this case because according to federal law, conspiracy to obstruct -- obstruct justice has aced limitation of five years. There may be latitude to do more there. We will have to see and follow-up on how this all plays out. We will move on. The city finds itself between a rock and a hard place after installing jagged rocks under Imperial Avenue overpass near downtown San Diego. That is to keep homeless from camping there. Tell us about this new rack -- rock garden. It is on Imperial Avenue at 18th St. it is right where there is and I five overpass. Get you into downtown. Yes on Sherman hdt and on the boarder of downtown. The city has begun installing a rock garden if you will. Be pointed rocks on the side of the sidewalk under the bridge where many homeless have been sleeping. The first person that really found this and documented it was Michael McConnell. He does a Facebook page called homelessness San Diego. He has $15,000. He put these pictures up on his Facebook page. The page lit up. People were calling it soulless and heartless. Doesn't the city have better things to do? It was deemed the pest control solution. It was agonizing these folks who were trying to stay warm It was like spikes you put on a roof to pigeons away. It got nasty? It did. There was an opposite reaction from Sherman heights. They actually had been talking to the city. They had been talking to David Alvarez, their councilman about doing something about this problem. There residents did not know what was going to happen. They were requesting better lighting, hoping maybe some are could be put in there, some kind of enforcement. The rocks is what was put up last Friday, a week ago. It is still going on. How much at a cost? The city says it cost $57,000. Not a huge amount of money. An amount that people are complaining, we could do something better with that. The people of Sherman heights, I spoke to one activist who told me that the people there do not have a lot of cars. They walk through that underpass to go to their service jobs in downtown. It is a walkway that they need to use. It is filled with many, many homeless people who they say are often relieving themselves or exposing themselves to women and children that go through there. It was really two sides of a coin when these rock started going up. It does put politicians and leaders in a tough place. You have been around a long time. This is a political issue. Something like this then comes up and it gets the whole cotton neighborhood insight -- excited. When they started redeveloping, they moved people and they went to the park and then they tried to move them out of the park. The balloon expands elsewhere. That is right. The residents asked for this. I think the mayor had a news conference in they said can you do something. There is a lot of support for that. It is tough for the homeless but it is tough for the residents that had to traverse that area. The audience -- unintended consequence is, now I see people sleeping on my block. They have not moved that far. Should they be in a neighborhood are under the underpass? I don't know if it was entirely thought through. Both sides are pointing fingers at the mayor's office in saying there has been a lack of leadership on this. The Sherman heights folks, the compassionate for the home side, say the mayor has brought forth an initiative this year. He announced in his State of the State address that he was creating a housing or heroes initiatives. The goal was, by the end of this year, 2016, the city will house on -- 1000 veterans. That program is underway. The San Diego housing commission can't just last week, as of mid-April, they are at 29th. That is an auspicious start work they are -- at 29th on their way to 1000 with a good month -- eight months left to go. What about mayor Faulconer? What are they saying about that? Both of them said to me that they were not aware that this project was being undertaken. They both tersely said that was not the way they would go about the best solving the issue of homelessness. The advocates we talked about, are they offering solutions? People wish we had a lot more funding and permanent housing but have they come up with something for this immediate situation? You might be referring to the tiny home solution. That is a stopgap that is being offered. Finding parcels of land downtown were small, 4 x 8 homes, very small houses. Two people could probably sleep in them work their doors and windows. I applaud people who have put this idea forward because they are trying to do something as opposed to nothing that is really happening on the situation. I don't see that as a permanent solution. Really, the problem is lack of housing. Also, housing those available that landlords may not want to rent to homeless. In particular, I do know that that is part of what they housing the homeless initiative is. It is trying to do outreach to landlords. Again from the housing numbers, they told me that the -- they put 55 units in from a dozen new landlords. Believe it now. We will see if that becomes an issue. Okay. That does wrap up another week of stories. I would like to thank everyone. All the stories we discussed today are available on our website. I am Mark Sauer. Thank you for joining us on the roundtable.

Election season — unusual and predictable

This past week was a somewhat unusual one in this epic presidential race.

Frontrunner and verbal bomb thrower Donald Trump gave a quiet foreign policy speech.


Ted Cruz — far behind Trump in the delegate count — chose Carly Fiorina as his running mate, should he need one.

And “the Bern," who seemed to be surging, is not so hot anymore.

Meanwhile, some down ballot state and local candidates are having trouble being heard above all the national noise.

State Attorney General Kamala Harris, who is a Democrat, is ahead in the race for retiring U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer’s seat — among those voters paying attention.

Competing for a shot in a runoff in November against Harris, if she gets less than 50 percent of the vote, are Rep. Loretta Sanchez, also a Democrat, and Republicans Ron Unz, Duf Sundheim and Tom Del Beccaro.


Sanchez, who analysts say is most likely to move up to the November ballot, has consistently defied expectations during her political career, which began with the defeat of entrenched Orange County Republican Congressman Bob Dornan. Unz and Sundheim are taking a moderate path in this very blue state, while Del Beccaro is heading for red territory.

In the San Diego mayoral race, incumbent Kevin Faulconer says he will participate in the May 24 and June 3 debates. He was missing in action at the League of Women Voters debate this week, where challengers Democrat Ed Harris and Independent Lori Saldaña agreed on pretty much everything.

The San Diego Union-Tribune: Candidates For US Senate Meet For First Debate

Kamala Harris is out of time

In the state’s criminal probe into the closure of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, the statute of limitation on felony charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice has run out.

One year ago, Harris discovered evidence documenting an illegal, ex-parte meeting between California Public Utilities Commissioner Michael Peevey and executives of Southern California Edison, the majority owner of San Onofre.

They met secretly in Warsaw, Poland, to craft a closure settlement for the defunct nuclear plant, which laid the majority of the closure costs on rate payers, not Edison shareholders.

The California statute of limitation also expired in the investigation into the deadly 2010 explosion of a gas pipeline in San Bruno. Harris brought no charges against Pacific Gas and Electric despite evidence of negligence, saying her office lacked the resources to proceed.

The U.S. Department of Justice, however, did file charges against PG&E.

KPBS: Deadline Passes In Probe Of Secret San Onofre Deal

Surfers walk along a beach nearby the San Onofre nuclear power plant, July 19, 2012.
Associated Press
Surfers walk along a beach nearby the San Onofre nuclear power plant, July 19, 2012.

Homeless greeted by a bed of rocks

A freeway overpass on Imperial Avenue in Sherman Heights near downtown San Diego is a busy place.

Residents use it to walk to work, school, the corner store and take public transit. And until this week, homeless people also camp out there.

On Monday, the city installed jagged riprap on either side of the sidewalk to prevent the homeless from using the overpass as encampment. It was done at the request of residents, who felt threatened and had difficulty navigating through the area.

The rock installation, which cost $57,000, was a surprise to San Diego City Councilman David Alvarez and the subject of protests by homeless advocacy groups.

The situation highlighted both the growing problem of homelessness and lack of affordable housing in San Diego as well as the lack of solutions. The idea of tiny houses on vacant city land also resurfaced.

San Diego CityBeat: Underpass Rock Garden Is Called 'Anti-homeless'