Qualcomm Layoffs, SDSU West Lawsuits, Airport Authority Compromises and more: San Diego Summarized | 4-23-18
Welcome to San Diego Summarized where each week we examine headlines from around the city:
This week we kick off with the rather regrettable news that local tech titan Qualcomm began a round of layoffs this past week, shedding 1,231 San Diegan jobs in a restructuring effort to cut costs and appease shareholders.
The cellular technology company revealed the size of the mass layoff through required Worker Adjustment and Re-Training Act (WARN) notices. They were received Thursday at the San Diego Workforce Partnership and other employment support organizations statewide.
“A workforce reduction such as this one affects not only those employees who are part of the reduction but their families, co-workers and the community,” a Qualcomm spokesperson said in a statement. “We recognize this and have offered affected employees supportive severance packages to reduce the impact of this transition on them.”
While these layoffs don’t become effective until June 19th, the mood in Qualcomm offices is dour. Speaking on condition of anonymity, one employee who survived this round of cuts said it “feels like a ghost town here,” on Friday, April 20th.
The company said it initially evaluated cost cuts that would have avoided layoffs, “but we concluded that a workforce reduction is needed to support long-term growth and success, which will ultimately benefit all of our stakeholders.”
On Wednesday, April 18th, two citizens filed a lawsuit in San Diego Superior Court, seeking to invalidate signatures gathered for the SDSU West Campus Research Center, Stadium and River Park Initiative. In the weeks leading up to the filing of this suit, City Council member Scott Sherman apparently unearthed a law indicating that the SDSU West Initiative itself was illegally worded, and solicited advice from City Attorney Mara Elliott regarding the potential ramifications for the City of San Diego.
Despite the language of the California Educational Code section 89005.5 being quite clear, backers of SDSU West seem to think their flagrant violation of the law is no big deal.
Friends of SDSU, the self-titled coalition of university alumni, community and business leaders, released a statement late Wednesday calling the lawsuit a “desperate attempt” by FS Investors, backers of the SoccerCity initiative, to “eliminate voter choice” about the use of the stadium site.
“It is entirely appropriate for our initiative and campaign committee to utilize the SDSU name, given its purpose is to help San Diego State University grow its academic, research and economic benefits for San Diego,” the statement said.
San Diego State spokeswoman Christine Hutchens said the university will “defer comment on the lawsuit to Friends of SDSU.”
San Diego’s political class was abuzz for weeks about Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher’s bill to fold the Airport Authority back into the Port of San Diego’s portfolio.
But Thursday we got news that Gonzalez Fletcher had abandoned that effort and replaced the bill’s language with a new compromise. The bill now would create a new committee of Port, airport and other stakeholders to grapple with mobility around the airport. It would be obligated to turn in a report by the beginning of 2020.
Gonzalez Fletcher said the bill sparked a lot of conversations among regional leaders about how to handle the issues the bill hoped to address. She said she became convinced that Kim Becker, who has been the airport’s president and CEO for not quite a year, was not trying to fight the bill, but figure out how to solve problems.
“I thought the best way was to give everyone an opportunity to come up with a realistic plan, and make the airport have a requirement for accountability,” she said.
April Boling, the chair of the Airport Authority’s board of directors, said that the proposed bill as it was had frustrated airline companies. The agency had been in the midst of negotiations with the airlines to increase rents at the airport to fund a reconstruction of Terminal 1.
“Those are the conversations we were having that have been influenced by this pending legislation. The feedback has been very negative,” she said, before the new deal was announced. Southwest Airlines had even written a letter to Gonzalez Fletcher pleading with her to reconsider the bill. The letter said the bill threatened to derail progress on Terminal 1 and delay its design and build phases.
After the new bill came out, Boling said she was excited.
A committee of regional agencies had already been meeting to sort out the transportation problems on and around Harbor Drive, including how to connect the airport to the region’s trolley system. But that group couldn’t make any final decisions. It didn’t have any teeth.
“This doesn’t do that either, but by creating a requirement for a report going to the Legislature, I think it could identify where the funding shortfalls are,” she said.
We’re continuing to learn more about educators who harass, abuse or otherwise exert power over their students in inappropriate ways – and who often get to keep their jobs, for a while anyway.
This week, we delved into two more of those stories, which involve students ranging from elementary school to college.
Christy Heiskala’s young daughter was abused by her teacher in Carlsbad. The teacher eventually went to jail – but prosecutors initially told Heiskala that they couldn’t move forward with the case based on her daughter’s account alone. They had to wait until more children were abused until law enforcement pressed a case against him. The experience has fueled Heiskala toward a career educating schools and parents how to spot predatory behavior and take action.
Over at SDSU, a professor is on leave following an investigation into a sexual relationship he had with a student. VOSD’s Kinsee Morlan found several other students who said the same professor bullied and humiliated them, including some who said they were discriminated against on the basis of their religion or a disability.