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Thursday, Apr 21, 2011 - Last Blog on Earth | News

Did DeMaio fib about 'Road Repair Rally'?

Said city, nonprofit participating. That's news to them

By Kelly Davis
roadrepairrally DeMaio talks street repair on KUSI

On Tuesday, San Diego City Councilmember Carl DeMaio appeared on KUSI's morning show to talk about the Scripps Ranch "Road Repair Rally"—an event this Saturday during which folks from Scripps Ranch will walk the streets, documenting potholes. A crew from the Alpha Project, a homeless-services nonprofit, would follow, filling potholes under the supervision of a city work crew.

At least that's what DeMaio told the KUSI hosts.

"We have a nonprofit organization, Alpha Project, that's going to help us fill potholes," he said. "We have a couple city work crews that are also going to be on hand."

The KUSI anchor then asked if this kind of thing was allowed. Yes, DeMaio replied, adding that "the Alpha Project is under contract to help us fill potholes."

Yesterday, I was talking to Alpha Project CEO Bob McElroy about the status of the Neil Good Day Center (a blog post on that coming soon) and asked him about the Road Repair Rally. "Huh?" was his response. I told him what DeMaio had said about Alpha being under contract. That was news to him.

"There's no contract," McElroy said. But, he wanted to check with Alpha's COO, Amy Gonyeau. Gonyeau called me later and confirmed that no one from DeMaio's office had arranged for them to be there.

I also asked Hasan Yousef, the deputy director of the city's Streets Division, about the Road Repair Rally. Yousef, in an email, said there were no plans for city crews to be there. But, he added, "crews will promptly respond to and repair potholes referred to them as a result of this event."

He said there were liability and labor issues that DeMaio failed to address. Some of the liability issues could be mitigated by volunteers signing a waiver, Yousef wrote, but "there are very substantial questions regarding overall liability that must be addressed by our Risk Management and Attorney’s offices."

"Furthermore," he wrote, "it is possible that specifically recruiting volunteers to take over work normally performed by City workers may violate the labor agreements now in force.... All of these issues should be addressed in advance of any work organized by any organization or individual."

And, should folks go out looking for potholes, they might not find too many. "It is important to note that our crews just recently conducted a proactive sweep through Council District 5 addressing many potholes concerns throughout the area," Yousef wrote.

I've emailed DeMaio's office to find out what's up.

Update (April 22): Yesterday evening, I talked to Alpha Project volunteer Kyla Winter, who said a DeMaio staffer contacted her in February to ask if they'd be interested in participating in the Road Repair Rally. But, Winter said, no date was ever set, so she didn't pass along the information to McElroy and Gonyeau. "We didn't know the details," she said. And, if there had been any sort of contract, she said, McElroy would have known about it. Winter emphasized that Alpha is interested in working with DeMaio's office in the future, as part of the nonprofit's "Take Back the Streets" program, which helps homeless adults transition into permanent employment—TBS did a volunteer clean-up in Councilmember David Alvarez's district last weekend, Winter said. In 2006, the city cut funding for Take Back the Streets (read about it here), but last month, six members of the City Council recommended that TBS receive federal Community Development Block Grant funding starting July 1, 2011. DeMaio, along with council president Tony Young, were the two councilmembers who didn't recommend the program be funded.

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