Hunter's Guilty Plea; Poway Water Woes; Al Gore
Speaker 1: 00:01 No longer a witch hunt. Duncan Hunter now says he's guilty of corruption. What's next for the East County Congressman and those running to replace him an inconvenient truth. Al Gore brings this climate message to San Diego as scientists escalate their warning for our planet and more than an inconvenience how the water problem in Poway could end up costing the city millions. I'm Mark Sauer. The KPBS round table starts now. Speaker 2: 00:33 [inaudible] Speaker 1: 00:37 welcome to our discussion of the week stop stories. I'm Mark Sauer and joining me at the KPBS round table today. Columnists, Michael Smollins at the San Diego union Tribune, KPBS reporter Matt Hoffman, Porter pre history there of KPBS news and Eric Anderson also with KPBS. He covers the environment. Well, it turns out it wasn't a hoax, nor was it fake news or a witch hunt. Republican Duncan Hunter pleaded guilty this week to campaign finance crimes. He faces up to five years in federal prison, will surrender his seat in the U S house of representatives. In the three years since the union Tribune broke the story of gross misuse of campaign funds by Hunter and his wife Margaret. The Congressman has claimed both innocence and victimhood. Now he's saying he made some mistakes. Well, here's what a Phillip helper and the prosecutor in the case set outside the courthouse following Hunter's plea, Speaker 3: 01:29 no figure, regardless of the Heights, they've reached no figure, regardless of what they've contributed and no figure, regardless of what office they occupy, should be allowed in this country to cry witch hunt or fake news and attempt to deflect their criminal wrongdoings. Speaker 1: 02:02 And Michael, as we've talked about on the show, your colleague Morgan cook reported spending irregularities from campaign funds, video games and whatnot at the beginning. But when a diamond came down last year against the hunters, this thing had really mushroom. Beyond that Speaker 4: 02:15 it did, it was like 68 video game uses, I think a total of $1,300 was her first story that that looked at some problems. And like you say things, mushrooms, uh, you know, ultimately they, uh, Duncan Hunter and his wife who is the Margaret who was the campaign manager, uh, were accused basically of stealing $250,000, uh, from the campaign to use personally. And there was, you had mentioned, or we mentioned 60 charges, there was a, um, uh, fraud. There was a conspiracy wire fraud and, uh, falsifying documents. So they really threw the book at them. Speaker 1: 02:47 Yeah. And then this spending pattern went on for a long, long time. And almost Speaker 4: 02:50 since from the study was in office, I think they started looking at saying, uh, no later than 2010 and he went into office in 29, 2009 Speaker 1: 03:00 in a, as we say that when the indictment came down, he was, it was pretty comprehensive and it was very long. And, uh, now we had a plea from a Margaret Hunter, uh, last summer and this was a conspiracy of two. So it wasn't looking good at that point for Dunkin Hunter since, uh, she was working with the government at that. Speaker 4: 03:16 Right. And basically they both pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to convert, uh, these campaign funds, uh, for personal use and to knowingly do so, which is sort of runs counter to what Duncan Hunter is saying that, you know, he didn't, wasn't keeping track of accounting and things like that. Uh, Helprin made clear that, Speaker 1: 03:34 yeah, we're going to get to that in a moment here. And Pria set the scene for it. That the courthouse this week, Hunter say anything after his plea deal. Speaker 5: 03:41 Not much inside the courtroom. He pretty much just said guilty every time the judge read one of the charges. And that's obviously what he was pleading to. He had done an exclusive interview with Kay USI and other local station here in San Diego the day before, basically stating that he was going to plead guilty. And he said the reason he did that was because of his three children. He essentially didn't want to put them through a public trial. He did make a brief statement after he left the courtroom, basically saying that I did make mistakes and that's what today was about. And he was going to be making more statements in the future about the future. Speaker 1: 04:15 All right, well you've set that, uh, that up nicely here because we, we've got, uh, a bite talking about the mistakes now in an interview with KPBS is a Jade Heinemann, uh, or previously months ago on this, let's hear that. Speaker 4: 04:28 I failed to monitor and account for my campaigns better. I made mistakes and uh, that's what today was all about. So, uh, that, that being said, I'll have more statements in the future about the future. Thank you. Did you miss use campaign funds? Were there mistakes made? No, no mistakes made. There were, I did not misuse any campaign funds, but thank you for asking. Speaker 1: 04:50 Well, uh, it seems like, uh, a little, uh, two sides to that one as we go along. The sentences here, what do we know when the, when's the sentencing gonna be? As I said at the outset, I think five years is the upside of that. Nobody thinks he's going to spend five. Speaker 5: 05:02 That's right. So he, uh, the sentencing is set for March 17th and he faces up to five years in jail, a $250,000 fine and three years of a probationary period essentially upon release. And those are the same things that, um, his wife, Margaret Hunter faces, her sentencing is in April. He did say in the interview with KSI that he was hoping that by pleading guilty it could perhaps reduce, if not get rid of any jail time that Margaret would serve because he said that he's hoping that she could be in the home with his three kids. We did get a chance to ask the federal prosecutors about that on Tuesday and they said, well, they do keep family considerations into account with sentencing. That his guilty plea would have nothing to do with her sentencing. So we'll have to wait and see. Speaker 4: 05:45 Well, I think also her sentencing might have to do with the fact that she cooperated across the way back when, you know, she, they were in this together and then, uh, you know, she pleaded guilty and it was turning state's evidence on him. And uh, she obviously had a lot because she ran the campaign. Speaker 1: 06:00 Well, let's turn now to, and there's a, there's an ethical question journalistically about that queue at KSI. And just for the record, I want to say that the, the, the questions were given by Hunter to the KSI folks and pretty much had that a scripted interview here. So he's really controlled of what's been, what's been said. But we're going to move on now to the 50th district now. It's assumed Hunter stepped down and I don't want to get all into the weeds on this special election, but it's a confusing situation right now. Speaker 5: 06:24 Yeah, it is. And we asked if that was part of the negotiations with the plea deal and, uh, the prosecutor is essentially said that it wasn't officially part of the negotiations. It was never written into the plea deal, which I read, but it was sort of understood by the defense team that he would eventually step down. So now governor Gavin Newsome has basically a lot of the power in this scenario. He can choose to either hold a special election, which there would be a primary and, uh, if one of the candidates got 50% of the vote, they would basically, uh, serve out the rest of his term until next January. Correct. Or, um, you know, he could, uh, governor Newsome could choose that, choose to leave that seat vacant. Um, and then we would just go ahead with the general election as scheduled. That primary was scheduled for March 3rd, and then the regular election would be in November. So we don't really know what's going to happen yet. Speaker 1: 07:11 All right. And let's take a look at the, uh, the candidates out there so far, Michael, uh, for the 50th, some of them don't even live in the 50th district, right? Speaker 4: 07:18 Well, there's really four now. He candidates, uh, Carl de Mio, the former San Diego city council member, Darrel Leisa, the former congressmen, uh, the lone Democrat, uh, Mark [inaudible], who we very much remember almost defeated Duncan, Hunter lamb, Fuze, and then state Senator Brian Jones from Santee. Okay. And you mentioned that people not living there. DiMaio and uh, I said, do not live in the district, but unbalanced. And to be fair, I so represented part of that what is now the 50th district before the lines were changed and his old 49th, if it was still called that then, uh, and Carl de mile, you know, I mean he's sort of a regional political figure. Uh, he's run for mayor after his stint at city hall. He was a radio talk show host, which of course I'm sure beamed into the 50th district. He's been spending a lot of time there. So he's a known entity is, Speaker 5: 08:04 I'm kind of curious to see if Dunkin Hunter actually endorses any of the candidates and if they would even want his endorsement. But obviously, you know, that is their, their family has been a political dynasty for uh, almost 50 years. Speaker 1: 08:16 That's like Michael Corleone endorsing Fredo there. And a in Havana is at not and godfather too. Uh, so, uh, let's talk about company jr. He's the lone Democrat. So we'll go, let's say we play it out. Normally we hear, we have our March primary early in California this year. We go on to the general election. It's almost certain that that the Democrat will with some 30 some percentage of the vote be one of the candidates there. And then one of these others you've mentioned, Mike, Speaker 4: 08:40 nobody seems to doubt that. I mean, when Daryl is a, um, you know, announced, he said it's going to be competent jr if the same scenario you mentioned that, that just the, that bulk of of Democrats. I, it's very interesting because, uh, you know, the, it's the Republicans who still have the upper hand. It's a very Republican district. Probably the worst scenario for them would have been if somehow Hunter stayed in the race, won the primary. A lot of people, a lot of people smarter than I seem to think that was obviously the best scenario for a competent jar. Some people seem to think any of the other Republicans are well enough known, we'll have a good enough organization that they should win that November because again, it's one of the reddest districts in California. But having said that, um, you know, this election could be crazy and uh, I wouldn't count. Competencies are out there. It could be very crazy, man. I don't want to backpedal a little bit, but when you talk about Duncan Hunter changing his pleaded guilty, I mean that, that was pretty big. I mean, that's a major development. Um, I mean his wife had already pleaded guilty to, so we get a wonder why is he doing it now? I mean, is it Speaker 1: 09:40 no way back when, when maybe he would've got a little favorable treatment on the center? Speaker 5: 09:44 Right. There's, there's a lot of speculation about that. And we talked to Michael WGU, the registrar voters, and he said that he hadn't even turned in his, uh, reelection papers into the registrar of voters, which were do, no, he hadn't, um, today on, on Friday. So, um, that should indicate that he was thinking about pleading guilty because you know, he would known that being, you know, convicted of that serious of a crime. You can't run for office. So it seems like it must've been going on behind the scenes, but I don't know about the time Speaker 4: 10:11 because he still had an appeal pending and he could have taken it all the way to the Supreme court. Probably could have dragged on this trial. You've got to wonder if that was some leverage federal government with all the resources in the world and fairly, I mean they were struggling for money. They were struggling for money cause that's why I was still in campus throwing up huge bills there. Seemed now certain obvious guilt. I mean there's always this debate, was she more culpable than him? Well, you know, I mean I think that's almost a moot point now. Um, and let's face it, negotiations take a long time of these things that both sides were trying to get the best deal and let's not forget that he was changing attorneys at the same time as well. So, uh, but the timing is interesting that it comes right before all these, these deadlines. Speaker 1: 10:47 Well, plenty more grist for our mill. We're going to move on here, but uh, we got plenty of talk about it. As we move into the election season here we are going to move on. We're closing out a bleak decade in the struggle to slow the Earth's warming reports. Coinciding with the United nations meeting and climate change in Madrid this week, show global greenhouse gas emissions will set another record 2019 rising by 0.6%. The latest UN study concluded that emissions need to drop sharply by 7.6% annually starting next year if we're going to meet the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius set in the Paris climate accord. And, uh, Eric, um, though president Trump says the U S is dropping out of the Paris accord speaker of the house, Nancy Pelosi and 14 other Democrats went to Madrid. Uh, their message is quite different. Speaker 6: 11:35 Um, yeah. Uh, Nancy Pelosi, uh, told the members gathered in Madrid that, that she's interested in letting them know that the United States is still technically in the Paris climate accord. Of course, um, the decision to withdrawal has been the request to withdrawal has been made by the Trump administration, but it doesn't take effect until the day after the election in 2020 and 2020. So, uh, the United States is still in, in fact, the United States did send an official government delegation. You might've heard of these names. Uh, Kim Carnahan and Marcia Burna Kat are leading that delegation. Uh, they're both, uh, both officials in the state department. Uh, Marsha is a principal deputy assistant secretary. Oh. So not completely off the table, but certainly not, uh, going there, uh, the president, the head of state, not going there and not sending top diplomats to go there. So obviously president Trump doesn't think much of this, this climate gathering, but, uh, when you listen to the UN chief, when he opened the conference, uh, a few days ago, uh, what he had to say was pretty, pretty, you know, darn urgent. He said, look, the time has come to act drastically because if we don't, uh, then we're going to quickly pass the point of no return. Speaker 1: 12:50 Yeah. And the, the, this year we saw the surgeon protests, uh, Gretta thunbergii, the, the Swedish teenage arrived there today, by the way. Right. And she has made international news, uh, in this front. We've had walkouts here, right at this university throughout San Diego cities across the world. I mean it's been just remarkable. 153 countries, 2300 cities had walkouts. Just going up to this Madrid conference. We're talking about this like never before. Speaker 6: 13:13 Yes. Uh, the, it is definitely a part of the conversation and you start to, to, to feel that unfortunately, uh, you know, there was a candidate in the presidential race who, uh, the governor of Washington who had made J environment, uh, the centerpiece of his campaign and he just didn't get the kind of traction and support that he wanted. But it is part of the conversation and I think you're starting to see that as well. Speaker 1: 13:33 And Michael, I want to get to the whole politics of this in a second. But Eric, you covered former vice president, longtime climate activist outdoor speech in San Diego recently. What's his take on that? And we're going to set up a bite here where he, Speaker 6: 13:43 she's got some optimism. He is a wonderful presenter of the slide show. We'll put it that way. He, he, uh, talked to a select audience at the Salk Institute, uh, earlier this week on w, uh, Tuesday night. Um, and he told him basically, look, the, all the evidence is there. Uh, there are a serious challenges facing us. Um, and uh, you know, the extreme weather events that are happening, the firestorms that are happening around the state of California. That's evidence that climate change is already beginning to kind of grab hold of our, our environment. Um, and he said though that, um, there was some things he wanted the audience to, to think about and I think we have a little clip here. We can, they can play a van. But there were some things that he wanted the audience, uh, to think about as they listened to what he had to say. All right, let's hear that clip then. Speaker 7: 14:33 But in any case, when I support my conclusion and the scientific community's conclusion that we really have to change, don't get too depressed because the answers to the second and third questions are actually pretty optimistic. The second question, can we change, you know, if you have to change and you don't have the ability to change, that's a formula for some serious depression. Uh, but, but, uh, the answers to that question I think you will agree are very optimistic Speaker 6: 15:08 and just real quickly, the third question that he asked was, will we change? And he said that really depended on the members of the audience and, and that was a poor, uh, important point that you kind of wrapped up with as well. Speaker 1: 15:19 And it depends on political leaders. And Michael, I wanted to ask you about that. We've seen the, the Democrats and finally the journalists who are conducting these debates we've seen so far are asking questions about it that all the Democrats seem to have a big part of their platform, climate change action plans. Pelosi is going to introduce this climate action legislation here. Is that, is it making a push because they seem to have the Republicans flatfooted on this issue? Well, it is Speaker 4: 15:45 in terms of what Eric was talking about, people are just more aware and more concerned. I mean, it didn't seem that long ago that these studies would come out that were saying there's a horrible future and people just kind of went on. Now it's gotten people's attention for all the reasons you guys had had mentioned, uh, how far that goes with the, the, the partisan split, uh, you know, certainly this year in the Senate, who knows also within the democratic party, there's disagreement over some of the pending legislation and the green new deal of course, but, uh, you know, it, the public is actually getting out ahead of the politics, I think. I think polls are showing, you know, eight out of 10 Americans think it's not only a problem, but that they agree humans have been contributing it to a big deal. More and more people are considering it an actual crisis. So does that start moving the needle politically? Um, but I think that, you know, regardless, we're going to have to get through this election and see where we stand in terms of getting stuff really done. Speaker 6: 16:36 Al Gore mentioned to a, as a sign of, uh, hope and optimism. He said, there are 57 college Republican clubs around the country, uh, that have implored the Republican national committee to change their stance on climate change, to take it seriously, to make it an issue. Uh, and he says that's a sign that uh, uh, that there, there's a reason to be helpful. And he said, you know, it takes political will. And he said, fortunately, political will is a renewable resource and we can, we can. Speaker 4: 17:06 Well, it's interesting is that a recent poll did say Republicans, young Republicans in between, I think 18 and 35 have gone into the majority wanting more action on climate change. So that follows along that [inaudible] Speaker 1: 17:17 well, another reason 2020, that'd be such a critical time to see how many young people come out and motivate this and move the established a Hardee's on this. It seems to me this is such a trunk issue. You can take any agency, the federal government, transportation, agriculture, energy defense, right on down the line. They all branch off climate change. It affects everything. Education. Eric, let's hear from Donald Trump here. We're going to bite on him. A recent climate take in a, he's changing its tune a little bit. Let's here I believe very slowly, very, very crystal clear, clean water and clean air. That's a big Speaker 8: 17:50 part of climate change. I also see what's happening with our oceans where certain countries are dumping unlimited loads of things in and they float, they tend to float toward the United States. I see that happening and nobody's ever seen anything like it and it's gotten worse. But no, it's very important to me also. But I want clean air and clean water would be number one and number two, Speaker 6: 18:13 a kind of off point, right? Uh, clean air and clean water, number one. And number two, the head of the EPA is a former coal industry. Lobbyists. The Trump administration has done more to roll back environmental protections than any administration that has come before. Um, they make a C he has made a commitment to fossil fuels, uh, that has been unprecedented. Um, he's called for, uh, subsidizing the coal industry, uh, to make sure that that industry thrives. And, and that's widely considered to be one of the biggest contributors to the, to the greenhouse gases that are warming our climate. So, uh, what he says and what he's doing there are not the same thing. Speaker 1: 18:52 All right, we've got to move on, but I'll tell you, we're going to talk about this quite a bit as we move into the election year and see what happens on this front. Well, recent rains have been welcome all across fire wary and drought plagued California, but an exception might be the city of Poway as storm water caused a big headache there. And Matt start with what's going on? This kind of sneaked up on everybody, this story. Speaker 9: 19:12 Yeah, it really did. Last Friday, some residents, they reported some brownish colored water coming out of their, uh, coming out of the tap. And so the city of pal, we started investigating the issue to boil water notice, uh, on Saturday, um, kind of had a precaution. They ran some tests, they found out the water was good, that boil water, knows to have closed a bunch of restaurants in the city. Um, and the city eventually did come out earlier this week and said, listen to a storm drain, was able to get into the facility, or excuse me, uh, you know, run off from a storm drain, was able to get in. Um, but how did that happen? And, uh, we were able to do some digging. We talked to a state official who said, um, after they checked it out, um, they found out that the city was out of compliance with state regulations. Uh, basically Poway had, um, their sewer connections connected to, uh, their treated water reservoir, which, um, uh, it's, it's against state regulations, uh, to protect from events like this happening. Speaker 1: 19:59 Well, how are the people, and we're going to get back to some of the details on that in a minute, but what's happening city? How are the people in the businesses? They're coping, Speaker 9: 20:06 right? Well, I mean, they're, they're, they're really doing the best they can. The city is trying to do its part. They said they've handed out over a million bottles of water to residents basically every day. Um, since Saturday they've had all these volunteers out, uh, in two locations, giving people one case of bottled water per car. Um, but a lot of residents aren't happy about it. You know, they just want to know what the issue was. Um, and then you talk about business owners, men, business owners are not happy. I mean, it's now what, seven days since the water has been off there and the County had to shut down 190 restaurants and markets only about 21 of those had been able to reopen under a modified permit, meaning they have to have, you know, food preparation offsite and they have to have clean drinking water to wash hands. Speaker 6: 20:42 Eric didn't have the mayor kind of vouch for the water supply there. Yeah, there's been a kind of little Speaker 9: 20:48 bureaucracy battle, I guess you could say. Um, the city of Poway, uh, was not happy, um, that the state official told us about this before they told them about them being out of compliance because they said, Hey, we never knew we were out of compliance. Uh, yeah. Poway mayor Steve Voss. Uh, he said that he's still drinking the water there. Um, and, and all their tests are showing that it's safe, uh, in terms of no bacteria, but the state is still concerned. There's been some low chlorine levels so they just want to double check. Cause if uh, they, they, they'd been flushing the system so much that there should be higher chlorine levels. So, but winning on testing that sets up a nice clip we have here and I shake away from a mirror. Steve boss Paul. Wait, let's hear that. Speaker 10: 21:24 I was stunned. I was stunned by it because just a couple months ago in September we had a, a, uh, annual report of sorts, no mention of this, uh, storm brain Clearwell a noncompliance issue. That's been an operation over 50 years. Never in those 50 years. Has there been any mention of that? So yeah, I'm stunned and frustrated because we've got a town that wants to get back to normal and folks Speaker 9: 21:49 back to work or, and he makes the point there. I mean, we've had a lot of rain in recent winters. Granted, we've obviously had our years of drought, but a lot of drought busting rains. We've had this thing, as he says, had been around there half a century. Why now? And he also pointed out this, that the state did some sanitation checks and they never reported anything. The state right now is going back looking over those checks to make sure to see if they did point out where they didn't point it out. Um, but to go back to your original question, um, it's um, wait, what was your original question again? I already forgot it. [inaudible] well, the whole thing is why not? Why is it that I shouldn't go up on this? So basically there was like this flap and during the storm drains, it got stuck down. And then that's what overflowed into the treated, uh, uh, already treated water. Speaker 9: 22:30 So they've already discovered the actual, they, they discovered the problem. The city of Palo has made the temporary fix and now the temporary fix, they bolted down that hatch. They sealed it, the state's inspected, they said it's good to go. The recent rains haven't, hasn't had any effect on that. Uh, but the longterm fix, multimillion dollar project capital improvement project is being described as the city of Palo has acknowledged that they are going to have to do that. It's not something that you need to do right now, but it will require a city council approval. And ultimately taxpayers will be the ones who put in the bills when they will get back to normal as a marriage hoping for the, the restaurants, the stores. Uh, there's some coming online, but is there any sort of timeline, right. Yeah. I just, I talked to the state official, he said 7:00 PM tonight, you said, sorry, 7:00 PM Friday, I should say is the day they're still waiting for some testing results. Speaker 9: 23:12 They get them back. He said they're going to get the latest ones, 7:00 PM on Friday, which is today. And if those are good to go, then they could lift the boil water advisory by today. If not, there's some problems then I could go into the weekend. Lots of people though really want this lifted. I mean, as soon as possible. Restaurants are just waiting to open now the terrible water situation in Flint, Michigan, of course, that's a national international news for several years now. Whole different cause. And we won't get into into that, but, but the issue of trust becomes, uh, becomes one of the people of Flint. They've, they've, uh, you know, the governor comes and drinks the water there and it was senators come and she'll the water and say it's Speaker 1: 23:45 okay. And a lot of people just don't trust it. They're not buying it. Right. But what do you think about the folks in power? You think this is an issue of trust now? Speaker 9: 23:53 Like distrust and it's sort of like who do we believe that we believe the city or do we believe the state? Because the state's kind of saying one thing, the city saying another thing. Cities saying, Hey, we're just kind of waiting on the state to give us the all clear. Um, the state has guidelines that they need to follow. Uh, but no, a lot of people won't. W we, we actually broke that story about how they, they're out of compliance. And a lot of people were like, I knew something was wrong. How could you know storm water get into already treated water? Obviously we know now is because, um, the overflow system should be nowhere near, uh, this treated water. So I think that there is a little bit of distrust. It'll be interesting to see. A lot of residents were upset at the most recent city council meeting that was before the story came out about them being out of compliance. So we'll see if there's some, uh, people who want some answers. Speaker 1: 24:29 Any idea if other cities in the County or elsewhere in California have similar kind of problems or are vulnerable to this? Speaker 9: 24:37 Well, so the city of palliate only supplies water for Poway residents, so it's contained to inside the city. Uh, but I talked to a state water official who's in charge of San Diego and Imperial counties. Um, he said that he can't really, he'd have to think hard for a long time to see for your members something that was this widespread going on for this long. Uh, but all indications are right now is that the water tests are coming back good. Um, which is good, really good for people to hear. Although state water officials say don't drink that water until we give the all clear. Although you know, the mayor saying he's drunk. Speaker 1: 25:03 Okay, a couple seconds left. The millions it would take to fix this. Ultimately, I mean some sort of bond issue, raise taxes. I mean they're going to have to come up with money. It's not budgeted. Speaker 9: 25:11 Right? Yeah. Who knows if they're going to have to raise water rates. I don't know if they have a capital improvement fund or an emergency fund, but yeah, ultimately taxpayers are the ones putting the foot in the bill here. Speaker 1: 25:18 All right. Something to watch going forward again. Well that does wrap up another week of stories at the KPBS round table and I'd like to thank my guest, Michael Smollins at the San Diego union Tribune. Matt Hoffman of KPBS news pre history there and Eric Anderson, both of KPBS news, a lot of our folks here today that makes it handy and good. Well, a reminder, all the stories we discussed today are available on our website, KPBS dot O R G. and I'm Mark Sauer. Thanks for joining us today and join us again next Friday on the round table.