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How would mayoral candidates avoid future blackout failures?
San Diego and many other places in and around southern California experienced a total blackout on Sept. 8.
It was unprecedented; authorities estimated that it left about 5 million people without electricity for hours.
Sewage pumping stations lost power and millions of gallons of sewage spilled into the streets and waterways. The water supply was also threatened as water pumping stations similarly failed. Notices were issued to certain neighborhoods to boil their water before drinking.
The city didn’t have backup generators. The simple reason: money. Now, the blackout has led to serious questions being asked about whether backup systems need to be put in place to ensure that emergency services remain online.
Continuing our polling of San Diego’s declared mayoral candidates, we asked them for their plans to avert future backup failures. Do they support investing in backup systems even if it means an increase in fees for residents?
Carl DeMaio, city councilman:
The large sewage spill during the recent blackout was yet another example of the high cost of deferred infrastructure maintenance over decades. The answer to this problem is not new taxes – we need to do a better job managing the existing funds we have. The city must make infrastructure a priority once again and focus on some of the core responsibilities of local government: providing working streets, water lines, sewage treatment facilities, and other infrastructure.
It should not take over 3 million gallons of sewage pouring into local creeks for city leaders to understand that there is an infrastructure crisis. If pension payments are viewed as an annual requirement, I believe that infrastructure should be viewed with the same urgency.
Bonnie Dumanis, district attorney:
We have learned from this experience that we do need backup systems in place; sewage spills are not an acceptable outcome for power outages. However, I don’t accept the premise that increased fees are necessary and believe we need to look at ways to absorb the costs through other efficiencies.
Bob Filner, congressman:
The congressman failed to respond, though one of his campaign people emailed asking about deadlines for responding.
Nathan Fletcher, assemblymen:
I support backup systems for all critical infrastructure in the city, but I don’t believe we have to raise fees to accomplish that. San Diego has more than an $800 million dollar deferred maintenance backlog on our City infrastructure. I recently released a plan to close this backlog. As we repair our old systems we should increase their reliability. As we build new infrastructure we can incorporate new technologies that reduce our dependence on the power from the grid and save the City money. These steps can ensure San Diegans critical infrastructure is protected and continues to function in an emergency situation.
David Cardon, real estate broker:
The sewage spill caused by the blackout is an outrage. We should already have a backup system in place. Potable water is crucial to our existence and the ocean is a huge part of the beauty of our City. We must protect both of these valuable resources at all cost. The blackout should be a lesson to us as a City. The time for action on a cost efficient way of safeguarding our water supply & our environment is now.
Hud Collins, trial attorney:
In recession no raising of fees/taxes. After 10 months of delay (Oct), City Council will confirm audit opinion – city should take out bonds to immediately invest in backup systems. Current advisory committee should immediately go full-time and make their evaluations and recommendations. Whenever during any extraordinary circumstances, water pressure should never fail; or spilling of 3.5 million gallons of waste be discharged – shame on our city leaders. Immediate investment and recall City Council. My plan would end the money crisis!
Loch David Crane, magician and retired teacher:
Of course I support investing in backup systems for water. I DO NOT feel the city or the citizens of San Diego should pay for these backup systems! The corporation which designed such a fragile, vulnerable system is responsible. Yes I believe SDG&E (San Diego Greed and Excess) needs to pay for its backup systems, place them where they cannot be destroyed by a fault line, drowned by a tsunami, or shut down by a lone terrorist.
SDG&E also has a layer of fat to remove: the shareholders, who demand profit from each of us! They made $360 million profit in one year: that’s a dollar a day from every one of you people, all year long – just for PROFIT! Shareholders should pay for these emergency repairs, then be removed. Ratepayers should not shoulder these fees. I ripped into the Public Utility Commission before (on YouTube). There were NO San Diegans on the PUC board!
There must be some legal way to take over that utility monopoly, buy off the shareholders, and lower consumer rates by about a third when you don’t have to feed the rich. We can ask Michael Shames’ U-CAN how to save even more!
Sunny O. Enyoghwerho, businessman:
It was obvious that many infrastructures were affected during the power outrage. The city should have provided a backup a long time ago. This is another inefficiency of the city management. They do not think a head of a problem. They wait until the problem magnified before finding a solution. The city officials don’t think about the problem that affects the city, they only think about themselves. If I’m elected Mayor, I will run the city as a corporation, not as a family business. San Diego is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and we should bring all the amenities to a workable standard of perfection. It is not raining now, this is the time to prepare our roads for the raining season. Instead, they are waiting for the rain to fall before they will take action. Some of the pipes in our streets have been there for over 50 years. They are due for replacement, but nobody is thinking about fixing them. I will support a power back up even though it will cost the residents some fees to implement. We should remember the people that need medical care at home in need of oxygen.
Steve Greenwald, compassionate physician, businessman, and civic activist:
With regards to back up power for pumping stations i would favor the local construction of a solar energy farm that would route energy to the pumps in case of emergencies and generate power to the grid at other times to pay for its construction..
Toby Lewandoski, computer scientist:
What were you doing during the black out? I was surviving the heat with my family and neighbors. We broke out candles and flashlights, and we were hoping the groceries would not spoil, from our big shopping trip to Costco the day before. It puts emphasis on the fact that San Diego is not ready for a natural disaster or any other kind of problems with our power infrastructure. This was the cause of a single technician, not a major disaster. Not only do we need to put things on backup systems, we need a dependable power generation for use by the city. I have plans to help the city of San Diego never have to experience this again, and to lower electric rates citywide. I believe the city should be working for you, not trying to take every penny that you have.
Tobiah Pettus, unemployed:
Sharks are attracted to blood in the water. The blackout was America hemorrhaging catastrophic amounts of blood into the water. If a worker in Gila Bend, Arizona, can accidentally knock out power to almost half the State of California and parts of Mexico, spill millions of gallons of sewage and essentially cut off the water supply to San Diego, then what can a saboteur do? What are terrorist or foreign powers capable of doing to America with well-placed bombs or missile strikes? Cataclysmic humanitarian crisis, resulting from no water or power for months. America has shown great weakness.
America has had several surprise attacks throughout our history. We may yet again. The power of America is declining and the strength of foreign powers is rising – in addition to terrorists. In the news, China has just completed its first aircraft carrier, with many more to follow. China is building a military power to rival our own.
Also in the news, Iran is threatening to move warships close to American shores.
Absolutely, we need backup systems.
The business of water and sewage are profitable to the City of San Diego and increased fees are not necessary.
Scott Wilson, businessman:
As for the sewage question, any normal successful business has a backup system. I find it hard to believe the critical infrastructure systems are so vulnerable in a security obsessed era like the one we are now in. It’s ridiculous that San Diego Sewage doesn’t already have that in effect. It feels to me like this is just another case of Big Corporations cutting corners. Which when they are needed the most ends up hurting the customers/citizens. And to fix it they want to raise prices. That’s a bunch of B.S. I feel a class action law suit on that one. Stand up San Diego!
Some other declared contestants failed to respond to emails and voice mail message; Bradley Slavens isn’t sure that he’s going to be running; Sharam Adhami did not respond; Rob Harter failed to respond to this week’s question.
Lamii Kpargoi is an international fellow working with voiceofsandiego.org. He will be working on elections issues and media best practices in community relations. You can reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and 619.550.5671.
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