“He was a Boy Scout, and I was a Girl Scout.”
So retorted San Diego City Councilmember Donna Frye last week when colleague Tony Young feigned incredulity at the idea of Frye and her frequent political nemesis, Mayor Jerry Sanders, co-chairing a committee that will help determine how the city will spend $12.5 million in energy-efficiency stimulus grants that San Diego will receive from the U.S. Department of Energy.
But at 8 a.m. Thursday, June 25, on City Hall's 12th floor, that's exactly what will happen, when Frye and Sanders kick off the first of several intense public meetings with an ad-hoc committee of 11 council and mayoral appointees, whose goal is to come up with the best use for that money.
As CityBeat has reported, this wasn't the plan Sanders originally foresaw, although he's now embraced it. Last week, the City Council voted unanimously to hold public hearings seeking ideas from San Diego's best and brightest, thereby blunting the mayor's initial plans for the stimulus money that his office had devised behind closed doors, which included spending $5 million to leverage a $30-million solar-power project in Balboa Park.
Councilmember Todd Gloria—whose district includes the park—rallied park troops last week as a solid soldier for Team Sanders and its clandestine “green” plan, which came to light one night in late April when the mayor's staff crashed the council's 10th floor in an attempt to thwart a press conference the next day calling for a more public role in determining how the stimulus money should be spent.
When his council colleagues agreed that more public input was needed after questions were raised about the large price tag on the park solar plan, Gloria seemed resigned to the formation of the ad-hoc committee. Although, after the council meeting, he posted this on Twitter: “Using Obama's energy efficiency stimulus funds to reduce Balboa Park's carbon footprint by two-thirds is a smart move. Who's with me?”
It certainly will be a topic of discussion during committee deliberations, which will be on a short timeline to get a project list together for council approval by early September. The city must submit its application for the energy stimulus grants by Oct. 25.
The committee won't be short on brainpower—it contains no fewer than nine alternative-energy experts, including a UCSD engineering department chairman, a green technology guru and a green-jobs advocate. But it also includes the mayor's former campaign consultant, Scott Maloni, now chief mouthpiece for Poseidon Resources, the Carlsbad desalination project folks.
It won't include Erik Caldwell, an initial mayoral pick but also the mayor's top energy adviser. He was pulled Tuesday after the Mayor's office was reminded that neither Frye nor Sanders would have voting power on the committee. Risa Baron, an energy programs supervisor for SDG&E, will replace him.
People interested in seeking the stimulus funds are precluded from serving on the committee, but Frye is philosophical: “My attitude right now is, give everyone the benefit of the doubt and work through this.”