The Morning Report
San Diego news and info
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House members Tuesday angrily accused federal officials of blocking a $700 million sewage plant being developed in Mexico under a no-bid U.S. contract. Congressional supporters of the project — whose backers have spent heavily on campaign donations and lobbying — vowed to block money the Bush administration wants for an alternate plan on the U.S. side. “You ain’t gonna get it,” Rep. Bob Filner, D-San Diego, told officials from the EPA and the International Boundary and Water Commission at a hearing. But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the IBWC, the binational agency overseeing the project, say that Bajagua LLC has missed a series of deadlines in its plans for a plant that would treat sewage that flows north from Tijuana, Mexico, into the United States.
Apparently Filner, Brian Bilbray and Duncan Hunter (none of whom are in a district where border pollution impacts the beach — that’s Susan Davis’s district) were livid that their esteemed campaign donor, Bajagua, is going nowhere among the Bush administration bureaucrats who oversee the U.S-Mexico border.
Perhaps these bureaucrats, who have a close-up view of how the Bush team has bungled the war in Iraq, know a loser when they see one. The inane proposal by Bajagua that will enrich the Rancho Santa Fe partnership of Enrique Landa and Jim Simmons (who are supported by the lobbyists-lawyer consultants Craig Benedetto, Gary Sirota and Marco Gonzalez) is sinking faster than the Titanic.
Filner is especially angry that the White House inserted $66 million into the congressional budget for an alternative sewage plant to be built on the U.S. side of the border that he killed years ago to pave the way for Bajagua. According to the AP, Filner:
demanded to know where it came from (the money in the budget). “All of a sudden $66 million appears in the president’s budget. Money doesn’t appear like that out of nowhere. How did that money get in there?” Filner asked Carlos Marin, U.S. commissioner of the IBWC.
Marin denied requesting the money and described it as “basically a consensus of federal agencies that this would be the best approach to take. Fortunately the administration began to consider a contingency plan,” Marin said.
Maybe the money came from the same place that Bajagua found the $40 million to lobby for their sole-source no-bid contract. The funniest part this comedy is that:
Filner and Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Carlsbad, accused Marin and EPA of slow-walking the Bajagua plan from the moment it was approved in 2000 because they were reluctant to relinquish control to a private company.
But the stress of presiding over Bajagua’s ugly demise is apparently getting to Filner (a member of the hearing audience told me that Filner’s behavior was “embarrassing”). Last week, he told Eric Niller of KPBS that private contracts for public services are a bad thing,
The White House has been trying to privatize the whole United States, whether it’s social security, or Medicare or air traffic control or education. Privatization is geared at profit, and when you are dealing with a public service, you can’t have an agency that’s trying to make profits, because it will cut corners. It will not serve those who are hard to serve or probably poorer than the average.
So I guess privatization is bad for everyone else, but good in the case of those of us who live on the border outside of Filner’s district (Filner doesn’t have any Pacific coast beaches in his district). Meanwhile Senator Dianne Feinstein, (who sits on the Appropriations Committee, “supports the expenditure,” — on the alternative plan — said spokesman Scott Gerber) has recently requested a “study” of Bajaguagate by the GAO. Woodstein anyone?
— SERGE DEDINA