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Roundtable: Gloria Out, Lightner In; Transportation Plan Appealed; Padres Get A Slugger

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Roundtable Looks At New City Council, MLB Winter Meetings
Roundtable: Gloria Out, Lightner In; Transportation Plan Appealed; Padres Get A Slugger
Council Presidency, Transportation Plan, Padres & Chargers HOST:Mark SauerGUESTS:Tarryn Mento, KPBS News Andrew Keatts, Voice of San Diego Jay Paris, 1090 Sports Radio

MARK SAUER: There is upheaval at the city council as Todd Gloria is replaced as council president by Sherri Lightner in a maneuver that favors republicans. SANDAG faces a road block in its plans for more freeways and decides to appeal a judge’s invalidation of regional transportation plan. And the Padres deal for a big name hitter in the winter meetings here while the Chargers playoff hopes dim. I'm Mark Sauer and the K P B S roundtable starts now. Welcome. It's Friday December 12th. I'm Mark Sauer and joining me at the roundtable today are K P B S metro reporter Tarryn Mento. Hi, Tarryn. TARRYN MENTO: Hi, Mark. MARK SAUER: Good to have you here. Andrew Keatts, reporter with Voice of San Diego. Hi, Andy. ANDREW KEATTS: How's it going, Mark? MARK SAUER: And sportscaster Jay Paris with 1090 sports radio. You start that job on Monday, Jay? JAY PARIS: Sure do. Hope I don't mess it up the first day. MARK SAUER: Good to have you here. JAY PARIS: All right. MARK SAUER: Well, San Diegans had gotten pretty used to seeing Todd Gloria in a position of leadership. He was interim mayor after former mayor Bob Filner resigned in disgrace. And of course he was president of city council the last few years, well, not anymore. Gloria was ousted by soft-spoken council veteran, Sherri Lightner, a fellow democrat. Tarryn, walk us through this, who wanted Mr. Lightner (sic) replaced and why? TARRYN MENTO: Well, Todd Gloria is very popular. MARK SAUER: I'm sorry. Who wanted Mr. Gloria replaced by Lightner? TARRYN MENTO: You saw that at the city council meeting when they were going to take the vote. There were about two dozen, 30 speakers coming up urging the rest of the council members to keep him on because there were these rumors that some republican council members may be voting him out in favor of Sherri Lightner. MARK SAUER: Well, we should note there, they have the minority. It's four democrats. Two republicans, so they had to get some cooperation. TARRYN MENTO: Right. So what ended up happening, is the final vote -- well, there was an initial vote for Todd Gloria. They did take the vote and it was the democrats for Gloria. Republicans said no and Sherri Lightner also voted no, and then they took another vote and it became seven-two. We had some democrats switch over in support Lightner, and so ultimately Gloria didn't get the vote. MARK SAUER: So by then, the hammering was on the wall so Gloria voted for himself for president, and D A. TARRYN MENTO: D A stuck with him on that. MARK SAUER: Another liberal democrat and everyone else voted and Sherri Lightner is now the president. Does this enhance the republicans’ power? Are we going to see, even though they are minority, they have some leverage now? TARRYN MENTO: Right. And some of the responsibility of council president do include appointing committee members and committee chairs and that is something that we could see if there is any change, well republican council members getting key roles on some committees. And we should be expected to see that later today. And then that will be brought up on the meeting on Monday. MARK SAUER: So as council president, let's talk about that job there. There is some power there. The council president, as you say, appoints the committee chairs who have their own agendas they decide -- work through the committees what issues actually come to the council, come for public debate and public vote. And then they also do -- the council president sets the agenda for the council itself on those weekly meetings themselves, right? TARRYN MENTO: Right. So there is a lot of direction with how those things can go. Something can possibly not get picked up and put on the docket, so it may not get discussed. And also who leads these committee chairs, decides, ultimately. Votes come down on the committees even, the committee chair has the vote that can move it onto council. So there is some ability to decide the direction of the council in this role. MARK SAUER: Andy, let me ask you this, Todd Gloria as we said in the open, has been very visible. He was the interim mayor for a time. Of course the mid past council president. Some people think in 2016, not that far off now, he could be a real democratic threat to incumbent republican mayor Kevin Faulconer here. But now does he step out of the limelight a little bit, does this hurt his chance going forward in his political career? ANDREW KEATTS: Yeah. He certainly had a very high profile when he was council president. The opening of comic con when they did the Batman introduction it was both Faulconer and Gloria who zip lined -- MARK SAUER: They were zip line buddies. What the heck happened here? ANDREW KEATTS: And now next year that will just be Mayor Faulconer, Todd Gloria won't be. MARK SAUER: You don't think (CHECK AUDIO), got through zip lining with him. ANDREW KEATTS: Right. So think there is something to diminishing his stature ahead of 2016. Now, whatever goodwill or popularity he has earned is probably in the bag. I don't think you can retroactively take that from him. So to a certain extent I wonder how limited that is. It is worth noting that under council president Gloria, republicans still got lot of good positions as committee chairs. Lorie Zapf was in charge of land use and housing committee, an extremely powerful committee. So it's not as though they've been shutout under Gloria, so that is an interesting aspect to this. To that extent, I wonder how much they've really gained with Sherri in the first place. I mean, she was right there with him on the minimum wage vote, on the Barrio Logan vote, on the linkage fee vote - all of these partisan issues, she's been right there right along with democrats. And the areas where she parts ways with Todd are actually where she's less aligned with republicans. She's very much more anti-development than Todd is. Todd is usually more of a friend to things like the business industry association, the building industry association. So I actually wonder if we can see in the next two years this come back to be not such a great deal for republicans if she flexes those same muscles. MARK SAUER: Now Tarryn, Sherri Lightner describes herself as a moderate here, an independent. Todd Gloria more associated with progressive liberal wing of the council, a big change or are we going to have to wait and see? TARRYN MENTO: Yeah. It really could be a wait and see scenario. I spoke with her earlier this morning some of the things she's looking forward to taking care of this year is looking at the police salaries, that's a hot topic. But also looking at infrastructure, and the climate action plan - these are things we're talked about as being priorities when Todd Gloria was council president. MARK SAUER: Yeah. So whoever is president, even if a republican were president at this point, those are the main key issues, right. Retaining police, the infrastructure, et cetera. JAY PARIS: I'm just wondering why she is more attractive than Todd in that position; what is the rubber hitting the road there? TARRYN MENTO: The rumor -- some public speakers actually brought this up, is that by removing Todd Gloria out of that focus role maybe he is not going to have as much of a platform to stand on if he did want to be the democratic challenger for the race for mayor. And Sherri Lightner is a little bit more -- we saw that after the council meeting after they changed seats, she just adjourned the council. There wasn't any statements and she left without speaking to any of the media. Todd Gloria stayed and spoke to the media, spoke to members of the public. There were people standing there waiting in line to hug him. MARK SAUER: Was it a pretty tense meeting there? TARRYN MENTO: Yeah, it was very -- I mean there was dozens of public speakers coming up there and you know it was at the end when the vote was taken and Sherri Lightner was chosen as the next council president. There was some booing there and when Todd Gloria put his hand up, they stopped. There were people cheering there with signs that say I stand with Todd Gloria. People wearing purple shirts, so it was, you know -- and when the vote actually came down that Gloria lost and looked like the council members were looking to each other not sure where to go next because the next move was to give a nomination to Sherri Lightner. MARK SAUER: We do have -- oh no, we're not going to go that way. Let me shift to a different thing now. As long as we're on the city council, there is one other city aspect of the inauguration that happens this week when they all take their oath and formally take office here. And it's in a big ceremony and a big room downtown as you might expect. But there was a protest there; explain what happened. TARRYN MENTO: Right. Well, first arriving there were protestors outside chanting "hands up don't shoot" symbolic of the national movement related to the shootings of unarmed black men by police. And then they came in to the Golden Hall and stood off to the side and throughout the speeches they would silently change gestures with their hands around their throat symbolizing the death of Eric Garner. Hands up don't shoot - Michael Brown. And then they also started a die in, which is lying down on the ground and it was very silent. There wasn't any noise until after the ceremony and then they chanted and marched around the room. MARK SAUER: But then you overheard something and actually recorded a member of council member Lorie Zapf's staff. TARRYN MENTO: Right. So after the ceremony I had gone up to Lorie Zapf waiting to interview her about the ceremony and upcoming council vote which was going to be about the president vote later that day. I had my reporter, my press badge on, my recorder out waiting in a line of people in the front of the room, and I overheard a staff member of hers say, "Did you see those expletive idiots with their hands up. I wanted to shoot them." And she was wearing a name tag. So that is how I was able to determine who she was. We went to Zapf later on that day with this. MARK SAUER: What was her response to this? TARRYN MENTO: Immediately -- quite stunned which, very caught off guard by this when I asked her about these comments. And she immediately tried to explain that her opinion was that they had the right to be there. The protesters had the right to be there. They were not disruptive. And that she was going to speak to this staffer. And then we followed up again later and we received a statement it's being handled as a personal matter. MARK SAUER: All right. Well, I'm sure we will all be reporting, Tarryn and Andy and all of the city hall folks, as we go forward here with Sherri Lightner and the new change. The palace coup, if it were. We're going to move on now. Now, SANDAG is one of those obscure public agencies that most people don't think about, if they even know it exists. But decisions made by SANDAG, that's the San Diego associations of governments the region’s transportation planning entity, they can profoundly affect all of us for decades to come. And so it does with its controversial 2050 Regional Transportation Plan which has run into some trouble. Let's start, Andy, by laying out that plan; what is it? What are the high points? ANDREW KEATTS: Right. So it's a 40-year plan for all sorts of transportation-oriented projects in the entire county. So everything from your trolley extinctions and your new public transportation offerings to freeway widening and local roads. It's a 215 billion dollar plan. Many, many projects laid out all the way for the next 40 years. So it's got new trolley lines, freeway widening on the I-5. It's got street repaving and things like that. It pretty much runs the gamut of every transportation project you could think of in the region. MARK SAUER: Okay. So the guidelines here, what they come up with, what they emphasize and what they don't emphasize. In other words, if there is a ton of money for new freeways that means we're all going to be driving cars. If there is more emphasis on public transportation and bike lines and all, we're going to go the other way, maybe not burn so much fuel. What's in the plan that has environmentalist so upset? ANDREW KEATTS: Right. So environmentalist and transit advocates sued a few years ago on the basis that this plan had too much of an emphasis on widening freeways and extending, sort of, car focused transportation. MARK SAUER: Too car friendly. ANDREW KEATTS: Too car friendly. So they based it on state requirements, a series of state laws that spelled out what the requirements for planning agencies was to demonstrate greenhouse gas reduction levels. Their argument was you did not follow these requirements. And the first judge, two years ago, ruled with the litigants and said you're right, this plan is deficient. MARK SAUER: We should be clear, that was at the superior court level, the local level here. ANDREW KEATTS: That was the local level. And then just earlier this month we had an appellate court came back and up that same ruling. MARK SAUER: Because SANDAG didn't like that original ruling and they appealed to the appellate court. ANDREW KEATTS: Right. And so now SANDAG had to face the decision now do we take our lumps, go back to the drawing board and rewrite that plan? Or do we keep fighting this out? And that is what they ultimately decide to do. So they are appealing to the Supreme Court, the state supreme court that is. If the state supreme court decides to take up the plan, they will have ultimate say over whether this plan is legitimate and that is important, not only for San Diego and what happens with its transportation plan but SANDAG is in many ways the first agency to bring a plan like this forward since all of those state laws were passed. So it's sort of the guinea pig that all of the other state agencies like it across the state are liking to understand what kind of requirements they're operating on. MARK SAUER: So the state government says we're going to be environment friendly, we're going to try to limit the use of fossil fuels. We're quite conscious of climate change here; California is going to do something about it, it's a big state and SANDAG comes forth with this plan and this is kind of the first task. ANDREW KEATTS: Right and we don't need to get too far into the nitty gritty legal details, but basically what the major issue is whether it's just this assembly. This legislature passed laws or the legislature pass laws and an executive order by Arnold Schwarzenegger which actually went above and beyond throws laws. So there was a claim that is just an executive order it doesn't have authority over things that go through the legislature, and two courts have now ruled it, in fact, does. MARK SAUER: I was just going to say, before we get a little farther and I want to come back to Tarryn's, question, who is on the SANDAG board? Tell our audience who those folks are. ANDREW KEATTS: Council members and mayors from all over the county. MARK SAUER: Cities and governments all over the county. ANDREW KEATTS: Every charter city in the county, and the city of San Diego has two seats and the county has two seats. MARK SAUER: And the county does. Okay, Tarryn. TARRYN MENTO: I was just going to ask, what's the argument that makes the plan, as it's written right now, so important in order to push back against, now, two court rulings? What are they highlighting in there about that? ANDREW KEATTS: As in what does the board like about the plan so much? TARRYN MENTO: Right. MARK SAUER: What are they hanging on to? TARRYN MENTO: What's so important, do they feel the need to hang on to? ANDREW KEATTS: Right. So it's one of two things for some people it’s certainly they like the plan. They would prefer it emphasize things that assist car travelers. If you're a council member from Escondido that's more important to you because that's the lives of most of your constituents. MARK SAUER: Yeah. You interviewed a La Mesa council women who is also an attorney who made that very point. ANDREW KEATTS: Right. And then the other thing Todd Gloria who, kind of, by sheer force of will forced the city into pursuing its climate action plan. Its own plan to deal with greenhouse gas emissions he nonetheless voted in favor of the appeal. His rational, he said, is that it's important for the Supreme Court to provide clarity for the rest of the state on what the requirements actually are. So it's going to be something between those two things. MARK SAUER: So it was a 20 to 1 vote, sounds pretty overwhelming. Being the good reporter you are, you thought let's find that one guy who stood up and voted against this. And who is he and what did he have to say? ANDREW KEATTS: It's actually fascinating because the one guy who voted against it is just an alternate who wasn't supposed to be there anyway. MARK SAUER: Just kind of hanging on the back and listening. ANDREW KEATTS: His name is Chuck Lowery. He's a deputy mayor from Oceanside. And he basically just said we can't keep extending freeways every time they fill up. They fill up with traffic and we extend it. They fill up again and we extend it again. We need to start providing more alternatives. But I do think it reveals an interesting dynamic on the SANDAG board that the only person willing to step out of line and say something so different is a guy who is not really on the board in the first place. MARK SAUER: Yeah. You had a story just now posted today about the kind of the culture there, if flock steps too strong of a word, but they tend to hang together these birds of a feather. ANDREW KEATTS: Yeah. It's not just that they hang together. What was interesting to me, when you're on a city council you view that as a position where you are elected and you go out of your way to push policy objectives favorable to you and your constituents, you view yourself as legislator. MARK SAUER: And you're not afraid of robust debate. ANDREW KEATTS: Yeah. And you see votes split on partisan lines all the time at city councils all over the county and then suddenly they get on the SANDAG board and it's almost always unanimous and you don't hear people speaking out saying why does SANDAG do it this way I just wanted to try to figure out exactly why that was. And you know some people said basically, you know there is a fear that if you're the loudest voice suddenly your city might come out on the losing end of some funding decisions. MARK SAUER: All right. Okay. So some backdoor politicking going on. ANDREW KEATTS: And of course there are, SANDAG would reject that framing and, you know, there doesn't seem to be any easily available evidence that would suggest that is the case. And in fact National City mayor Ron Morrison told me the reason it's so unanimous is because we have a robust committee system and we have sub committees in those committees and we kind of do all of the vetting through that process and the decisions are more or less already made. MARK SAUER: Where nobody but inside baseball people go to and hardly anybody watches the whole SANDAG board, so that doesn't give me a great feeling as far as transparency. ANDREW KEATTS: Oh, you don't like that decisions are made before they come to the full board? MARK SAUER: The phrase "smoke filled room" comes to mind. Somehow, I don't know. We have a few seconds left on this. Let me ask, any idea if the state supreme court will take it up? It sounds, as you said earlier an important issue and it might be a set of guide posts for the rest of the state. ANDREW KEATTS: I've talked to a couple people who are more familiar with this than I am and they all seem to expect that they will, that they would be very surprised if they didn't. MARK SAUER: Okay. So they will take it up. They will air it and give it a full go and we'll see, and I'm sure we will be reporting on that. ANDREW KEATTS: Yeah. MARK SAUER: All right. Let's move on now San Diego is hosting baseball's winter meeting this week. They are just wrapping up before the rain came and the Padres for once are in the thick of things. They made a big trade with our arch rivals the Dodgers up the road. Jay, start by explaining for maybe some folks who aren't, you know, baseball fanatics and hot stove leaguers, what exactly are the winter meetings? Why are they exciting for the people who watch baseball? JAY PARIS: Well, the winter meetings annual event all of the general manager all of the manager really all of the baseball organizational people are all in one place and under one roof for two or three days so it's a big bazaar, a lot of trading, a lot of. JAY PARIS: Talk about smoke filled rooms there is a lot of posturing but a lot of stuff does get done because the text messages, talking to someone on the phone you finally get face to face and the meetings were here in San Diego for the first time in a couple decades. And the Padres wanted to make a splash and I'm not just talking about the rain. MARK SAUER: Well, the Padres not only have they had some losing seasons and San Diego fans over time are used to losing seasons, but in the past we always had Tony Gwynn. We always had some exciting players. They just haven't been exciting here lately. Now they made a big trade with the Dodgers, are they exciting? Did they get a big slugger is? It going to be something new this season? JAY PARIS: They got a big slugger, they needed someone in their line one where you didn't go up and get a hot dog when they came up to bat. ANDREW KEATTS: Now they only have eight of those. MARK SAUER: So who did they get? ANDREW KEATTS: How much can you eat? JAY PARIS: Matt Kemp, slugger outfielder from the Dodgers. MARK SAUER: Bona fide home run hitter. JAY PARIS: Bona fide hitter threat in a lineup batter. You have to tiptoe around if you're an opposing pitcher. Three years ago he was arguably the best player in baseball, you know, 30 plus homers; 120 ribbies and maybe would have won the M V P if Ryan Braun, from Milwaukee who later proved to be using performance enhancing drugs, so it's a big deal. MARK SAUER: Top star at that time. JAY PARIS: Top star. He's been injured the last couple years, but last year came on really strong, 25 home runs last year. He had 17 home runs after the all-star break, as (CHECK AUDIO) who went to the Dodgers, he led the Padres with 15 all year. MARK SAUER: Tell us what we gave up. A good young catcher as you mentioned. JAY PARIS: Right. A good catcher whose potential the Padres think might have played out himself. He was busted for P E D's as well. And he didn't come back quite the same player he was before. Also had a tough knee injury. So he had about 225 last year. ANDREW KEATTS: I think the Padres stole one to tell you the truth. MARK SAUER: What do you think, Andy; was it a good deal for the Padres? ANDREW KEATTS: I'm going to part ways with you, I think, you know -- MARK SAUER: We can debate here. We're not the SANDAG board ANDREW KEATTS: I think Matt Kemp is definitely is unquestionably a good player. I think the best case to be made for it is, he is a star. Padres’ fans want a reason to be excited and simply trotting out guys that are low paid and not very much household names aren't really going to do that. And Matt Kemp used to date Rihanna. MARK SAUER: Oh my. Wait a minute. We can go to the ballpark and see Rihanna in the stands. JAY PARIS: They all use their (CHECK AUDIO) ANDREW KEATTS: My wife tells me a very handsome man. But in any case he's coming up on his age 30 season. He is under contact until 34. He's going to have made 80 million dollars during that time and he's already had injury history throughout his 20s. I think we paid a lot for the name and the production that he has done in the past unfortunately going to remain in the record books for the Dodgers and not translated to the Padres. JAY PARIS: I would disagree. Look at his last performance after the all-star break 17 home runs, that ankle and shoulder is usually right. He's playing the game. He's not much of a defender, you're right there. But he is at 30 if the Dodgers are going to pitch him 32 million dollars toward paying him, you got to get something -- and you've gotta give something to get something. MARK SAUER: Let me ask this, beyond the Matt Kemp of the world, I look at a city like Detroit coming out of bankruptcy here. They almost set a record for futility just ten years ago. Now the perennial contenders here, the Padres, America's finest city new stadium, big fan base, big metro area here and we're just losing team after losing team; what's going on? How can a team like that rebuild and come off of the mat and the Padres just never seem to become a contender? JAY PARIS: A lot of it -- the Padres play in the N L west against the rich boys: The Dodgers and the Giants and Diamondbacks backs to a degree. They can never get a hitter here. The blueprint, the template for Padre baseball is good pitching, strong defense, big yard. MARK SAUER: Big yard. Big stadium. JAY PARIS: Marine layer. It's hard to get a home run after eight o'clock. MARK SAUER: It's cool and damp down there. JAY PARIS: That's right. So that's a great idea because the sluggers cost a lot of money and if you don't have a lot of money to spend you go pitching, but it's hard to cheer a double play. If a guy hits one over the fence everyone jumps up and dance a little bit. So let's face it, it's baseball. It's sports. It's entertainment and it was getting boring down there and they are hoping that Matt can give them a little jolt. MARK SAUER: Well, you know we've got to do something to get the ticket sales going and get some revenue because the only way to contend in the game today, it's too many big salaries. Too many big roosters in other cities as you say. JAY PARIS: Yeah. There is plenty of money out there in baseball. I know a lot of people want to keep writing it off, but they've never been more successful. MARK SAUER: Let's shift to football here because we only have a couple of minutes. I did want to move on to the Chargers here. You said on this show at the start of the season this could be a pivotal year if they contend, if they got in deep into the playoffs maybe the super bowl, maybe that dream of getting a new stadium could be convincing to the voters and all. They have a tough stretch here. They lost a tough game the other day; where do we sit now, late in the season? JAY PARIS: You know, they sit pretty good, unlike last year where they needed a win and half of the people up and collapsed. They are the number six and final seat for the American football conference. MARK SAUER: If they win. JAY PARIS: They have to win out and they got Denver Broncos Peyton Manning this week and then at San Francisco, at Kansas City. MARK SAUER: Toughest schedule in the league. JAY PARIS: It's a tough schedule. But if you're play off worthy you have to play them and you have to win them. They lost their three game winning streak last week against the Patriots, but they usually play Peyton pretty well. It's going to be a good game Sunday. MARK SAUER: Well, and the couch here is taking some heat for some game management and clock management and decisions. Without getting too much into the nitty gritty, is he going to win or will he be gone, and be replaced next week? JAY PARIS: No. He's got a little equity from flipping them last year and getting them to the playoffs. Spanos don't like to pay money to people who aren't working for them. So he's not going anywhere. He's been feet to the fire a little bit on some game management stuff and that's what makes sports so great. There is no right or wrong and you can debate it all day. ANDREW KEATTS: Yeah, after all mismanaged games are part of the chargers D N A after the Norv years. This is what we do here. We mismanage games. We make poor decisions and we stick with those coacher, stick with those decisions for years. MARK SAUER: We're talking about Norv Turner, the coach. Second guessing, that's part of the fun. Baseball, football the fans love to get into it here. How have they done at the box office this year? We had all of those T V blackouts because they weren't selling tickets in previous years. They're getting some fannies in the seats this year. JAY PARIS: They are. And you've got to tip your hat to the New England fans too and the other fans that come because a lot of N F L fans circle that San Diego trip to come see their team. And last week it was fox bro west. There were a lot of Patriots fans there. Blackouts haven't been that big of a problem this year. MARK SAUER: In the short time we have left, what about the stadium here, might this team actually move to L A? Could we get a stadium deal? Who knows? JAY PARIS: Absolutely. Yes on both. MARK SAUER: Okay. All of the above, huh. JAY PARIS: Yeah, got it. MARK SAUER: Still going to have, sooner or later, public money raise some funds and pass a vote. ANDREW KEATTS: There's been this odd thing where Mayor Faulconer has wanted to stoke the conversation without actually proposing anything. You keep seeing stories on E S P N of all places that say it's time to start a conversation about building. Okay, start it. You're the mayor. You're in the position to start the conversation. MARK SAUER: All right. We'll see if they do and get down to the nitty gritty as we go. That does wrap up another week of stories at the K P B S roundtable and I'd like to thank my guests Tarryn Mento of K P B S news, Andy Keatts of the Voice of San Diego, and sports writer Jay Paris of 1090 sports radio. A reminder, all of the stories we discussed today are available on our website K P B S dot org. I'm Mark Sauer, thanks for joining us today on the roundtable.

Intrigue At City Council

The Twitterverse had been buzzing for days about whether San Diego City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner would oust fellow Democrat Todd Gloria as council president this week.

And the buzzers were right. On Wednesday, the San Diego City Council voted 5-4 to remove Todd Gloria as president and then voted 7-2 to install Sherri Lightner in the office.

Gloria delayed the vote until Wednesday to let newly elected Councilman Chris Cate, a Republican, participate.

Gloria’s ouster in favor of the self-described moderate, independent (and termed-out) Lightner seemed to have been engineered by the four Republicans on the council -- with her cooperation.

Some analysts believe the move was meant to keep Gloria out of the limelight and make it tougher to challenge Kevin Faulconer for mayor in 2016.

Is SANDAG's RTP DOA?

The board of the San Diego Association of Governments has voted 20 to 1 to appeal a court ruling again invalidating the association's Regional Transportation Plan.

A California appeals court earlier affirmed a superior court ruling that SANDAG did not adequately consider the environmental consequences of its 2050 Regional Transportation Plan's emphasis on highways and streets.

Now SANDAG wants the California Supreme Court to decide whether it needs to rewrite its plan.

The appeals-court ruling was based on AB 32, passed by the legislature in 2006, committing the state to lowering greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The superior court said that SANDAG failed to analyze the difference between the goals of AB 32 and the probable outcome of the plan to expand freeways, rather than place more emphasis on alternatives.

Padres, Chargers In Winter Games

Major League Baseball held its winter meetings in San Diego this week, and the San Diego Padres did some uncharacteristic wheeling and dealing.

The Pads acquired Dodger outfielder Matt Kemp, and in the process gave up promising catcher Yasmani Grandal and two pitchers. The trade is not yet finalized. Kemp, a much-needed slugger, has $107 million left on his contract, so one question is how much of that amount will the Padres have to cough up?

Last season the Padres' payroll was the highest in franchise history, but the team ended the season among the bottom-feeders with a record of 77 wins and 85 losses.

Meanwhile, back in Qualcomm Stadium, the Chargers lost on Sunday to the New England Patriots, provoking a tsunami of criticism of Coach Mike McCoy’s conservative game management. The offensive line also came in for its share of abuse for that game, both on the field and from themselves.

The big question now is can the Chargers still make the playoffs?

What questions do you have about the Statewide General Election coming up on Nov. 8? Submit your questions here, and we'll try to answer them in our reporting.