Two things on my mind today.
Mayor-Elect Bob Filner announced last Friday that he was going to open an office just south of the border in Tijuana. Some people scratched their heads and asked “why?” Some people undoubtedly were infuriated because they thought it was just another stupid move by an ultra-liberal politician to kowtow to the illegal immigrant population and cede more of our own nation’s authority to foreign entities. After all, we’re ‘Mericans, and we don’t take a back seat to nobody, and all these stinkin’ liberals can go to hell if they don’t believe in the superiority of ‘Merica!
So much for the spirit of cooperation.
Still, there were others who no doubt thought, “Now why didn’t we do this sooner?” And that’s a very good question. The City of Tijuana, apparently, has an office right here in Downtown San Diego. We are two major cities, each with a population of roughly 1.3 million people, and separated only by a demarcation line on a map (and a very large fence). Look to the south from Mar Vista High School in Imperial Beach and you’re staring not at other parts of San Diego, but at the hills of Tijuana.
Consider this: The San Ysidro border crossing is the busiest port of entry in the entire world. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, nearly 30 million people crossed the border into the U.S. at San Ysidro in 2011.
Also consider this: According to a recent SANDAG study, border crossing delays cost the San Diego and Tijuana region $6 billion in potential revenue in 2005, and 51,000 jobs. And that’s just in freight. Where cross border personal travel is concerned, the study showed that the San Diego region is losing a potential $2.5 billion per year in lost business opportunities because people south of the border simply choose not to wait for 45 minutes to two hours to cross into San Diego.
Cutting down on wait times and making our port of entry more efficient would mean a huge boost to the local economy, something that we could desperately use right now.
And the Mexicans are on their stuff. They recently completed a $76.4 million upgrade to the Mexico bound entry lanes, which seriously eased traffic congestion and cut down on wait times (not that getting into Mexico has been all that horrific). They got sick of waiting for the U.S. side to do their thing, so they went ahead with their side of the bargain and completed it way ahead of their American counterparts.
On the northbound side coming into San Diego, the U.S. Government Services Administration has a plan to build a $577 million expansion of the San Ysidro crossing that will expand the number of northbound inspection booths to 63 (the Mexicans expanded their southbound capacity from 8 to 22 booths). The first part of the U.S. project is underway—the construction of the new inspection booths. But the second and third phases remain on the drawing board. The second phase involves the construction of a new pedestrian bridge, and the third phase involves shifting Interstate 5 to the west to accommodate the new inspection booths and to link up with the Mexican crossing.
The problem? Despite the plans being in place and ready to go, Congress hasn’t funded the second and third phases of the project. This is where the Republican obstructionism in Congress is killing our local economy. Their zeal to cut spending and refusal to raise revenues is directly responsible for our region’s inability to boost our economic fortunes and take advantage of a golden opportunity right under our noses. Bob Filner knows this all too well, having been a representative in Congress to San Diego’s border district and the co-chair of the Congressional Border Caucus. And it’s why he decided to leave Congress and run for Mayor.
Opening an office in Tijuana makes sense. The economic fates of the two cities are largely tied together, and greater cooperation and more open lines of communication will only serve to streamline mutually beneficial projects. And maybe—just maybe—as mayor, Bob Filner will be able to somehow turn up the heat on Congress to once and for all fund the San Ysidro border project. His knowledge of the inner workings of Congress and personal familiarity of the major players therein certainly won’t hurt.
With a direct presence in Tijuana, perhaps more opportunities will be realized. And with the mayors of the two cities working more effectively together, maybe projects like the one in San Ysidro will get more attention from the powers that be so that work on big projects might actually begin on time and on budget. It could also mean greater cooperation on the Mexican side where the drug trade and the cartels are concerned.
So here’s my question: If Jerry Sanders was so pro-business and economic growth, why didn’t he think of this?
Is the UT-San Diego newsroom showing the same bias as its editorial staff?
We all know about the editorial bent of the UT-San Diego; how rabidly right wing they are. As in the craziest of the crazy Tea Party right wing. This is the editorial board that predicted that Mitt Romney would win the presidency “in a landslide” over Barack Obama (Obama won in a landslide). This is also the editorial page that presented us with an apocalyptic view of post-election America entitled “A Eulogy For America,” lamenting that “there are dark days ahead for the country,” and that “this country has been remolded by socialists and communists who have wormed their way into our government, news media, and our education system. “
This is the kind of irrational, far right wing, Tea Party lunacy that has absolutely zero foundation in reality that we’ve come to expect from the UT-San Diego opinion pages since “Lynchester” (apologies to Doug Porter, but I’ve grown fond of said moniker instead of “The Dougchester) purchased the paper. I mean, Fox News and the World Net Daily ain’t got nothin’ on Lynchester’s publication.
So it really wasn’t much of a surprise when they commissioned a poll along with the USD Center for Education Policy and Law just prior to the election that showed Carl DeMaio 10 points ahead of Bob Filner in the San Diego mayoral race. DeMaio was their chosen savior, after all, and their shilling for the hardcore Republican was really rather embarrassing. (They also offered up a “strong endorsement” of crazier than crazy Congressional candidate Nick Popaditch.)
I took a beating in the Twitterverse last week for calling into question the integrity of the UT reporting staff in light of the election results. Truth be told, I was under the assumption that the poll was commissioned by the UT editorial board and passed on to the news reporting staff to report out. Given their insistence that the news staff is insulated and completely separate and uninfluenced by the editorial staff, I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt. I figured they were given their marching orders by Lynchester, and they dutifully touted the results of a very flawed poll.
It turns out, apparently, that the poll was not commissioned by the editorial staff, but by the news reporting staff.
Refresher: The UT poll that was reported out on Oct. 20 showed DeMaio in the lead over Bob Filner 46 to 36 with 18 percent undecided. The poll showed that DeMaio had 82 percent support among Republicans, and that Filner was languishing at 60 percent support among Democrats. The key number, though, was that 18 percent undecided figure.
“When you see 18 percent of the vote undecided and you’re just a couple of weeks from the election, that’s unusual,” the UT story quoted David Cantor, whose Glover Park Group conducted the poll, as saying. “The undecided vote looks like it should break for Filner,” he continued. “It’s pretty strongly voting for Obama. So if Filner can ride those coattails, he’s going to close the gap.”
Sounds very scientific and reasonable, until you actually do the math. In order for Filner to have closed that 10 point gap and emerge victorious according to the UT poll, Filner would have had to have 83 percent of the undecided vote break for him. That’s an overwhelming number, and incredibly unlikely. Figure that most of those undecided voters are Decline to State voters, who are typically more conservative and more likely to vote Republican than Democrat. That stat alone calls their poll into question.
Then you examine their methodology. All city workers, family of city workers, friends of city workers, etc., were excluded from the poll. Deliberately. Which makes it even more suspect.
Compare the UT poll to the Survey USA poll commissioned by KGTV Channel 10, published on Oct. 15, just three weeks before the election. That poll showed Filner with a seven point lead over DeMaio, 47 to 40, and 13 percent undecided. Under that scenario, Filner would only have to earn 31 percent of the undecided votes in order to win the election. Which seems more likely?
Bob Filner won the election with 51.79 percent of the vote to DeMaio’s 48.21 percent. It’s difficult to imagine that a polling firm is so grossly incompetent as to get its polling results so catastrophically wrong. But the UTSD/USD poll was catastrophically, humiliatingly wrong. We can only guess why.
From this we can only reach one of two conclusions: That the reporting staff at the UTSD is grossly incompetent (which I don’t believe to be the case), or that, in conjunction with their editorial staff, they have shown incredible bias in their reporting and thus cannot be trusted to provide a neutral and accurate accounting of the facts, particularly when it comes to politics. This is a problem. A major problem.
Lynchester’s UT-San Diego is the only major newspaper in town, and this kid of chicanery is a massive disservice to the eighth largest city in America. The editorial board is way off the deep end, once commenting to Nathan Fletcher that they “could not allow Bob Filner to be elected Mayor of San Diego.” They’ve gone absolutely batshit crazy since the Lynchester takeover. It is certainly not representative of the electoral makeup of this city (or county, for that matter). But we were led to believe that that bias would not spill over into the newsroom. We can only conclude that it has.
Unless and until another news organization steps up and fills the void being left by the UTSD (hello LA Times!!!), we’re stuck with what the UTSD gives us, and that’s pretty tragic. San Diego deserves better. San Diego needs better.
Follow Andy on Twitter at @AndyCohenSD