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Roundtable On Early Political Races, Chula Vista Turmoil, Government Water Use

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Roundtable: Early Campaigns, Chula Vista Turmoil, Gov't H2O
Roundtable On Early Political Races, Chula Vista Turmoil, Government Water Use
Early Politics, Chula Vista Turmoil, SD Govt. Water UseHOST:Mark SauerGUESTS:Michael Smolens, U-T San Diego Robert Moreno, The Star News, Chula Vista Morgan Cook, U-T San Diego

Is at that time already quite election fever starts up as local politicians and jockey for a position or opt out. Lots of political intrigue in Chula Vista as lawsuits challenge the seating of two members of the city Council. Caltrans is his drinking water on freeway landscaping in public agencies and San Diego used a lot more water in 2014. I am Mark Sauer and the KPBS Roundtable starts right now. Welcome to a discussion of the week's top stories but I am Mark Sauer and joined me at the KPBS Roundtable today are Michael Smoltz, politics editor at UT San Diego. Hello. Good to be here. Good to see back year and reported Marburger -- hello Robert. Thank you. Good to see an reporter Morgan could of the watchdog team at UT San Diego. Hi Morgan. Thank you for having me. Good to have you here today in the next election is 18 months away but money and all those are already being thrown about as local candidates and parties jockey for position and 2016. Some big names in San Diego politics have announced their intentions and significant lines have been drawn in the sand at least among Republicans. Michael, let's start with a political landscape and we like to see any big changes and Republican city Council or maybe an incumbent and Congress? I think that -- I do not think either but I think interesting races, the one congressional district that is always up for grabs is the 52nd with Scott peters, a swing district one of the ones that is always on both the Democrat and Republican national target list. A lot of money -- but a lot of money comes in and he did defeated Brian Bilbray the incumbent Republican back in 2012 and held under a tough race against calls DeMaio. Pierce County. Last year and he will have a tough race this year. He is lost for mayor and he lost that race as you know. Now he is a talk show has. [ Laughter ] is also doing more, he is going to be pushing the statewide insurance -- I'm sorry -- pension reform initiative which he successfully did in San Diego so we will see how that goes and they have had trouble getting the statewide lights going on that but this one might do it. Seems to be a big change in counsel Todd Gloria's plans. What is he going to be doing? Is running for the state assembly and he is going to go after Toni Atkins see, currently the speaker turned out next year from San Diego. And she is very -- it is a very democratic district and it looks like the odds on favorite because there was another -- Democratic candidate that was a favorite of the party, young woman named a Sarah Boot who ran for city Council and she bowed out as soon as Gloria went in an intriguing thing was that a lot of people thought he might run for mayor against Kevin Procter and that tells us a couple of things, that Todd Gloria is looking towards the future and it is not at least in the immediate future in the mayor's office and Kevin Procter was a Republican in a very democratic city is looking pretty stock. We will get to more about in a second but we do have a clip Todd Gloria. Let's see what he says about running for that see. My priority is always on trying to help more families to make ends meet and whether it was Champion increase in the minimum wage, pushing powered with a transportation options to allow more people to get from A to be back in whatever they were -- protecting the environment, the issues that I will champion Sacramento given the opportunity. All right. He certainly is the politician -- batter dumping just making the best of it? Would he rather be made? I think that at one point he might have but he is also doesn't like most of politicians come a realized -- realist and realizes that that is not going to happen and in a perfect world comics run a planet he would want to be mayor but I think that he sees opportunity up there and the delegation -- Sacramento has got effective, sometimes prominent members another time sort of a backlog and they are not really known and brainiac Toni Atkins the assembly speakers and Loretta González was making national news, but -- been a magnet for attention for the kind of issues that she pursues I think people like Todd Gloria our blessing that I can really make a splash up there and get certain things done as they seem to be doing. Too early to look at the Democratic side? Against Foster for mayor, and as you say -- but it is never too early. It is never too early and that is what we are doing here today. So Adkins admitted to say, Loretta cabals -- but I do not see anybody right now. Mr. Alvarez, Councilman. Those names -- but last time. Alvarez did not, then he has been kind of stepping up criticism of Faulkner so that could be there some people have speculated Toni Atkins but she has not given any sign really of doing that and she is turned out next year but she I think is keeping an eye on the state sentence and perhaps two years down the line or something Loretta González, again, made quite a name for herself up in Sacramento. It would be a real role of the dice to run against Kevin Faulkner even though it is a presidential young people figure a Democratic year, I think that he is insulated himself pretty well in a short time in office, and short up his Democratic or his certain neighborhoods -- it did not do so well in the Democratic neighborhoods and Republican base will be there for him. Speaking of Democrats, Councilwoman Marti Emerald, announced that she is retiring even though she is in her second term is on the Council but could run for a third because she has shifted over to a new district and what was the reason? Well, she basically said that she had had enough and never said that she had never envisioned this to be a full longtime thing and of course there are term limits that ultimately would curtail her and other tenure on the Council but of course, she is recovering from breast cancer. She had this illness. She said that that was not the case but you would think that that factored into it and we take a step backward certain big things happen to us in life and say should I really try to do something else? Want to smell the roses a little bit more. I do not know but that is where she is that. And other strong Democratic district -- endorsing her Chief of Staff, Riccardo Flores for the district 7 seat and we got a bite from that. Let's hear what she has to say about he is the one who goes out and build consensus, and he is the one who does the behind the scenes work. To get things done. He has built a great staff, and with any other candidate, all of that momentum will stop. All right. And party leaders on the Republican side, I wanted to shift gears here to the county, very interesting and you had a piece on this the other day and about well-known incumbent supervisor Dianne Jacob. What is happening there? They are targeting this longtime incumbent? There is a big split in the Republican Party and there has been on a number of races over the last couple of years and Dianne Jacob has been there since 92, a longtime, very popular in this county or that is what we tend to believe given her record and tenure. That is where the district is but State Senator Joe Anderson who hails from the East County is making a really aggressive run and he is actually --'s got the party support and they have endorsed him and he has got a lot of party officials and elected officials lined up and in fact, just the other night, Thursday night, he had a fundraiser hosted by a couple of developers in East County and was a Who's Who of a Republican political in East County also including state assemblyman Nawrocki Martinez -- I'm sorry -- Rocky Chavez who is running for U.S. Senate and he can dance of the party -- apparatus is really a lining up behind him but on the other hand, Dianne Jacob's got a letter broods in that area and also a lot of the establishment is behind her. That is going to be interesting. We are going to get to that Senate race in a moment here but one must question I wanted to ask about that, so the Republican leaders here have kind of a sketchy record at backing a horse and trying to create a division and back a winner. At least a couple of cases, in the past the parties used to let things play out in a primary and the forgot what horse they are going to ride but in 2012, they may two decisions that did not turn out too well for them and they endorsed called DeMaio for mayor over Nathan Fletcher then ran as an independent and that did not work out and as we know DeMaio lost into bottled and I think that most polls suggested very strongly that Nathan Fletcher probably would have won that race so they would have had a Republican. Was he there prefer Republican? Maybe not but sometimes you have to take the copulation, who is going to win? Also they endorsed a guy named Steve Gannon for supervisor against Pam Slater Price. It sort of worked out for them at the beginning because she decided she had had enough and she is Republican, he is a Republican as he decided not to run for reelection but then Solana Beach Councilman Dave Roberts ran and he won so by forcing her out, they probably gave the seat to a Democrat. Backfiring. The last issue we want to get to in this segment is Rocky Chavez wants to run for U.S. Senate seat, Democrat Barbara boxer course is retiring and we have a bite from him and let's see what he has to say about that expect I actually have won elections and I have actually ran a state agency, I actually have a base of support, I am from California, and we have a message that is going to resonate to other states. That sounds optimistic off to a bit of a slow fundraising record so far and does he really have a shot? No. I mean, you say I -- I tried to hedge but he really does not unless the heavens and earth moved -- Kamali Harris is the Democratic state attorney general, I rising national political figure, has got millions of dollars in the bank, he is -- last we looked around 10 or $12,000, but Rocky Chavez is an interesting guy, a former Marine colonel, retired Marine Colonel and I guess you're never formerly a Marine and he did on the state veteran agency for a while and he has run a charter school and created this -- charter school so he certainly got -- I think that also, what he does for the Republicans, he is Latino so there is that element there and it gives them a credible candidate and sometimes the Democrats have been so strong in the statewide basis that nobody wants to run and they get to some real white ring -- white ring summative that is in the butt of late nature -- kind of like him running against Irvine, nobody thought that he would win but he was a critical does a credible candidate against the gun toting his stereotypical right-wing. Watching all of this as it develops and have a long lead time but lots of intrigue early-onset when it comes to political intrigue, San Diego has no corner on the market and political turmoil has bubbled on and off in Chula Vista, especially since last November's election. Take for instance Councilman Steve Mason. The lawsuit says that he was appointed illegally and should be removed from office. Robert, let's start to their comfort tell us about this a newly appointed Councilman. Who is a? Councilman Steve Meissen is the division manager for Republic services which is the city's largest contractor and -- but there is a rapid And the trash and recycling company for the city and at the time of the appointment he was also the president of the Chula Vista chamber of commerce. Okay. So some folks say, hey, first of all, they have got to problems, one is this conflict or potential conflict that you have talked about with his position on the Council and with this a top company that has a contract and then secondly, that whole process of appointment, here, so let's start with this a lawsuit that is tied to go after him -- is it based on his conflict of interest are both of these aspects? Velocity has nothing to do with the Council -- the Councilman, nothing to do with an individual particular but has to do with the process and the way that he was appointed and selected and the person who filed the lawsuit, Chris Schilling, who is the chairman of the Board of ethics, alleges as of the city validated the Brown act in the appointment process of by having -- basically essentially a serial meeting, they submitted names -- not the councilmembers -- nominations into the city clerk as to who they want to interview and that was not made public so you think that that was closed. Yes. And I wanted to talk about, get into the weeds a little bit on this. Councilwomen Pat Agler, she defended the city's appointment process. But she did I agree with chilling on one thing and that was, tell us about that. That is what you just alluded to. The way that the lawsuit started off was with Mr. Schilling had a records request the night that he actually committed the records request asking for -- 44 applicants who had applied for the position -- but these come from the councilmembers and the mayor have the opportunity to put forth nominees for this vacancy? Well, they put forth nominees as to who they want to interview. Okay. 744 it got rolled out to 8 candidates and from there, then they interviewed and select who they want as Mr. Meissen in this case, -- but to fill the vacancy. Yes. What is the beef that Schilling has? The beef that Schilling had with his records request being denied was that he wanted to know who each councilmember and they are nominated for the Ed and the city attorney said, well, and the direct request, they denied it think that it was part of the deliverable process and that was not -- if you asked the councilmembers or the mayor, they had the authority to tell you that they do not have to and so he wanted to know who each councilmember -- Who they put forward. Put forth and he thought it was kind of hidden and a secret. I wanted to ask you, politics here a long time and the Brown act, shouldn't this be a parent to these folks are nominated? Yes. Thinking back to the San Diego city Council, fill the vacancy with Councilman Ed Harris who agreed and I think that others agreed to not run for reelection if they were appointed and it was a very public process that people can apply, did not seem to be the sort of serial aspect and they did have a thing but I remember that actually the meeting was tortures, it was so long to get through all of this so it was very public and -- but let me ask you, Robert, this is all going on and is it having a real impact or not on the city's business? I mean, I know that these contractors -- mayor folders situation was extreme where the city of San Diego's business really ground to a halt and his business still conducting in the normal way there? That is an interesting question because there have been city Council meetings but there also have been several canceled city Council meetings and I do not know if that is tied into that or what the reasons are. Also, Mr. Meissen can vote and he -- he has to recuse himself where there is alleged conflict of interest and that office said they bedded him probably at a remote conflict of issues and the issues were he does it -- he has to recuse himself of the city seems to be able to move forward in a steady pace. Let me ask that people often have to recuse himself but it sounds like you've got some real close conflicts or he may have to do more recusing than others. How about both that he can take record is there any thread that, if the opponents to win in court, do those both still count? Will they have to redo the contents the issues -- what are people saying if he is booted from the Council on legal grounds? I think that is yet to be determined but also, Mr. Schilling, who follow -- filed a lawsuit and also they filed a lawsuit and they have actually filed a temporary restraining order on the Councilman to prevent him from counting as a quorum is prevent the city from using the appointment process and for him, really, testing any tie-breaking votes but the judge denied that timber restraining order so they did try to block them at one time. So he is a full-fledged member of the Council at this point? At this point. Okay. I did want to shift gears, speaking of court decisions of you have mentioned that one, the unbelievably close race for another city Council seat, seemed to finally get settled here and this of course dates back to November, tells about the race between John McCann and the eventual winner, -- Election a, John McCann had close to 600 vote lead and that dwindled down to 44, 12, and then 2. Just 2 expect 2 and he was sworn in as the Councilman but there was a recount to count everything about to make sure that it Tom McCann really did not win and then the recount that eventually suspended and we can eventually had won and then, I guess at the 11th hour in the last day, they were allowed to go to file a lawsuit. Attorney John moved and a citizen filed a lawsuit against the registrar of voters think that there are balancing question that you did not count and we would like you to count them and they went through the court process and the judge basically left of the election the waiters. Okay. So they went after the registrar is that you have got to count these last remaining -- with which does it could have conceivably throw the election. They were 16 ballots in question I think ultimately it went down to 12 because some got thrown out. But what happened was the attorney John moved with think that the ballots were not counted because a voter either put a PO Box as a residence address or the signature did not match were something like that so they did not -- they were not counted but the registrar says you need a residence address and you cannot put down a PO Box to vote. So there may yet be an appeal even of that. Yes. It is already -- an appeal has already been filed with the court. Just has to wait until it plays out in the court process and they want a three-judge panel and from my understanding, the appeal still has to make its way in. We will be watching for the reporting on that. All right. Shifting gears there, another heatwave in April had many people talking about how did this week and a long, hot summer had. Playing into that was the disturbing news about water use by public agencies. Water usage figures show that despite calls for conservation by San Diego leaders, the city governments all use of water was up substantially and start by telling us how much more water was being used by these public agencies? Well, the public agencies used about 480 million 480,000,000 gallons more, altogether, net. Right? The city of San Diego actually increased its use more than than that and it increased 565,000,000 gallons. That sounds like a heck of a lot of water here so you have got leaders on the one hand, politician thing to the public, we have cut the buckets in the shower, do not flush the toilet and all the stuff in the meanwhile, this is what we are seeing for this public agencies. Right. People have been sort of distraught you could say. To find out that they have been asked to take Navy showers and meanwhile, the landscape in San Diego is getting superlong showers. It does not seem right. [ Laughter ] but so what are -- you talk to the folks with the public utilities department and what are they saying is behind us? Why are we using more water? They said the basically it is mostly hot, dry Michael weather. We are to drive. Also known as a drought. Yes. So they needed to take care of their plant life with parks and recreation and mostly, that is -- but and they have got a lot of parks and a lot of trees and a lot of grass -- is it time to start? 9000 acres of parks or something. And we're asking folks in getting rebates again to take out lines. I took my lawn out this week and is it time to start tearing out grass and city parks? What do people think about that? Well, luckily, I do not have to be the judge of that, but I think that people need to consider what they want. You know? And what we need for some of our key parks like Balboa Park, we do not want to go tearing out Balboa Park. It attracts 10 million visitors a year so I think we have to -- if we are going to do that and tear out the grass, like the governor -- I'm sorry -- the mayor said, we need to do that judiciously. Strategically. When the mayor kind of came out with the latest requirements or cutbacks, they talked about parks and it was sort of vague but they talked about at least starting with a smaller park and not watering them as much and I have not seen that much sign of that and like Morgan said, Albert Park and Mission Bay Park are sort of that will continue although they -- why they're not using recyclable water the holder issue. We will get into that. But people to this day are seeing medians watered and that kind of love to the frustration while we all try to cut back and I'm sure that there are good explanations but the visuals are not the. They are not and I want to get into that in a moment but one last question while we're talking about cities of water, the city itself used more and this kind of an ironic reason behind that. Why? Okay, one of the smaller reasons after landscaping, that was the big deal but after that, I guess they needed to use water to treat water. So they need to use water to produce water and the reason is that they take the water and they mix it in with the chemicals and they kind of diluted the chemicals and get it all to the right balance, and then, they had technically used that WaterPik what they really do is clean it up and sell it again. So it is not consumed. It is used. It is used as a back it's a little complicated. It does. A little tricky. It takes money to make money. One question I want to throw out to everyone is that city leaders and state leaders slow in this drought to make a call for conservation to begin with? We have not heard a whole lot about it until just lately when the governor and the city leaders have clamped down we've got some fine and -- fines and some even a. On the political side I understand of the governor -- remember that the governor last year came out and said 20% voluntary cut and the state, San Diego, everybody did very poorly I think in a lot of cases, water increased usage. It is difficult and I understand the policies that people have to go slowly to get people used to this idea. But for one that takes a Navy showers, for one that has kind of poor man's air escape is over, I think that they could have taken a more aggressive role in clamping down and they started on early on with voluntary restrictions, and this was -- we are into the third year of the drought last year and they should have been I think stuff a little bit more, hardline, and then moved from there because people are now saying, oh my gosh. We have to cut back, this is a drought, this should have been happening in the last year. Hearing about it in Chula Vista? Is it in everybody saved on their? Yes. I think that people are having a hard time understanding how serious the drought is in order for them to cut down on water, save water, usage and I think that that is the understanding but there have been several initiatives at City Hall that they are trying to put together as well and the local water agencies are now with this governor's mandate are trying to scramble and find ways to reach of them. One thing that I was very surprised about and we talked about it before we went on air, isn't this whole business of watering the freeway medians and you had a story about that. I have folks and Thomas we can they said, that must be recycled water and I said yes, I guess it is but I read your story and it is not. I know. I guessed that it was also and I just assumed that we would use recycled water, all recycled water for that. That is the goal. You know? That is what Caltrans and the state would like to have happen. The problem in San Diego is that they cannot reach the recycled water that they need. It is not that there is not enough for cannot be enough, but it is just that they cannot get to it because -- but they cannot get into the median. Right? Or the embankment. Exactly. So they use drinking water. Portable water. What is the reason? Didn't the state and the city long ago, decades ago, say that we are going to use recycled water for these areas whenever possible as soon as possible? Right? It was 30 years ago. Right. So the northern part of the city, where most -- much of the irrigation needs to happen, it has significant purple pipe in it has an 90 miles of a purple pipe in the northern part of the city. But when you get into where it gets developed, south of the 52, and things start to get dense, and very urban, then you start talking about major expense because you have to tear everything up and put the pipes in because the thing about recycled water is that it cannot go in the regular water pipes. No. There can be no mixing. So you have to get its own system. It just gets really expensive and logistically -- We have a few seconds left in some of this reclaim water is just being treated and pumped out to see at this point? Yes. But, it is not being treated to the level of recycled water. It is being treated it to the minimal dump it in the ocean treatment level. But then they put it back in the sewer system and when it gets altered again and it goes to the point and then it gets treated again and sent to the ocean. We will be watching for a recording on this and I'm sure that there are many more stories and that wraps up another week of stores at the KPBS Roundtable and I would like to thank my guess Michael small and WT Sentinel and Robert Marina of the start is in Chula Vista and Morgan Cook also with you to study. A reminder, all of the stories that we discussed today are available on the website, KPBS.org and I marks are, thank you for joining us today on The Roundtable. KPBS Midday Edition Friday continues and we bring you in-depth reports heard this week I'm KPBS, including a look at California lottery and it's 30 years of long odds and jackpots. And how we can all learn something about saving water from our friends in Santa Barbara.

Political races on the starting line

If you thought we just went through an election, we did — six months ago. Nevertheless, some local and state races are already shaping up for the June 2016 primaries more than a year away.

San Diego City Councilman Todd Gloria seems to have given up hope of becoming mayor of San Diego for this cycle and has opted instead to run for Toni Atkins’ 78th District assembly seat. This has caused something of a domino effect. The aptly named Sarah Boot, who had announced earlier she would run in the 78th — and received Atkins' endorsement — was booted, er, forced to reconsider.

Councilwoman Marti Emerald is retiring from her District 7 seat and has endorsed her chief of staff Riccardo Flores’ bid to replace her.

Republican Assemblyman Rocky Chavez of Oceanside is not letting statewide Democratic registration numbers get in the way of his bid to run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Barbara Boxer. Chavez is a long shot, and an underfunded one, at that. So far.

And perhaps most intriguing of all, so far, longtime San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, a lifelong Republican, has drawn major opposition for her re-election bid — from another Republican. State Sen. Joel Anderson is running against Jacob, with the encouragement of many local Republican Party officials.

Chula Vista turmoil

There is a lot going on in San Diego County’s second largest city.

The appointment of Steve Miesen to the Chula Vista City Council earlier this year to fill the seat vacated by Mary Salas' election as mayor has drawn fire from the beginning. Miesen is division manager for Republic Services, Chula Vista’s largest contractor.

The process was criticized by the press and others for lack of transparency, and attorney Marco Gonzalez filed for a temporary restraining order to limit Miesen's role on the council, which was denied by a judge. Gonzalez was acting on behalf of Chris Shilling, chair of the city’s Board of Ethics. Gonzalez also filed a lawsuit over alleged Brown Act violations.

Meanwhile, John McCann was declared the winner of a Chula Vista City Council seat by Registrar of Voters Michael Vu. McCann beat Steve Padilla by two votes. The registrar refused to count 12 votes because of mistakes, which caused a lawsuit, which was dismissed. McCann has taken his seat.

City using more water

City, county, state and federal officials are busy exhorting San Diegans to save water. Yet the city increased its water usage in Fiscal 2014 by almost 3 billion gallons because of hot, dry weather and ironically, the drought.

Further, Caltrans, responsible for freeway upkeep, has been pouring some 720 million gallons of drinking water on medians and embankments in order to save trees and protect its investment in landscaping.

Although San Diego has two water reclamation plants, the pipe system for getting recycled water to willing customers (like Caltrans) has not been built-out by the city. Consequently, half the water reclaimed from the sewage system and processed by the reclamation plants, is pumped back into the sewage system and then out to sea. Seriously.