Roundtable Looks At Street Repair, Big Solar, Shaken-Baby Prosecutions
We have a billion-dollar class talk log in street repairs as mayor is planning to repair the infrastructure. Massive solar rays are cropping up in the Imperial Valley and other desert counties, what are the environmental cost of big solar? And was quietly benefiting? And some San Diego cases that demonstrate the problem of shaken baby prosecutions, and how some people can be locked up for decades. I'm Kevin Faulconer the KPBS roundtable starts now. Welcome to our discussion to the week's top story I'm Kevin Faulconer. Joining me at the KPBS roundtable is reporter Liam Dillon voice of San Diego. Good to see you back. Reporter Lisa also a voice of San Diego. Good to have you here. And Dana Littlefield legal reporter for the San Diego Union Tribune good to see you. #. The top 3% of the site streets and other crumbling infrastructure could run to as much as $5 billion call that there is money yet Mayor Kevin Faulconer plans to repair 1000 mile the streets doesn't come near that amount and faces legal challenges as well. Here is on evening edition KPBS explaining a five-year plan. What are we gonna be doing for the next five years but even longer than that. That's we are doing street assessment sidewalks and facility conditions and I'm spending a lot of time on what I would like to call repairing the city's repair program. Which means how are we looking at providing value for the dollars and efficiencies and making sure that we are spending the dollars that we have to much wiser and get projects across. Well Liam, let's start with the scope of this thing and it's a big range were talking about we are talking about $1 billion $5 billion? It depends on what you count. If your adding water pipe since were pipes at some more money at it depends on what you want to take into account but the city has a lot of things it needs to maintain. Be back is in their they try to get some snapshots in time and then surveys do? They look at what the mayor just said about a spot on condition assessments and they say every few years one of the states of our streets of our sidewalks of our pipes and then once that happens we have to go to talk about a number. Let's talk about specifics. What do they want to do and how are they going to pay for it? So he has mainly far as the essence that are under the city's control the sides in the water for sewers I want to take mainly natural never revenue growth that's coming into the city so as the city gets taxed every year and the revenue beyond of what the city had next year and that he also says that he wants to borrow some money as well but without having a public road which would add another minimum amount to the repair plan. The problem is of course that none of this is not even close and people have known this for years that none of this things that he's talking about are even close to coming to the full standard of problem. As the know we got the spice million dollar plan and that subject of litigation and definitely has 1 billion so as you say we are a long way even if we say that that money will be able to climb onto a news room. Is a no longer a secret. Back in 2010 2011 when we started to start to come to grips there was a legitimate thing to say hey wait a second, we do know how bad our streets are we to know how her about our sidewalks are and storm drains so we have to evaluate them because if you throw budget money at us we don't know what the repair. Well they have done all that, so we're at the point now where there's very few can select to kick, even you're going to get more money or the gonna keep crumbling and you're going to need to keep people accountable. In these ideas every day and month that goes by we are getting more needed repairs and more crumbling. These estimates by the way did include a ballpark as we talked on the show a lot of stories and problems they are. Some of the examinations and the facilities do so these numbers are beginning to come into the system. This plan to borrow 100 This plan to borrow $100 $100 million for five years the independent budget analyst what's her take on this? The problem is anywhere this kind of money you're obligated to say you're paying the money back over 30 years so without having a dedicated new revenue source to do this, you're eating up the money for the next three decades that you can't use another things so she has called a system on sustainable because you don't fix the problem, and be you are locking yourself into not being able to do things to decades from now. Now street repair Lisa is not a sexy thing. We had a terrible fire here in 07 we had it. Public motor gonna raise a bunch of money and get more for firefighting cop that did not pass right after the fires, a couple of houses lost. Can we get some big chunk of money here for street repairs? Will some pollsters have actually said in recent times that it would be possible for something that would focus on the infrastructure. There's a lot of interest here and I don't know about when you guys get together with your friends that even the regular people who normally are totally against taxes they say my street needs to be repaired and my sidewalks are horrible. Lynn, you surveyed we had this falconer infrastructure group and these are folks from a variety of places for civil tell us what who these people are? He says I'm going to find my pals who know about infrastructure and pals tell me what I need to do. So they come up with a plan and with the mayor put his plan a I asked him friends of the mayor do you think the mayor is doing enough to fix roads and infrastructures? And almost to a person that answer was no. Even more than a year ago when he got into office he has not changed course so when even your friends are saying you're doing something wrong to sign you are doing something wrong. So again the whole ideas we need a massive amount of money and when you start looking at some of the other things we can talk about the airport, which has been going on for decades, looking at a new airport and billions it's costing supposedly in his us each year, any number of other things the city has to do, pension obligations, at some point it seems like you're going to have to have some big pot a new money. One he has to get behind the pot of new money or to be at the top us in real terms how is going to do it without that? And he has avoided that. While at the same time promoting a new football stadium that for money that we don't have to. A new convention center which is a tax increase, extremely troubling and things that people are dealing with everyday when the streets get chunked behind and those are things that billionaires play with football stadiums. Debatable how much those stadiums being to town but we drive on those streets every day all the time. Absolutely. Again, he has shown extreme reluctance and running out on my view running out of excuses copy is we know about this problem it's not news, it's not surprising to put together something to solve it he is relying on the city Council but they're not really doing it, Mark says he will have something soon but he's the thing that for a while and we are really running out of time. The county is on a parallel track their considering an ideal that bond issue as well. So this will be brother through the region Association and their potentially considering a quality-of-life measure in 2016 as well which would include a tax increase interesting about that is they have shown that you actually can pass tax increases in San Diego, roughly a decade ago, and that was a two thirds tax increase that past. The reason why that it is because everybody got behind it and there wasn't a lot of fighting and everybody was on the same page and they pushed it forward. That's not what we have seen here. The mayor is still well I don't think we need anything. On a lot of Democrats are challenging than the mayor next year. Of course he has to come up with a solution. You have city Council members containing this sort of blind about why he's not doing anything and the only personal doing anything is related to a tax increase is Cory breaks he is the activist attorney who says listen I'm going to raise hotel rooms by 5%, and I'll take care of everything. It's something. We will see I'm sure going to be doing a lot more stories on this. We are going to move on in progressive California the state mandates that utility provides a third of their energy from renewable sources by 2020 is widely seen as a noble thing. Solar power leads the way with a boom in places like Imperial County, but critics say not all projects are good for the environment and Lisa let's start with this report from the Carnegie institution so give us the high point of this. I would say the big take away is that many of these solar project that you think of just covering acres and acres those are actually on farmland, and more natural landscapes not necessarily on land that is previously been developed or has a ready been built on. So this report actually found that only 50% of these large-scale solar project are on compatible land that's already been developed. Now we will get a lot of these details in a moment but we all drive out East here into the desert maybe go up to the high Sierra headed to Las Vegas and think boy, there's a lot of wide-open sand here and a hole in the sunshine and nothing out there. Those big desert landscapes are filled with different species that have not interacted with humans and are essentially to be protected and environmentalists have stood up again and again and thought projects and so developers of solo projects actually tell me that they've have to learn from that and instead are looking to other types of locations for solar projects. And they are saying of course you transmit this power for a long way, it efficient to lose some of the power there is a degradation of the power, so they are saying it's kind of like the smart growth thing where you have a lot of rooftops you things that already they are already developed and put the panels there like other places like Germany which leads the world in solar installations and they are doing that first instead of the remote areas. That's another point in this report is that essentially a lot of the solar project are far away from existing transmission infrastructure's. That's definitely something we have seen in San Diego gas and electric approach to getting more renewables. Because they invested in the sunrise power Lake to connect San Diego customers with a great amount of wind and solar power out in Imperial County but that if a structure was not there before they had to build that so there were additional costs associated with that and there were a lot of environmental and repair groups that were quick to point that out and attacked the project. Who owns these big solar farms? Are they going on public land, private land, or is it a mix? Out of town usually solar developers are purchasing these projects after they're built, they go through a series of different ownerships throughout the process but a lot of the land especially in Imperial County which I've studied the most, is private owned and is being leased out or that say there someone who had been farming that the fact that they don't want to anymore, they will sell the property to the solar company. Was the impact, is it likely to slow the project? There is a lot going on in this area. I wouldn't want to say that a single report could make that change but I can't think that the industry as a whole has really been changing a lot after this initial push for a lot of renewables. Potential is a moment ago but I wanted to move to related topic which is environmental groups they filed several lawsuits battle big solar on behalf of farmers so what were those suits based on? What was the deal there? The law that they relied on for the suits is called the California environmental quality act and really the purpose of that law is to force governments and developers to say hey here are the potential environmental impacts associated with our project, and then to allow people in the community to say we don't like that, or we think that this is going to be affecting the environment in a way that you're not really taking care off, please work on that. What happened here though is that we had to nonprofits, and protect our communities foundation which filed several lawsuits against solar projects saying that they were violations of the law but also the county's General. plan which they said really kept or should've kept the county from putting solar project on agricultural land. Were they very successful in stopping or modifying some of these projects? While the groups are just adamant that they their lawsuits that result in changes to the project. I spent a lot of time reviewing public documents, watching hearings, reviewing even announcements after the solar projects were held and I really couldn't find any evidence that that these lawsuits were the sole reason for changes in these projects and indicated that I did say CB exchanges it had been before the lawsuit was filed or there was a power purchase agreement which is how power sold and there were dynamics of those that might have shifted the project. If you're only able to sell power coming from say 200 acres, and you have a 500 acre plots, you might only develop that 200 acres for now. It's hard to say for sure that their lawsuits had any environmental results. And yet there are some big money involved. That is the result that we know about. The most apparent result of all these lawsuits is about $17 million in cash settlements which are paid out as projects get developed. Now about 6 million of that is supposed to go to farmers who were in some way going to be affected by these projects but the two environment of groups and their attorneys took about half of that total money,. And that's the way the process works under Trent 12. Trent 12 is supposed to be in about environmental changes and hear this case the thing that we know about is the settlements, there weren't any public announcements after lawsuits saying while we are so proud that we have saved all this land for solar. Of course the groups now are saying that they did reduce these projects at because of those settlements they can't talk about it. All right. That's a Catch-22 perhaps any also wrote about labor got involved, explained that. Labor has a lot of interest in the solar projects because they bring a lot of jobs. Labor is always interested if they can in getting a project labor agreements which basically says you are going to pay certain amount, you're going to hire local workers. So one union in particular, the laborers Union, had filed suit against two project, and it was interesting because I contacted this labor union and asked them about the lawsuits that they filed against these two project, and in the course of that conversation I had asked did you have a project labor agreement with these two project that you sued over and the union leader admitted that they did not. And then he said I would really like to learn more about the reasons behind his lawsuits he promised that he will get back to me, that we would talk about it, never could get in touch with him. So a little dicey on that site to hear. It's just a lack of transparency. In my view it's a real paramount example when they talk about environmental law what they mean about it. They're all supposed to help the environment but what we see in these cases and a lot of different interests and getting things that have nothing to do with the environment whether it's money are they pushing for labor agreements, and what we see in other places is one gas station is suing using Trent 12 their rival station across the street because it almost the competition. So this law is being used to great effect by folks who don't really care about the environment or maybe a better way of putting it is the effects are they can stop the competitors, they can try to get her labor agreement, they can get a lot of money as a result. Unintended consequences. We look forward to a lot more reporting on that because there's a lot more questions on the legislative side as well. We will move on now one of the most difficult tragic cases in our criminal justice system are those involving injuries to babies. Parents and caregivers have long been prosecuted on the theory that babies with certain brain injuries must of been victims of violent shaking or other physical abuse. Dana your story on this says that these have always been difficult things to come back on and prove but a lot of these assumptions are coming on the real close scrutiny. Yes. Essentially early on the idea of shaken baby syndrome was that the term was coined sometime in the 1970s, and from then on that they run the mid-90s, during that whole time span it seems that most of the philosophy essentially with shaken baby was that if you had these three types of head injuries, that it definitely pointed to abuse because these types of injuries could not be caused any other kind away. Accidental way so you're looking at a criminal versus a tragic case. Let's talk about that Cheruiyot so we're talking about what exactly We are talking about subdural hemorrhage so bleeding on the brain, you'd also talking about bleeding on the back of the eyes, so retinal hemorrhage, and brain swelling. Those are the three typical types of brain injuries that you would see in a case of abuse that's what doctors have said. From the medical side into the criminal justice system where typically nobody is there, maybe this happened three clock in the morning there's a baby and the caregiver or a parent and the accusation comes out of these how these injuries are manifested when the medical folks see them or pathologists. Yes. What you got is a situation where in some cases you have a situation where these three types of injuries are seen and in an infant or smile child maybe not even all three, but a combination. In the absence of any other type of outward injury let's say bruises on the body, or rib fractures or skeletal injuries that would be in some people's opinion may be a more clear sign of abuse, doctors have had to make determinations, it had to look at those injuries and say is it likely that these injuries were to happen by accident or is it more likely that it is abuse. Now, over time, in more recent years there have been studies have come out that say maybe this triad can be caused by something else, something other than abuse. So you've got a couple of things that could happen there. You have shortfalls, so that was actually the argument used previously about these type of head injuries is that you would more likely see them in a car crash or a fall from a great height. But there has been some evidence that a shorter fall like something you soon a playground with actually calls similar injuries and there are other factors. Maybe a child climbs up on a couch in the argument was from the defendants that fell off copperhead on a stone raised in the cause of fatal injury in the docs would say no, that cannot happen it has to be like a two-story fall along fall, the shortfalls. Or a high chair onto the stone floor they cannot cause such an injury. Well, you've got a number of factors that play here. You have that type of fall, the child may also have some kind of pre-existing medical condition that would make him or her more susceptible to that type of injury. Let's say there is a blood clotting disorder or some type of infection. These some have referred to as medical mimics. So these are things that you look at them through a CT scan or an MRI, and they may look like abuse but are not actually abuse. I want these cases are charged in the prosecution is pretty successful in getting juries to agree with them and get the criminal convictions on these cases. Yes, they are. And to be sure to prosecuted as they say that this early look at more than just the triad. As these cases are overall nationally as well as locally prosecutors have been very successful in securing convictions. In fact, the Washington Post and Northwestern University did a long year study and published their results. Pulled together a database of 1800 cases that were actually result shaken baby cases that were resolved across the country and 1600 of those cases resulted in convictions. The remaining cases you have either charges dismissed, or acquittal, or what have you. I wanted to bring up a couple of notorious San Diego cases in recent years. Let's talk about Kenneth marsh, he was a caregiver girlfriend at the time was off from work and he was watching the child. Explain what happened there and he spent 19 years in prison as a result. He was convicted, I believe it was, the situation was where he was taking after his girlfriend's two-year-old son, the child was injured, the child subsequently died and marsh was tried and convicted of second degree murder so he was convicted out 15 years to life. And history was that the child had been up on the couch off the floor had fallen, it was a hard stone floor. That is what he contended all along. And he could've gone to jail years earlier but he never did. Because he would not admit to having abused this child, he strongly asserted that he did not abuse this child that this was an accident. And we should give credit to the DA who did not proceed in this case and who said okay we will take another third-party look at this came back, and said this could be reasonable doubt and that's how he ultimately got out. So lawyers representing Mr. marsh actually were able to find doctors who said that this was something that could have happened because of a pre-existing medical condition information with that shortfall. So basically it lent credence to Mr. marsh had been saying all along. They agreed to have another expert pathologist look at the evidence again, that person determined that he or she I don't remember, could not be determined that this was a case of abuse beyond a reasonable doubt. A few seconds left to real quickly as the climate changing are we seeing these changes in how these cases may be prosecuted? Yes in the sense that prosecutors and doctors have all told me that day are not relying solely on the triad, but they are looking at a range of other components of evidence. We will look for more on this very tragic situation. That does wrap up another week of stories at the UBS Roundtable, I would like to thank our guest, gentry, Lisa Halverstadt , also was a San Diego and Chantix six. Dana Littlefield. I am Mark Sauer , thank you for joining us today on the Roundtable. Midday edition on Friday continues. Coming up with an in-depth reports for this weeks on KPBS including a preprogrammed eights the fight against climate change in the play about Judy Garland final weeks. It's 1231 and your listing to KPBS midday edition Friday.
San Diego's rocky roads plan
Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s plan to repair 1,000 miles of city streets in five years seems ambitious, but may instead be too little, too late.
In 2014, San Diego's street and infrastructure repair backlog amounted to somewhere between $1 and $5 billion. (More precise figures will depend on the 2015 street assessment, due at the end of the year.)
The mayor has prioritized the repair of 300 miles of roads this fiscal year. Repairs can mean new slurry seal, asphalt, or a complete reconstruction.
San Diego has some 2,800 miles of streets, rated from good to poor by the city’s Streets Division. In 2001, 9 percent of streets were rated poor. By 2011, that number had jumped to 25 percent. The updated assessment was scheduled for fall, but has been postponed.
The mayor will not support a $1 billion city “megabond” ballot measure for infrastructure repair for 2016, but his strategy to borrow $100 million a year for repairs has been tied up in litigation.
Some members of the mayor’s infrastructure advisory group have said the city needs to spend more money on its streets than his plan calls for.
A new study says large-scale solar arrays in California are displacing natural, undeveloped lands. Only 15 percent of these huge arrays are on land already developed, and most are located far from users.
The study noted that placing solar arrays over existing landfills, parking lots and rooftops would have environmental co-benefits, but “big solar” instead competes for space with natural habitat.
In the Imperial Valley, for instance, developers have pushed forward dozens of massive solar projects. Two environmental groups filed lawsuits alleging their approval violated both Imperial County’s general plan and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) regulations.
The result: the two plaintiffs received millions in cash settlements — and solar arrays still cover thousands of acres in the Imperial Valley.
Solar projects are also a boon to labor, including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Laborers’ International Union of North America. The LIU sued two projects over CEQA violations, but has not explained what benefits the union or the environment accrued as a result.
Membership in the IBEW Imperial County grew from 60 to 800 members from 2012 to 2013 because of solar projects.
Shaken-baby science changes
Shake a baby in anger or frustration and you can cause irreparable brain damage or death.
These cases are among the most wrenching to investigate and try, but often have a high success rate. Defendants can spend decades in prison.
But the medical evidence prosecutors have long relied on in court to prove a defendant’s guilt is today being called questionable at best. The debate is about whether, given available evidence, can a physician reasonably judge that a child was abused? Or was the child accidentally hurt; and if so, by whom?
New research shows that children can be killed by short falls. Or they can be gravely injured, but die later of subdural hematomae, complicating the issue of guilt. Did a child fall out of his high-chair? Did the baby simply fall?
San Diegan Kenneth Marsh, convicted in 1983 of killing his girlfriend's baby, spent 21 years in prison before being exonerated by the California Innocence Project at California Western University. The case of Suzanne Johnson of North Park, convicted in 1999 of killing a 6-month old, has been taken up by CIP, which maintains she would not be convicted today on the evidence presented then.