San Diego mayor Sanders puts football above water

Legacy projects prevail

In his State of the City speech on January 13, Mayor Jerry Sanders devoted 434 words to the possibility of taxpayers shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars for a subsidized Chargers stadium and 174 words to the idea of those taxpayers paying for an expansion of the convention center. But Sanders devoted only 114 words to the subject of water — far and away the most critical short-term and long-term problem facing San Diego. He devoted zero words to water conservation.

The day after the speech, a Sacramento County Superior Court judge knocked down critical parts of a 2003 agreement that, among many things, had cleared the way for San Diego to get water from the Imperial Valley. The San Diego County Water Authority pays a stiff price for that water, and it’s now fully 26 percent of the amount the county uses. Unless the Sacramento case is reversed on appeal, more woes lie ahead.

Most frighteningly, those woes include possible desertification of the Southwest — the drought of today leading to a dust bowl by the middle of the century. Some experts foresee that horror. Actually, when San Diego wangled the deal for Imperial water, some citizens there had visions of a Depression-era dust bowl. Already, that concern is hitting home. Transfers of water to San Diego reduce the Salton Sea’s shoreline, resulting in blowing dust that produces harmful health effects on Imperial Valley residents. That’s part of the battle in the Sacramento lawsuit.

“Water is the basis of this entire region — not stadiums, not convention centers. Water has to be our first priority,” says Steve Erie, director of the Urban Studies and Planning program at the University of California San Diego, where he is a political science professor. “The Salton Sea remains the Achilles’ heel of San Diego’s water future.” But Mayor Sanders is blithely unconcerned. “It’s not the stuff below ground,” says Erie, “but the legacy projects above ground that preoccupy this mayor.”

Says Councilmember Donna Frye, “My position is that you take care of basic needs — infrastructure, deferred maintenance, homeless issues, basic services that citizens need before you look at things that are nice to have. If the Chargers want to put up the money to build a stadium, I will be happy to be helpful.” San Diego’s water situation is most critical and “is going to get much worse than some people even imagine.”

“Putting a football stadium ahead of water reflects an immaturity of leadership that has permeated San Diego for the last three mayors — Golding, Murphy, and Sanders,” says former city attorney Mike Aguirre.

Says Norma Damashek, president of the local League of Women Voters, “The mayor talks about clean technology, which will depend on a reliable and adequate water supply. Biotech and high tech depend on a stable source of water. There are many opportunities for him to step forward and talk about a water conservation plan for San Diego that could put us on the map. But he does not act as a responsible leader should act. He substitutes words for planning and action.”

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles “is producing a $3 billion water conservation and recycling program,” says Erie. San Diego gets more than half of its water from L.A.’s Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. “L.A. has its own supply and is not in the dire straits that we are in. We are the most at risk and act as if it’s of limited concern.”

The San Diego City Council wanted to look at water recycling, the process with the distasteful political moniker “toilet-to-tap.” (Actually, a large amount of the water that San Diego buys is already recycled. Water that comes down the Colorado River is used by municipalities upstream that treat it and dump it back in the river.) The mayor initially vetoed the idea, but the council overrode him. Now, the City has a demonstration project, indirect potable reuse, that augments a local reservoir with recycled wastewater. “The mayor has not been particularly helpful,” says Frye, head of the council’s Natural Resources Committee and the leader who has done by far the most to address the water question.

She is pushing to make mandatory conservation permanent, have tougher penalties for those breaking conservation rules, clamp down on new development, and offer tax credits to homeowners who dig up lawns and plant drought-tolerant native vegetation.

As global warming progresses, the snow pack will melt earlier, water will flow more quickly to California, and there will have to be more storage facilities to capture runoff. Frye is already pursuing ways for citizens to capture rainwater.

Carlsbad hopes to have a desalination plant up and running in two years, but it would serve only 100,000 households and faces financing and environmental legal barriers. “It is so energy inefficient,” says Frye. “Why use outdated technology?” Some would like to see the City of San Diego have its own desalination program.

Recently, the nonprofit Environmental Working Group studied exhaustive data on the quality of water in 100 U.S. cities. San Diego came in 92nd and was cited as one of the ten worst metropolitan areas. The study focused on 315 pollutants in tap water, more than half of which are not subject to health and safety regulations. A significant number exceeded federal guidelines. “I am amazed that nobody at city hall has addressed this study of contaminants in the water,” says civic activist Mel Shapiro. “Maybe there should be a regular investigation.” Frye says her Natural Resources Committee will soon docket the matter.

Meanwhile, Centre City Development Corporation, the downtown redevelopment facilitator, will look into whether it can lift the cap on how much future property tax revenue can be directed downtown. It expects to hit the state-mandated limit in 2023 or so. To raise that cap, Centre City would have to get permission from major state and local bodies. There is no question that the money would be earmarked for the Chargers, who expect to rake in a subsidy of $500 million to $700 million or more.

“I am real concerned about the financial condition of CCDC,” says Frye. The city administration won’t provide her with information she sought long ago. “I don’t see any point in rearranging things, trying to figure out how to restructure something [Centre City] that is out of money.”

But Centre City and its development-industry puppeteers are only interested in more construction, even though the current rotting infrastructure won’t support what is already in place. In football parlance, it is high time that all the city leaders who are under the thumb of developers got sacked.

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Sanders' address that said nothing about water conservation is just another page in the current chapter of the San Diego story of neglected infrastructure. At one time, say when San Diego was first incorporated, the reason for having a city government was to provide infrastructure, and the first priority was a water supply. Modern life is based upon use of clean, fresh water.

With the supply of water to San Diego being pinched, the developers still talk of being able to add population here. With some major changes in how we use water that may be possible, but it will mean the end to overwatering expanses of lawn and plantings that are non-native. The current goal in many of the newer housing developments is to try to have them resemble housing in Connecticut. A sustainable use of water would have those tracts looking like Tucson.

A severe reduction in the local water supply would stop growth in its tracks, and might well result in a population decline. A growth economy and any sort of prosperity would be out of the question in that case. So, of course, the emphasis should be on doing everything within reason to enhance the local supply of water and minimize its waste. Almost predictably, Sanders either ignores that or gives it short shrift. Care to predict the next local crisis? A few will say it is the imminent departure of the Chargers. The rest of us know it will be water.

F*** water! WE MUST STOP OUR BELOVED CHARGELESS FROM LEAVING SANDY EGGO!!!!! :-O Don't worry guys, when I move back to the Midwest, I'll visit regularly and continue to laugh my balls off at you all. :-D

Response to post #1: Unfortunately, the people who think the Chargers's possible departure would be far more grave than a severe water crisis run San Diego. Best, Don Bauder

Response to post #2: You must mean that you will laugh your footballs off. Best, Don Bauder

Response to post #5: OK, you forced me to look it up. LULZ means the same as LOL, which is Laughing Out Loud. I'm learning. Best, Don Bauder

I still can't understand how our Mayor and Clowncil get away with all these back door shenanigans. So glad I never voted for Slanders.

OOPS: In the next to last paragraph, I erred. I have Donna Frye saying that CCDC is out of money. Actually, she had said that Southeastern Economic Development Corp. (SEDC) is out of money. I take responsibility for the misquote. Best, Don Bauder

RE #8:

... but I thought Carolyn Smith (ex-SEDC prez) couldn't cash that going-away check...

RE# 7:

Guess who sits on the city's redevelopment agency, and that will give us all a clue as to "how our Mayor and Clowncil get away with all these back door shenanigans."

Did anyone catch the KPBS coverage of downtown redevelopment? If you didn't, a transcript is here: http://www.kpbs.org/news/2010/jan/26/who-benefits-most-downtown-development/

To me the article reflected a perception from the San Diego populace that is very apprehensive of sending more money to redevelopment if it will be used for a sports stadium. Faulconer never committed to voting no to a Charger stadium, but he did say that he was against funding it from the general fund.

The article also gave me an interesting insight into how the CCDC actually collects funds and how the CCDC being funded doesn't /directly/ impact the general fund, although it's clear that there is some indirect influence.

Coming back to your article, Don, my perception (and you can correct me if I'm wrong) is that the Sanders is facing a lot of justified resistance on the Chargers stadium from the people of San Diego. The people of San Diego know there's a water issue and they know there's a budget issue and they're pissed that the the Mayor is considering going forward with the Chargers nonsense. It seems to me that the Mayor and City Counsel have an investment in making Downtown succeed in addition to addressing the other major issues across the city.

Lastly, if the CCDC does get an extension on funding, I'd realy like to see that money go to more social services. I've seen all the plans for development downtown and I think they're great for tourism and creating more public spaces and opportunities for business, but I also think it's time San Diego started taking care of its homeless people. The CCDC is capable of using additional money for that and I wish that it would.

Response to post #7: One reason they get away with the shenanigans is that the mainstream media don't report what is going on. For example, the Union-Tribune will refer to real estate lobbyists that Sanders appoints to a committee as "distinguished citizens." The Reader will call the same people "lobbyists for developers," or "the corporate welfare crowd," or "corporate welfarists," or "downtown promoters seeking taxpayer funds." You see the difference. Best, Don Bauder

Response to post #9: Did you say "cash" or "cache?" Best, Don Bauder

Response to post #10: The redevelopment agency is the council. Best, Don Bauder

Response to post #11: The KPBS discussion was interesting. Vlad Kogan was on the mark. But nobody touched on the point that TOT tax revenue from hotels in the ballpark district was supposed to service the ballpark bonds. That revenue has not arrived; the hotels are doing very poorly and the ballpark is costing the city around $20 million a year. Similarly, the condos in the ballpark district have few residents. So there is not sales tax revenue, and property tax revenue is negatively affected because the values of those darned-near-empty buildings are going down. Those of us who opposed the ballpark deal said from the outset that the area now known as the ballpark district would develop some day -- WHEN THERE WAS A MARKET. But there is not a market yet. So both the hotels and condos sit there with few people in them. Why don't the real estate people believe in free enterprise and market forces? You know the answer: they can make a quick buck off taxpayers. Incidentally, CCDC will only do something about infrastructure when it is pressured. I can't imagine it will ever do anything for the homeless. CCDC is staffed by people from the real estate industry, who essentially run it.

Don, am I supposed to feel relieved that the Mayor doesn’t have as much water on the brain as football? Comment No. 1 has it right, but the point (“With the supply of water to San Diego being pinched, the developers still talk of being able to add population here. With some major changes in how we use water that may be possible . . .”) needs repeating, and repeating until Hell freezes over. But more than that, there needs to be intellectual integrity in the whole discussion—that is, with nothing relevant left out. For example, the simple arithmetic device of the ratio of the number of users (of a given amount each) to the available supply. It’s the theory of limited good all over again. You have the choice of more water for each user if the number of users is smaller, or the choice of a less water for each user if the number of users is larger, with the supply held constant. But it isn’t constant, and never will be. But this is not discussed.

The various options that fiddle with the “supply” side of this equation have hidden costs, such as the cited costs of toilet-to-tap (e.g., costs of system malfunctions and associated health costs as well as the non-valued quality-of-life effects like death, disablement, and disease) and seawater desalinization (e.g. adverse effects on sea life, food supply, etc.), not to mention the boondoggle of a “peripheral canal,” which mainly serves the purpose of flooding the bank accounts of the connected by sucking up the dough of the unconnected as do the other aforementioned “solutions.” Even given such “solutions,” the rising cost of a unit of water is glaringly obvious. But this is not discussed.

The actual amount of water that could possibly be added by a peripheral canal may be known by water planners, but they will not release any such figures (or any figures related to supply and demand/allocations. But this is not discussed. Generalizations/evasions is all you can get.

Given any “solution,” (at any cost, and the sky’s apparently the limit) the unit cost will rise precipitously as the allocation per user declines precipitously as the number and/or consumption per user increases faster than the increased supply from t-to-t or desal. But this is not discussed.

That is, any discussion of the effects on adding users and the aforementioned ratio is VERBOTEN! (That is according to my council representative’s representative, quoting the Mayor’s office.) But this is not discussed.

There is no free lunch. Caviar and champagne for the few, (“Soylent”) green wafers for the serfs. But this is not discussed.

The opposite of intellectual integrity is evasion (displacement activity, distraction, digression, promising them anything, or just plain failing to respond when the confronted with an inconvenient question). But this is not discussed.

Maybe there should be legislation to make public servants criminally and civilly liable for fraud under certain circumstances. But this is not discussed.

Response to post #16: Excellent analysis. Water is an economic problem. As the shortage grows, the price who will go up. Those San Diegans who would rather have a subsidized football team than abundant, safe water are, in general, the same ones who will have the funds to purchase the more expensive water. But as you say, the mayor's office will not discuss the question of adding users. This is because the development industry, which has the mayor dancing on a string, needs population growth so that it can build and sell more homes. So very few dare to talk about water. People know who runs San Diego. Best, Don Bauder

Re your statement: "Recently, the nonprofit Environmental Working Group studied exhaustive data on the quality of water in 100 U.S. cities. San Diego came in 92nd and was cited as one of the ten worst metropolitan areas."

Sanders really belongs in jail for his "strong mayor" corruption that is turning San Diego drinking water into sewage, and his criminal acts of destroying our fire and public safety resources that will cause more deaths and destruction due to the SDGOP subjugation of "Nero/Sewerwater" Sanders who loves to be televised watching people and property burn.

Any community that depends upon development as a major fraction of its economic vitality is crusin' for a brusin'.

With respect to the shell game, the whole psychology is based on the desire for something for nothing, and that the party will never end. This is true at a "micro" scale and at a "mega" scale. Most of the time, it's like the old "how to boil a live frog" formula--you keep the rate of the heat increase below the pain threshold, as in hot tubs and sweat "lodges." "But it FEELS so GOOD!" We remain victims of "bread and circuses," now mostly circus and smaller and smaller bits of cake. Like, man, we don't learn from history, eh?

The "average" person, frankly, just don't give a damn--until he's the one that's actually gored.

Response to post #18: Yeah, but while San Diegans drink contaminated water, Sanders will sip martinis in the luxury suite at the Chargers stadium subsidized by taxpayers for $650 million. Best Don Bauder

Response to post #19: Excellent points. The Roman leaders figured the empire would go on forever as long as the people got their bread and circuses. But the Roman hegemony didn't make it. Instead of bread and circuses, the people need schools, libraries, infrastructure, arts. Don't tell the establishment. Best, Don Bauder

Response to post #20 & 21:

Actually there is much closer French Revolution historical perspective which must be where Nero Sanders learned his new motto "Let Them Drink Sewer Water."

Or Die in the Flames of Sanders' Firestorms like his Nero hero created.

Sanders and his masters are hoping that sewerwater will fry our brains even more, which must explain why so many San Diegans vote for Sanders and cheer for Loser Chargers and special interests who bankrupt and destroy San Diego instead of the old sport of Christians being fed to the lions.

The only thing that we have left to Save San Diego from more SDGOP sponsored death by fire, disease by drinking water and out of control violence in the streets is our Champion Don Bauder and the Reader.

Response to post #22: When the establishment can outspend its opposition by 100 to 1 when it wants voters to give it a handout, the consumption of sewer water may not even be necessary. Best, Don Bauder

Response to post #23: "the establishment can outspend its opposition by 100 to 1"

"100 to 1" Corruption Index

Yup, it's time for the Reader to follow in the footsteps of role models like Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson and start a revolution in San Diego to restore democracy controlled by We The People instead of the establishment.

I suggest we start with eradicating corrupt judges who still control our courts after the decade of Greer Court Corruption when they overthrew the Rule of Law with impunity.

As far as the elected politicians are concerned, unfortunately with friends like democrats the SDGOP terrorists continue to destroy San Diego anyway because the democrats are totally incompetent to restore democracy even when We The People vote them into office.

Response to post #24: Both parties deserve some of the blame. Similarly, both the real estate industry and labor unions deserve contempt. They cooperate to beat the drums for a taxpayer-subsidized project, whether it be a pro sports facility or a retailer. Best, Don Bauder

Response to post #25:

Great summary Don.

The republicans have been betraying American Democracy, the U.S. Military and the Wealth of America during this entire new century.

And the democrats have allowed republicans to continue to get away with murder and destruction of America, California and San Diego even when they have a majority.

We are no longer in the decline phase, there can be no doubt that this is the Fall of American Democracy phase, following the same path of failure that all failed democracies before ours experienced due to out of control corruption, avarice and immorality.

Almost all of our institutions, political, economic, religious, education, scientific, politicized news media, etc. have failed the tests of morality, honor and integrity that could have made America the greatest Democracy in history.

The only institution that works at all are our Military and Public Safety men and women who continue to prevent total collapse in spite of crushing political, judicial and corporate corruption that are trying to destroy even them.

Response to post #26: Our only consolation is how poorly our competitors are doing. The euro zone is in deep doo-doo, with Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain -- and perhaps Italy -- in debt trouble. The euro is falling and in the worst case scenario, it might fail as a currency. This would give the dollar some breathing room. Japan is in trouble, too -- has been for 21 years. Best, Don Bauder

Once all the suckers who make up the Golden Goose (consumer culture) have been strangled, who's gonna buy from and bail out the Croesus'? Can you spell Kaos? Population crash? Armed-a-gettin'? Koyaanisqatsi? The world is full of Dr. Strageloves. Soylent greenie mfrs and eaters. I guess what we need is an Animal Farm, but I think we passed that mark in 1984. Be brave--a New World is coming.

Anybody here seen my old friend Aldous? Can you tell me where he's gone? I thought I saw him walk up over the hill, With George, Julian and Tom . . .

Quoth the Raven: Nevermore, nevermore . . .

Response to post #28: Aldous Huxley had it right. So did George Orwell. Creators of great literature, and prescient. I wonder if a pollster asked people if they knew who Huxley and Orwell were, how many would? One percent? Best, Don Bauder

Response to post #27:

You are documenting quite a dismal scenario for the West Don.

Ironic how the Chinese may end up owning the world literally because the republicans sold out the Wealth of America while the democrats acted like a bunch of flamingos at the San Diego zoo.

Amazing how Obama's worst nightmare during his first year has been the failures of the democratic majorities in congress to have leaders that weren't incompetent and corrupt.

The democrats had a golden opportunity to make the right things happen quickly just as Bush and his republican majorities made the wrong things happen quickly after he took office.

Indeed the last two decades can described once again: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way" just like Charles Dickens described in "A Tale of Two Cities" while Washington, Sacramento and San Diego politicians and their special interests have been sending us "the other way."

Narcissists have no fire in the belly (just their heads where the sun don't shine) and flamingos are flaming pinkos because they dine on teeny-weeny crawdads or somethin'. Crawfishin' is what we call it Down South--what the dem Demos are doin'. Ain't it ironic that Barney Frank (is that last name real?) is the one with the most guts?

Don, how about a bailout plan for the 1% of your poll? I'm waiting for my check. But which bank will I put it in? I think I'll just buy corn, bean, and squash seeds and bury them along my escape route. Of course, we'll need a two-place ultra-light to get past the gridlock--when the Saints keep marchin' away from home . . .

Or if that's all there is, maybe I'll just keep dancin'.

It's kinda dismal that you get only 27 comments on your piece; should be at least 270,000. Maybe there's a silent but crucial minority lurking out there somewhere? Don't they realize that "eyeballs" are your bread and butter? Come ON, folks, where's your OUTRAGE?

I have a way to channel outrage: voters raising the electric franchise fee (set in 1970 at 3% of gross receipts) to 20% until all of the county's power lines are underground (http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...).

Not all capitalists are dead and buried. Soon, somebody is gonna find a spare Navy sub reactor at the bottom of the bay, install it on a floating desalinization plant off shore (totally bypassing the Coastal Commission permit process), and sell the rest of us distilled drinking water after MWD cuts us off at the tap...

I'm amazed that nobody (except the Navy on its own vessels and the occasional cruise liner) has done it yet.

Response to post #30: That "other way" may be down -- a one-way ticket. Best, Don Bauder

Response to post #31: Since, generally, I try to answer all comments, I don't want 270,000 of them. Best, Don Bauder

Response to post #32: Two good ideas: raising the franchise fee and desalinating water offshore. Best, Don Bauder

Response to post #31, 32, 33:

Twister Q: “where's your OUTRAGE?”

A: FACT of Life in Scam Diego: The Scam Diego Chargers defined all San Diegans as being LOSERS when the Chargers held up a white flag of surrender during their last game, and the White Flag of Surrender is now the symbol of all Scam Diegans.

With a terrorist Mayor Sanders producing sewer water for Scam Diegans to drink, in addition to causing the 2007 Sanders Firestorm that killed and destroyed, Scam Diegans have now raised a White Flag of Surrender to the SDGOP Terrorist Establishment.

a2zresource: “desalinization plant” is an EXCELLENT idea that is way, way past due, but Loser Scam Diegans actually raised the White Flag so long ago, even before Sanders’ sewerwater destroyed our ability to save ourselves from SDGOP Establishment Terrorists.

dbauder: ‘That "other way" may be down -- a one-way ticket’

Indeed Don, SDGOP Terrorists have long ago (i.e. via their sycophants Golding, Murphy and Sanders) put Scam Diegans on the Road to Hell, as you and the Reader document almost daily.

Response to post #36: If your car hits one of those potholes, there is no telling how far it (and you) will sink. Best, Don Bauder

Re: Post No. 34:

Yep, that's the problem. We'll just go "tweet, twit, twittering along" until it's all gone.

"What we have here, is a failure to COMMUNICATE!"

But if you could find a way to winnow the glut of blather down to the central essence in some sort of logical sequence, you might have to spend less, not more time, in front of that cussed screen.

Response to post #38: It's really a failure to cogitate. Best, Don Bauder

"It's really a failure to cogitate."

I am seriously pushing Comprehensive Emergency Management as offered by FEMA's Emergency Management Institute in its numerous independent studies courses (both at http://groups.myspace.com/cemis and at http://training.fema.gov/IS/crslist.asp ), especially for our "younger" citizens at our local community colleges. It's my experience that community college students are not yet so burnt-out on reality that they refuse to believe they have no power whatsoever, and CEM management by objectives may allow them to get things done where political ossification by campaign contribution prevents action by local elected officials.

I have this personal thing I call All-hazard Local Emergency Response Theory (ALERT) loosely based on CERT (community emergency response teams; http://www.citizencorps.gov/cert/ ), except a grass-roots community ALERT organization is more independent rather than dependent on local agency assistance/tethering.

The point of all of this is to get more of us thinking about what it is that we can do to prepare for disasters... especially those created by government mismanagement of resources, inattention to neighborhood problems, and deliberate manipulation by well-heeled corporations that just do not give a damn about the neighborhoods they choose to step on.

There is definitely a connection between ALERT and a move to increase the electric franchise fee at the ballot box. As long as SDG&E/Sempra have no financial incentive to put the power lines underground, San Diego County is still under threat of wildfires that previous SDG&E CEO Debra Reed and other investor-owned utilities ("IOUs") testified in the CPUC Wildfire Expense Balancing Account application last year, stating "The risk of fire is inherent in the provision of utility service. Because that risk cannot be entirely avoided, the costs of claims for wildfires allegedly caused by utility property are properly recoverable".

By "properly recoverable", SDG&E and the other IOUs mean that our rates go up here because SDG&E refuses to put the power lines underground before 2063. Duh!

Response to post #40: A campaign to get Sempra to bury its lines should attract a lot of supporters. And it could thwart the spreading of wildfires. The business-friendly California Public Utilities Commission won't force the utilities to take this logical step. Best, Don Bauder

Response to post #39:

Ergo, sequitr in sequence, resolving what is writ, and then (and only then), having cogitated, and writ, move on. Or, one might mindlessly muse, put the ball in the cup, not the weeds.

Response to post #40:

Ossifishuldom will just give 'em the bone.

Still, don't be dissuaded. Their whole strategy consists of wearing out the bright lights by digression, continuances, and stonewalling until you give up. Remember what Winnie said about WW2.

Response to post #42: My problem is not cogitating before I write. Best, Don Bauder

Response to post #43: In San Diego, when you say, "You can't fight City Hall," you are essentially saying, "You can't fight SDG&E." Best, Don Bauder

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