<![CDATA[NBC 7 San Diego - San Diego Politics and Political News]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/politics http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/KNSD+RSS+Feed+logo+blue.png NBC 7 San Diego http://www.nbcsandiego.com en-us Tue, 27 Jan 2015 08:58:33 -0800 Tue, 27 Jan 2015 08:58:33 -0800 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[City OKs $160M Deal to Lease, Buy Civic Center Plaza]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 20:09:43 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/civic+center+plaza.JPG

San Diego taxpayers could always use a good deal when it comes to government office space.

But will a deal put together by the mayor's staff and authorized Monday by the San Diego City Council prove to be a long-term bargain?

As NBC 7 first reported in November, officials had been looking to buy the 18-story Civic Center Plaza tower that’s 90 percent occupied by city workers under an expiring lease, and another downtown building nearby.

But it turned out that lease-revenue bonds were not considered “an appropriate source of funding” for the properties – for which Cisterra Development eventually agreed to pay the current owners $44 million and offer them to the city under a “lease-to-own” deal.

That arrangement will cost taxpayers nearly $160 million over 20 years.

City property managers say the agreement to acquire Civic Center Plaza, along with the building on the same block housing a King-Chavez High School campus, would yield savings of $24 million in rent that otherwise would be paid for space in the office tower.

"The concept is that at some time in the future, they're going to re-format all the floor plans there so you can get more people into the building,” explained Charles Modica Jr., a fiscal and policy analyst in the office of the city council’s Independent Budget Analyst (IBA).

“Right now there are some large offices -- some of them will be reduced, and conceivably you could put more people in,” Modica added in an interview Monday. “But there are costs associated with that."

Those costs include a projected $15 million to re-configure the building for an additional 245 employees -- which doesn't cover furniture or workspaces – plus $6 million for capital improvements and asbestos removal.

The city, meantime, would get rent from the underground Civic Center Plaza Parkade and the King-Chavez leasehold.

The New York-based property owners, comprising a family trust, insisted that Cisterra – essentially the city’s holding company for the lease-purchase -- close escrow March 15.

Thus the city council had a deadline of midnight Monday to approve the transactions.

In a report to the council last month, Modica and his boss, IBA Andrea Tevlin, expressed concerns about the hurry-up manner in which the deal was brought forward, saying there hadn’t been enough time to request more information or suggest potential amendments.

“The stated consequences of the council’s not approving this agreement on January 26th – including significantly increased costs and the potential need to relocate hundreds of city staff – may well represent real risks to the city,” they wrote, “but adequate time for public review and council deliberation is essential.”

Taxpayer advocates pointed out that letting the deal fall through – perhaps leaving the properties to other bidders -- and pursuing a new round of bargaining could involve less attractive terms going forward.

"Once again, that’s the mystery of real estate. If you know something, it's much easier to pencil it out, to put a black-and-white number to it,” Mark Leslie, president of the San Diego County Taxpayers Assn., told NBC 7. “We have to make some assumptions here. The assumptions that are being used in that report appear to support that it's a good deal for the city."

Council members made it clear they didn't appreciate the "last-day" deadline to consider what amounts to a pricey layaway agreement, but approved it on an 8-0 vote.

Property officials said there'd be cost savings and greater efficiencies from having more workers in one facility and that the city would control the whole block for future development options.

<![CDATA[Christie Woos Iowa Conservatives]]> Sat, 24 Jan 2015 22:46:55 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/12415chris.jpg

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is trying to connect with Iowa conservatives by assuring them that "you'll always know who I am" if he runs for president.

While still undeclared, Christie left few doubts Saturday at the Iowa Freedom Summit that he is primed to enter the 2016 GOP race.

Christie told the Republican voters in the leadoff primary state in the nomination battle that they shouldn't let his blunt style turn them off. To those not enamored with all aspects of his record, Christie asserted "you'll always know what I believe and you'll always know where I stand."

He spoke at length about his anti-abortion views, which tends to resonate with Iowa's social conservative caucus-goers.

Christie, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and many others turned the Iowa Freedom Forum into the unofficial launch of the next campaign for the Iowa caucuses. More than 1,000 religious conservatives met at a refurbished theater to hear their pitches.

The forum's sponsor, Rep. Steve King of Iowa, opened the event by asking the crowd, "Do you believe that the next president of the United States is going to be speaking to you today?"

The audience erupted in applause and King responded, "As do I."

Few would pick Christie, an abortion rights and gay marriage opponent better known for his union and budget battles, to emerge as the favorite among Iowa's evangelical voters. Yet his appearance could allow him to make inroads with a group focused as much on ideological purity as defeating the Democrat nominated to follow President Barack Obama.

"He has gusto that makes him an everyman. That appeals to me," 29-year-old Steve Friend of Sioux City said of Christie. "But I think he tanked the 2012 election by praising President Obama after (superstorm) Sandy."

Christie has defended his praise of the president for visiting storm-ravaged New Jersey in the weeks before Romney lost. But it's an image that sticks in the craw of Iowa's most right-wing conservatives.

"I don't trust him," said Mary Kay Hauser, another forum attendee. "I think he's disingenuous. I think he's part of the old New Jersey party."

<![CDATA[California's Calling Gov. Chris Christie]]> Fri, 23 Jan 2015 13:11:21 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/179*120/chris+christie+surprised+face+new+jersey+governor.JPG

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will be the keynote speaker at next month’s convention of the California Republican Party.

Organizers made the announcement Friday describing Christie as “a great example of Republican leadership.”

In a prepared release, Christie said, “I’m excited to be joining Republicans in California as we plan for the years ahead and look to build upon the successes of 2014.”

Just last week, Christie told reporters he was undecided on his future plans and whether they include entering in the 2016 presidential race. According to NBC News, Christie said he will not be rushed, "so everybody just calm down."

The outspoken governor has been criticized recently over gifts he received from Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, how he handled a heckler at a Hurricane Sandy recovery event and his decision to issue an Ebola quarantine after the nurse complained about her treatment.

Christie will speak at the luncheon on Saturday, Feb. 28 at the Hyatt Regency Sacramento. 

Photo Credit: Tim Larsen]]>
<![CDATA[Sen. Rubio Taking Steps Toward Possible 2016 Run]]> Fri, 23 Jan 2015 15:51:11 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/121113+marco+rubio.jpg

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio rode into Washington on a wave of anti-Obamacare sentiment in 2010. He may soon be hoping to ride a similar wave all the way up Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House in 2016.

NBC News has confirmed that Senator Rubio is taking steps to prepare for a run for the White House in the 2016 election. The news was first reported by ABC News on Friday.

Rubio has hired Anna Rogers to be his finance director. Rogers comes from American Crossroads, a Super PAC backed by former senior Bush advisor Karl Rove. Rogers is expected to start her new job with the Rubio campaign in the first week of February.

The senator has laid out plans to visit multiple states for the next month and will skip Senate votes next week in order to attend fundraisers in California.

Rubio’s rapid rise to political stardom started in the Florida Legislature, which he led at one point. He entered the 2010 Senate race far behind then-Governor Charlie Crist and was able to outflank Crist in the Republican primary. The moves electrified Rubio’s political star and sent Crist’s political career tumbling.

Rubio won his seat in 2010 primarily based on the Tea Party wave of anti-Obamacare sentiment. He also benefitted from having a three-way race with Crist as an independent and Kendrick Meek running as a Democrat. The two effectively split the electorate opposing Rubio, opening the door to the Senate for Rubio.

The junior senator from Florida may be hoping to start and catch a similar wave to the White House that Obama followed when he ran after just two years in the Senate. However, Rubio would have filled out his entire first-term if he runs in 2016.

The path to the White House for Rubio will be much tougher. He angered many of the Tea Party voters that supported him when he helped pass a bi-partisan, comprehensive immigration reform bill a few years ago.

As the conservative backlash started, Rubio quickly backed away from support on many of the bill’s key policies and won back support from some of the voters who lifted him to the White House. He will also face a field full of big Republican names hoping to win the nomination.

While none have officially declared their pursuit of the presidency, it’s expected that Mitt Romney will make a run at the White House. He could be joined by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Dr. Ben Carson, Senator Ted Cruz, Senator Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, former Senator Rick Santorum, former Governor Rick Perry, and former Florida governor Jeb Bush.

“The interesting thing here is that Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush are friends they look like they are both running for each other and they both live really close to each other and that is going to make for one interesting kind of awkward campaign,” said Miami Herald political reporter Marc Caputo.

Bush could prove to be the biggest obstacle for Rubio to make a successful presidential bid. Bush has more experience as an executive and skillfully navigated the Florida political machine for two terms as governor and is still well-liked by many of his former supporters in the Sunshine State.

“I think Jeb is going to be the one that’s going to finish the race,” said Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. “Marco is still a young boy. He has a lot of years left in him.”

Rubio said Bush has the political acumen to raise the amount of money necessary to mount a successful presidential campaign. The 2016 presidential campaign could end up being a multi-billion dollar campaign and will likely be the most expensive in U.S. History.

Rubio has been a fierce critic of almost every policy move made by the Obama Administration. He’s also been a leading critic of the move to normalize relations with Cuba, though polls show a national majority back the moves by the White House.

For Republicans, if Rubio follows his previous comments that he will not run for re-election to the Senate if he runs for president (which also is a Florida law); his plans may open up a new battleground in the almost evenly-divided swing state of Florida.

That could prove especially beneficial to Democrats. The 2016 electoral map is expected to tilt towards the Democrats in many swing states and voter turnout could help Democrats re-take the U.S. Senate and also keep the White House.

Rubio could also be angling for another key position in a potential Republican White House, that of vice-president. If Rubio doesn’t win the presidential nomination, he could be a leading contender to join the winner’s ticket as the vice-presidential candidate.

Still, whoever the Republicans end up choosing to run for the White House will have one of the toughest challenges ahead in the general election, a potential Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.

“If Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush run against Hillary Clinton; they’re gonna lose and they’re not only going to lose the White House race, they’re even going to lose their home state of Florida,” said Caputo. “But, that is what the polling says now. And as you know and I know, in a state like Florida; don’t predict the elections too early, heck even on election day as we sometimes don’t know the winner.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Infrastructure, Stadium Costs: Taxpayers Face Dilemma]]> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 19:35:17 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/cracked+sidewalk+san+diego+infrastructure.JPG

San Diego taxpayers are drowning in a fiscal swamp of backlogged maintenance work needed for their public facilities.

We now know the price tag -- almost $4 billion.

How does the city pay for all that, while fantasizing about a new stadium and expanded convention center?

For several years, the cost of fixing and upgrading San Diego's infrastructure has been pegged at $2 billion. The latest numbers indicate it's nearly double that, and there’s a funding gap alone that approaches $2 billion.

Critics have long faulted the city for being distracted by "bread and circuses" and skimping on the "meat, potatoes and vegetables" of sound, functioning facilities: streets, sidewalks, water and sewer systems, police and fire stations, parks and public buildings.

They say that work needs big bucks -- and soon.

So much municipal property is degrading, it's never fully been quantified, until now.

"This is the first time the city has ever put together a strategic, comprehensive look at infrastructure – ever,” said San Diego City Councilman Mark Kersey, who chairs the council’s Infrastructure Committee. “And this is something other cities do. Big cities do it. Medium-size, small cities do this. The is the first time San Diego's ever done this."

But while Kersey and other city leaders explore "public-private partnerships" and "enhanced infrastructure finance districts" to take a nine-figure bond issue to the 2016 ballot, Mayor Kevin Faulconer is looking at that same year to sell voters on a new stadium for the Chargers.

Will they go for both propositions?


The other?

Or neither?

"If we do not resolve our critical, basic needs,” said Councilman David Alvarez, “I don't see how anything else gets funded in the city."

How much can Chargers owner Dean Spanos and his associates, including the NFL, help with "anything else” – and to what extent will that sway voters toward his stadium proposal?

We posed those questions Thursday in a downtown interview with an Encanto resident who identified himself only as “D.J.”.

“(Spanos) has got a billion dollars, he doesn't care if it's Chargers fans, Raiders fans, Patriots fans -- we're already in the stadium,” D.J. told us.

“As long as they're selling beer and the seats are full -- right?” he continued. “The city isn't making that much of a profit off the Chargers selling out, so – infrastructure all the way.”

It’s a balancing act that oddsmakers might be inclined to book as a long shot.

But Councilman Todd Gloria offers this cautious assessment: "We're a big city. We're a world class city. I think we can handle most of the challenges and find solutions. But time's wasting. And we need to have a clear signal from every city leader that they understand not only this is a problem, but they're willing to take on the hard solutions that are necessary to fix them."

Craig Gustafson, a spokesman for Faulconer, said the mayor is already taking action on fixing city streets, and will soon unveil "a series of reforms" to expedite other infrastructure projects.

Gustafson added that Faulconer is challenging council members for specifics as to what their proposed bond issue will cover.

Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[Mayor Faulconer on Mayor's Meetings]]> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 07:11:55 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/faulconerSOT1_1200x675_387211331986.jpg San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer is representing America's Finest City at this week's conference of mayors.]]> <![CDATA[Top NY Lawmaker Arrested on Corruption Charges: Source]]> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 19:21:24 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/silver7.jpg

New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested Thursday on federal corruption charges and is accused of using his position in the state legislature to collect millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks, according to a criminal complaint.

Silver, who has held office in the State Assembly since 1976 and been speaker of the legislative body since 1994, turned himself into the FBI at its field office near Foley Square Thursday morning.

The embattled legislator told reporters after his court appearance that he did not plan to resign.

"I will be vindicated," he said. 

His attorneys, Joel Cohen and Steven Molo, released a joint statement calling the allegations baseless.

"We’re disappointed that the prosecutors have chosen to proceed with these meritless criminal charges," the attorneys' statement said. "That said, Mr. Silver looks forward to responding to them -- in court -- and ultimately his full exoneration.”

At a news briefing shortly after Silver's arrest, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara accused the longtime politician of duping taxpayers through a series of secretive schemes and backroom dealings to line his own pockets, and "cleverly" seeking ways to monetize his public office in violation of federal law.

Silver allegedly collected around $4 million in bribes and kickbacks and used his law license and lax New York disclosure laws to disguise the profits as referral fees, Bharara said.

Those alleged ill-gotten gains accounted for two-thirds of the speaker's outside income since 2002, the prosecutor added. Bharara said a judge issued warrants allowing authorities to seize $3.8 million Silver had dispersed in eight bank accounts at six different banks in alleged fraud proceeds.

"For many years, New Yorkers have asked the question, 'How could Speaker Silver, one of the most powerful men in all of New York, earn millions of dollars in outside income without deeply compromising his ability to honestly service his constituents?'" Bharara said. "Today, we provide the answer. He didn't."

The five-count criminal complaint unsealed Thursday focuses on two alleged schemes by which Silver acquired millions -- attorney referral payments and alleged real estate kickbacks. One firm, identified by sources familiar with the investigation as Goldberg & Iryami, allegedly paid Silver about $700,000 over the course of about a decade in "undisclosed bribes and kickbacks" to get real estate developers in the state to do their business with the firm.

One of the real estate developers, described in the court papers as "Developer 1," is Leonard Litwin of Glenwood Management, according to the sources. The sources said Litwin cooperated with investigators, as did law firm partner Jay Goldberg.

The firm Weitz and Luxemberg also allegedly paid Silver about $5.3 million since 2002. About $1.4 million came from an annual salary, which the complaint alleges Silver received "based on his official position rather than any work he was expected to perform."

"For many years New Yorkers have also asked the question, 'What exactly does Speaker Silver do to earn his substantial outside income?'" Bharara said. "Well, the head-scratching can come to an end on that score, too, because we answer that question today as well. He does nothing."

The rest of the money came from attorney referral fees, with about $3 million coming by way of a scheme where Silver allegedly passed on asbestos cases from a New York doctor, identified by sources as Dr. Robert Taub, in exchange for secretly providing Taub access to $500,000 in state grants and research funds. Taub is the director of the Columbia University Mesothelioma Center. 

Investigators said Silver referred about 100 clients to the firm, but none of the asbestos clients or their family had ever had any contact with Silver at all, court papers said.

Taub cooperated with investigators, sources said.

Messages left with Goldberg, Litwin and Taub were not immediately returned. 

Despite making assurances that he represents "plain ordinary and simple people," investigators found no court records indicating that Silver ever made a single appearance in state or federal court.

"The problem for Sheldon Silver was that he was neither a doctor nor an asbestos lawyer, so Silver did not have relevant legal or medical expertise, but what he did have was extraordinary power over state money that he had the ability to dole out quietly, even secretly," Bharara said.

Bharara had been focusing on how state representatives earned and reported income after the Moreland Commission was shut down in Albany before completing its own examination of alleged wrongdoing in Albany. Bharara says that too was Silver's doing.

"A deal was cut that cut off the commission's work to the great relief of Sheldon Silver, who furiously fought its subpoenas and urged the commission's early shutdown," he said. "Moreland was made to close its doors after only nine months, its work barely begun, and while litigation over those subpoenas about Sheldon Silver's outside income was still pending before a state judge."

If convicted of all five counts in the complaint, Silver faces up to 100 years in prison. He did not enter a plea during a brief court appearance Thursday and was released on $200,000 bond. Silver surrendered his passport and was told he needs permission to travel anywhere outside New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C.  

Mayor de Blasio said New York should let the judicial process play out. 

"Although the charges announced today are very serious I want to note that I have always known Shelly Silver to be a man of integrity and he certainly has due process rights and I think it’s important that we let the judicial process play out here," the mayor said.

Questions in the past have been raised about Silver’s outside income that supplement his part-time assembly work and he has always denied wrongdoing.

In a statement Thursday, FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard Frankel said Silver took advantage of his "political pulpit" to reap unlawful rewards.

"We hold our elected representatives to the highest standards and expect them to act in the best interest of their constituents," Frankel said. "In good faith, we trust they will do so while defending the fundamental tenets of the legal system. But as we are reminded today, those who make the laws don’t have the right to break the laws."

Albany has had its fair share of corruption scandals over the years. The last legislative leader to be charged was former State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno. Bruno, a Republican, was acquitted last year after fighting two federal corruption counts for much of the last decade.

Bharara’s office is prosecuting Democratic state Sen. Malcolm Smith in an alleged scheme to bribe his way to run for mayor as a Republican, and has charged numerous other current and former state and local politicians including State Sens. Vincent Leibell, Hiram Monserrate and Carl Kruger and New York City councilman Larry Seabrook.

-- Pete Williams and Richard Esposito contributed to this report.  

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA["Pivotal": LGBT Groups Praise Obama's "Historic" SOTU]]> Wed, 21 Jan 2015 15:38:42 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/obama+state+of+union.JPG

LGBT rights activists and organizations across the country are applauding President Barack Obama for becoming the first U.S. president to use the words "lesbian," "bisexual" and "transgender" in a State of the Union Address.

In the nearly hour-long address in front of Congress Tuesday, Obama condemned persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, while declaring that same-sex marriage is a “civil right.” His remarks come on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court agreement last week to rule on whether all 50 states must allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.

"As Americans, we respect human dignity, even when we're threatened, which is why I've prohibited torture, and worked to make sure our use of new technology like drones is properly constrained," Obama in his sixth State of the Union address. "That's why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. We do these things not only because they're right, but because they make us safer."

Masen Davis, executive director of the Transgender Law Center in California, said the mention made the speech “especially historic for transgender and bisexual people.” The first-of-its-kind nature of the reference was widely reported following the Tuesday night address and confirmed by NBC Owned Television Stations.

“We’ve never heard a president address their needs during a State of the Union Address,” Davis said. “That was just historic. By simply saying the word 'transgender' in a speech, it represents the progress for transgender people and the United State’s broader movement for equality for all.”

Mara Keisling, executive director of the Washington D.C-based National Center for Transgender Equality said that the “mention of us” is a way that “empower trans people to stand taller and work harder.”

“The president of the United States condemning persecution against transgender people is pivotal,” the transgender rights activist said in a statement.

Former NFL player Wade Davis II, executive director for You Can Play Project, an advocacy organization that is working to eradicate homophobia in sports, said the inclusion shows that society is starting to recognize that "gay" is not a universal term for those in the LGBT community.

“It’s not an inclusive term for someone who is bisexual or transgender, and we hope people would realize that,” said Davis, who came out as gay in 2012. “The struggle of someone being gay is not a representative of the struggles of someone who is bisexual or transgender. Gay is not this universal term that stands for lesbians, bisexual and transgender. And transgender has zero to do with sexual orientation.”

While the wait may have been long for a U.S president to make such move at the annual joint session of Congress, Obama’s calls for LGBT rights and protections are not entirely new. He was the country's first sitting leader to support same-sex marriage, an announcement he made in 2012.

Obama made a more robust move in 2013, when he reportedly became the first president to use the word “gay” during an inaugural address ─ at his second inauguration in 2013. Last year, the president signed an executive order extending protection against discrimination in the workplace for gay and transgender workers in the federal government.

Masen Davis said more work need to be done, and he urged Congress to pass laws to help LGBT individuals get more access to the services they need, including protections against housing discrimination.

Wade Davis, the NFL player, echoed those remarks, saying he hopes Obama’s message Tuesday night “will start some serious conversations about the discrimination” people in the LGBT community faces, particularly transgender individuals.

“It’s unfortunate for this to be the first time a president talks about it, but it speaks to some come change that is happening,” Wade Davis said. “I hope that the outcome of those conversations will be a policy. Talking without having a policy to back it up is just empty.”

Photo Credit: ap]]>
<![CDATA[New Md. Gov: What to Expect]]> Wed, 21 Jan 2015 13:02:30 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/20141104+Hogan.jpg

Larry Hogan was sworn in as Maryland governor Wednesday, becoming just the second Republican to hold the post in more than 45 years. He'll face a $750 million budget deficit, a legislature controlled by Democrats and an electorate awaiting the tax cuts he promised on the campaign trail.

But what he will try to do in office remains something of a mystery, political observers say.

"He was not at all specific about policies during the campaign," said Donald F. Norris, director of the School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, Baltimore County. "He basically ran against the outgoing governor for being a tax-and-spend liberal and claimed that we were not only overtaxed but over-regulated."

Hogan, 58, defeated Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown last fall, in what was described as an astonishing upset and a rebuke to two-term Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley and the tax increases he implemented. Hogan, a commercial real estate broker, is the son of a former congressman and county executive for Prince George's County in Maryland. He is the state's second Republican governor since former Vice President Spiro Agnew held the role.

Hogan has promised better fiscal management, but now must contend with spending formulas that control some of the budget's largest expenses.

"I can't see him imposing new taxes so really he's left with cuts and that's where he begins to engage real battle with the legislature," said Jennifer Duffy, a senior editor for The Cook Political Report.

Mandated appropriations account for 81 percent of the state's portion of spending proposed for the 2015 fiscal year beginning in July, according to a November report from the Department of Legislative Services' Office of Policy Analysis. The two-year budget shortfall has grown to nearly $1.2 billion.

"Beyond what's in his initial budget, I think you'll see him trying to change some of those mandatory spending patterns to give the state a little bit more flexibility and an ability to avoid ongoing structural deficits," said Todd Eberly, associate professor of political science and chairman of Political Science Department at St. Mary's College of Maryland.

Hogan vowed during the campaign that he would work with the state legislature, and observers will be watching carefully to see how long bipartisanship will last in a state with a 2-to-1 Democratic registration.

"I would say the two presiding officers in the state legislature are moderate to conservative Democrats but their rank and file, particularly in the House, are very liberal so that's going to be a pressure point for all of these four years," said Josh Kurtz, a political blogger for Center Maryland.

Kurtz and others noted that the previous Republican governor, Bob Ehrlich, similarly pledged compromise but instead fought with the legislature through much of his single four-year term.

"So if Hogan chooses to fight with the Democrats, it's going to be an ugly four years," Norris said. "He won't get anything accomplished. If he can find ground for compromise and cooperation, then I think things will work out pretty well for both sides. We just have to wait and see."

Hogan, who won 54 percent of the vote to 45 percent for Brown, has said he wants to appeal two environmental measures: a storm water remediation fee, otherwise known as the rain tax, and regulations governing how much nitrogen can be released into the Chesapeake Bay, particularly from chicken farmers on the Eastern Shore, Norris said.

Hogan also has questioned the expense of two large public transit projects on the boards: the Baltimore Red Line, a 14-mile light rail transit line linking the city's east and west sides to the downtown that would cost $2.9 billion, and the Greater Washington Purple Line, a 16-mile east-west transit line connecting Bethesda to New Carrollton that would cost $2.45 billion. Both would gotten $100 million in federal funding, and could get up to $900 million each if Maryland signs funding agreements.

In recent days, Hogan refused to discuss the projects until after he took office, but during the campaign, he said he would spend money on roads rather than on expanding public transportation.
Observers noted that he was elected by predominantly suburban and rural voters.

Others programs that could prompt objections from voters if Hogan tries to cut them: school construction and prekindergarten.

"Nobody really knows what Hogan is going to be like when things don't go his way because he's never held elective office before," Kurtz said. "So in that respect, he's a big mystery."

<![CDATA[GOP Congressman Slams Obama for "Deportable" SOTU Guest]]> Tue, 20 Jan 2015 17:52:56 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP060731031104.jpg

A Republican congressman took a social media swipe at the White House over one of its young State of the Union guests Tuesday, tweeting that the first lady would have a "deportable" joining her.

Iowa Rep. Steve King said the president "perverts 'prosecutorial discretion'" by inviting Ana Zamora, a 20-year-old student from Dallas, to sit "in a place of honor" with first lady Michelle Obama during Tuesday's address.

Zamora, who was brought to the United States illegally as a young child, was granted temporary work authorization under Obama's executive order seeking to protect undocumented children living in the U.S. under such circumstances, often referred to as "DREAMers." The White House has said that Zamora's parents, a small business owner and a construction worker, are expected to benefit from more recent actions meant to shield millions from deportation.

When asked about the tweet by NBC News' Luke Russert, King, a vocal critic of Obama's immigration policies and actions, said to  "shake it off and have a sense of humor." The conservative congressman, who is hosting a gathering of potential GOP presidential candidates in this home state this weekend, said he didn't think the comment would hurt his party's possible 2016 contenders.

Zamora is one of nearly two dozen guests invited to watch the State of the Union along with the first lady. Others include a teen from Chicago's South Side who wrote a letter asking Santa for safety for Christmas, an astronaut set to spend a year aboard the International Space Station and Alan Gross, a U.S. citizen recently released after five years in Cuban prison.

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<![CDATA[Pot Shop Regulations Debated as City Council Vote Looms]]> Mon, 19 Jan 2015 20:57:27 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/mainPic.png

As medicinal marijuana shop entrepreneurs compete for a limited number of permits, San Diego's City Council is poised to vote Tuesday on regulations that community activists say are too permissive -- and won't be enforced effectively.

The issue of managing medicinal marijuana distribution has been frustrating City Hall for more than four years.

Under the regulatory scheme now up for consideration, pot-shop permits have become valuable commodities.

That’s because only four are allowed for each of San Diego’s nine city council districts, and 18 are being sought in District 2 alone, not far from the Valley View Casino Center in the Midway District.

The applicants apparently are on board with them, but not outraged neighborhood activists.

"The city's going in a good direction in getting regulations, but the big problem is, they're trying to regulate criminal activity, which is very difficult,” said Scott Chipman, founder of San Diegans for Safe Neighborhoods. “We are not convinced that the city has the money involved that's necessary to regulate these things properly."

Even delivery people for medicinal marijuana storefronts will be subject to numerous regulations recommended for the council’s approval by city staff.

On Monday, an NBC 7 news team checked out industrially zoned locations on a two-block stretch of Hancock Street, where four buildings are targeted by permit applications to operate “Medical Marijuana Consumer Cooperatives."

That's a dilemma because such dispensaries aren't allowed within 1,000 feet of another.

Executives in a second-floor office in one of the buildings declined comment on the prospect of becoming under-the-same-roof neighbors with a medical pot dispensary.

A construction contractor working on a new restaurant interior downstairs told us it shouldn’t be much of an issue, but the restaurateur who hired him didn’t give us a call after her contractor took my business card and relayed our interest in speaking with her.

As for the difficulty of enforcing the proposed regulations, “We’ve seen a history of criminal activity,” said Chipman. “Shootouts, burglaries, break-ins and assaults all around these things -- and it's all related to the marijuana itself."

But attorney Jessica McElfresh, who represents medicinal marijuana industry interests, said rogue operators are the predominant players in those scenarios and permit applicants are being held to high, costly standards.

"No one would go through this process if they did not intend to follow all the rules and if they did not see tremendous value in following the rules,” said McElfresh said in an interview Monday.

But can the city really afford to inspect and investigate at a level that generates widespread compliance?

"The operators will be paying these fees basically,” McElfresh explained. “The city performs the work, they submit a bill, and people pay it … I have no reason to believe the city of San Diego has any intention other than to take its own ordinance very seriously and to enforce it."

Under the municipal code for proposals that go before the council, the city would conduct background checks and have access to test the marijuana for pesticides, mold, mildew and bacteria.

Critics say potency labels should be on the products, with shops banned from selling "concentrates," oils and edibles.

<![CDATA[Va. Gov. Suffers 7 Broken Ribs in Fall From Horse]]> Mon, 19 Jan 2015 15:09:49 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/0115-mcauliffe.jpg

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe is recovering from injuries he received after being thrown from a horse while on a family trip to Africa, several media outlets are reporting.

McAuliffe is being treated for seven broken ribs at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

Spokesman Brian Coy says the governor was with his family in Tanzania over the Christmas holidays when the riding accident occurred.

The governor had been working since his return from Africa and expected the injury to heal on its own, but Coy said doctors identified increased fluid around his lungs that required treatment.

The governor is expected to spend two to three days recovering.

"My husband is resting comfortably after a successful procedure this afternoon. He and I want to thank the outstanding medical team at VCU Medical Center who just informed us that he is expected to recover well and get back to his full schedule within the next few days," Virginia First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe said Monday. "We would also like to thank the many well-wishers from all across Virginia who expressed concern and support for Terry as he continues to recover."

Coy stressed that the injury is not a "dire thing'' and the governor has been on the job since the accident. That includes delivering the State of the Commonwealth last week.


<![CDATA[State of the Union: What To Expect]]> Mon, 19 Jan 2015 08:31:05 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/NC_sotupreview0119001_1500x845.jpg President Obama's upcoming State of The Union address is already being met by Republican criticism.]]> <![CDATA[Chicago Teen Who Asked Santa for Safety Invited to State of the Union]]> Tue, 20 Jan 2015 15:54:02 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/217*120/letter+to+santa+safety.jpg

A South Side Chicago teen who wrote a letter to Santa asking for safety and received a reply from President Barack Obama has now earned an invitation from the first lady.

Michelle Obama invited 13-year-old Malik Bryant to be one of her guests for the State of the Union address Tuesday night.

It is customary for the first lady to invite guests to the speech, and the guests are often mentioned in the president's address.

Malik, who lives in Englewood, wrote a letter as part of a charitable Letters to Santa program in Chicago in December that said, "All I ask for is for safety. I just want to be safe." The letter made its way to the president, who wrote Malik a response.

"I want to offer you a few words of encouragement," the president wrote, according to the Sun-Times. "Each day, I strive to ensure communities like yours are safe places to dream, discover, and grow. Please know your security is a priority for me in everything I do as President. If you dare to be bold and creative, work hard every day, and care for others, I'm confident you can achieve anything you imagine. I wish you and your family the very best for the coming year, and I will be rooting for you."

Malik will be seated with the first lady, Dr. Jill Biden and Valerie Jarrett, the senior advisor to the president, along with Michelle Obama's other guests from across the country.

<![CDATA[Romney Hints at Presidential Run During RNC Speech]]> Sat, 17 Jan 2015 16:15:09 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/mitt+romney+rnc+011615.JPG

Mitt Romney is addressing the GOP's winter meeting delegates aboard the USS Midway Museum on the Embarcadero Friday evening, a week after he told donors he would consider another presidential run in 2016.

The early meeting of party leaders looking ahead to the 2016 Republican presidential primary season has been creating nationwide buzz in Coronado this week. But a big question is whether La Jolla's high-profile homeowner could become the party's nominee again.

Romney hinted at another run as he addressed the party’s winter meeting delegates aboard the USS Midway Museum Friday evening, saying he is "giving some serious consideration to the future." 

“In the last few days, the most frequently asked question I get is, ‘What does Ann think about all this?’" Romney joked. "She believes people get better with experience, and heaven knows I have experience running for president.”

His chances of making a third time running for president a success have been the subject of recent poor-mouthing in media outlets and among prospective rivals.

But former California GOP chairman Ron Nehring said the former Massachusetts governor’s doubters shouldn't overlook this: "He has universal name ID across the country. He has a large existing political enterprise of donors, supporters, volunteers, activists. Everybody knows who he is. So obviously he would go into a race with a tremendous number of advantages."

Still, Republican leaders are encouraging a large field of prospects — from household names such as Jeb Bush, Rand Paul and Chris Christie to others less known outside the party, but highly regarded within it.

While the heavy hitters are a ways off from declaring candidacy, nearly two dozen possibilities have been mentioned as prospects, and it can't be said that Romney's considered the front-runner at this stage.

In any case, GOP leadership is risk-averse in considering the sharp downside posed by a third straight loss in presidential sweepstakes.

"We have to elect a Republican president,” Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus told an audience of several hundred party delegates at Hotel del Coronado Friday. "As we move forward in this election cycle, don't ever lose sight of that. It's not about me. It's not about you. It's not about us … 2016 could be a do-or-die moment for our party."

The GOP has seized control of both the House and Senate since Romney lost his 2012 challenge to President Obama.

And party bosses want to make it a clean sweep by taking the White House in 2016, vigorously talking up their chances at the gathering in Coronado.

"The candidates are all speaking at the public events,” said Tony Krvaric, chairman of the Republican Party of San Diego County. “But the real excitement happens behind the scenes where there are private meetings, and people get to kick the tires — if you will — of the candidates and the hopefuls."

So what's the pressure that would be left in "the tires" of a Mitt Romney candidacy for the White House, after he finished 4 points behind President Obama in the 2012 popular vote and 23 percent behind in the Electoral College numbers?

It's something that figures to give party leaders pause.

"This is why those people who want to do away with the primaries and just kind of anoint a candidate — they're wrong,” Nehring told NBC 7. “Because in the course of that primary contest, we get to decide: do we want to have a fresh face? Or do we want to go with a candidate who almost won last time?"

Meantime, a prominent local Democrat who's served as press secretary to congressmen and senators including Robert Kennedy cautions that Romney's credentials shouldn't be discounted.

"I think too many people, in judging him, judge him in just a solely political context,” said George Mitrovich, president of the City Club of San Diego. “Which means they don't like his politics. I don't think you can do that. I would not dismiss him as being the nominee of the Republican Party in 2016."

In an interview Friday, Mitrovich pointed to Richard Nixon's being elected president after losing eight years earlier: "So why are we so quick to think that Romney doesn't matter? Romney matters!"

Nonetheless, fresh online postings Friday raised continued raising concerns about Romney's viability as a prospective nominee.

Reports from Mother Jones magazine cited a former 2012 Romney policy adviser wishing that Romney wouldn’t run again, and a “huge new conflict of interest program” stemming from Romney family business ventures.

There have been earlier references to Romney as “a retread … recycled … yesterday’s news” – some speculating that he might meet the fate of the late Gov. Thomas Dewey (R-NJ), who lost presidential elections twice in the 1940s.

<![CDATA[Millionaires Make Up Half of Congress: Report]]> Thu, 15 Jan 2015 13:32:59 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/capitol+generic+federal+government+generic.jpg

Congress is getting richer and seeing its number of millionaire members grow, as average Americans continue to struggle to recover from years of economic distress, according to a new report.

The median net worth of a member of Congress hit nearly $1.03 million by the end of 2013, an analysis of financial disclosure forms by the Center for Responsive Politics found. That figure, up 2.5 percent fron the previous year, makes the body's average elected representative 18 times richer than the average American household, which one recent study found was worth about $56,000 the same year.

In all, Center for Responsive Politics identified 271 millionaires elected to federal office— about half the total membership of the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. That's up slighly from the year before, when the group counted  at least 268 millionaires.

 “At a time when income inequality is much debated, the representatives we choose are overwhelmingly affluent,” CRP’s Executive Director Sheila Krumholz said in a statement. “Whether voters elect them because they are successful or because people of modest means do not run, or for other reasons, is unclear, but struggling Americans should not assume that their elected officials understand their circumstances.“

The Senate is the wealthier of the two bodies, with a median net worth of $2.97 million compared to the House of Representatives' $843,000.

GOP Rep. Darrell Issa of California led both houses with an estimated net worth of $448.4 million. At $254 million, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., was the wealthiest senator, the group found.

Not all members boast anywhere close to those nine-figure sums, though. About two dozen members, including Rep. David Valadao, a Republican from California who was named Congress' least wealthy member, reported being in the red.

Click here to read the full report.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Faulconer's Chargers Stadium Plan]]> Thu, 15 Jan 2015 09:14:45 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Dave11P0114_1200x675_384737859671.jpg In his first State of the City address, Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced he wants to build a new Chargers stadium and make smooth all roads leading to it.]]> <![CDATA[Mayor Vows to Have Chargers Stadium Plan by Fall]]> Thu, 15 Jan 2015 09:15:23 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/kevin+faulconer+state+of+the+city+address.JPG

In his first State of the City address Wednesday, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer laid out an ambitious vision for the city, vowing to create a plan for a new Chargers football stadium by this fall and to finish 1,000 miles of road repairs in the next five years.

During Faulconer’s first ten months in office, speculation over the Chargers’ future has become widespread, especially as Los Angeles shops around for its own NFL team.

The mayor is determined to keep the team in America’s Finest City, and he made his intentions clear in his speech at the Balboa Theatre downtown.

“It’s time for us, as a community, to come together to decide the future of the Chargers in San Diego,” said Faulconer. “This decision will be made on my watch as mayor.”

He announced he will collect a group of civic leaders who will explore ways to finance the project and find a viable space. Two options will be on the table: building a stadium in the current Mission Valley location, or building a stadium in conjunction with an expanded convention center downtown.

The group will be tasked with finding a solution that is a “good and fair deal” for local taxpayers by this fall, when the plan will be made public.

“Both the stadium and convention center are vital to San Diego, and together or separate, we can get both done,” said Faulconer.

Wherever the big project will be, Faulconer also addressed how most will get there: on San Diego’s crumbling roads. For decades, he said, money to fill potholes was diverted to pension benefits. Now, the mayor is making street repair the city’s highest infrastructure priority.

“This spring, I will ask the city council to approve my five-year plan to double our street repair efforts,” he said. “We will repair 1,000 miles of streets.”

In his “One San Diego” budget, Faulconer pledged nearly $100 million to go to infrastructure over the next five years.

But City Councilmembers Todd Gloria and David Alvarez said he missed an opportunity to give a solution for the city’s entire $3 billion infrastructure problem.

“On the same day of these State of the City promises, the Independent Budget Analyst released a report stating that the city will be $96.4 million behind the amount the Mayor has proposed for infrastructure expenditures,” said a joint statement from Alvarez and Gloria. “This should be a wake-up call for all San Diegans. City streets won’t get fixed and fire stations, parks and libraries will be further delayed without a more significant commitment from this administration.”

In his address, Faulconer said he also plans to reform the way repairs are made, allowing contractors to bid for city projects online and eliminating red tape.

Faulconer wants to streamline how private and public sectors compete for neighborhood services. As it stands, the bidding process takes an average of nearly 30 months to complete and implement a winner. The mayor wants to cut down the process to make it faster and open it up to more competition.

<![CDATA[Vacant Chula Vista City Council Seat Filled]]> Tue, 13 Jan 2015 20:58:40 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Chula-Vista-City-Council-05.jpg

The Chula Vista City Council has filled the seat left vacant by former councilwoman and current Mayor Mary Salas.

Steve Miesen was appointed Tuesday after hours of debate and indecision. At one point, Salas, who was overseeing the meeting, excused herself after becoming frustrated with the proceedings.

When Salas left mid-term, the city council was required to appoint someone by Jan. 23, or the decision would go to a special election – at a cost of at least $600,000 to the city.

Miesen is the division manager of Republic Services, a waste collection service in Chula Vista. He also serves on the executive committee of the Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce and the Port of San Diego’s Chula Vista Cultural and Design Committee.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 ]]>
<![CDATA[State of City in Disrepair: Fit to Finance a Stadium?]]> Tue, 13 Jan 2015 20:15:38 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/215*120/chargers+generic.jpg

With the NFL's playoffs nearing the Super Bowl, the San Diego Chargers are looking to what the not-too-distant future holds for them in this city.

Wednesday evening, Mayor Kevin Faulconer will share his vision for the franchise.

Will it square with the team's and the ideas of whatever voters may be involved?

While the Bolts will be back playing in Qualcomm Stadium through the 2015 season, on a yearly basis they can end their lease by paying an exit fee.

Since there’s no early guarantee that they’ll renew it for 2016, a lot of people will be hanging on what the mayor says about structures such as a new stadium and expanded convention center.

But the city's infrastructure is in a state of disrepair, and putting billions of dollars toward those causes figures to be a tricky balancing act.

"If the mayor's plan is to have infrastructure treated separately from the stadium and the convention center expansion, I think that project's probably doomed," said attorney Cory Briggs, who represented civic and environmental activists in legal action that torpedoed the hotel room-tax plan
for expanding San Diego's bayfront Convention Center.

"You're not going to get a two-thirds vote to support that sort of thing; you probably don't even get a 50 percent vote,” Briggs told NBC 7 in an interview Tuesday. “That's why treating this as a stand-alone issue is completely wrong. It's misreading the voters."

For their part, Chargers are planning convention space in a hybrid stadium/sports arena complex nearby -- on 12 acres in East Village encompassing Tailgate Park and the Metro Transit bus yard.

There's talk of a joint-powers authority comprising the city, county and other government agencies.

The Bolts suggest earmarking three land parcels -- the East Village site, along with the 166-acre Qualcomm Stadium site, plus 105 acres surrounding the Valley View Center complex in the Sports Arena/Midway District – as private "leverage" to help finance the project.

"I just find it difficult to be optimistic,” said U-T San Diego sports columnist Nick Canepa. “I've been writing this thing since I was a child. And I'm not a child anymore."

Canepa points out that the St. Louis Rams' stadium proposal in Inglewood faces numerous obstacles -- starting with his fellow NFL owners – and probably should be downplayed in the minds of San Diegans, in favor of focusing on the here and now.

"I've felt for a long time that if the Chargers leave San Diego, it will not be the Chargers' fault -- it will be the city's fault,” Canepa said. “Not necessarily because they won't build them a new stadium, (but) because they didn't keep up the one they had."

Canepa’s last, brutally frank take on the issue: "The city's been a slum lord with that place, and the Chargers are tenants."

Briggs and his clients, meantime, are challenging the state Coastal Commission's approval of the convention center expansion.

That court action and potential appeals figure to prolong the uncertainty.

The conventional wisdom at City Hall and elsewhere seems to be that a ballot proposal must be put to the voters by November, 2016.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Gavin Newsom Says He Won't Run for Senate in 2016 ]]> Mon, 12 Jan 2015 18:38:33 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/171*120/171540773_8.jpg

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday that he won't join what's expected to be a crowded field of Golden State candidates running for U.S. Senate in 2016.

Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer announced last week that she plans to step down at the end of her current term, setting the stage for the California's first open Senate seat race in more than 20 years. The contest is expected to attract a number of young, prominent Democrats seeking the rare opportunity advance to a top statewide post in a state where the governorship and both U.S. Senate seats are held by longtime politicians who are 70-plus.

Until Monday, Newsom, the former San Francisco mayor, was considered not only part of that pack, but a potential frontrunner should he have joined the fray. But Newsom, who is also seen as a possible candidate for governor in 2018, said Monday that he plans to sit the race out.

"While I am humbled by the widespread encouragement of so many and hold in the highest esteem those who serve us in federal office, I know that my head and my heart, my young family's future, and our unfinished work all remain firmly in the State of California --- not Washington D.C.," he said in a post to Facebook fans.

Political analyst Larry Gerston had guessed last week that Newsom wouldn't want the post. He said that Newsom was more of an "executive branch guy."

Other high-profile Democrats considered possible candidates for the seat include former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who issued a statement expressing interest in a race, wealthy environmental activist and former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer and state Attorney General Kamala Harris. Some political observers in the state had said it was unlikely that Harris and Newsom, both rising stars in the state party, would run for the same seat.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Congress Hears Testimony on FAA Drone Plan]]> Mon, 12 Jan 2015 08:28:13 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/drone-file.jpg

As new rules are being drafted regarding the use of drones, Congress heard testimony recently of the potential threat including the nearly 200 reports of “near misses.”

The Federal Aviation Administration is putting together its plan to safely integrate unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) or drones into the National Airspace System. The rules are expected later this year.

In the meantime, the FAA has been getting 25 reports a month from pilots who either spot a drone during their flight or have to adjust their flight path to avoid one.

Of the nearly 200 pilot sightings reported in the last four months, two were in the San Diego County region.

One, in El Cajon, involved a quad copter type UAS with lights operating at 700 feet on Sept. 26. A citizen called that one in to the Transportation Security Operations Center, which monitors the nation's airspace.

However, a month earlier, a pilot of a private plane reported seeing multiple UAS flying at 800 feet less than two miles northeast of the runway at Carlsbad airport.

Other incidents in California included a pilot’s report of a drone at 7,800 feet and another report of a device at 8,000 feet.

Capt. Lee Moak, President, Airline Pilot’s Association, said there is a need for regulations regarding drones.

“I think many people don’t realize they’re flying them in commercial airspace and it could cause a significant hazard,” Moak said.

He believes drones should not be permitted near airports or in
the flight path used for airport approach.

“Even one near miss, if it was a little left or a little right, could have created a larger problem,” he added.

Drone activist Adam Eidinger believes the government is overreaching in its attempt to regulate drone use.

“It defies common sense,” Eidinger said.

Although he can see reasons for prohibiting drones near high-security locations such as state capitols and the White House, Eidinger thinks there is no harm to flying drones on private property.

“Your chances of getting hurt from one of these things is next to zero,” he said. “You’re more likely to get injured getting in your car. The second you’re in your car, you’re in a risky situation.”

The jump in reports of so-called drone “near misses” has been credited to increased awareness by pilots and the public and better tracking.

While there has been no legal action taken against a drone operator, the FAA has contacted some operators to advise them of current regulations and has issued notices of proposed civil penalties.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Politically Speaking: Police Body Cameras]]> Fri, 09 Jan 2015 12:24:18 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/WEB_POLITICALLY_SPEAK_SEG1_01-09-15_1200x675_382408259840.jpg Discussing body cameras on NBC 7's Politically Speaking - Assembly Member Shirley Weber, who's sponsoring a bill to create a state task force that would establish a "best practices" manual for officer-worn body cameras, San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman, whose department is equipping its officers with the devices. and SDPD Office Ed LaValle, an expert in the technology who'll demonstrate their use.]]> <![CDATA[Politically Speaking: Police Body Cameras Part II]]> Fri, 09 Jan 2015 12:26:07 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/1204-2014-BodyCameras.jpg The second part of the discussion of the officer-worn body cameras nd a proposed state task force to establish a "best practices" manual for California law enforcement agencies.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Politically Speaking: Police Body Cameras Part III]]> Fri, 09 Jan 2015 12:27:29 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/WEB_POLITICALLY_SPEAK_SEG3_01-09-15_1200x675_382413379823.jpg The third part of the discussion of the officer-worn body cameras and a proposed state task force to establish a "best practices" manual for California law enforcement agencies.]]> <![CDATA[Lawmakers Eye Task Force For Officer Body Cameras]]> Fri, 09 Jan 2015 20:19:27 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Police+Body+Camera.jpg

With the use of officer-worn body cameras escalating California, state lawmakers are now trying to get a handle on the practice — before major problems arise.

They’re discovering that body cams, as is the case with so many emerging technologies, present complex issues and potential, undesirable consequences.

San Diego Assembly Member Shirley Weber (D-79th) has introduced AB 66, which would create a statewide task force to establish "best practices" guidelines.

"Our main objective coming in was not because (body cameras) had to do with the enforcement of law,” Weber said Friday during a recording session for Sunday’s edition of NBC 7’s “Politically Speaking” public affairs program.

“It was because people thought they were being abused. So we have to be very careful that we do protect the rights of the individual."

Routine traffic stops caught on camera may not raise issues of citizen abuse very often.

But all too many stops don't stay routine — prompting questions about probable cause for detainment and possible racial profiling.

In the hope and belief that body cams will help resolve and clarify law enforcement encounters and incidents, the city of San Diego is spending $4 million to equip hundreds of its police officers with the cameras.

They already have guidelines about when to start recording.

But there are concerns among the public — reflected in many of some 700 responses by NBC 7 social media followers polled on the issue — about the circumstances under which officers may stop recording.

“I like the idea,” Ebony Luna wrote in a post to NBC 7’s Facebook page, “(but) would love it better if the cop didn't have the ability to turn it off.”

San Diego Police Officers Assn. President Brian Marvel said an officer must be given certain situational discretion to turn off the camera:

"There could be certain circumstances regarding sexual assault victims, the privacy concerns in that area,” Marvel said during the “Politically Speaking” discussions.

“Confidential informants — they may not want to have it on during that time because a lot of people, when they are on cameras, may not be as forthcoming with information that they want to give us."

SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman said her department is on the cutting edge of body-cam use nationwide: “We’re the eighth largest city in the United States, and if you take all the other larger cities above us, we have more body-worn cameras out right now — 600 cameras — than all of the others combined.”

While Zimmerman says SDPD and its rank-and-file officers are “95 percent” in agreement regarding the department’s policy manual, civil libertarians think statewide guidelines covering all legal ramifications and privacy concerns are essential.

"A big concern is what happens if they don't have prosecution? Or what happens in addition to that?” asked Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, policy director for the San Diego and Imperial Counties chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. “Is (the video) released to the public? It shouldn't be, basically, unless there's strong public interest. There's no public interest in humiliating individuals."

Weber is reaching out to a wide range of "stakeholders" to vet the issues.

She's said she’s aiming to have the task force offer policy recommendations — and possible bills to go to floor votes — by June, before the Legislature's summer recess starts July 1.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Boxer to Step Out of Senate Ring; Who's Next?]]> Fri, 09 Jan 2015 12:32:24 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/186*120/01-08-2015-barbara-boxer-2.jpg

For the first time in a generation, California voters are poised to fill an open U.S. Senate seat.

Speculation was rampant in San Diego and coast-to-coast Thursday after fourth-term incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer announced she’s retiring in 2016, leaving a rare national post in the most populous state in the country, which carries a lot of political weight.

There’s doesn’t figure to be anywhere near the 135 candidates in Gov. Gray Davis' recall election of 2003.

But the Golden State could still have a full and familiar slate of wannabe senators.

And pundits say, don't rule out Hollywood headliners or Silicon Valley high-tech billionaires.

"I have to make sure this Senate seat stays progressive -- that is so critical,” Boxer said in a personally produced video released via YouTube. “And I want to help our Democratic candidate for president make history. But you know what? I want to come home."

Boxer will have been in office for 24 years by the time she comes home from the Capitol, opening the door for the prospect of a Republican finally taking that California U.S. Senate seat.

GOP party bosses have fond hopes of Condoleeza Rice being interested or La Jollan Mitt Romney, but they might well be content with the likes of Neel Kashkari, last year's gubernatorial runner-up.

Or former state party chair Ron Nehring of Poway, last year's runner-up for lieutenant governor.

Or Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, runner-up for state controller.

Or San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, whose name is on some lips.

Will they create enough buzz in the atmosphere of a blue state voter stronghold?

"It's only going to be big if they have the funding, and that means they have to prove they have a chance,” said Voice of San Diego Editor in Chief Scott Lewis. “And that's going to be a hard thing. So it is probably more of an interesting discussion among Democrats right now."

That discussion starts with Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and State Attorney General Kamala Harris, both long mentioned as prospective candidates for governor in 2018.

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is also rumored to be in the mix – along with prominent show business types and high-tech, venture capitalists.

"We don't want some billionaire from Silicon Valley; we don't want some Hollywood elite,” said Tony Krvaric, chair of the Republican Party of San Diego County. “We want somebody who can understand what regular Californians are going through. Small business. Job creation. Taxation. Regulation. People are struggling in California, as they are all across the country."

There's conjecture that Michelle Obama will bid for the Senate seat -- a page out of Hillary Clinton's playbook in New York -- because the first family is supposedly leaving the White House for California.

In an interview Thursday, Lewis dismissed that scenario: “Democrats in this state have been preparing for this (open seat) and thinking about it for a long time, and I think the idea that they would let a kind of carpetbagger come in and take care of that for them is probably not a very realistic assumption.”

Ditto for Krvaric: “I think Americans are ready for something fresh, both on the national side and here locally. It seems for decades we were re-treading or recycling. Recycling's good, but we don't have to recycle all the politicians. So let's get something fresh out there."

There is the possibility that two Democrats could make the runoff under the state's top-two "jungle primary" system; a much more remote chance for two Republicans.

National political observers already are predicting the campaign will wind up being the costliest Senate race in history, with spending from all sources soaring well into nine figures.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Boxer Says She Won't Seek Re-Election in 2016]]> Fri, 09 Jan 2015 10:36:15 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/186*120/01-08-2015-barbara-boxer-2.jpg

Longtime Senator Barbara Boxer announced in a YouTube video Thursday that she will not seek re-election in 2016.

The Democrat has represented California since 1993, and there has been speculation for months that she would step down at the end of her term.

"I will never retire from fighting for the issues that matter, but I will not be running for Senate in 2016," read a tweet from Boxer's official account.

The retirement could set off a scramble for the seat among prominent young Democrats seen as waiting in the wings for a shot at one of the most populous state’s top offices.

Both U.S. Senate seats, the governor’s office and the chairmanship of the state Democratic party are all currently held by longtime figures in state politics who are in their 70s or older.

"I have to make sure this senate seat stays progressive, that is so critical," the 74-year-old Boxer said in the video, made with her eldest grandson, Zach Rodham, standing in as interviewer.

Attorney General Kamala Harris, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newson, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer and Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg have all been mentioned as possible candidates to replace Boxer.

Boxer said she will continue to work with her policitical action committee, PAC for Change, on issues that matter to her.

"I'm going to continue working on the issues that I love," Boxer said.

California last had an open Senate seat during the 1992 election, when both Boxer and fellow senator from California, Dianne Feinstein, were elected to represent one of the country's most populous states.

Before running for her current Senate seat, Boxer represented California's 6th District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1983 to 1993.

Boxer chaired the Senate’s Select Committee on Ethics and the Environment and Public Works Committee until Republicans took over this year.

In a statement, President Barack Obama said Boxer inspired young women "to achieve their biggest dreams, having Barbara as an incredible role model."

"Barbara Boxer is more than a Senator – she’s an institution," Obama said. "She’s served the people of California for more than three decades with distinction, fighting for the issues that are close to their homes and hearts. Thanks to Barbara, more Americans breathe clean air and drink clean water. More women have access to healthcare. More children have safe places to go after school. More public lands have been protected for future generations. More Americans travel on safe roads and bridges."

Boxer's choice to exit was not a surprise, political analyst Larry Gerston said.

"She has not been fundraising. That was my first tip that she wasn't going to run at all. You have to establish a sizeable war chest, like tens of millions of dollars. She only had $150,000," he said.

Gerston also said it's likely Boxer will still have her hand in politics, as she indicated in her video.

"Logic would dictate she wants to have some good years with her family," he said. "And she's not going to go into a rabbit hole. She'll be able to speak more freely now."

Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi discussed Boxer's decision Thursday morning at her weekly press conference.

"She has always shared her ideas. She has always shared the credit. She has always tried to help people succeed with their ideas. She has reached across the aisle," Pelosi said.

"She has reached across our state, which is a glorious state. And her leaving will be a great loss to the Congress of the United States, the people of California, and to our country."

NBC's Torey Van Oot and Lisa Fernandez contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Another Kennedy Takes Office as Ted Jr. Joins Connecticut Senate]]> Thu, 08 Jan 2015 11:54:53 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/ted+kennedy+jr+state+senator.jpg

The Kennedy legacy lives on.

Ted Kennedy Jr. officially gained the title of state senator Wednesday, becoming the newest member of the powerful family to take office.

Kennedy represents the 12th District in the Connecticut State Senate, a region encompassing Branford, Durham, Guilford, Killingworth, Madison and North Branford. He will also serve as Senate chair of the General Assembly’s Environment Committee, which oversees the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and is a member of the committees on public health and transportation.

“It is a great honor to join this body and begin working for the people in the communities that my family and I call home,” Kennedy said in a statement after taking the oath of office Wednesday. “I am thankful to all those who placed their trust in me, and particularly my wife and children, who have been with me every step of the way. I look forward to working alongside my colleagues in the General Assembly as we work to preserve and protect Connecticut’s coastline, create jobs, and keep Connecticut moving forward.”

A representative for Kennedy said the state senator plans to develop a plan to preserve Long Island Sound and introduce legislation that will make it sustainable for both recreational and commercial use.

Photo Credit: Office of Ted Kennedy, Jr.]]>
<![CDATA[Ex-Va. Governor Faces Decade-Plus in Prison at Corruption Sentencing]]> Tue, 06 Jan 2015 09:22:31 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/454631202.jpg

Former Va. Gov. Bob McDonnell could be sentenced to several years in prison Tuesday, months after he and his wife were convicted on public corruption charges.

McDonnell left court a stricken man after he and his wife, Maureen, were convicted in September on multiple charges involving accepting more than $165,000 in gifts, trips and loans from a wealthy businessman.

Bob McDonnell returned to court Tuesday for his sentencing hearing, which began with his lawyers successfully making their case for why sentencing guidelines issued by prosecutors were incorrectly calculated. Prosecutors have said a 10 to 12 year sentence is appropriate.

Tuesday, the judge ruled in favor of the defense, adjusting the sentencing guidelines down to six to eight years.

McDonnell's attorneys have also asked that he be allowed to perform extensive community service in lieu of prison time.

The judge is expected to hear from from witnesses before issuing a sentence Tuesday.

Fairfax County Del. Dave Albo (R), who considers McDonnell a close friend and mentor, wrote one of the 440 letters to the judge seeking leniency for the once-rising political star.

"I've never seen one of my friends get jail time, and I've never seen someone get jail time who honestly did not believe he did anything wrong," Albo said.

"...[He's] one of the most wonderful guys I know. I mean, I've met a lot of people in my 21 years in the House of Delegates," he said.

But Albo is a defense lawyer himself, and even he concedes that his friend will likely get prison time. He just hopes it's at the lower end of the scale.

"My best reasonable case scenario, the judge lowers it from 10 years to, say, five years, and lets him stay out on appeal," Albo said Monday. "That would be a huge victory tomorrow."

Former prosecutor Chuck James, now a white-collar defense attorney, also believes prison time for McDonnell is nearly inevitable.

"I would say the odds of him not spending a significant period of time in prison is very, very low indeed," he said.

Maureen McDonnell will be sentenced Feb. 20.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Legal Contest Filed in Tight City Council Race ]]> Fri, 02 Jan 2015 19:29:05 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Padilla-McCann-Chula-Vista-.jpg

A legal statement of election contest claims 15 invalid votes should have been counted in the very close Chula Vista City Council race.

The lawsuit, filed Friday by Aurora Clark, says Registrar of Voters Michael Vu failed to count contested ballots in the race for city council Seat 1, which John McCann won by just two votes over Steve Padilla.

The statement of election contest calls for a judge to compel the registrar to count the ballots, an action that could upend the election's result.

Clark says 15 mail-in and provisional votes were declared invalid because there was a problem with the addresses or signatures on them.

According to the court document, the lack of address on a mailed-in envelope does not affect the vote’s validity as long as the signature compares with the signature on file. The signatures on ten of the contested provisional ballots matched voting records, Clark says.

In two other cases, people not registered to vote by mail showed up at a polling place and turned in mail-in ballots. The legal statement says the votes should count because poll workers should have given them a regular ballot.

One mail-in vote was deemed invalid because registrar employees determined the signature did not match the one on record – something Clark contests. And in the final case, the registrar’s office says the person voted twice.

“The errors and conduct described above have unlawfully and unconstitutionally disenfranchised eligible voters in the City of Chula Vista,” the lawsuit states, “and have denied them their fundamental right to vote and their rights to due process and the equal protection of the laws.”

It is not clear if the ballots will change the outcome of the race to help Steve Padilla.

Defendants John McCann and Michael Vu have 30 days to respond to the legal claim.

The Seat 1 race ended in a recount in December, but after a week in, Padilla suspended the recount and conceded to McCann.

Chula Vista is no stranger to tight races. In 2010, U.S. Rep. Juan Vargas won the 40th state Senate District seat by just 22 votes.

<![CDATA[Calif. Senator Introduces Ignition Interlock Bill]]> Mon, 29 Dec 2014 18:00:04 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/215*120/ignition2.jpg

It’s estimated drunk drivers kill more than 1,000 Californians and injure more than 20,000 each year.

On Monday morning, State Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), announced he is introducing legislation that would require everyone convicted of driving under the influence to install an "Ignition Interlock Device," or IID, on his or her vehicle. The senator's best friend was killed in a drunk driving accident 30 years ago.

The car engine will only start after the driver blows into the ignition device and the blood alcohol level is within the pre-set limit.

Hill said California is playing catchup – 24 states already have similar laws in place. The legislation would expand a pilot program in effect in four California counties: Alameda, Tulare, Sacramento and Los Angeles, which all require convicted drunk drivers to install the devices.

Women with Mothers Against Drunk Driving  stood alongside law enforcement officials behind Hill at the Courthouse Plaza in Redwood City Monday morning. MADD launched a campaign in 2006 to eliminate drunk driving that includes calling on states to require the ignition lock installations, citing a statistic that 50- to 70-percent of convicted DUI offenders continue to drive without a license.

Under Hill’s proposed bill, drivers would have to install and use an IID depending on the number of DUI convictions:

  • 1st DUI offense: 6 months in jail
  • 2nd DUI offense: 1 year in prison
  • 3rd DUI offense: 2 years in prison
  • 4th DUI offense: 3 years in prison

Right now, only 20 percent of people convicted of DUIs opt to install an ignition lock versus driving with a restricted license, Hill's office said. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the locks are very effective in cutting the recidivism rate of drunk driving offenses by 67 percent.

Photo Credit: Josh Keppel]]>