This week Mayor Jerry Sanders traveled to Washington, D.C., for the third time since becoming San Diego's mayor. The trip was less extensive than the mayor's second visit to the capital, at the end of March.
That three-day visit began in the office of Duncan Hunter early on Wednesday, March 29. The mayor's communications director Fred Sainz and two police officers, brought along for security, had come with Sanders from a previous day of meetings in New York. Also scheduled to fly into Washington were San Diego government relations director Andrew Poat, public safety director Jill Olen, and community and legislative services director Kris Michell.
Briefing notes for the Sanders meeting with Hunter, obtained under a Public Records Act request, called for discussion of homeland security, federal community development block grants, and other primary topics. Under "Other Issues," the notes mentioned the Navy Broadway Complex. "Hunter is very interested in this project," suggested the notes. "You [Sanders] may wish to highlight that you will be with the Navy on Friday [March 31] as they unveil the next step in awarding development rights." The briefing then brought up the "Veterans Cross." "Congressman Hunter," it said, "authored the legislation that authorized transfer of the La Jolla Cross to the federal government."
Another crucial player would attend the Sanders/Hunter tête-à-tête. Marek Gootman of the public relations firm Patton Boggs had assisted the city's Andrew Poat in planning the capital visit. A July 13 item in the online newspaper the Hill says that San Diego pays Patton Boggs $200,000 a year to make political connections in Washington.
According to a March 1 e-mail, Poat had hoped to get Sanders "a 'wow' event" at the White House. It turned out, however, that during the late-March visit, President Bush would be in Cancún for immigration talks with Mexican president Vicente Fox and Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper. So the mayor had made a one-day trip to the capital the previous Thursday, March 23, meeting on homeland security funding with Bush, Vice President Cheney, and others.
San Diego's role in homeland security still drove planning for the mayor's second trip to Washington. In early January, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff released a list of 35 metropolitan areas thought to be at "high risk for terrorist attack or natural disaster." But San Diego did not make the list. Governor Schwarzenegger and local San Diego officials have protested the decision. Last year the city received $14.7 million under the Urban Area Security Initiative.
In a February 22 e-mail to Gootman, Andrew Poat wrote, "We have four weeks to identify the assurances we want, find an 'in' at [the Department of Homeland Security] with whom to discuss and close out and, ideally, be able to 'announce' something acceptable to all when the Mayor visits."
Gootman wrote back on February 23 saying that a homeland security briefing had been secured at 3:00 p.m. on March 30 at "a Hill location to be determined. The briefing will be classified as secret. They will be able to go into specifics about the San Diego area and how the [funding] formula was applied. [The Department of Homeland Security] will take specific questions ahead of time...if submitted by March 24. FBI agreed to expedited clearance review for Mayor and Jill [Olen], so we will be forwarding that paperwork for fast turnaround."
The next day Gootman e-mailed Poat, Olen, and other city officials: "Discussed with staff what formal assurances we might extract." He continued with a suggestion that San Diego's "border proximity" and "military presence" may have been left out in the Homeland Security funding calculation. "But," wrote Gootman, "we also discussed the most recent tunnel incident as an opportunity to give [Homeland Security] cover for some discretionary adjustment this year, and they would focus a lot of attention in these next briefings on taking the tunnels into account."
Duncan Hunter was not the only local Congressional representative Sanders would see. Before the trip was over, he would meet with Congresswoman Susan Davis and Congressmen Bob Filner and Darrell Issa. He was scheduled in between those and other meetings to give live interviews to KNSD, KUSI, and CNN.
Highlights of the Davis and Filner briefing notes, virtually identical, included directions for Sanders to bring up political threats to community development block grants. "We need to make sure that cuts proposed by President are not implemented," said the notes. "Cut could reduce San Diego spending by $4 million -- and impact important projects like City Heights."
On Thursday, March 30, Sanders was to have breakfast with California senator Barbara Boxer. Only staffer Kris Michell would accompany him to the meeting. The briefing notes identify Boxer as "an important player in environmental issues due to her committee positions. She may be interested in developments in San Diego's consideration of full secondary waste water treatment. Status: significant water reuse and treatment studies are currently under way at the Water and Wastewater departments. Recommendations are expected later this year."
Another major reason for the mayor's visit to the capital was to meet with senior military officials. To prepare, Poat sought help from a local source. Vice Admiral Peter Hekman, U.S. Navy Retired, is a member of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce's Military Affairs Advisory Council. He formerly served as board chairman for the local chapter of the National Defense Industrial Association.
On February 22, more than a month before the Sanders Washington, D.C., trip, Hekman e-mailed Poat, "I believe it would be beneficial if the Mayor were to call on the Secretary of the Navy and on B.J. Penn, [Assistant Secretary] for Installations and Environment. My choice would be Penn if it comes to a choice. I strongly recommend a call in the Pentagon. There are a great number of issues where Penn would like to be reassured."
Hekman went on to suggest several items that Sanders ought to stress in a visit with Penn. Among them were the mayor's "active support for the continuation of the Broadway redevelopment plan between the Navy and the City, his support for the Secretary's stand on the high military value of Miramar, North Island, and MCRD (without directly mentioning an airport)...[and] how our community is equipped to be the best location nationally for tying national defense and homeland security into a coherent, cooperative package."