Roundtable: Deluge in Tijuana, City Pension Woes, SeaWorld's Legal Trials
A grande El Niño
El Niño brought rains and wind to San Diego and the rest of California this week. But it also hit Tijuana hard, too, especially the homeless migrants.
This past summer, Tijuana announced it was getting ready for the so-called “Godzilla” El Niño. In preparation for what slammed the region this week, officials visited thousands of houses built precariously on vulnerable hills or thrown together with scrap metal and foundations made of tires. They informed residents of the likelihood that the structures would be swept away and that they should leave for temporary shelters when the rains came.
As in San Diego, streets were flooded and homeless shelters opened, but no lives have been lost. Evacuations may happen, but so far they have been minimal.
City pensions, again
In 2012, San Diego voters approved Proposition B, which eliminated pensions for all new city employees — except police officers. A win for the city budget, right? Well, not really. At least not yet.
The state Public Employees Relations Board ruled last week that because then-Mayor Jerry Sanders put his name on Proposition B, that made it a city initiative. So the city was required to negotiate with city unions under their contracts.
The mayor, of course, is the city’s chief labor negotiator. But Sanders said he put his name on the initiative as a private citizen, not as mayor.
If it turns out the city erred, it could cost San Diego taxpayers really big bucks. The city could be required to pay the 2,000 employees hired since the initiative took effect defined-benefit pensions plus 7 percent interest, among other expenses.
The city is expected to appeal the decision in the courts. Mayor Kevin Faulconer and other city officials want to do that.
SeaWorld deep into legal waters
SeaWorld has been spending a lot of time in courtrooms lately.
The theme park scored one legal victory recently, when a federal judge in San Diego dismissed a fraud lawsuit filed by patrons, who claimed the theme park had concealed its treatment of orcas. The customers wanted refunds, but the judge said no.
Under a settlement that SeaWorld reached with the state, CalOSHA is expected to dismiss four citations and related fines for failing to protect its trainers when they work with orcas. SeaWorld will have to adhere to new rules on such interactions, which include stipulations against trainers "surfing" or standing on killer whales.
SeaWorld also filed a suit in San Diego last week demanding the California Coastal Commission reverse its prohibition against the breeding of captive orcas.
The park had sought to enlarge its orca pools. The commission added the condition to its approval of the enlargement. SeaWorld says the condition is unprecedented and oversteps the commissions authority.
The park has 11 orcas that are central to its popular Shamu show, which SeaWorld says it will overhaul in 2017 in favor of a more environmental exhibit.