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White Nationalist Activity At Local Colleges

A discussion about white supremacist activity at San Diego colleges, an illegal ballot measure that's forcing San Diego to compensate thousands of city workers, utility companies transforming wastewater into natural gas and opening day for the Padres. Guests: Andrew Dyer, reporter, The San Diego Union-Tribune; David Garrick, reporter, The San Diego Union-Tribune; Priya Sridhar, reporter, KPBS News; Jay Paris, San Diego sportswriter.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:01 White supremacists, target San Diego colleges, a leak finds an extremist group is attempting to recruit students. The schools it's targeting. San Diego is ordered to compensate thousands of city workers who didn't receive pension plans because of a major placed illegally on the 2012 ballot when they can expect to be paid. Southern California utility companies are turning wastewater into natural gas, why they believe it's a greener option and the Padres kickoff the 2019 baseball season with a win against the San Francisco giants. I look at the season, the team and the addition of Manny Machado and I mark Sauer. The KPBS round table starts now.

Speaker 2: 00:48 Okay.

Speaker 1: 00:49 Welcome to our discussion of the week stop stories. I'm mark Sauer and joining me at the KPBS roundtable today. Reporters, Andrew Dyer and David Garrett from the San Diego Union Tribune sports writer and author Jay Paris and report a Prius there of KPBS news. While a white supremacist group known for its part in the deadly unite, the right rally in Charlottesville is apparently trying to indoctrinate students on San Diego college campuses. That's according to a recent leak and more than 200,000 online chat logs. Related story is an arson attack on a mosque in Escondido. The fire in the wee hours was quickly extinguished. The suspect had rx arsonists left graffiti referencing the recent shootings at two mosques in Christchurch in New Zealand that left dozens dead. It's being investigated as a hate crime. And Andrew, let's start with the white supremacists story. Who's this group and what specifically are they doing on these local campuses? Identity Europa, they call themselves an identitarian a group, but it's really just another name for the same, uh, white supremacy, uh, thinking that we've seen elsewhere.

Speaker 1: 01:54 Um, they began in the spring of 2016 and that fall they, the first flyers appeared at San Diego State and um, has been a recurring theme with the group since then. And the flyers and banners. What did they say specifically? They're kind of vague, a lot of classical sculpture. Um, some of them say slogans like it's okay to be white. Um, it's all kind of a veneered, uh, kind of vague version of their philosophy. And that was a really interesting part of your, or your story, your story has the whistle blowers, they explores more than 200,000 online chat logs that kind of tell a far different story than what you're saying. These benign banners would tell. Right. So the group would communicate on a website called discord, which is mainly targeted to the gaming community, but they would use discord to communicate and they kind of felt free to talk openly.

Speaker 1: 02:45 Uh, now their leader would tell them, you know, you can't use racial slurs. And he'd try to tamp down some of the overt racism, but, uh, it, it didn't work. There's a lot of, a lot of nasty stuff in there. All right. And the Anti Defamation League, they chartered white supremacists actions on us campuses in 2018. What did they find regarding this? But they found out about over 300 incidents of flyering at campus that is across, such as we're describing here. Yeah. Um, of, of, uh, over 300, about two thirds of them were attributed to identity Europa. Ah, okay. So this, this group has been very involved across the country. Not just in San Diego. And now, what are the local CEO of the group? You, you interviewed him back and forth quite a bit, uh, for this story. Who is he and what does he have to say about this?

Speaker 1: 03:32 Patrick Casey took over the group after the fallout from the violence in Charlottesville. Um, he is a 2016 graduate of San Diego State. Um, he began leading identity Europa at the end of 2017. He, um, says that they're not a hate group and that it's just about protecting white identity. Um, but whenever I asked him more probing questions, he kind of shut down and he would not answer it to any thing specific that I brought him from the chat logs. Now, was there any sense of how effective this is, Ben here? In other words, how many of attendees at events, uh, what, what sort of things like to follow up on regarding these banners? Well, in early 2018 he said that he had 50 to 60 members at San Diego state. Um, but in the, in the discord logs, I searched a really thoroughly for any mentions of San Diego in the universities here, and I could only find about a dozen people, um, even claiming to live in the San Diego area and nine claiming to be students at San Diego state.

Speaker 1: 04:32 Okay. So it's not nearly as widespread as, as they would like you to believe that Jay, what's the rise attributed to and uh, is it significant years past or, I think that it, it just, it used to be white supremacists had to publish pamphlets and meet in different places, but with, with the really taboo. Right, right. But with the Internet, there's so many insular cultures online that it's much easier for them to gather and for their ideas to spread. Okay. Local events. So were there any evidence that they were discussing local events, protests, something like Charlottesville? Nothing. Nothing on the scale of Charlottesville, but there was a, uh, they did share a photo on their Twitter account, which has since been removed by the company, but they, um, got, got access to a lecture hall at San Diego State. Um, they had a speaking event with about 30 to 40 people you can kind of see in the photo.

Speaker 1: 05:24 Um, but that was a kind of a gorilla maneuver of there's the university had no records of anybody, uh, accessing that lecture hall. Did you get much response to your story and the Union Tribune? You know, I did hear from somebody who claimed to be a high school, a friend of Mr Casey's who said that he, you know, was not racist in high school and that he was always into conspiracy theories, um, and just really kind of shocked at what they're seeing from him. Now I think, I think the conspiracy theories is important. That's kind of a gateway for a lot of extremists thinking. All right. And of course, a relatedly, we've seen some new stories recently about the military folks engaging in white nationalism and white supremacists, uh, uh, communication. And it's kind of related to this campus story, right? So there's been a couple military guys identified, um, participating at Charlottesville, um, very well publicized.

Speaker 1: 06:21 Um, out of the, this particular batch of leaks, the Huffington post found seven military members. A couple of them were ROTC students at different colleges. Um, but they, uh, they found like a army doctor I'm in involved in, in these chat logs that, that were linked and the military is investigating. Oh, okay. A short time left on this topic. I did want to ask about the response from the universities here. I know you, you talked about UC SD head, a specific response to it, right. So universities tow the line. They want to be places where people can exercise free speech. But um, things like putting up posters or flyers, you have to have approval from the university to use their, their bulletin boards and those things. So when an authorized, uh, materials are found there, they're removed by staff. A lot of times students who are aware of these groups and what they do, we'll recognize them and just take them down.

Speaker 1: 07:16 It never gets reported kind of self policing there. Right. Before we leave this topic. Any update on the mosque I mentioned at the opening, that was the, uh, the arson attack in Escondido at that mosque. It's being investigated, but there's been no, no more news coming out of that. I'm sure the Uto be following that as we move along. Okay. We're going to move on now. Many years in the making San Diego's pension mess continues to fester. This week a state appeals court ordered the city to compensate about 4,000 employees hired after proposition be eliminated. Pensions in favor of 401ks style retirement plans, and they a day start there with a prop B. Give us the, the, when, the what the why the plan. What's the nuts and bolts there?

Speaker 3: 07:56 After the great recession of 2007 and 2008 cities were frustrated, they were cutting firefighters, they were cutting closing parks and it was frustration about how workers had pensions and it became sort of a big target throughout California. Even throughout the nation, pensions became a big target. And San Diego, Mayor Jerry Sanders, Carl Demaio, councilman and Kevin Faulconer also, who's now the mayor, uh, decided that the city should cut pensions. All new employees wouldn't get a pension. They get a 401k plan instead. Uh, the problem was that they wanted to do a citizen's initiative, but the mayor Sanders got behind it and really, really championed it. And so it turns out they put a citizen's initiative on the ballot. But because Sanders was involved, he was required to meet with the labor unions for the city before he could put it on the ballot. And that's why we've had this mess is an understatement.

Speaker 3: 08:42 Seven years of court cases, rulings at several different levels back and forth to supreme courts have gotten involved. But the end result is the city was wrong. The city did it illegally, and now all those people, about 4,000 people who are hired since 2012 and don't have pensions, the city has to now retroactively create pensions for them or come up with some other way that they settled with the unions. Okay. And we should note this excludes a police officer's, correct. Police officers were excluded. The thought was a police officer and had a pension in the city, wouldn't be able to hire any police officers. Right. Okay. And the state appeals court this week, what does specifically that they do? They didn't actually invalidate property or they did, but this is a big, this is a big week. This was the final decision. And even though everyone sort of expected it, it was still a big deal.

Speaker 3: 09:24 They said the city has to give these 4,000 workers the equivalent of what would be a pension plus 70% annual interest and you know, was 7% interest things double in 10 years. So it could be quite a bit of money. The city can, can be on the hook for, but you're right, they didn't invalidate it, which the unions that filed the suit, they wanted it invalidated because then it be like time for the city and the unions to talk and come up with a settlement because property is still on the books. That means that anybody who's hired still has to not get a pension because it's part of the city charter. So until a court invalidates it or until another citizen's measure gets approved by the voters, it's going to stay on the books. And the reason that matters is because when the union and the city or in the settlement talks, they can't come up with a scenario where new employees get pensions again until prop B is eliminated from the city charter.

Speaker 3: 10:13 So it eliminates one sort of tool and their tool chest to try to solve this problem. I see. No. Um, the, uh, both sides. What are your, what are each side's saying? You mentioned the unions wished they'd invalidated this week, but they did, right? Yeah. So the unions, the unions have had basically one this, but one small negative is that then now they have to go through the process of getting a court to invalidate this or to do another citizen's initiative potentially to, to find a way to amend prop B or remove it. So the unions and the get everything they wanted and the city, while the city has lost the city, got a little bit of what it wanted because the city didn't want it to be invalidated. And it's unclear what the city's motivation in that regard is. The conventional wisdom is as sooner it gets invalidated, the sooner this can get resolved and this and and the, the clock is running out how much the city oh goes right.

Speaker 3: 11:00 So some, some have speculated that the mayor doesn't want to have the thing and validated on his watch. Mayor Faulkner Lee's office in December, 2020 and he like to leave off the saying pension reform was in place when I left. I'm not saying that's true, it's unclear why the city is doing what it's doing. A lot of head scratching here and one of it's about costs. How much is it all good? This is going to, cause no one, no one really knows. And actuary did a study about three years ago, so that was 2012 it was halfway through it and it's the estimated the city's liability was 20 million. But without a comprehensive actuarial study, it's really hard to know. Some have said it could be as high as 100 million, but the unions have said that they actually believe it's going to be much lower through through a flute. But the stock market has been so strong since 2012 that a 401ks at the workers got instead of a pension, is actually much more valuable than anyone could have gas back in 2012 and arguably might be as valuable or more valuable than a pension, which will mean the city's cost could actually

Speaker 1: 11:54 be minimal. And with the 401k stay or where it go revert to a pension plan or, or a dual plan

Speaker 3: 12:00 ruling says that the city has the power to take whatever those 401ks are worth and use it to try to as part of its compensation. Right. But everyone seems to think what's going to happen is that the city and the unions are going to get down and come up with a settlement that makes sense. That's not as complicated as this one is. So all those things are on the table and we'll have to see how it turns out.

Speaker 1: 12:20 All right, and how long might it take to get all this resolved? Well, see the city or the unions have to go back to a court and get a court to invalidate it. Now they can do that sort of quickly. If Superior Court does it swiftly and hopefully the other side wouldn't appeal and it would go all the way back I was, they'd have a deal. Right, but in a worst case scenario, it could take another four or five years. It everyone keeps appealing. If one side wins the first round and the other side it appeals and then they keep appealing all the way like this went, wow, this is seven years. All right. Short time left in this segment for good measure. There was also an attempt to draw the u s supreme court in. I know that you mentioned the California Supreme Court is, has gotten into the city's last stitch hail Mary with Angela.

Speaker 1: 12:59 Say, Hey, maybe Jerry Sanders, the mayor's free speech rights were violated, saying that he can't do as citizens initiative as the mayor. They asked theU s supreme court to consider it, but about two weeks ago, the u s mean court without comment just said, we're not interested. Okay. So it's back to the local level. Got To be solved here, got to sit down and have some sort of deal and presumably they're going to start negotiating that as we go along. That's what I want. Thanks. All right. We'll be watching for more stories on this. I don't know if we've heard the last of this one. All right. We are going to move on. Uh, SDG and e is touting a new process to harvest and use methane gas produced by wastewater. Methane is 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas utility claims. It's beneficial to burn methane gas rather than simply let it escape into the atmosphere. And environmentalist tend to disagree and Priya, you're, you're a story lays it out very nicely at the beginning. So we're going to play a part of that and, and get a bite from the folks who were explained this for us.

Speaker 4: 13:56 Have you ever wondered where all the wastewater in San Diego at most of it comes to the point Loma wastewater treatment facility? Some of it is being turned into natural gas. When organic materials like waste decompose, they produce methane. That methane is then purified and can be used like traditional gas to heat homes, fuel vehicles, and for cooking.

Speaker 5: 14:20 This is using a product that would ordinarily be wasted.

Speaker 4: 14:23 Frank [inaudible] is with biofuels. The company that turns the wastewater into gas

Speaker 5: 14:30 contributed every day. So it's renewable in that regard. So this gas is being produced, treated and used where it would otherwise really be going into the atmosphere and being

Speaker 4: 14:41 wasteful.

Speaker 1: 14:43 All right, and your handle that rather delicately considering what we're talking about here. Now let's start with this process. How does it, how do they actually get this methane

Speaker 4: 14:50 gas? So SDG and e is in doing it yet they've actually proposed it to the California Public Utilities Commission and they're hoping for approval. But what they want to do is essentially what we heard frank talk about with biofuels, which is harness the methane that comes from waste sources like cow manure on dairy farms are from landfills or wastewater treatment facilities and turn that methane, purify it and turn it into regular gas.

Speaker 1: 15:17 Okay. And it's been done elsewhere and it's worked elsewhere.

Speaker 4: 15:20 Yeah. So currently Vermont is one of the only areas in the country that's actually doing it. Southern California would actually be the second place to to do this potentially.

Speaker 1: 15:28 All right. And once it's a, it's purified, it just goes into the pipeline and mixes.

Speaker 4: 15:33 Exactly. So they would be using the same infrastructure that SDG and e already has with the pipeline and it's just like traditional fracked gas. The only difference is the source of where it's coming from

Speaker 1: 15:44 all and SDG and either they're pretty excited about this. How do they characterize so what this is?

Speaker 4: 15:49 Yeah, so they think it's a more environmentally friendly option than just letting that methane go into the atmosphere and be wasted. They are saying that essentially if they harness it, they can use it for their consumers. And as you mentioned in the Intro, uh, methane is 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide. So it's a big contributor to global warming. Yep.

Speaker 1: 16:11 Big Greenhouse gas. Exactly. No, but if we're, we're burning this gas and turning it and mixed together, then it's essentially we're burning another fossil fuel. Right. And the,

Speaker 4: 16:21 yeah, and that's what environmentalist would argue. I spoke with Rachel Golden from the Sierra Club and she essentially said that this is just as dangerous as traditional fracked gas, that the same dangers, um, are potentially there as far as, um, leakage coming from pipes. So her argument is that that should be harnessed and disposed of and not used just like regular gas.

Speaker 1: 16:44 No. If you can capture this methane and then obviously instead of burning it, you could capture and do something else with it. A lot of it is Joe just burned right now. Right.

Speaker 4: 16:52 And that, and that's her argument is that we need to have diversion programs for landfills and make dairy farms more sustainable and that this isn't a very good long term option. And there's also questions about how much we could get here in California. There's a lot of environmentalist who say that we would actually would have to get it from other states.

Speaker 1: 17:14 And um, let's talk a little bit about the, her, her point, the end, the environmental movements point about electrification, the whole idea that, well, natural gas is cleaner than coal certainly, but it's still a fossil fuel and it's still causing greenhouse gas emissions here. What about electrification? Now we can get into them, the medical of turbines, wind and solar,

Speaker 4: 17:33 that technology exists right now and that's more of a longterm solution that's more environmentally friendly and it's better for consumers overall. So she said the gas industry is proposing this option because they want consumers to continue to be dependent on the gas industry, but it's not necessarily the best option for the environment.

Speaker 6: 17:53 So her idea is to push for electrification and then we can get true clean alternative sources of fuel like solar and wind.

Speaker 4: 17:59 Exactly. Yeah. And again, that this is something that, so cal gas in Sdg any are, uh, proposing because they want everyone to continue staying with gas. Okay.

Speaker 6: 18:10 What are the prospects for the CPC to approve it and made the opposition of environmentalist play a role in that decision?

Speaker 4: 18:16 I mean potentially it could. It's kind of unclear right now because this is so sort of revolutionary, but there aren't a lot of companies across the country that are even doing this right now, which is another argument that the environmentalist make is that there isn't the infrastructure there, but that is also what Sdg and e and so cal gas or hoping to do. They're hoping to show the state that there is a demand for this kind of gas and potentially build more infrastructure and help fund those companies that do this process like biofuels. You have any idea when the state will make a decision, they're hoping by next year it could be available to consumers and they don't know exactly what the rates are going to be a because it really depends on what kind of demand they see.

Speaker 6: 18:54 Yeah. Last question. The cost does it more costly to get this compare with natural gas.

Speaker 4: 18:59 And so you might wonder why Sdg and e would propose something like this, but they actually get fined by the state, uh, based on their greenhouse gas emissions. So this is one way for them to do something greener and show that they're working to combat global warming.

Speaker 6: 19:16 All right, well we'll see what happens when the state rules on that. And if it comes online as we go forward, well, we're going to move on and life begins on opening day. Dreams are reborn. The smack of the bathroom. Rural, the clock crowds. Springtime in the air. Yeah, yeah, yeah. For fans of other teams maybe, but not for the Padres, not the San Diego Club. Who's made the postseason lousy five times in 50 years. But wait, it's man Diego this year we've got a bonafide superstar at third base, a slugger with a swagger. 300 million a season. I'm sorry, 30 million. That's season 300 million overall. J A savior. We got many. Tell us about Manny. Who is this guy? Manny Machado. Third Baseman. Four time. All Star. Two time gold glove, a premier player in the prime of his career. And it's one thing to get a free agent and to pay that kind of Mark Sauer money that he's getting.

Speaker 6: 20:01 But uh, to get him in the prime, that's really something. And yesterday was, was a lot more than a baseball game. I mean there was a buzz down there and that was before people started drinking the $14 beers, which are they named after, right? There's, there's many named here. Fair. So, uh, you know, it was baseball, but I think it is also a, a kick in the Britches if you will for San Diego sports fans. I mean after the chargers left, there's been a big void here. Let's submit it. Ah, yes. The minor league teams that filter through, but um, those, that San Diego fan base really thought they got hit in the stomach when the charges left. Padres about two weeks ago, the opening day had zero buzz. It was just going to be another losing chart, a padre season, and they were going to build again. But with Manny, with Fernando to tease coming aboard.

Speaker 6: 20:41 Uh, you know, the biggest arrivals, no, the young shortstop, right. The young shortstop who's a, you know, not since Juan Cabrillo came in at 1542 is I've been so happy to see a guy role at the San Diego. Well maybe Tony Gwynn when he rolled it out. Yeah. Just so to tease and Machado it, it was a different vibe down there yesterday. Okay. Now this a contract, how does this monster contract compare with other sign monster signings in the, it's a, he's just not quite as big as Mike trout extension, which was north of 400 million and Bryce are the angels. We wouldn't say Joe's and Bryce Harper with the Philadelphia Phillies got 330 million. So Machado is a, you know, he's not at the top of the, but he's in the neighborhood. He's in pretty good neighborhood. It's not a fixer upper either. And uh, let's talk a little bit about historically there's been a lot of these big signings and big contracts where we've got one here.

Speaker 6: 21:25 Now, how do these players typically perform in that first year? Sometimes it's hit and miss. It's hit and miss, you know, you try to press, you try to do too much, you carry the whole team, try to prove that you're, you're worth that kind of money. So I think maybe the difference is a lot of those big contracts in the old days, if you were were were players, you were paying for a past performance rather than future performance. All the baseball analytics, cause I've changed, they got smart guys up there running those books now and I just punch a hole. Baseball guys too. And tobacco. So what they're saying is let's give the money to the young guys. Let's pay for that production going forward. The key is you've got to pick the right guy. They think they haven't typically signed big name. Right. Awesome. Why, why was this your different?

Speaker 6: 22:05 I think people were tired of losing. I think Ron fill out Fowler and Peter Seidler, they saw eight straight losing seasons and say saw a play off team. They were boring. They are boring. A young and boring, you know, this is the entertainment business and uh, they can finger, they can get that money back. But it was a bit of a surprise. It was a bit of a varying off the blueprint of going with, with youngsters and developing them. So they're hoping for that, that mix. You're always looking for a couple of veterans. The young guys have them work it out in, sell more tickets and get the money. Right. Andrew, how high should our expectations really be this season? Uh, I wouldn't go, uh, you know, mapping the parade down market and they are Broadway. Those are parallel, but you know, 500, you know, there's still huge question marks about the pitching, uh, that, you know, if you don't have starting pitching, sometimes you don't have a lot.

Speaker 6: 22:51 They're still really, really young. They're, they're paying one pitcher, Garrett Richard, $6 million not to pitch this year. He's coming back from surgery. So, you know, the pitching is still going to be the key. You still got to fight with the Dodgers. He's still got to fight with the Colorado Rockies, with our old buddy. But black. So you know, get to 501st and then we'll start playing in the playoff. Rotate. Yeah. The Rockies are really good team. The doctors are coming off two back to back world series. Right. What about the rest of that Padres lineup? How, um, how strong are they? Can they pitch around Manny? It's fun to deep. Not as well. The Wil Myers hit a home run yesterday. I mean he was the face of the franchise, if you will. A couple of years ago that didn't quite work out. He's more of a background guy. They got Machado, Eric, cosmo or their big freaking signing.

Speaker 6: 23:31 Uh, last year at first base. Uh, you know, Fran and male ray is hunter Renfro. There was some names there. There are some people that would make you stay in your seat and watch the Padres hit. Now the big key of course to paying 30 million a year, 300 million over 10 years as you've got to put fannies in the seats, you've got to have the turnstiles turning the concessions. Are they going to generate enough revenue to make this pencil? Yeah, I think so. That these guys weren't going broke over there. I mean, a Forbes said their, their net profit was, you know, a hundred million plus, and that's a one point $8 billion asset. I mean, they're not the pinching pennies, obviously by giving the child all that money. But there's a wealth, there's a pretty good stack of money over there. But you're right. And I think to Machado with Hispanic, Latino population here, to have a Hispanic star, I think that's going to be a, they're going to be the key.

Speaker 6: 24:15 But they really liked this ray as kid. And Reyes had a bigger hand yesterday. They, Manny Machado. Yeah. No. Um, he's here for 10 years. Right? They have some promising folks, young kids in the, in the minors and all right. He's not even into his prime yet. Can they hope those minor league players develop and catch up to him and absolutely. You know, contender in that they're not too far away. The position players are almost already here. It's more the pitching's about a year behind. They're hoping Machado can be that bridge to this new generation of stars. They're also hoping, he's a big influence with the mini Latino players, the Dominican Republican's in the, the guys that are in that club house already that that he can show the way now he's a villain everywhere else because you know, he said he didn't want to hustle all the time and, and there were some shaky play there during the playoffs with him running down to first base.

Speaker 6: 24:58 So San Diego was really never had a villain. We're the nice guys, so that'll be interesting to see that how that plant plays out in heart. We're, we're about out of time, but that was certainly anxious to see how that plays out in a lot of us will be going to the ballpark maybe more often than see it in person than we have in recent years to see you there. Mark Takes Jay. Well that does wrap up another week of stories at the KPBS round table. I'd like to thank my guest, Andrew Dyer and David Garic from the San Diego Union Tribune, sports writer and author Jay Paris and Priya Sri there of KPBS news and a reminder reminder. All the stories we discussed today are available on our website, KPBS dot o r.G , thanks for joining us today on the round table and get out and see those Padres.

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KPBS Roundtable

Mark Sauer hosts KPBS Roundtable, a lively discussion of the week's top stories. Local journalists join Sauer to provide insight into how these stories affect residents of the San Diego region.