San Diego's Quality of Life Board, an advisory group of local academicians, voted Wednesday to ask Mayor Maureen O'Connor's office why it won't allow the board to officially submit a report critical of the Clean Air Initiative to the City Council next week--days before a vote on the ballot measure.
During a lunch-hour discussion, some of the academicians who worked on the report accused O'Connor of trying to manipulate the release of the report so as to not damage the initiative's chances of passing.
Harriet Green Kopp, board chairman and a retired San Diego State University staff member, said that as early as last month she requested a spot on the Oct. 26 council agenda. Her request came while board members and other professors were working diligently to complete the report on the city's need for solid-waste management, including the controversial SANDER trash-to-energy plant.
But O'Connor's office said it would not put the report on the Oct. 26 docket.
The report was released publicly last week, but Kopp said she wanted to bring it to the council for formal presentation at the regularly scheduled public meeting next week.
"We were very desirous to get the information out before the election," Kopp said.
Accused of Playing Politics
Other academicians who worked on the report accused O'Connor on Wednesday of playing politics with the scientific report.
"You have a politician trying to control the board to her own end, and I resent that," said Michael Kelner, an assistant professor of pathology at the UC San Diego Medical School.
O'Connor, however, said her staff hasn't scheduled the item because it hasn't received a copy of the final report. The final report is dated Oct. 16, and copies were distributed Wednesday at the board's meeting.
"I would suggest that before they start striking out that they at least get their report in writing and submit it to the (City Council) Rules Committee consultant so he can docket it" for the council meetings, O'Connor said.
The mayor said that until she reads the report, she has "no idea" whether she opposes it. She added that the council has voted not to take a stand on the issue as a group.
Seeking to Use Media
Paul Downey, O'Connor's press secretary, also said the Quality of Life Board is seeking to use the council as a "media tool."
"It seems as though they've done a pretty good job already," Downey said. "They want to get their message out, and by virtue of your calling me now, they've got their message out."
The report, completed after a year of study, concludes that a trash-to-energy plant such as SANDER would probably increase the rate of diseases caused by air pollution and may also lead to a small but undetermined number of deaths.
Air Initiative 'Premature'
But the report also says the Clean Air Initiative, aimed specifically at preventing SANDER, is premature and would "have an adverse effect on the city's ability to implement reasonable and safe solutions to our solid-waste management problem.
"The Clean Air Initiative would prevent the city from being able to evaluate different technologies based on the merits of each individual proposal," the report concludes.
Though voters have yet to decide the fate of the initiative, its qualification for the Nov. 3 ballot prompted the Signal Corp. to abandon its plans in August to build the $400-million SANDER plant in Kearny Mesa. The firm cited the City Council's lack of support for abruptly pulling out of the project.