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Roundtable: More On Balboa Park Flameout; Minimum Wage; Homeless Housing Under Fire


Roundtable: More On Balboa Park Flameout; Minimum Wage; Homeless Housing Under Fire
HOST; Mark SauerGUESTS: Angela Carone, KPBS News David Rolland, San Diego CityBeat Sandhya Dirks, KPBS News

Apology For Balboa Park Debacle

Plans for a new, scaled-down celebration of the centennial of the Panama-California Exposition — perhaps including a giant sheet-cake and face-painting — were announced Friday.

But that hasn't stopped journalists and San Diego pundits from continuing to chew over the very public failure of the former very grand plans.

After spending $2.6 million in taxpayer money to plan and raise funds for an extravaganza for the 100th anniversary of the Panama-California Exposition – and having pretty much nothing to show for it – prominent San Diego lobbyist Nikki Clay and two other board members of Balboa Park Celebration, Inc., (BPCI) apologized to the public on KPBS.

Nikki, her husband Ben Clay and many others, including PR consultant Gerry Braun and the group's last CEO, Julie Dubick, received — are still receiving — verbal cream pies from all corners for dishing out money to outside consultants while lacking the fundraising and organizational expertise to pull off a $35-million party.

The captains of this Titanic endeavor have been accused of insularity, negativity, incompetence and, especially, exclusiveness. They, in turn, point out that the whole complex process was made even more impossible with first, the election of Mayor Bob Filner; second, his interference; and third, his resignation in disgrace.

Is Minimum Wage Too Minimal?

The middle class is shrinking and the poor are getting poorer.

For those working for minimum wage, even 40 hours a week does not guarantee an escape from poverty in expensive San Diego. According to a new report from the Center on Policy Initiatives, 37.8 percent of all households in San Diego County are not able to afford the basics (food, shelter, transportation) without assistance and therefore are living below the standard for self-sufficiency.

Council members Todd Gloria, Sherri Lightener, Myrtle Cole and Marti Emerald have announced a campaign to put a city-sponsored initiative on the November ballot to increase the minimum wage from the current $8 an hour to an as-yet-to-be-determined higher amount ($13/hour has been suggested) and give workers up to five paid sick days.

The state of California will raise the minimum wage to $9 per hour this summer and to $10 per hour ($20,800 a year) in 2016.

Often, proposed raises to the minimum wage meet fierce opposition from the tourism industry and retail. Jerry Sanders, president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, among others, is opposed.

Transitional Housing vs. Housing First

Housing first means providing the homeless with permanent housing before addressing any other problems, such as substance abuse and mental illness. Transitional housing requires that the homeless stay in temporary housing until they have completed programs or treatment for their other problems.

There currently is a debate over which approach is the more effective.

The influential Father Joes Villages is a leader in transitional housing in San Diego, where it is the current preferred model for dealing with homelessness. The federal government, however, is looking toward housing first as the better (and less costly) of the two approaches. It is expected that soon the feds will allocate funds for homelessness only to housing first programs.

President Obama, along with many cities and states, have set a goal of ending homelessness by 2015. If San Diego stays with transitional housing, the city may not only miss the deadline, but will lose federal funds in the process.