How did Council Vote?














Lets do away with elections!
Councilman Peters Wins for Most Outraguos “Quote of 05 ”
Excerpt: April 26, 2005, New York Times included a quote by Councilman Scott Peters: "In an interview, Mr. Peters said it was too early to think about running for office. But he said he preferred that there be an appointment rather than a special election. "An election means a lot of exaggeration and insults and defamation and creates a terrible environment in which to make hard decisions," he said."

Mayor Sanders & District 1 Councilman Peters Ignores the La Jolla Community… in the Giveaway of Publicly Owned Site 653 
A one time sale without any future revenue stream to the City of 23,000 square feet of centrally located public land in La Jolla  for $940,000.

 May 9, 2006 final vote was 6-2. The two opposing votes were Brian Maienschein and Donna Frye. Donna† has steadfastly viewed this as a Land Use and community planning issue.
  Mr. Peters, reasons for failing to support his community planning groups, and† changing his purported stance from 2002, were beyond comprehension!
  Even though Hillel's project was approved, the conditions† would not have been imposed had council members not received so many letters/faxes/emails and phone calls.Had this not been a political decision, Sherri Lightners superb presentation of the issues on the docket would have carried the vote - but as we† audience saw, there was much that had happened before people spoke.
  Please remember to contact Mayor Sanders who made the decision to allow the exclusive sale in spite of prior council actions. This was a deeply troubling Precedent that the city is continuing in the old Murphy/ Golding footsets of business as usual.
  No Third Story
Voice OF San Diego, May 5, 2006 -- 4:02 p.m.
 ˆIn an uproarious meeting of the La Jolla Community Planning Association yesterday, the association narrowly rejected a motion that had called for a loosening of the building regulation in parts of La Jolla, which would allow developers to build mixed-used projects three stories high.
 The meeting had sparks a-plenty.
 First, Council President Scott Peters, whose district includes La Jolla, made a personal appearance at the meeting to call for a rejection of the motion. Instead, Peters proposed working with independent experts to figure out what's best for the neighborhood.
 "As volunteers, residents and representatives, our goal and our mission is to protect the charm, feel and character of La Jolla," Peters said. "We can't pretend that change will not happen. We can understand the forces that bring change and we can figure out how to manage that change."
 But the people of La Jolla wanted their debate. And they got it. Three hours of it.
 The debate was heated, according to my good friend Travis Hunter, a journalist for the La Jolla Light newspaper who attended the debate. There were heckles and jeers from the crowd, which was overwhelmingly against the motion.
 Enter City Attorney Mike Aguirre.
 Aguirre showed up at the meeting and, as Hunter put it, "did the Aguirre show." He was greeted by hoots and whistles from the crowd. Aguirre wagged the proverbial finger at the planning association and told them that they were in danger of violating conflict-of-interest rules. Architects Mark Lyon and Michael Morton, who proposed the changes to the rules, are both members of the community planning group. Lyon currently has a project pending that would greatly benefit from a rule change that would allow three stories.
 The planning association at first wanted to shelve the issue for a vote at another time, but Pennie Carlos of the Bird Rock Community Council put pressure on them to put the issue to a vote then and there.
 The association's president then said the panel would have a vote on whether to reject the rule changes.
 One planning association member, fed up with the heckling and the jeering, stood up, resigned on the spot, and stormed out.
 Another said he would vote against dismissing the rule changes because he refused to submit to "mob rule."
 Lyon recused himself from the vote. Morton didn't. With Morton's vote, the vote was tied at 5-5, but as the crowd grew more and more hostile over his participation in the voting -- as a local architect, critics have argued Morton stands to gain much from the rule changes -- Morton eventually recused himself.
 And the three stories debacle was over. For now.
 The La Jolla Planning Association is only an advisory body. The issue will probably be voted on by the San Diego City Council.
 I, for one, can't wait to see what happens then.

Communities Being in Control of Their Destiny is Hogwash
A few weeks ago the Planning Dept assured community leaders at CPC that they will not include an Opportunities Area Map in the General Plan. The Planning Department officials appeared to understand, after 4 years of "map controversy", that community leaders do not want their communities "pre-planned" long before they conduct community plan updates. Now, we learn that the Planning Dept has provided such a map to SANDAG!   
  All the talk about communities being in control of their destiny is hogwash.
  The Planning Dept, the Mayor's people, and the City Council  have decided that they are going to push higher densities.  As we saw with the Downtown Community Plan, these city officials have no intention of requiring that public facilities and infrastructure be available.  Only Donna Frye spoke out against the degrading of public safety.   
  The report implies that the Regional Transportation Plan will be based on the Concept Map, long before anyone has analyzed whether higher densities can reasonably be added without damaging residents quality of life.  
  It is becoming quite clear:  The City of Villages and the Regional Comprehensive Plan are forms of Growth Mania. While claiming to accommodate growth that would occur anyway, the upzoning to increased densities has an obvious effect of increasing the  population of targeted communities. Along with the increased number of homes and retail stores we can expect increased traffic, air pollution, noise, and park overcrowding.   
 In the past, only Donna Frye, and sometimes Brian Maienschein, have expressed opposition to forced density increases. Without stronger community opposition, we will revert to the Golding/ McGrory days when community voices were ignored.
Tom Mullaney, Friends of San Diego, email:
"Preserving the environment and quality of life in the San Diego region"

Embattled real estate director resigns
S.D. council members had called for ouster

By Ronald W. Powell, September 27, 2005
William Griffith; The head of San Diego's Real Estate Assets Department resigned yesterday, three days after three City Council members called for his ouster following questions about the agency's handling of city property and leases.
 William Griffith, 43, submitted his resignation to City Manager Lamont Ewell, who accepted it. Griffith's last day will be Oct. 28.
"To leave the organization at a time when the city needs all the best efforts it can muster is a difficult decision for me, yet I depart knowing that I have made important contributions to the city's success," Griffith wrote in his resignation letter.
 Contacted by telephone, he declined to say whether he was voluntarily leaving the job that paid him $140,297 in 2004. Asked what his plans are after leaving the city, Griffith said, "I don't know."
Griffith's oversight of the department and its 35 employees came under scrutiny following a report Sept. 18 in The San Diego Union-Tribune that detailed how the city lacks a precise inventory of its properties and doesn't know how they are all used.
 The inventory included properties the city sold long ago and did not include acreage that it now owns. One house it owns is a rat-infested eyesore among million-dollar properties in La Jolla, and one lot bequeathed to the city to benefit Balboa Park was strewn with trash.
  That led council members Donna Frye, Brian Maienschein and Tony Young to call Friday for his dismissal.
 Yesterday, Maienschein said Griffith's departure "will be good for San Diego."
  "It's a department that needs to be changed significantly and reformed significantly, and a fresh start and a new approach there will be a good thing," Maienschein said.
  Deputy Mayor Toni Atkins noted that the new mayor who assumes office in December will have the power to hire and fire the real estate assets director and other executives. Until a successor is chosen, she said, an outsider should be hired to compile an accurate inventory of the city's real estate assets.
 Councilman Scott Peters declined to weigh in with his views on the resignation. "That's not my call," he said. "I think Will felt it was best for the city."
  Ewell declined to discuss the reasons for Griffith's departure because it is a personnel matter. However, he complimented Griffith for nearly doubling lease revenue for the city during his tenure.
 Griffith was hired in 1993 as a deputy city attorney assigned to real estate assets, development services, and parks and recreation. In 1998, he was named acting director of the real estate department before being promoted to director the next year.
  In his resignation letter, he thanked his staff members and praised their work in boosting annual revenues and finding sites for new libraries, fire stations and a freeway.
  "We have achieved these results despite the fact that we often had limited resources," Griffith wrote.
  Griffith has said that lease revenue increased from $33.8 million a year in fiscal 1998 to $58.7 million in fiscal 2005.
  "I'll miss his entrepreneurial spirit," Ewell said. "I'll miss his tenacity in working to get the best deal for the city."
  Ewell said some of the record-keeping problems spotlighted by the Union-Tribune can be attributed to the "handicaps and restrictions" placed on the city's real estate agency and other departments because of outmoded computer systems. He said much of the record-keeping in real estate is done by hand, causing some transactions to go unnoted.
  In a memo to the council criticizing the Sept. 18 story and justifying his department's work, Griffith said he needed new record-management tools and improved staffing.
 Four months ago, Young began asking questions about the city's land holdings as a possible source of revenue to help reduce a deficit in its pension system of at least $1.4 billion.
  On Sept. 12, the council adopted a report from Ewell that recommended investigating the possible sale of up to $100 million in property to apply to the pension system deficit.
 Ewell, who has announced his resignation and is leaving Dec. 31, said he will sit down with Griffith and devise a transition plan for how the agency will operate after Griffith departs.
Councilman: Assets chief should be fired
By THOR KAMBAN BIBERMAN, The Daily Transcript, Sept. 23, 2005 San Diego City Councilman Brian Maienschein on Friday said Will Griffith, head of the city's Real Estate Assets Department, should be fired for failing to provide information requests and what the councilman claimed was substandard performance.
 Griffith has been accused by The San Diego Union-Tribune of having no idea of how much property the city owns.
  The Union-Tribune, following a two-month investigation, said in a survey of 4,430 properties worth billions of dollars, many could not be accounted for, others were added, some properties were never owned, more were reportedly on a wish list and some had allegedly been sold years before. "I was the editor on this story, and I think our investigation did show a  department that was in disarray," said Lorie Hearn, Union-Tribune Metro editor.
  Hearn said during the investigation, the Union-Tribune requested electronic
and paper databases as well as information on leased assets.
  "These were represented as being the complete list," Hearn said.
  Hearn said her newspaper then checked the city's records against those from
the County Assessors' office, conducted title searches and sought other
sources. What the reporters found were substantial discrepancies between the city-provided data and the other information they had collected.
  Hearn said multiple attempts to meet with Griffith were unsuccessful. "We made repeated attempts to meet with Mr. Griffith to talk with him about records management," said Hearn. "In the end, he only agreed to correspond by e-mail." Hearn said even corresponding via e-mail was frustrating.
  "We asked how many parcels does the city own, and each time we got a different answer," Hearn said. 
  This latest controversy questioning the city's ability to keep track of its
real estate comes at a time when it is wrestling with how to handle a $1.37 billion pension deficit.
  Griffith, in a lengthy Sept. 22 letter to Deputy Mayor Toni Atkins and the
City Council, refuted the allegations point by point. For one thing, Griffith said, the Union-Tribune failed to realize that the city had
multiple databases.
  "The electronic databases are all on the city's mainframe. I admit we have an antiquated system, but that isn't to say the data isn't complete," he said.
  Griffith concedes that part of the problem may be the downsizing that has hit his, as well as other departments.
  "Only one person is currently devoted to records management with assistance
from two clerical staff that have many other duties. These same employees are tasked with responding to all inquiries from the public as well," Griffith wrote.
  But a lack of staff and multiple databases aren't the only issue. Griffith
also concedes that the communication is so poor between the County
Assessor/Recorder's office and the city that the city doesn't necessarily
know when changes are made to county records.
  Griffith, in his letter, alleged the Union-Tribune made numerous errors
because it didn't assess each of the electronic databases and/or didn't
look through the city's paper files.
  For example, the Union-Tribune said 74 acres of property that was part of a multiple habitat conservation plan near Santee wasn't listed as being owned. Griffith said while this property has not been entered into an electronic database, it is included in a paper record. 
  "Adding parcels to databases requires mapping, data checking and setting up corresponding files," Griffith wrote.

San Diego Reader, City Beat, April 6, 2006, Breaking Stories
Triple bogey, redux The San Diego city property agent who blew the whistle on a pending sweetheart lease renewal for Carlton Oaks Golf Course has been fired, and the timing of the move -- sanctioned by Jim Waring, top development aide to Mayor Jerry Sanders -- is drawing suspicion from both inside and outside city hall.
  As reported here on March 23, an internal March 3 memo, obtained after a request under the state's Public Records Act, documented that agent Brett Maxfield had warned in July 2005 that the city's Real Estate Assets Department was being pressured to extend the lease on less than favorable terms to taxpayers. Citing the "low return" of the proposed lease, Maxfield said he attempted to persuade his immediate supervisor to sidetrack the deal, but "he instructed me to 'not think too hard about it' and to write the report recommending the lease to the Council." Only after Maxfield went to then-acting real estate assets director Jack Farris was the agreement shelved. Maxfield's actions also resulted in a new audit of the lease, which discovered that the leaseholders had been undercharged rent to the tune of $92,908 in 2004 and a similar amount in 2005, the memo says.
  On March 27, Maxfield, who was still serving a 12-month probationary period required of new hires, was called into the office of acting real estate assets director Mike Boyle and told he was being let go. "I believe that the reason for this action is the article that came out in the Reader concerning Carlton Oaks and other issues I have raised concerning the Water Dept.'s handling of property issues," Maxwell wrote in an e-mail to Waring the day he was fired. "Can we meet and talk about it?
  "Waring responded less than an hour later, denying that the Carlton Oaks coverage was the cause of Maxfield's dismissal. "Just so you know, Mike briefed me on your employment status before any article was known or published. Regardless, I will meet with you as a courtesy, but only with Mike present. I do not want you, however, to expect that meeting to change the decision that was made or become a debate of some type. For what it's worth my free advice to you as a young, very educated man, is that your turning the page on this is the best life decision you can make for your future. Let me know if you want to meet." Maxfield, now convinced Waring was complicit in the cover-up, did not respond.In a March 27 "Notice of Probationary Failure" letter to Maxfield, acting real estate assets director Boyle did not mention the Carlton Oaks affair but instead accused Maxfield of blowing out of proportion repeated complaints by a Navajo-area couple about hazardous erosion conditions on city Water Department-owned property next to their house. Boyle claimed Maxfield had displayed "bad judgment, hysteria and hyperbole concerning both facts and common sense conclusions" about the Navajo situation. Boyle also alleged that Maxfield had "damaged good will" and "insulted and strained working relationships" with other city departments. "I am aware of other READ [Real Estate Assets Department] agents unwilling to work with you; contentious relations with Lessees, and dubious charges of tax fraud and unilateral involvement of City Auditors, outside of the chain of command.
  "Maxfield says the Navajo case cited by Boyle was a simple pretext for the City's "retaliation" against him for legally complying with the Public Records Act request for the Carlton Oaks documents. "You...told me that you heard I had 'granted an interview to the Reader,' and that I had turned over the documents to their request without you having a chance to review what was going to be disclosed," says Maxfield in a letter he drafted to Boyle. "You were very upset by this. Your body language was full of anger. You mention how you were the only one who was to talk to the press and that my going behind your back and granting an interview was a betrayal. You called me a 'Whistle Blower' and said that you did not agree with that philosophy.
  "Maxfield insists he played everything by the book in his efforts to comply with the Public Records Act, including informing Boyle by e-mail prior to turning over the documents. The real reason he was let go, Maxfield says, was that he was rooting out too many skeletons in the City's closet. The animosity from other departments cited by Boyle came from those with something to hide, he maintains.
  "The mayor has put a lot of talk into restoring integrity and transparency into the city," Maxfield says. "Of course, his actions seem to be contradicting that by firing me, because that's what I've been trying to do. Instead of congratulating me for my efforts, they are shooting the messenger.
  "It's like these guys are the crooked cop. He's like busting the drug dealer and then taking them around the corner and saying, 'Okay, guys, give me the money, and don't do this in public. Keep your dirty laundry hidden.' That's what I feel is the course that Jim Waring is taking the city in." Boyle says he can't comment on a pending personnel matter. Waring did not respond to phone calls.

Watchdog Bruce Henderson Chargers’ Facts and Rebutt
Set forth below is November 21, 2005 article appearing today in the Voice of San Diego regarding the Chargers’ proposal for a new stadium.
 In many important respects, even this late in the game, the article reflects material misunderstandings of the issues. In short, the educational process never ends.
 Before discussing the misconceptions, let me quickly address the argument of the Chargers that City Attorney Mike Aguirre is acting as a “roadblock at every step of the way.”
 That argument is quite obviously belied by the facts, namely, that it was Mike Aguirre just two weeks ago that initiated the actions required to jump start negotiations between the City and the Chargers. The fact that Mike Aguirre is not going to be a cheerleader for the Chargers’ project doesn't equate to Mike Aguirre being a roadblock.
 Let me now turn to what I believe are misconceptions reflected in the article in the Voice of San Diego.
 First, the article makes no mention of the status of Qualcomm Stadium. However, as made clear during the Monday Night Football game held there just weeks ago, Qualcomm Stadium is today one of the finest venues for NFL football in existence. That fact is critical to the public debate.
 Second, the article sidesteps the fact that the NFL still hasn't announced the name of a team to fill the slot in Los Angeles. That is critical because until the NFL rules out the Chargers as the team to move to Los Angeles, San Diegans must assume in evaluating the Chargers’ actions that moving to Los Angeles constitutes the true goal of the team's proposal.
 Third, the article asserts that the Chargers seek only 60 acres from the City for the project. That assertion ignores two obvious facts. The Chargers’ proposal provides that the City, not the Chargers, will provide 30 acres of land to be developed into park space. That 30 acres would normally be acquired by a developer and deeded to the City. So, that 30 acres should in all fairness be added to the acreage sought by the Chargers.
 But, we don't stop there. The article leads the casual reader to believe that the remaining portion of the 166 acres would be “city-owned” with a stadium paid for by the Chargers. What is ignored is that that remaining acreage would be leased, rent-free, to the Chargers for at least 40 years exclusively for the use of the Chargers along with rights to renew that lease.
 So, the Chargers aren't seeking an interest in just 60 acres for the team's benefit. The Chargers in fact seek 166 acres to directly and to indirectly be used to the financial benefit of the Chargers.
 Fourth, the article could easily lead one to believe that the Chargers will pony up $450 million for a new stadium. That isn't the reality of the deal. Instead, the money to pay for the stadium is to come from sale by the Chargers of 60-acres of development.
 In short, it is the public, not the Chargers, who will actually fund a new stadium. Not one dime of the money will end up coming from the Chargers.
 That point leads to the fifth misconception, namely, that “a price tag on the public land that would be ceded to the team is tricky.” True, a precise price is difficult to set; however, an estimate is easy. Given the prime location of the site for condo development, a price, representing the value of the City's land, of $150,000 per unit for the condos being proposed is quite reasonable, particularly when that price per unit includes the public infrastructure.
 Given that the Chargers are asking for development rights for at least 6,000 condos, the math is obvious: 6,000 x $150,000 equals $900,000,000 – and that $900 million doesn't even include the value to the Chargers of the commercial and retail development; the hotels; and the value to the Chargers of a new stadium.
 Subtract from $900 million the cost of stadium construction; the public infrastructure contribution; the park development; and the payoff of the City bond debt, and what you will discover is that there remains a hundred million or more in pure profit from the deal for the Chargers.
 In other words, every expense is paid from the value of the land and development rights given to the Chargers by the City. At the end of the day, the Chargers get a free stadium plus a huge profit.
 The sixth misconception is that the Qualcomm Stadium site is currently underutilized. The point begs the question. After all the reason the site is covered “under the glacier of concrete surrounding the stadium” (including the tarmac parking areas) is because the Chargers have insisted in their lease with the City that the entire site be used in just that manner. Right now the site functions as a 166-acre regional sports park. If 60 acres of parking can be eliminated, why shouldn't that land be turned into playing fields for our children rather than condos? That question needs to be publicly addressed and debated.
 The final misconception I have time to address is the assertion in the article that “Gone is the ghastly ticket guarantee.” Not so. The ticket guarantee provided a 10-year rent credit for unsold tickets. All that happened in 2004 was that the City agreed to a permanent rent credit that applied regardless of ticket sales. That change diverted press attention from sales figures for individual games, but the cost to the City was almost $100,000,000 in the form of a reduction in rent the Chargers had agreed to pay through 2020. So, while the public relations problems caused by the ticket guarantee were resolved, in truth the cost of the ticket guarantee continues, on and on.
 Due in part to the 2004-rent reduction, whereas the Chargers used to tout the lease with the City as the best financial deal for a city in the NFL, the Chargers now claim that Qualcomm Stadium operates at a $19 million annual loss for taxpayers. The ticket guarantee morphed all right, and it's now a permanent fiscal nightmare.
 In closing I do have some good news which is that, while the media may still have a long way to go to understand the Chargers’ proposal, it is obvious that Mike Aguirre understands all the details and all the financial implications – and that's the real reason the Chargers dislike him so much.

Playing Field Altered This Time in Chargers Push for Stadium
By ANDREW DONOHUE Voice Staff Writer, Nov. 21, 2005
 The last the San Diego Chargers saw of Mike Aguirre he was a pesky citizen. He arrived at the evening meetings of the mayor's task force on stadium issues armed with blown-up newspaper articles and accompanied by the likes of a college professor who regularly referred to the National Football League as a "cartel."

  The private attorney used his companions and the public comment portion of the 2002 and 2003 meetings to combat the football team's public statements about their need for a new home and their past promises.
  The Chargers may still consider Aguirre pesky. But add a new title before his name and City Attorney Mike Aguirre turns from private pest to powerful public official.
 From that title comes a new venue from which to address the team's desires the same way he has dealt with the city's other high-profile issues: with his usual confrontational style. To be sure, the Chargers have adapted quickly. Instead of simply brushing off the concerns of citizen Aguirre, the team now frequently releases documents to the media and the public contesting what team officials say are inaccuracies in the city attorney's public statements regarding their contract and new stadium proposal.
 "The sad fact is that you have become the Terrell Owens of San Diego by making name-calling and erroneous statements regular weapons in your perpetual grabs for television cameras," the team's special counsel, Mark Fabiani, wrote last week in a letter addressed to Aguirre.
 It was a reference to the temperamental Philadelphia Eagles star football player who was recently suspended from the team indefinitely for making disparaging public remarks about his teammates and coach.
 "And I've called them corporate welfare queens," Aguirre said. "They're talking smack. They're just not used to anybody talking smack back to them. I think they'll get past that and we'll move forward."
 The battle just began simmering but is likely to rage as the Chargers progress towards a stadium proposal that could be before voters a year from now. It could be ramping up quickly, too. Just as he's done with the pension system, the city's consultants and its wastewater system, Aguirre plans to complete a background report into the Chargers past dealings with the city within a month.
 "We anticipate that Aguirre will be a roadblock at every step of the way. And if, in the end, the Chargers are unable to work out a deal in San Diego, Aguirre will be the one responsible for that outcome," said Mark Fabiani, the Chargers' special counsel.
 Indeed, the back-and-forth between the city attorney and the team isn't merely a personality issue. It's one of many significant dynamics that have changed since the Chargers' business representatives were last selling the idea of a new football stadium to San Diegans in 2002 and 2003.
 For one, the American public in general doesn't support publicly subsidized ballparks and football stadiums with the same fervor it did in the 1990s and early 2000s. In that era, a construction boom of new, publicly financed stadiums left cities and team owners constantly trying to keep up with the Jones'. Significant changes between the Chargers' original stadium proposal and the one on the table now reflect that change.
 And while the team's on-the-field performance has improved greatly in recent years, the city's financial picture has gone from above-average to desperately poor since the Chargers first presented a stadium plan in January 2003. The city's shaky finances and political uncertainty, team officials say, have driven away prospective developers needed to complete the housing and retail buildings that would stand alongside a new football stadium in Mission Valley.
 The political whirlwind has even changed the basic equation. Talk no longer simply focuses around if the voters will approve the package. The debate now shifts to whether the team can even get a proposal on the ballot in 2006 because of the city's meltdown, and what potential roadblocks await a development plan if it is approved by voters.
 Fabiani said any voter-approved development of the scale proposed by the team will require the close cooperation of a number of government entities, including the city.
 "If key city officials are fighting you every step of the way, the project will never succeed and the capital invested will be lost," he said.
 Then there's always lustful Los Angeles. The nation's second largest city has been without a team for a decade and the NFL reached a preliminary deal with the Los Angeles Coliseum last week to remodel the stadium to pro football standards. Anaheim is also said to desire a team.
 The Chargers, too, have recognized some of their shortcomings. Understanding that they had a community relations issue spawning largely from unpopular contracts in the past, team officials now concentrate as much on community relations as they do political maneuvering.
 A different game than 2003 Voters and politicians appear changed from the boom epoch that saw cities, counties and states passing hundreds of millions of tax dollars to multi-millionaire team owners.
 "I think there is certainly more resistance to heavily subsidized facilities and an interest in development strategies that guarantee investments," Mark Rosentraub, a stadium expert and professor of urban affairs at Cleveland State University, said in an e-mail.
 Indeed, that creed is evidenced in the changes seen to the Chargers' proposal in recent years.
 Nowhere does the backlash against public subsidies seem more noticeable than in San Diego. Padres team owner John Moores is so highly regarded outside of San Diego that he was handpicked by President Jimmy Carter as chairman of the Carter Center. The former president's foundation is dedicated to "advancing human rights and alleviating unnecessary human suffering." He also sits on the board of regents of the nation's most prestigious state university system, the University of California.
 Here, in his adopted hometown, Moores' name is often scorned. It is synonymous with corporate welfare because of the 1998 deal approved by voters that gave Moores a new ballpark and priceless patches of downtown land with the help of more than $200 million in taxpayer funds.
 It is a fact that doesn't appear lost upon Chargers officials. The stadium proposal they originally floated in January 2003 asked for more than $200 million of public money and included the sale of public land.
 The proposal today looks quite different from that the Chargers shop around town now to community, business and labor groups.
 The plan today is fairly simple. The team wants the city to give it 60 acres of the 166-acred Mission Valley site. In exchange, the team offers to build a new stadium that it expects will attract a number of Super Bowls in the future. The team, along with development partners, also proposes to construct a mixed-used development that would include housing, retail and office space.
 On the 60 acres, the Chargers would build condos, the sale of which would help offset developers' costs in other aspects of the project.
 A 30-acre public park, to be paid for and built by the team, is included. And the team says it will also pay off the remainder of the bond payments left over from the 1997 remodeling of Qualcomm Stadium, as well as the infrastructure improvements that will be necessary to accommodate new growth and traffic. Those improvements include such things as roads, sewer lines and adequate police and fire protection.
 The bond and infrastructure costs are likely to total more than $200 million, according to team estimates.
 The stadium itself is estimated to cost $450 million, will be city-owned and paid for by the team.
 Putting a price tag on the public land that would be ceded to the team is tricky. Some speculators say it is invaluable because of its location. Team officials point out that it's worth nothing so long as it remains trapped under the glacier of concrete ringing the stadium.
 Aguirre said the proposal is simple. Do San Diegans want to give up 60 acres of public land in exchange for keeping the team in town for the foreseeable future?
 "There's no economic benefit to the city," he said.
 Not so fast, say others. Many, including many city officials, see a sizable benefit in the elimination of the city's $6 million annual bond payment, which remains from the 1997 Qualcomm renovation that was supposed to keep the team in town for decades. Fabiani also points out that the deal will eliminate for the city $19 million in annual maintenance and operating costs at Qualcomm Stadium.
 "This is a trade," Fabiani said. "This is not a giveaway."
 Another issue that will likely be debated will be whether or not congested Mission Valley can handle the strains of more development.
 And as the Chargers have regained creditability on the football field, they continue to try and improve their creditability as corporate citizens.
 Gone is the ghastly ticket guarantee, a clause that forced the city to buy the unsold tickets of every Charger game. The team no longer holds training camp near Los Angeles in Carson, something it did briefly to the protest of many fans weary of losing the team to its northern neighbors.
 That appeared to become a more real possibility this month, when the NFL signed a preliminary deal to revamp the Los Angeles Coliseum into a pro football-worthy venue. When the Chargers first sought a stadium in 2002 and 2003, stadium proposals abounded in Los Angeles, but no deal was anything more than an idea.
 But Chargers officials say they have been put on the defensive by the city attorney's public statements.
 With or without the title of city attorney, Mike Aguirre would be one of the most frequent critics of the Chargers stadium dealing. But with the title, he'll be smack dab in the middle of the closed-door negotiations. And next to him on the negotiating team will be political ally and fellow Chargers skeptic City Councilwoman Donna Frye.
 Before pensions, before investigations, before his election, Aguirre spent plenty of time hounding the team. Now he appears to be genuinely excited about the upcoming talks.
 Aguirre and his supporters promise he'll be there to make sure the city avoids the disastrous contracts of the past. The team's boosters think he'll play the role of saboteur rather than savior.
 "My role is not to be a rubber stamp, but to ask the question so that voters can be in the place to make a right decision and are not bamboozled," Aguirre said.
 For now, everyone has their own vision of how the negotiations will play out.
 "Your participation on the city's negotiating team dooms the process before it even begins," Fabiani wrote in his Nov. 10 letter to the city attorney.

Money is corrupting politics – once again
Lionel Van Deerlin, Union Tribune Opinion, June 9, 2005
 For one who has seen 90 years in this vale of tears, mine must seem a sheltered life. Until three San Diego City Council members came under scrutiny for their purported interest in laws regarding strip joints, I never knew what "lap dancing" is. Indeed, I would not have known much even yet, except for news accounts of the public corruption trial under way in our town.
 But without ascribing guilt or innocence, I've learned enough to know this case cries out for some really binding campaign finance reform. Public financing, maybe. The facts: An owner of girlie clubs both here and in Las Vegas hankered to be done with the "Do Not Touch" rules, which local ordinance requires him to enforce. The entrepreneur, who's in dutch along with our councilmen and lesser lights, feels that if patrons can be allowed to fondle the lightly clad merchandise, they will open their wallets more eagerly, significantly enriching both management and those dancing dollies. FBI intercepts leave little doubt that the two living councilmanic defendants, both 35, were promised generous campaign contributions. And that a number of discussions ensued dealing with stratagems that might help scuttle the no-touch law. It's left to jurors, of course, to determine what was in everyone's mind during these taped sessions, set against the backdrop of some favored San Diego dining spots. It will be argued that the monies thereafter tendered have been listed on campaign reports as the law requires.
  A jury verdict, therefore, could turn on how favorably eight men and four women, all drawn from the citizenry, view politicians. More specifically, whether any and all financial help directed to public officials might be thought tainted.
  Will jurors instead accept the notion that in an imperfect world, a donor's money buys "access" to an elected official – a chance to be heard, and nothing more? After roughly a billion dollars was blown on a presidential campaign, this trial shows how high the stakes can soar on state and local elections as well.
  A little more than 50 years ago, San Diego's Mayor Harley Knox uttered words that are preserved in John Gunther's "Inside USA." Knox, a dairyman able to underwrite a considerable portion of his re-election campaign, was informed that an opponent intended putting up $35,000 against him. His response: "Anyone spending that kind of money is not buying good government."
  No San Diegan today could hope to wage a winning campaign for school board with as little as $35,000. An incumbent City Council member won't feel safe with much less than a quarter-million under the mattress. What's to blame? Television, mainly. In peak time periods, a network station may charge up to $6,000 for a single 30-second TV spot.
  Broadcasters once regarded political advertising as a nuisance, a source of income so enmeshed in equal-time law and kindred regulation as to constitute more trouble than it's worth.
  Today, with the Federal Communications Commission far less interested, political advertising (during and between elections) has become a major dollar producer for many stations. Moreover, station owners, who pay nothing for their licensed access to the nation's airwaves, no longer feel a responsibility to present candidates in unpaid time as "public service" justifying the station's spectrum space. Congress, in happy obeisance to hometown broadcasters, looks the other way. An incidental result are tens of thousands of "political action committees," a legally authorized, though virtually unregulated, form of giving which enables a corporate entity or any special interest – even politicians themselves – to maintain permanent fundraising systems. (House leader Tom DeLay's troubles come to mind.) It happens that these PACs had the noblest of beginnings. Dan Kimball, who was President Truman's undersecretary of the Navy, later assumed management of Aerojet Engineering in Pasadena and Sacramento.  During election campaigns, Kimball invited major partisan candidates to address his work force on company time. Afterward, he invited workers to contribute a few dollars to campaigns of the candidates they liked best. No one was forced to take part, and the disbursement of campaign dollars, independent of management, depended on how well the individual candidates had connected.
  Alas, PACs have become something very different, their cash input a legalized form of laundered money. Voters in Maine and Arizona have decided public financed election campaigns are the answer – that taxpayers can save a bundle, overall, by bearing the brunt of necessary campaign costs, while limiting all others.
  If not something like this, do we wait another 2,000 years to drive money-changers from the temple?

On thin ice, city officials face a spring thaw
By Ron Carrico, San Diego Daily Transcript, March 17, 2005
It's that time of year -- spring is coming. Time for ice on northern and mountain lakes to begin melting.
When I was a kid in Illinois, this was the time of year to be careful walking on lake ice. It could break suddenly and put you in freezing water. It never happened to me, but I wonder if you would hear the ice start to crack. I imagine that first there would be few snaps and pops, cracks would appear and then suddenly the whole sheet would fracture. Terrible results -- and suddenly everyone is on their own to survive.
This vision makes me think of San Diego politics. We started hearing the snaps and pops months ago and can see the cracks developing as the whole fabric of City Hall fractures. We are just beginning to see the everyone-for-themselves phase.

As this dreadful state of the city plays out, it's clear that there's more to this fracturing than just a budget shortfall, pension deficits or weak management. What's becoming clear is that senior officials, unions, well-connected friends and employees have systematically run the city for their financial benefit.
Recent revelations about compensation paid to city officials is staggering. This includes the number of salaried employees making more than $100,000 per year, firefighters making more than $200,000 per year, outside experts being paid $400 to $800 per hour, and a DROP program entitling employees to collect full pay and full pension for their last five years of employment.
Every week there's another revelation of some outrageous sum of money the city is paying to some well-connected individual. But for the top officials, perhaps the payoff is more in the nature their power and the future benefit of political jobs -- full-pay retirement programs with free health benefits.
Consider the power Mayor Dick Murphy has and how he used it with his appointment of Karoush Hangafarin to the Port Commission. Hangafarin's only qualification seemed to be that he was a "great community leader." There was no reason that he should be appointed to take Peter Q. Davis' position. His political contributions took precedence over two other highly qualified individuals.
Now we know how well this appointment worked out.
But that mistake, when the mayor and council are under investigation anyway, just seems like -- how about stupidity? Another loud cracking noise. More evidence of how money buys results from politicians.
Consider the mayor's recent new appointments of pension trustees. Murphy pointedly did not ask Diann Shipione to serve again. Clearly the reason was that she is the whistle blower who pointed to cracks in the ice revealing the disaster of pension underfunding.
There is something else under the surface that may also be in question. I invite you to reread an article of mine published in The Daily Transcript on Feb. 5, 2002, called "Adjudication on the merits" (SourceCode: 20020205tzb).
This article told of the unbelievable rush to judgment in a case involving the issuance of the Ballpark Bonds. I was reminded of this a few days ago by a reader. Within a few days of the judgment in the case, the exorbitantly expensive ballpark bonds were issued. Two weeks later the Blue Ribbon Commission Report on City Finances was issued -- very slightly hinting of the city's pension problems.
Now, four years later, the rush by the court to adjudicate the challenge to the ballpark bonds indicates that maybe the court was not the impartial arbiter it seemed to be. Was it just coincidence that the court made three cases disappear in a matter of days?
As the spring thaw approaches, the evidence of cracks of political corruption are getting deeper and spreading wider. A total fragmentation of San Diego's political apparatus may be imminent.
A few months ago, The New York Times referred to San Diego as "Enron by the Sea." I am beginning to think that City Hall may soon be referred by a new title: Tammany Hall by the Sea

CONGRATULATIONS Mr. Mayor TIME magazine award
By Peter J. DiRenza, Antigovernment Corruption, PJD

 Quite frankly, sir, I believe that you should have been awarded FIRST PLACE.  
How did you ever manage to come in THIRD.

Now, Mr. Mayor, that the entire world is aware of your standing in relation to God knows how many other mayors in this country, don't you believe you should resign as suggested by Mr. Aguirre?
Sir, it's not your character, although some would disagree, because you appear to be a nice guy.
Frankly, Mr. Mayor, you are incompetent, easily manipulated, totally
inefficient, are not aware of the City Charter or the laws you work under, including not giving a darn about city employees or taxpayers.
 I would like to know just what good things your administration accomplished.  
The ballpark:  No way.  That was J. Moores
The Pension Fund:  Yes.  That was you.
The Health Fund:  Yes.  That was you
The Potholes:  Yes.  That was you.
The NTC give away:  Yes.  That was you.
Two City Councilmen under indictment:
 Yes.  They should have been suspended.
City investigations by FBI, SEC, Justice Department, City Attorney, DA:  Yes, that was you.
No cooperation with the City Attorney:  Yes, that is you.
No cooperation between Pension Commission and Law Enforcement:  Yes, again --You.
 Dumanis attempting to take over part of the City Attorney's office:  Yes, you had a hand in that.
 Hiring an auditor at $750. per hour:  Yes, you and the City Manager.
Inability to work with colleagues;  Yes, You.
Vindictive personality:  Yes, that is you.
 Now, what was it you said you did correctly? Come on Mr. Mayor, TIME magazine shows that your commissions/ommissions have caused a total embarrassment to this City.  Please resign before we have to recall you.

Murphy Bristles At Being Named Among Nation's Worst Mayors Murphy Listed Among 3 Worst Mayors In Time Magazine Report
Excerpt: am PDT April 18, 2005
San Diego Mayor Dick Murphy is in the national media spotlight, and he isn't pleased.Mayor Dick Murphy speaks after being named one of nation's 3 worst mayors by Time magazine.
  Time magazine names him one of America's three worst mayors. In its issue hitting newsstands Monday, the magazine cites Murphy's role in the city's underfunded pension plan -- specifically, a deal in 2002 that increased pension payouts and gave special benefits to union presidents. That deal is now under investigation by the FBI, the U.S. Attorney and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
  The magazine also notes that Murphy almost lost his bid for a second term to write-in candidate Donna Frye. The city councilwoman collected about 5,500 more votes, but courts ruled those ballots invalid because voters failed to darken the oval next to her name.Hickenlooper.
By The Associated Press contributed

Mayor's chief of staff resigns, Kern to raise funds for election lawsuit fight
By KEVIN CHRISTENSEN, The Daily Transcript, January 12, 2005
Mayor Dick Murphy on Wednesday accepted the resignation of his longtime friend and political adviser John Kern.
Kern currently serves as Murphy's chief of staff. His resignation is effective April 1.
"John and I have been close friends and colleagues for years," said Murphy
. "It is very difficult to let him go, but I appreciate that he will still be working for me outside this office."
"I have been proud to serve Mayor Murphy and his administration," Kern said in a prepared statement. "I believe his record of accomplishments in his first four years is unsurpassed by any mayor in the 33 years I have been an active participant and observer of San Diego government and politics."
"The past four years as chief of staff been the highlight of my career," said Kern. "We have had some outstanding successes. There have been good times and tough times and through it all I believe we have done our best to serve the people of San Diego."
Rather than completely disappear from San Diego politics, Kern plans to re-open his consulting business, The Kern Co.
The company will assume the responsibility of the fund-raising efforts to pay for the legal expenses that Mayor Murphy will accrue in defending the outcome of the Nov. 2 election.
Upon Kern's departure, Murphy has named Senior Policy Adviser Tom Story as the acting chief of staff. Story was hired by the mayor after the 2000 election and has advised Murphy on public works, transportation, land use and environmental issues.
Prior to joining the Murphy team, Story served as deputy director of the planning department for 11 years
and was also the architect of the city's Multiple Species Conservation Plan.

Frye, Rider urge private-property protection, Steps proposed in wake of Supreme Court ruling
By Matthew T. Hall, UNION-TRIBUNE, July 1, 2005
  Councilwoman and mayoral candidate Donner Frye, is unveiling plans to protect land owners from public agency land seizures.
  Two San Diego mayoral candidates unveiled plans yesterday to protect property owners from public-agency land seizures in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that expanded government powers of eminent domain.
  Separately, Councilwoman Donna Frye and taxpayer activist Richard Rider proposed limiting how public officials can acquire private property. Frye also outlined a plan to preserve industrial land she said is being lost to homes, offices and other uses. "The government is supposed to protect businesses," Frye said. "It's not supposed to make them fearful of whether or not they're ever going to be able to stay in the community in which they grew up." Less industrial land means fewer jobs for San Diego, which has lost 6,000 manufacturing jobs in five years by rezoning industrial property, she said.
  At a news conference, Frye proposed a new city policy to maintain industrial land the way wetlands and open space are preserved, by requiring developers to replace it elsewhere when they eliminate it for their projects.
  She also proposed that each plan to rezone an industrial site require an economic analysis to explore the effect on the city's tax base.
  After rezoning 1,000 acres of industrial land for residential use in the past 10 years, San Diego is left with 1,800 acres available for industrial use, only 500 of which is ready to be developed, Frye said.
  Joining Frye and endorsing her yesterday were Ahmad Mesdaq, a cigar-shop owner whose business was condemned by the city to make way for a downtown hotel, and Rene Coons, whose lithography shop in the Midway District is in a redevelopment zone and in jeopardy of being taken over by the city to make way for condominiums. Mesdaq fought the city's redevelopment plans but dropped his opposition about three weeks ago. Frye was the only member of the council to vote against condemning his property in spring 2004. She said the city should not declare the area blighted after Mesdaq spent $2.5 million buying and renovating his shop.  She again opposed the idea that the city take private property to sell to another developer when she cast the lone vote in May against declaring Grantville a blighted area for redevelopment and possible property seizures.
 The Supreme Court ruled last week in a 5-4 vote that public agencies could seize private property and give it to private developers for economic development.
  At issue was a case in New London, Conn., where city officials wanted land for a $300 million research facility for pharmaceutical leader Pfizer. Governments historically have used eminent domain to build schools, roads, sewer systems and other public projects.
  In 1954, the Supreme Court made it possible for governments to use eminent domain to redevelop blighted areas.
  If the city doesn't adopt new restrictions on its eminent-domain powers, businesses will be less inclined to improve their properties or even move to San Diego in the first place, Frye said. "The real intention of allowing government to take our property is for public use, and public use needs to be redefined," she said. "A public use does not mean one developer over another developer. That is not a public use. That is abuse."
 The court's decision reverberated in Congress, where the House yesterday approved a measure prohibiting federal financing for property seizures. In a news release, Rider condemned the court's decision on eminent domain. He said he supports a City Charter amendment to place "severe limitations on government's right to condemn private property for private use." He added that if the City Council wouldn't support him, he would push for public support to put a charter amendment on the ballot in the June 2006 election.
  In telephone interviews, two other mayoral candidates rejected the call for limitations on the city's eminent-domain powers, while a third supported it. Former Police Chief Jerry Sanders did not return a call for comment.
 Lawyer Pat Shea and business executive Steve Francis said property seizures should be handled on a case-by-case basis.
  Motorcycle dealership owner Myke Shelby said he supports passing a new law in San Diego "that would be counter to the Supreme Court" to protect property rights. He also accused his opponents of playing politics with the issue. "I guess some campaign manager somewhere said this would get someone a few more votes," Shelby said. "I'm going to do away with all the red-light cameras when I get to be mayor. Good for me."

Watchdog comment: Fry's record shows she, unlike other council members, has continually opposed eminent-domain of giving private property from one owner to another private party. She has supported home-grown small businesses and preservation of our light industrial businesses.

San Diego Reader Breaking Stories
Published on June 30, 2005
Coalition to Keep San Diego Working, the shadowy political committee that sent out thousands of hit pieces against city councilwoman Donna Frye in the waning hours of last year's mayoral race without disclosing who paid for them, has taken a new tack. According to filings with the Federal Elections Commission, the group, which calls itself KEEP PAC, has morphed into a so-called 527 committee, which under federal law can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on campaigns as long as it doesn't directly coordinate with candidates. Before filing with the feds, the committee was registered with California's Secretary of State. The group's purpose, according to its federal filing, dated March 31, is "to contribute to candidates and measures that support employment opportunities."...Trustees at the San Diego Unified School district have tossed out yet another pet project of departed superintendent Alan Bersin. The "Public Education Leadership Project" involved junkets by members of Bersin's inner circle back to his alma mater Harvard, at an annual cost of $30,000. Bersin had promised to pay for the trips from his so-called superintendent's fund, a cash trove donated by unnamed backers, but never turned over the money.

Outsider moves in for a fight against City Hall
Mixed views greet Aguirre's ambitious moves on first week

By Matthew T. Hall, UNION-TRIBUNE, December 12, 2004
Mike Aguirre, San Diego's new city attorney, is fighting City Hall from within it.
During his first week in office, Aguirre criticized the city's leadership, revived a dormant public integrity unit with prosecution powers and began an investigation into allegations of accounting fraud by city officials.
"We will work to restore government integrity," Aguirre said at his swearing-in ceremony Monday. "The City Attorney's Office will not remain on the sidelines and watch San Diego slide deeper into the financial abyss."
His supporters say Aguirre is quickly living up to the promises he made in his campaign against the status quo, but others contend he has already overstepped in a way that could make it harder for him to accomplish his goals.

City attorney changes
Who's in:
Rupert Linley, a former deputy district attorney and former special assistant U.S. attorney, will head the criminal division.
Les Girard, assistant city attorney in charge of special projects, has withdrawn his resignation.
Who's out:
Leslie Devaney, the No. 2 lawyer under former City Attorney Casey Gwinn, will stay through January after losing to Mike Aguirre in the Nov. 2 election.
Frank Devaney, head of the civil division's trial unit and Leslie Devaney's husband, will leave in March.
Rick Duvernay, head of the public policy unit and an acting assistant city attorney during Devaney's campaign leave, has left to become city attorney in Redding, Calif.
Gail Strack, an assistant city attorney for domestic violence, is now acting director of the newly created Family Justice Center department under the City Manager's Office.
Susan Heath, who headed the criminal division, has retired.
Aguirre said his top priority is erasing the stain of a city fiscal crisis marked by a billion-dollar pension deficit, two overdue annual audits and a borrowing ability so crippled that new water and wastewater projects are on hold.
The city's finances are being investigated by the FBI, the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Aguirre said solving the crisis will require disclosing its extent, depths and breaking a chain of closed-door City Council meetings about it.
"It just invites disrespect and concern when we're meeting in closed session talking about criminal investigations of city officials," he said. "This is not a private corporation. We're not organized lawbreakers. We're an open public agency that needs to hold its meetings open to the public."
Aguirre campaigned as "a city attorney for us," while his opponent, Leslie Devaney, former City Attorney Casey Gwinn's chief assistant, said she would first carry out the charter-defined duties of representing the mayor, City Council and its management team and prosecuting misdemeanors.
Their opposing philosophies quickly became the central issue in the campaign, which Aguirre won by eight-tenths of a percentage point after ballot counting extended weeks beyond the Nov. 2 Election Day.
He will earn $173,705 a year overseeing an office of about 320 staff members, including 130 attorneys, and a budget of more than $32 million.
Aguirre's most explosive action last week was his beginning an independent investigation into allegations that city employees lied and withheld information in disclosures related to its pension deficit.
Attorney Patrick Shea, a friend of Aguirre's and one of four unpaid advisers assessing staff changes in the City Attorney's Office, called the step essential.
"There is going to be an unavoidable irritation" between Aguirre and city officials "who don't want that kind of disclosure," Shea said.
"Mike has no choice but to do what he's doing," he said. "Mike didn't create this situation. The reality is that the financial markets do not believe the materials . . . published by the city of San Diego."
But John Kaheny, a former 22-year employee of the City Attorney's Office who worked on and contributed to Devaney's campaign, sees Aguirre's investigation differently.
"He's basically waging war against his clients," Kaheny said. "That could lead to difficulties down the road that I don't think he's foreseen.
"An adversarial relationship" could cause city officials to communicate less openly with Aguirre and could complicate the budget process for the office, which requires council approval, Kaheny said.
"You want your clients to come to you before they get in trouble," he said. "And if you break down those lines of communication, the attorney only gets a call after the eggs have broken." Councilman's view
Councilman Michael Zucchet said Aguirre's investigation is unwise if it doesn't help the city speed up the release of an annual audit of its 2003 books, which has been delayed for more than a year.
The law firm of Vinson & Elkins LLP, which represents San Diego in the SEC investigation, began investigating allegations of accounting fraud and illegal conduct last month, after the city's independent auditor said a 2003 audit wouldn't be released without it.
Zucchet said Aguirre's investigation "seems duplicative, but I guess I would have to hear more about his reasons before I would call it anything harsher than that."
"If he's just doing it because it sounds good to him, it seems like there are other priorities right now," Zucchet said. "If it doesn't help expedite the audit, I don't think it's the right priority."
It's a city attorney's job to represent elected officials, city management and the public, and that can create conflicts, said Michael Roush, president of the City Attorneys Department of the League of California Cities.
Establishing a good relationship with the city council is "critical for any city attorney to be able to do his or her job well," Roush said.
Yet, he added, "The public really does look to you to make sure that government runs in a legal and ethical kind of way." Bumpier start
Aguirre faces a bumpier start than Gwinn did eight years ago and not just because of the city's financial crisis.
Gwinn spent 10 years in the office before being elected as the city's top lawyer. He also won in a primary election, then had eight months of preparation before City Attorney John Witt's departure.
Witt was city attorney from 1969 to 1996, before term limits restricted elected officials in the city to two four-year terms.
"I was pretty much able to pack up all my things and take them home – much to my wife's regret – and not have to worry too much about a transition," Witt said.
Witt, who has advised Aguirre on the transition, said it was inevitable for the staff to feel some anxiety after a senior member lost the election.
But Witt said Aguirre's done a good job of "calming those fears."
Still, Witt called Aguirre "something of a loose cannon," then added, "He's smart enough to figure out that he has to cooperate with all the others."
The changes in style are echoed by more obvious changes at the Civic Center Plaza downtown. Paper signs above the locks on the doors say the "combination has been changed." Tuesday night, Aguirre's furniture from the office he had in private practice arrived. Thursday, his bookcases still lacked shelves.
Anxiety levels are high among attorneys unsure whether they'll be retained, but a shake-up among the top attorneys won't be as extensive as anticipated.
Assistant City Attorney Les Girard, who has worked in the office since 1981, announced his resignation effective Dec. 6, then withdrew it Tuesday.
Girard has handled many of the city's major legal issues, including the pension-deficit investigations and negotiations with the Chargers and Padres sports teams.
Girard said Aguirre has held meetings with many groups in the office, which has made the transition as smooth as possible, considering Aguirre only had two weeks to accomplish it.
"I think the atmosphere today is one of relief," Girard continued. "Going into a transition like we've had is a very unsettling experience." Outsiders rare
Aguirre became the first outsider to take over the City Attorney's Office since 1964, when lawyer Edward Butler left a small electronics firm to head the office.
So far, Aguirre has announced only one member of his management team. Rupert Linley, a former deputy district attorney and former special assistant U.S. attorney, will head the criminal division.
Devaney, Aguirre's campaign opponent, will remain through January to ease the transition. Her husband, Frank Devaney, who assigns cases to the city's attorneys, plans to leave in March.
The office's uncertainty won't end with the staff changes. The city faces several significant legal issues in addition to its pension deficit problems.
The fate of the much-litigated Mount Soledad Cross, which unconstitutionally sits on city property, is undecided.
A tentative $1.2 billion settlement with government agencies and environmental groups that would force the city to upgrade its aging sewer system has been shelved because of the city's limited borrowing ability.
And the city is appealing a $94.5 million jury verdict in favor of a developer who accuses the city of ruining his business park.
Aguirre has said he wants to rein in the city's spending on hiring private attorneys.
He also wants to ensure the city charter and the municipal code comply with each other. That's important because of their well-publicized discrepancy over write-in candidates and because the city manager's budgeting and personnel powers will shift to the mayor in January 2006, with the passage of Proposition F last month.
Businessman Ted Roth, who contributed heavily to the strong-mayor campaign, is confident Aguirre will respect the voters who passed the measure over Aguirre's opposition.
"I'm certainly going to be watching closely," he said. "And I think that all the supporters of the strong-mayor proposal will be watching with anticipation."
Consultant Adrian Kwiatkowski, one of the architects of that measure, said Aguirre also may be able to improve the system.
"There is definitely a time to do what he is doing," Kwiatkowski said.
Given the results of this election, Kwiatkowski added, "Business as usual is unacceptable."
"There's nothing wrong with acknowledging that voters are unhappy," he said. "That's what leadership is."
Ed Miller, who worked for the City Attorney's Office in the 1950s and 1960s, then served as U.S. attorney and district attorney in San Diego County, is one of many lawyers who has advised Aguirre on his takeover and the job ahead.
"I'm sure he's determined to clean up the situation," Miller said. "We all hope that he can."

Both candidates claim to be the face of a 'new San Diego' ELIZABETH MALLOY, The Daily Transcript, November 4, 2005
 Sanders called Frye's claims that he represents the same people who supported former mayor Dick Murphy, "ridiculous," and said he would not represent business as usual, pointing to his track record of turning around organization such as the Red Cross and United Way.
 "I've received donations from people who have never given to political campaigns before," Sanders said. "We were looking at our finance committee the other day, the two people chairing it, Tom Carter and Dean Oliver, neither one of them supported Dick Murphy, they supported somebody else. We went around the table many of those people didn't support Dick Murphy, they supported somebody else."
 According to an analysis of campaign finance records by the Center for Policy Initiatives, the largest percentage - about 30 percent - of Sanders' funding has come from donors in the real estate and development industries. ...
 Sanders said his fiscal recovery plan would take 5 years.
 "I want to completely restructure city government, want to streamline the beaurcracy, make decisions in public, hold people accountable for their performance and bring in a whole new generation of leaders," Sanders said. "That's the new San Diego."

 The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed H.R. 4128, the Private Property Rights Protection Act of 2005, by a vote of 376 - 38. Below is the text of the bill as passed by the House. The amendments that would have substantially weakened the protections it affords were rejected. This tremendous outcome was a direct result of your calls and letters to Congress.
But the battle is just beginning; the bill now heads to the Senate. We will need your support again to make sure that the Senate follows the House's lead in refusing to fund eminent domain abuse.
 YOU made the difference yesterday, and we appreciate your efforts and dedication to protecting private property rights.
  So from all of us here at the Castle Coalition - thank you!

Private Property Rights Protection Act of 2005

(Engrossed as Agreed to or Passed by House)
109th CONGRESS 1st Session H. R. 4128 AN ACT

To protect private property rights.
HR 4128 EH109th CONGRESS 1st Session H. R. 4128 AN ACT
To protect private property rights.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
This Act may be cited as the `Private Property Rights Protection Act of 2005'.
(a) In General- No State or political subdivision of a State shall exercise its power of eminent domain, or allow the exercise of such power by any person or entity to which such power has been delegated, over property to be used for economic development or over property that is subsequently used for economic development, if that State or political subdivision receives Federal economic development funds during any fiscal year in which it does so.

Corporate Welfare And Ethical Meltdown
By Don Bauder, Reader, October 27, 2005
  Underfunded pensions. Deceitful disclosure. False accounting. Inadequate capital spending. Rotting infrastructure. Dwindling services. San Diegans are dizzy with the terms thrown at them. Can't somebody connect the dots? Strip away the verbiage? Say in simple terms what the problem boils down to?
Yes. San Diego's financial, legal, and ethical meltdown can be reduced to basic cause and effect. City attorney Mike Aguirre states it pithily: "The government has been organized to facilitate the passing out of corporate welfare and benefits to the powerful players that have run the city for many years. It is not set up to support or consider broad policy questions that would advance the community as a whole."
  Well said. The city raided the pension fund to support corporate welfare -- for the Padres, the Chargers, real estate developers, hotel owners, tech and biotech industries, ad nauseam -- and finance events that would massage downtown egos, such as the 1996 Republican convention.
 To get the labor unions and pension board to agree to the underfunding, the city baited the hook by raising benefits. Deficits ballooned. City services had to be slashed. Infrastructure and equipment maintenance were neglected. In short, the money that should have been going to essential services was diverted to the fat cats who lined the pockets of politicians. 
  If the pols and bureaucrats hadn't plucked the money from the pension fund, they would have snatched it from some other source. A city that claims it is economically conservative is the reverse: it practices socialism for the rich.
  "The mayor and the council in the past decade have decided to support the dessert menu: pay for ballparks, the Republican convention, anything that supports the chamber of commerce and the big downtown corporate leaders," says former mayor Maureen O'Connor. "They have neglected the basics: potholes in the streets, clean bay, clean ocean, affordable housing. When I left office there was an AAA bond rating, money in the bank. [Former city manager] John Lockwood's managerial philosophy was if there wasn't money there, he wouldn't spend it." Beginning with the incumbency of former mayor Susan Golding, "city government underfunded the pension fund to pay for this dessert menu."
  During the heat of the ballpark debate, O'Connor predicted that if the city continued spending promiscuously, it would be bankrupt in five years. She was laughed at then -- but now she appears to have been right on target. 
  Mayoral candidate Donna Frye agrees: "The city's priorities have been out of whack with the public's best interest for a long, long time," she says. "The city has spent hundreds of millions of dollars subsidizing corporate sports, land giveaways, sweetheart leases. It is a large part of the city's financial problems."
  A perfect example is the ballpark district, says Jim Mills, former president pro tem of the California senate. In addition to getting a ballpark, Padres majority owner John Moores got 26 downtown blocks surrounding the park. Then the city decided to put a new library there "to add value to the site. Now they are proposing that Centre City Development Corporation funds be used to build the library. But those funds are desperately needed for infrastructure downtown -- water pipes and sewers that are 130 years old. John Moores has never asked for something from the city council that he didn't get."
  Continues Mills, "The biggest problem in San Diego County today in the minds of most residents is traffic congestion. It is the direct result of city councils of various cities going along with whatever developers ask for. The problems along I-5 and I-15 are perfect examples; the developers make political contributions and get whatever they want."
  "The biggest example of corporate welfare is downtown redevelopment," says activist Mel Shapiro. "Here is the city cutting budgets of libraries, parks and recreation, but one thing they never touch or mention is downtown redevelopment. The CCDC [Centre City Development Corporation] owes the city $100 million, but Donna Frye is the only councilmember who says, 'Let's get some of that back' " so it can be spent on more pressing needs.
  Activist Norma Damashek cites the 1980s "deals with developers to develop the whole North City without providing any transportation plans. Now we don't know how to deal with Carmel Valley, Sorrento Hills. We took care of the needs of the developers on the backs of the public."
  The city had deals with San Diego Gas and Electric to underground power lines. In the 1995-2000 period, "we let them off the hook in return for a quick infusion of funds," she says. "The city attorney's office over many years just acted like a private club to take care of the needs of businesses and developers."
  As soon as Golding came in, city departments were told to serve developers and not the public. Environmentalists, historic preservationists, and others stressing the quality of life were scorned at city hall. Activist John McNab has long battled the giveaway of the former Naval Training Center to developer McMillin Companies. With the cooperation of various city departments, McMillin built homes but did not provide the community resources he promised.
  "McMillin promised three H-shaped buildings would be saved and fixed up for civic arts and culture. Now they will be buildings for retailers. It was stacked from the get-go," says McNab.
  "I have arts organizations asking me for contributions, saying they will have wonderful space at the McMillin project," says former city councilmember Abbe Wolfsheimer Stutz. "I tell them I am happy to give money, but I'm not willing to fund something McMillin should have been paying for."
  Environmentalists have been trampled. Before the election of 2000, former mayor Dick Murphy and councilmember Scott Peters promised that a portion of Sorrento Valley Road would be closed and used for biking, hiking, and habitat preservation. "It never happened," says Joanne Pearson, chair of the Sierra Club Coastal Committee. Biotechs "gave Peters a large fund-raiser" and flexed muscles to oppose the plan. The money that had been set aside for the project was grabbed and used to prettify La Jolla Parkway.
  As part of a lawsuit settlement with San Diego Baykeeper, the city agreed to upgrade 450 miles of sewer pipe over ten years. But because of the city's financial woes, "it will only do 30 miles next year," says Pearson, and will pay less than one-fourth of the legal fees it owes Baykeeper.
  On May 18, a civil grand jury concluded that city council frequently disregards community general plans, often because it is fearful of developer lawsuits. Planning groups have expressed distrust of the development services department staff, said the report. Council must listen to what kind of community the residents want. The city should adopt an ordinance to require that zoning be consistent with the general plan, including community plans, said the grand jury.
 Lease rates are infamous. Hotels on city land such as the Hyatt Regency Islandia "got lease rates that in no way reflect the value of the underlying land," says Richard Rider, recent mayoral candidate and a Libertarian voice. Political contributions are generally behind such handouts, he says, adding that the Centre City Development Corporation "has become a lackey for major corporations."
  Former councilmember Fred Schnaubelt says that the lease for Mission Bay Yacht Club is based on an appraisal that is less than half the realistic value.
 Under the so-called strong mayor system, this corruption is likely to get worse, says former councilmember Bruce Henderson. "As a practical matter, the mayor becomes the city manager. The mayor can direct who gets what city services when," he says. A company that slips the mayor some bucks can make sure its competitor doesn't get city services. "It encourages corruption. At the building department, there will be two lines: one line for people who have made contributions to the mayor and a line for people who haven't made contribution

Shake-up at city hall
By John Patrick Ford, San Diego Daily Transcript, March 25, 2004
A small rebellion was brewing at the San Diego City Council early this month. Two councilwomen, Toni Atkins and Donna Frye, boycotted a closed-session council meeting in protest over too much secrecy in city business.
The two protagonists, later joined by Jim Madaffer, submitted their proposals one week later for reform in compliance with the Ralph M. Brown Act. Their agenda is to assure San Diego citizens that elected representatives at City Hall are not making deals behind closed doors without public comment. It is a classic case of giving transparency to city government.
Among those testifying at the open council meeting on March 15 were volunteer citizens serving on community planning boards and both candidates for city attorney in the November election.
The general complaint about the current system was about shutting out public comment and disenfranchising community-planning groups in the process of approving new development. Other complaints referred to bad deals cut with sports teams, reuse of public lands and the pension fund deficit cover up.
Either by intent or coincidence, City Manager Michael Uberuaga tendered his resignation a few days later. Mayor Dick Murphy promptly called for reform of the city charter to change from a strong city manager form of government. He is backed up by an ad hoc group of community leaders and two former city managers.
Something must be going on in the back rooms of City Hall.
At issue is the proper implementation of the Brown Act, a state law that requires public business to be conducted in open forums, not behind closed doors. The recalcitrant council members object to frequent and regular City Council closed sessions. One of their proposed resolutions calls for the council to discuss and vote on the closed-session agenda during an open meeting. Otherwise, council convenes under a gag rule without members knowing what they are going to vote on.
Currently, control of closed-session agendas is vested in the city attorney and the mayor. The Brown Act permits closed sessions for real property negotiation, review of employee benefits and pending litigation. After council debate and action, there can be no discussion outside the closed session.
Councilwoman Atkins complained that many of the "secret-session" issues were already well publicized in the press and TV media as a result of aggressive investigative reporting, but the council cannot answer any constituent questions about the issue. If debate and public input occurred in open forum, council members could freely respond to advocates and adversaries and not be viewed as evasive public servants. That seems to be better city government.
One critic in the public comment session called for a grand jury investigation into secret dealings for use of public lands without community input. Another complaint referred to the dismissal of the city clerk from closed session council meetings, where he previously kept minutes of the proceedings.
When I came to San Diego four decades ago, the city manager, George Bean, was a seasoned and somewhat dictatorial administrator, succeeded by Tom Fletcher, a firm but more conciliatory leader. Council members then were part-time citizen-officials who gathered once a week to approve the city manager's agenda and returned to their private businesses for the rest of the week. They weren't paid much for their ceremonial job.
Then Pete Wilson changed the image of mayor, even though the city manager still technically ran the city. The critical change in civic governance, often blamed for today's fragmented city council, was the change in district elections for council members.
As of press time, the closed-session resolution was left in limbo because of a council deadlock. One of the supporters was absent at this week's meeting, resulting in a tie vote to be reconsidered Monday.
In the meantime, City Attorney Casey Quinn, a skeptic when the Frye-Atkins motion was put before council, has issued his official opinion. His report referred to the resolution as too ambiguous and subject to varied interpretations. The city attorney also revealed that the city clerk does not have staff qualified to record the business before the council in closed session. It seems that legal rhetoric might overcome the intended spirit of reform.
No doubt, compromises and concessions are in order before this City Council will seriously undertake reform of its meeting agenda. Watch for the outcome on Monday if the full council convenes for a showdown.
If the closed-session reform fails, it will be a campaign issue for the city attorney runoff in November. The leading candidate, Michael Aguirre, has been an avid critic of council procedure for years. Although not up for re-election, both Frye and Atkins are sure to make this a political hot potato for the mayor's race.
Why is the issue so important? The Brown Act declared that the citizens of California, "in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know."
In a nutshell, that says it all about closed-session council meetings.

San Diego's city manager resigns as feds probe bond sales, pension fund
San Diego-AP -- San Diego's city manager has resigned as a federal investigation looks into the city's financial practices.
Michael Uberuaga (oo-buh-RAH'-guh) has held the job in California's second-biggest city for more than six years, overseeing ten-thousand city workers and a two-point-three (b) billion-dollar budget.
Uberuaga said in a letter he's retiring April ninth, but didn't say why.
The Securities Exchange Commission and the U-S Attorney's Office have opened preliminary investigations into whether city officials gave fraudulent information to investors to sell more than two-point-three (b) billion dollars in bonds. They're also looking into the city's one (b) billion-dollar pension fund deficit.
San Diego officials have acknowledged the city has intentionally underfunded its pension system since 1996 in an effort to bridge budget shortfalls. That prompted Wall Street to downgrade the city's credit rating.

San Diego readies incomplete bond disclosures, could lead to higher rates
By KEVIN CHRISTENSEN, The Daily Transcript, March 23, 2005
The city is set to release another set of incomplete financial disclosures for bonds, which could have a negative impact on future bond ratings.
Some information will not be available for inclusion in the disclosures because the city has not yet completed its long-overdue 2003 financial audit, currently being worked on by auditing firm KPMG, said Lakshmi Kommi, deputy director of the city's financial services department.
"We expect all of this to go out on time," Kommi said. "But, I do not know how much of the information will be compiled."

The first financial disclosure, set to go sometime next week to meet a March 25 deadline, will outline the status of the city's sewer and wastewater departments.
Kommi said the Continuing Disclosure Agreements, or CDAs, have been in production for the past weeks. When a bond is issued, an issuer agrees to annually submit the CDA, which includes financial information.
The CDA for the general fund bonds is due April 11 and could also lack key statistics, Kommi said.
City Attorney Michael Aguirre said the information packets will be the most current and accurate disclosures out of the city in the past three years.
There are, however, penalties for not including all information in the CDA.
In future bond offerings, the city will be required to detail what information was not included, Kommi said.
Amy Doppelt, managing director for Fitch Ratings-San Francisco, said that seeing the incomplete information over consecutive years could raise some eyebrows.
"It's not something if it is a one-year exception. But if it's year after year, then we would start to think that there is something awry," Doppelt said.
Fitch Ratings Services downgraded the city's credit rating in February.
Councilwoman Donna Frye on Wednesday issued a memo to Mayor Dick Murphy, Aguirre and council members questioning whether these forms were to be released.
After hearing that the disclosure forms were being prepared, Frye expressed dissatisfaction that the City Council is not being kept up to date on disclosures.
"Now we are less than a week away, council is on recess, surely someone among our high-price consultants must have known that these statements were going to be due soon," Frye said.
Kommi said Frye and the council were not notified because the "City Council does not approve the annual reports. This goes under the city manager's signature."
Frye said this is unsatisfactory.
"The manager works for the mayor and council," Frye said. "This is how we got into this mess, in part -- because certain people decided that other people didn't need to know everything."

Feds could look to send message without punishing San Diego taxpayers
By KEVIN CHRISTENSEN, The Daily Transcript, March 23, 2005
Being a municipality may be the only good thing the city of San Diego has going for it while awaiting action from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Securities experts believe that possible punishments resulting from SEC investigations tend to be lighter on cities and counties -- specifically in levying monetary fines -- than on private businesses.
"It's important to remember that the city is not a company with shareholders," said Jonathan Schwartz, a Los Angeles-based securities lawyer and former SEC prosecutor.

"All of the bills of the city are paid by taxes," Schwartz said.
Cities are supported by taxpayers who are obligated by law to pay for budgetary shortcomings, while a company is financially supported by stockholders that gain financially in the good years and sell off when things look grim.
San Diego may escape paying heavy assessments because the burden would eventually fall on the backs of taxpayers, Schwartz said.
The real punch of the enforcement -- which is what Wall Street investors are seeking -- will most likely come out of action from the U.S. Attorney's office and the FBI.
This kind of proceeding, called a "parallel investigation," has become more common in recent years, and the process of simultaneously issuing findings is also becoming more prevalent, legal experts say.
SEC investigation
The city of San Diego is currently being investigated by the SEC for allegedly falsifying financial disclosures to Wall Street when floating nearly $550 million in bonds between April 2002 and May 2003. The SEC is responsible for civil investigations.
Some City Hall watchers say the agency is getting closer to taking an enforcement action, and speculation has surfaced that the city may be facing stiff fines.
David M. Greenberg, a San Francisco-based securities lawyer and former chief enforcement attorney for the SEC, said that heavy fines on a city are not likely.
"It's not usual for them to go after a municipality," Greenberg said. "I could see an argument that it would be inappropriate to have the citizenry pay something like that."
Finance attorneys say the commission will be torn between helping the city solve its financial imbroglio and sending a stern warning to municipalities borrowing money that false financial disclosures are met with heavy punishment.
Schwartz stressed that the role of the SEC is to ensure investor protection, and a heavy fine could move the city closer to bankruptcy and in turn jeopardize its ability to pay off debts.
"That could send a shockwave across the municipal bond market," Schwartz said. "That's most likely what the commission is hoping to avoid."
A gentle hand
There is a method the federal agencies can use to ensure financial security of the city while illustrating justice has been served.
Securities experts foresee an injunction by the SEC where the city would not admit to any wrongdoing, but sign a "cease and desist" order, or Section 21C, and promise not to engage in any potentially illicit disclosure acts in the future.
A "cease and desist" order is viewed akin to a contract or court order that carries long-term ramifications. Any future violations of the agreement can be considered a breach or violation and carry individual fines and potentially jail time.
The SEC issued a similar arrangement with the city of Miami, which fell under investigation for falsifying financial disclosure documents when floating more than $125 million worth of bonds in the mid-1990s.
During the commission's investigation in Miami, the city attempted to blame its outside auditor, Deloitte & Touche, for the problems and fired key staff members that had direct access to the filings.
The commission ruled that the "cease-and-desist" action was the proper step regardless of the city's posturing.
"The fact that Miami has pointed its finger at Deloitte and other bond professionals, without taking any responsibility for its own conduct, suggests that Miami has not accepted fully its responsibility for the city's financial disclosures," a commission ruling stated. "The city must be given a clear message that Miami is responsible for the adequacy of its financial disclosures when seeking money from the investing public."
The commission sought no fines from the city of Miami.
Officials in San Diego, unlike leaders in Miami, have not removed all key city officials that took part in the alleged falsifications.
Full compliance
Lynne Turner, head of the city's audit committee and former chief accountant for the SEC, told San Diego City Council members on March 8 that their cooperation with the investigation has not met the commission's idea of full compliance.
Just days earlier, Mayor Dick Murphy and two council members met with the city's outside auditor, KPMG, the SEC and the U.S. Attorney's office to discuss compliance.
A number of SEC investigations in recent years where private companies have failed to give timely cooperation have led to an increase in fines and harsher penalties.
The city being a municipality, however, may provide some protection from heavier fines, said Patrick Shea, a federally appointed attorney that represented cities, school districts and special groups in the Orange County bankruptcy, in which the SEC played an investigative role.
"It doesn't help to victimize the taxpayer," Shea said.
Shea noted, however, that city employees in Orange County were fully compliant, and that no specially called meetings between Orange County leaders and commission investigators took place.
Comprehensive enforcement
To address concerns on Wall Street that the disclosure issues have not been fully remedied, the commission has more tools available.
The SEC reserves the right to tailor "cease-and-desist" orders or injunctions based on the severity and malicious nature of the falsification, said Dennis Stubblefield, a San Diego-based securities lawyer and former-enforcement attorney for the SEC.
For example, the commission can impose more stringent disclosure guidelines on the city.
The commission also holds the authority to appoint a receiver, lawyer or accountant to essentially clean house in City Hall and ensure full disclosure, Stubblefield said.
"The purpose of this kind of action is to specifically restore confidence with investors," he said.
A one-two punch
Meanwhile, the U.S. Attorney and the FBI, responsible for criminal investigations, are also investigating the city for possible fraudulent activity.
White-collar crime experts say that the SEC and U.S. Attorney's presence at the same time illustrate an attempt to complete both tasks at once.
"The two agencies may be investigating the very same allegation -- the fraud or falsity in financial disclosures," said Bryan Daly, former assistant U.S. Attorney and white collar crime defense attorney at Los-Angeles-based Beck, DeCorso, Daly, Kreindler and Harris.
The U.S. Attorney's office may issue more indictments against city leaders to forcefully send a message to other municipalities seeking money from Wall Street that full and accurate financial disclosures are essential, Daly said.
Daly said this kind of "global" approach by the SEC and the U.S. Attorney may be the kind of comprehensive action that would be most effective in sending a message while not disrupting municipal investment markets.
"I think that it is more common for the SEC and U.S. Attorney to do these cases in parallel," Daly said. "It puts the people that are charged or under investigation into a bit of a box."
Schwartz, the former SEC prosecutor, said parallel action would send a message without financially crippling the city of San Diego.
"That would be the way to insulate the municipality, to say that there were these bad people, and not crush the city," Schwartz said.

Election crisis focuses critical crosshairs on city attorney
By Scott Lewis, San Diego Daily Transcript, November 12, 2004
As the courts prepare to grapple with an apparent discrepancy between city policies that threatens to delay, if not derail, the certification of a new mayor, increasingly anxious observers have directed their frustrations with the situation at the city attorney's office.
The city clerk Friday received a second lawsuit alleging that the Nov. 2 election was illegal, this time invoking federal voting rights protections. The first lawsuit filed Nov. 9 was scheduled for a hearing Monday.
Eleven days after voters went to the polls, a winner in the race between incumbent Mayor Dick Murphy, Supervisor Ron Roberts and write-in candidate Donna Frye, is still unclear.
And while the uncertainty continued, many questioned how the city attorney's office had not helped correct potentially troubling inconsistencies between the city's charter and its separate municipal code.
Why, for instance, a 2002 California Supreme Court decision -- which has become a crucial part of the argument in the two lawsuits seeking to invalidate the Nov. 2 election -- did not register with the city attorney was of particular concern.
"I think the entire city, based on the information we have received, is wondering how this error could have occurred," said Mitch Mitchell, vice president of public policy at the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. "It appears the city attorney did not provide the level of information and research necessary to prevent this from happening."
Officially, the only thing that's happening is the long tedious verification of the nearly 150,000 votes Frye might have received as a write-in candidate. If all votes are hers, she might hold on to the razor-thin lead she holds over Murphy.
But the legal concerns raised about the election has provoked large demonstrations from Frye's supporters, who by the end of the business week were holding vigils outside the Registrar of Voters office.
Both lawsuits point to a section of the city's charter that appears to limit the number of candidates eligible for the office of mayor after a primary election for the post has been held.
In 1985 that section of the charter, apparently, had no authority because a California Supreme Court decision forced the city to accommodate write in candidates for all elections.
But in 2002, a new California Supreme Court decision, this time originating from a San Francisco case, declared that cities could once again prohibit write-in candidates from runoff elections.
The question is, did the 2002 ruling give the charter back its authority to limit candidates in a runoff election. If it did, the document's nearly 20-year innocuous conflict with city policy suddenly might have become a potentially significant issue in need of attention.
"At the time it may not have seemed like a priority, but as part of good case management as an attorney, you have to wrap up all the loose ends," said Lisa Briggs, the executive director of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association and an attorney. "You cannot ignore things like this because it can come back and bite you. And I can say it appears we've been bitten."
Sources at City Hall said the city attorney's office briefly dealt with the issue in 2002 after the case came to the city attorney's attention, but it was not pursued.
City Attorney Casey Gwinn said, in an earlier interview, that he was not sure that a discrepancy exists between the city charter and the municipal code or that the charter expressly forbids write-in candidates from participating in and winning a runoff election for mayor.
"It's a close call. I don't think it's completely clear one way or another," Gwinn said.
"The mayor and City Council could have made a decision to amend their charter or change the municipal code but the last time the issue was put before the council was in 1985," he said.
Regardless, Gwinn said, it was City Clerk Charles Abdelnour's decision to allow Frye to file papers as a write-in candidate.
And the city attorney's office was not asked for its opinion on the matter, Gwinn said.
"Even had I issued the legal opinion, I have no reason to believe it would have been followed."
But Abdelnour claimed in a memorandum to the City Council that he had made his decision to accept Frye's candidacy after "discussions with the city attorney's staff."
Critics maintained that many of the problems the city now faces had spiraled out of control because of Gwinn's lack of attention on the civil as opposed to the prosecutorial duties of the city attorney.
Executive Assistant City Attorney Leslie Devaney, Gwinn's top deputy, said in an earlier interview that the civil side of the city attorney's office "suffered" because of Gwinn's focus on the criminal side.
She had also described a culture in the city attorney's office in which Gwinn required deputies to stay mute on issues unless they were prompted to respond to formal requests for opinions.
"I don't think he intended it to be problematic," Devaney said. "We have an amazing office that has done some outstanding legal work, but the public won't know that if we're not more transparent."
In the other major city race still undecided, Devaney trails consumer fraud attorney Mike Aguirre by a thin margin in the race to succeed Gwinn as city attorney. Some votes still remain to be counted.
Aguirre said the 2002 court case concerning write-in candidates should have provoked a review by the city attorney's office.
"When lawyers say they are practicing law, you do that by keeping abreast of cases and assessing how they affect your clients interests," Aguirre said.
The Chamber's Mitchell said residents have learned a remarkable amount about the role of the city attorney over the last year.
"One of the things everyone is expecting of the new city attorney is that the civil side of the office has to receive a tremendous amount of focus because it affects the citizens in a number of ways," Mitchell said.
The Taxpayers Association's Briggs said the city attorney might have headed off the current political crisis.
"Right now the city of San Diego doesn't have the luxury of this kind of chaos," she said.

Aguirre tells nominee-checking goals, Council divided in views on his policy
By Jennifer Vigil, Union Tribune, March 9, 2005
As part of his new plan to check candidates for San Diego boards and commissions, City Attorney Michael Aguirre said yesterday his staff will examine résumé claims and individual qualifications of the nominees.
He said the scrutiny will apply to at least 22 of the higher profile boards or those that handle funding and property decisions "that have a major financial impact on the city."

Some on San Diego City Council cash in on contentious retirement benefit
By KEVIN CHRISTENSEN, The Daily Transcript, March 9, 2005
Excerpt: Members of the San Diego City Council have taken advantage of a controversial retirement benefit approved over the past 10 years that critics argue is driving up the pension systems' $1.37 billion shortfall.
Past and present members of the council have purchased a total of 30.54 years of pension service credits, many at prices lower than what benefits cost to pay out.

As part of the City Manager's I agreement city employees have been allowed to buy pension credits -- which equate to years of service -- for a cost lower than what it will take to pay the benefits after retirement.
The years of service purchased are compiled with the years an employee actually worked. This total is used in the pension multiplier formula, which calculates how much employees receive in their pension packages.
As part of 1997's City Manager's I, an agreement to lower a pension funding safety net in exchange for increased benefits, city general service and legislative employees were given the opportunity to purchase a year of credit at 15 percent of their annual salary, said Lorraine Chapin, general counsel for the San Diego City Employees Retirement System.
For example, an employee making $100,000 per year is able to buy a year of pension service for $15,000.
The City Manager's I agreement was made between the San Diego City Council and SDCERS.
According to public documents requested by The Daily Transcript, council members that purchased years of service at the 15 percent rate include:
# Councilwoman Toni Atkins purchased .19 of a year of service on June 23, 2003.
# Councilman Ralph Inzunza purchased 4.67 years of service on June 20, 2002.
# The late Councilman Charles Lewis purchased 5 years of service on June 12, 2003.
# Councilman Jim Madaffer purchased 5 years of service on Jan. 4, 2002.
# Councilman Brian Maienschein purchased .92 of a year of service on Aug. 13, 2002.
# Councilman Michael Zucchet purchased 2.12 years of service on July 1, 2003 The total number of years purchased at 15 percent is 17.9 years.
April Boling, a local accountant and chairman of the Pension Reform Committee, said that when pension credits are purchased at a discount, the unfunded liability rises because people are paying into the system a smaller amount than what they will eventually receive.
"At a discounted rate, the funded liability is by definition going to end up being short when the service years are purchased at a discount," Boling said. "The city and taxpayers have to make up the difference."
The city of San Diego uses what is referred to as a defined benefit plan. Here, employees are guaranteed a set retirement package when they stop working.
The system is funded using an actuary that determines how much an employee and the city must contribute to balance with defined benefits.
City Attorney Michael Aguirre, who has been a vocal opponent of the current plan, said that since the inception of the program, 2,900 employees have purchased more than 13,000 years of pension credits at a discount of $120 million.
"I think that this is something that is going to have to be reviewed in conflict rules," Aguirre said.
In September 2003, as a result of further increased benefits due to litigation, the cost for service years for general members was increased by SDCERS to 27 percent. A new category was also created for legislative members offering pension credits at 50 percent of annual salary, Chapin said.
Council members that purchased hours at the rate include:
# Mayor Dick Murphy, who purchased 5 years of service on Jan. 15, 2005.
# Councilwoman Atkins, who purchased 5 years of service on Nov. 5, 2003.
# Councilwoman Donna Frye, who purchased 1.83 years of service on Nov. 7, 2003.
# Councilman Michael Zucchet, who purchased .81 of a year of service on Oct. 20, 2003. The total hours purchased at the 50 percent rate is 12.64 years.
At the higher rate, the costs to the unfunded liability are greatly reduced.
Memo From Mayor's Top Aide Stirs Fires,Kern's information request in wake of federal inquiry draws complaints of unethical behavior and concerns surrounding deleted data
A memo sent from Mayor Dick Murphy's chief of staff to the city of San Diego's data storage house days after a federal inquiry reached its way to the mayor's office has created a stir in City Hall -- especially from Murphy's political rival, City Councilwoman Donna Frye.
In a Feb. 18 memo written in techie-speak from the mayor's top aide, John Kern, to the president of the San Diego Data Processing Corp., Kern requests that back-up tapes be made for the servers of the nine council offices and the mayor -- tapes that would contain council e-mails, calendars and possibly sensitive personal information.
"The request would appear to be a request for all of the council members' e-mails and files without the council members' knowledge,"
Frye said.
The mayor's office said Kern was only fulfilling his obligations under a Feb. 11 subpoena from the U.S. Attorney's Office. In the subpoena, federal agents requested documents and correspondence of another Murphy aide, ballpark administrator Dennis Gibson, as well as documents and correspondence related to the three major credit rating firms and the San Diego City Employees' Retirement System. The subpoenas request documents from Jan. 1, 2000, to the present in the subpoena, as does Kern's memo.
But Frye believes there's no innocence in the departing Kern's actions, and that the information gained from the files of all council offices could have been priceless as he restarts his political consulting firm when he leaves Murphy's office April 1.
"The reality is that these are political offices. We can try to pretend that they're not. We can pretend that everybody gets along, but the fact is that Mr. Kern will be leaving the mayor's office to resume the campaign consultant business. The idea of the potential to take with him the entire City Council e-mail and files from January 2000 to the present, it raises serious ethical questions," she said.
One memo, many interpretations
The data processing corporation is a city-run, non-profit organization that handles the city's information technology and data storage.
Tom Fleming, its president, said that he believed Kern didn't know what he was asking for in the memo. He said Kern was simply looking for information specifically related to the credit rating firms named in the subpoena.
"The servers he was asking for contained a lot of other data. And he now understands what he wants from his request," Fleming said.
When pressed on further technical details, he deferred questions to the corporation's attorney, Don Del Rio. Del Rio didn't return several calls for this story.
Two experts interviewed said that because of the highly-technical language used in the memo, it's likely that the author had a strong command of the technical issues at hand or had the help of an informed advisor.
"It was John Kern's intent to save only files from the mayor's office in order to comply with the U.S. Attorney's subpoena to the city. It was never intended to obtain any City Council files," said Colleen Windsor, Murphy's spokeswoman.
'This stinks'
But when run past former data processing employee and board member, Phil Thalheimer, the memo raised additional red flags.
The one-paragraph memo requests "effective immediately, that you halt the over-writing and remove from circulation any and all back up tapes" from Jan. 1, 2000, to the present.
Thalheimer, who lost a bid to unseat the Murphy-supported Councilman Scott Peters last fall, left the DPC in March 2000. But when he was there, he said it was practice not to overwrite tapes for the council members or mayor -- instead, the tapes were always preserved. Overwriting takes place when information is saved in the short-term on tape, but later deleted to make room for more data.
"The request is telling me that they are missing information and somebody's realized that," Thalheimer said. "Somebody knew that they were deleting information."
The only way that over-writing would be performed, he said, would be if the city manager or mayor's office were to directly request it.
"My initial reaction is that this stinks," Thalheimer said after being showed the memo.
Questions surrounding the deletion of city files were raised once already in January, when e-mails turned up during investigations revealed a large file cleaning took place in city departments last December. Officials said it was part of a routine cleaning to open up space on city computers.
The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating errors and omissions made in the city's financial statements given to potential investors, while the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office are investigating possible public corruption. The investigations and revelations of errors in the financial statements have caused the city's credit rating to essentially be frozen, leaving it with little access to borrow funds for long-term projects.
Kern also copied the memo to Del Rio, Eileen Hemenway and Pam Noughton, who is representing Murphy in the ongoing investigations. It is unclear who Hemenway is, though she is mentioned once without a title in recent DPC board meeting minutes.
The Feb. 11 subpoena came after suspicions were raised that the mayor's office knew of the city's growing pension problems in 2002, before public disclosures for ballpark bonds reported financial data that was rosier than reality.
DPC has also had its fair share of controversy. Former CEO Roger Talamantez resigned last year after an audit revealed that higher-ups in the organization ran up expensive bills on lavish partying and eating.
Howard Stapleton, who works in the city's information technology services, said that it could be that Kern was being extra cautious in requesting that over-writing be stopped.
"My guess would be that given that there's been an SEC investigation, that people would over-retain info now I wouldn't think that in this environment there would be overwriting going on," he said.

Only 16% Think Mayor and Council Have Not Committed a Crime
Over 2/3 Think City Attorney is Right to Investigate Council
Excerpt: San Diego--According to a new survey released by the San Diego Chapter of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly (RNHA), 38% of registered voters think the Mayor and Council have committed a crime in the ongoing pension scandal at City Hall, and 67% think it is the proper role of the City Attorney to investigate the Council.
“Every day the news from City Hall gets worse. People just want someone to take charge and lead, but they have not seen anyone other than Mike Aguirre step up to the plate,” states Richard Babcock, President of RNHA.
“The Mayor’s overall approval rating continues to plunge with only 18% of San Diegans approving of the way he is handling his job, while only 5% approve of his handling of the pension crisis.”
Most San Diegans approve of the job City Attorney Mike Aguirre is doing, giving him a 48% approval rating. Fifty-three percent approve of his performance regarding pension problems; only 25% disapprove. Overall, the Council has even a lower approval rating than the Mayor, with 16% approving and 55% disapproving of the way it is handling its job.

Local proposition results
San Diego Daily Transcript, November 03, 2004
Excerpts: Here are results for the major San Diego County propositions on Tuesday's ballot. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, all tallies are unofficial. Approximately 250,000 provisional and absentee ballots remained to be counted.
Proposition A
Extension of TransNet: The proposition to authorize a 40-year extension of a half-cent sales tax to fund transportation improvements countywide needed a two-thirds majority to pass. The measure was approved by 66.68 percent of the voters with 505,870 Yes votes. Votes against numbered 252,799, or 33.32 percent.
Proposition D
Public Access to Information in the City of San Diego: Amending the city's charter to provide unfettered access to information was supported by over 80 percent of voters. Yes votes: 252,045 (82.06 percent); No votes: 55,118 (17.94 percent).
Proposition E
Providing Outside Counsel to San Diego's Ethic Commission: Voters approved Prop E by an overwhelming majority. The initiative enables the Ethics Commission to retain outside counsel rather than rely on the City Attorney's office. Yes votes: 229,608 (76.36 percent); No votes: 71,095 (23.64 percent).
Proposition F
Strong Mayor Form of Government for San Diego: This proposition aims to alter San Diego's governing structure to include a strong executive branch for a trial period of five years beginning on Jan. 1, 2006. Yes votes: 156,593 (51.17 percent); No votes: 149,441 (48.83 percent).
Proposition G
City of San Diego Retirement System Changes: Prop G would ban any future multi-year underfunding of San Diego's retirement system. Yes votes: 150,924 (53.22 percent); No votes: 132,669 (43.78 percent).
Proposition H
City of San Diego Retirement Board Composition: Measure to alter the makeup of the board passed by a wide margin. Yes votes: 184,370 (64.28 percent); No votes: 102,443 (35.72 percent).
Proposition J
City of San Diego Increase of the Transient Occupancy Tax to 13 percent: Firmly opposed by the hotel and tourist industry in San Diego, Prop J was defeated at the polls. No votes: 184,972 (58.59 percent); Yes votes: 130,756 (41.41 percent).

Tight city attorney's race grabs spotlight
By Catherine MacRae Hockmuth, The Daily Transcript, November 3, 2004
Michael Aguirre, who was long considered the favorite to win the election to the office of city attorney, on Wednesday expressed his surprise at a tight race that is still too close to call.
"I was absolutely taken aback and very surprised," Aguirre told reporters during a press conference along the beach in La Jolla Shores. He was flanked by a crowd of supporters, including elections attorney Robert Ottilie and Deborah Berger, a candidate for the office in the March primary. Aguirre received 45.93 percent of the vote in March, compared with 27.95 percent for Leslie Devaney, the executive assistant city attorney.
"I'm thrilled," said Leslie Devaney, who spent the much of the day doing television interviews. Devaney attributed her last minute surge in votes to her "ability to communicate with a mass electorate through TV and radio."
At press time Wednesday evening, Aguirre had 154,766 votes and Devaney had 153,218 votes.
"The city attorney is at the center of the action now," said Steve Erie, a political science professor at the University of California, San Diego. Erie said the situation will not change once the winner takes office and must oversee the city's transition to a strong mayor form of government.
The San Diego County Registrar of Voters is steadily counting an estimated 200,000 absentee ballots and 50,000 provisional countywide ballots, and plans to release updates on the results every day at 8 a.m. Voters whose names are not on the registrar's roster on election day must be given provisional ballots if they believe they are registered to vote. The ballots are set aside and counted separately.
Of the 250,000 county ballots, approximately 120,000 ballots are city of San Diego votes.
The registrar opted to update the results daily due to intense public interest in the mayoral and city attorney races, according to county spokesman Luis Monteagudo. Originally, the registrar planned to begin releasing the results at 2 p.m. Nov. 5 in increments of 50,000 votes.
Aguirre said Ottilie's presence was not intended to signal possible legal challenges to the vote count or process. Rather, Aguirre said he asked Ottilie, who has been a friend for about 20 years, to meet with County Registrar Sally McPherson in order to understand what to expect from the process over the coming days. Ottilie said he has no concerns about the legitimacy of the vote count process.
The Aguirre camp is hopeful the absentee ballots will keep him ahead, citing analysis that shows an 8 percent lead among absentee voters. By comparison, Devaney received a majority of votes cast on Election Day, according to Ottilie. The campaign is uncertain whether late absentee voters will break for Devaney or Aguirre.
Meanwhile, the business community is watching the race with tremendous interest.
Headlines over the last year have spotlighted the significance of the city attorney's office in the city's decision-making, from the San Diego Chargers ticket guarantee to the pension fund deficit that has put the city under investigation and increased investor scrutiny.
Mitch Mitchell, vice president of public policy at the San Diego County Regional Chamber of Commerce said the business community has been split over which candidate to support in light of increasing questions about whether city leaders have been getting sound legal advice.
Mitchell said that while some believe Aguirre could be the "strong legal authority" the city needs, Devaney has the experience of being the No. 2 authority in the office since 1996, when Casey Gwinn was elected.
Mitchell said businesses are adversely affected when the city follows legal advice that results in protracted litigation, such as the recent fight over the Mount Soledad Cross. That's because money is diverted from the general fund, raising the specter of higher taxes to pay for the city's needs. Settling a dispute early and paying out some money can cost less cash and time compared to "fighting something on a belief that you're right," Mitchell said.
Robert Bell, managing partner of Luce Forward Hamilton & Scripps agreed the competitive race was a signal of the times. Bell, an experienced real estate attorney, said both candidates are perceived by the business community to have strengths and weaknesses.
Addressing a major issue in the campaign -- the role of the city attorney -- Bell favored Devaney's position that the office represents the city. "But like any attorney," he added. "You've got to be frank with your clients."
Aguirre says the city attorney is an elected official who represents the people while advising the city.
"It doesn't serve the interests of business or the economy to have a dishonest city administration," that is untrusted by investors and under investigation by the federal government. "We are a credit risk," Aguirre said. "That's not good for business."
The Building Industry Association, which represents homebuilders in San Diego County, has endorsed Devaney.
"It really boiled down to experience and continuity in the city attorney's office," said Matthew Adams, the organization's vice president for government affairs. "With everything going down at City Hall, the last thing they needed was an upheaval."

Ex-business associate of mayor's top aide got city pacts
By Ronald W. Powell. UNION-TRIBUNE, September 25, 2004

A former business associate of San Diego Mayor Dick Murphy's chief of staff was awarded two contracts to do city work in 2001 and 2002, the second of which pays a maximum of $90,000.
Jennifer Tierney, who works as a paid strategist for Murphy's re-election campaign, once did work for a company owned by Murphy's chief of staff, John Kern.
After Murphy was elected in November 2000, Kern shelved his consulting business to become the mayor's chief of staff. In that role, Kern said, he approved a contract for Tierney to design Murphy's Web page on the city's Web site, because he was impressed by the work she had done for his company.
That contract extended from February to November 2001, and Tierney was paid $6,200.
Shortly after that contract expired, the second one was awarded to Tierney by the city-owned San Diego Data Processing Corp., which provides computer and telecommunications services to the city. That contract began Jan. 1, 2002, and expires Dec. 31, 2005.
It pays a maximum of $90,000 to analyze the Web sites of the mayor, City Council and other corporation customers, said Don Del Rio, the corporation's attorney. He said yesterday he had not been able to determine how much Tierney had been paid so far.
City contracts of more than $5,000 must be put to competitive bid. But Kern said Tierney's contract with the mayor's office, which was not put to bid, doesn't violate that rule or constitute a conflict of interest.
Data Processing Corp. contracts do not fall under the San Diego Municipal Code, Del Rio said. Contracts with the agency that are for less than $100,000 are not subject to competitive bid, he said.
Kern said he had nothing to do with Tierney getting the Data Processing Corp. contract.
Tierney did not return phones calls or respond to a fax yesterday seeking comment. Her two contracts were made public Tuesday by government watchdog Ian Trowbridge during a City Council meeting.
Kern said Tierney's work on Murphy's Web page began on a volunteer basis, but the arrangement proved troublesome because she did not have the cooperation of office staff members. Kern said he decided it would be better to formalize the relationship, and he arranged a contract to pay Tierney on a month-to-month basis.
"What we needed was someone to get the job done and get it done cheaply," he said of Tierney's contract with the mayor's office. "I don't see a conflict at all. We had a previous business relationship in which she did a good job, and she did a good job for the public. I think the public was well-served."
He said she was paid $500 to $750 a month.
Assistant City Attorney Les Girard said the City Attorney's Office approved the contract, which he said did not run afoul of the $5,000 rule.
When it was approved, the contract had no end date, Girard said, and there was no reason to believe it would substantially exceed $5,000.
"The thing you have to guard against is that city departments do not break up contracts in serial amounts to fall under the ($5,000) threshold amount," Girard said.
Tierney, a former employee of the county Agriculture Department, founded a company called the Gemini Group in 1999 with her twin sister, Ann.
Jennifer Tierney met Kern, a former political consultant, in 1996 when she worked for the county.
She quit her county job in 1999, and the next year she worked on Murphy's mayoral campaign, which Kern ran. In a 2002 profile in the Union-Tribune, she said she considered Kern a friend and mentor.
As a political consultant, she has represented judges and politicians, including Councilman Michael Zucchet and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.
Kern said he has never owned the Gemini Group nor been a part of it – although the company's Web site once said Kern was on leave from the company to be Murphy's chief of staff.
"That was a joke between Jennifer and I," Kern said. "I never, ever owned that company or worked for it."
Tierney lives in Williamsburg, Va., but the San Diego County Registrar of Voters Office still lists her as living at the same Radcliffe Lane address where Kern lives. Tierney last voted at that address in November 2000, according to the registrar's office.
Kern said she is shown as registered to vote at that address because she and her husband rented the same house before moving out of town in 2000. Kern said he has rented the house since Tierney moved.
Property tax records show the house is owned by the trust of Lee and Joan Johnston of Escondido. They could not be reached for comment yesterday.

City attorney seeks legal advice, He wants to ensure he didn't break conflict-of-interest law
By Matthew T. Hall, Union Tribune, Sept.24, 2004
San Diego City Attorney Casey Gwinn helped secure a $1.6 million grant for the San Diego Family Justice Center Foundation in June.
After leaving office in December, San Diego City Attorney Casey Gwinn expects to earn $142,500 over two years from a $1.6 million federal grant he helped secure in June for a private, nonprofit foundation that helps domestic-violence victims.
But first, following a suggestion from the city's Ethics Commission, he will ask a private attorney and the District Attorney's Office whether he broke a state conflict-of-interest law when the money was obtained.
Gwinn, who sought advice from the Ethics Commission this month to ensure he is steering clear of any potential violations in his role with the foundation, said yesterday that he has done nothing wrong.
"I'm not going to take a dime, any compensation from this, until I confirm what I believe is the accurate interpretation of the law," he said.
Gwinn didn't know which private attorney he would contact. He said he would consult the District Attorney's Office, because it enforces the relevant state law, and possibly seek advice from the state Fair Political Practices Commission, which regulates financial conflicts of interest.
At issue is whether Gwinn followed a state law that prohibits a public official from influencing "a governmental decision in which he knows or has reason to know he has a financial interest."
In a Sept. 15 letter to Gwinn, Stacey Fulhorst, executive director of the Ethics Commission, wrote that the commission won't answer that question because it has no jurisdiction over state law and does not offer advice about past conduct.
Gwinn helped secure a federal grant as a volunteer board member for the San Diego Family Justice Center Foundation, but the grant application has several references to Gwinn as the San Diego city attorney, Fulhorst's letter said.
The commission told Gwinn that because the city was not involved with the grant application, there are no provisions in the municipal code precluding him from being paid from the grant after he leaves office.
"We therefore suggest that you consult with counsel on this issue," Fulhorst wrote.
The formal advice letter is one of two that Fulhorst sent to Gwinn this month in response to questions Gwinn asked about potential conflicts of interest stemming from his work in expanding the Family Justice Center concept nationally.
Fulhorst said the Ethics Commission, which usually relies on the City Attorney's Office for legal advice, sought advice from the Attorney General's Office.
Gwinn has said he wants to advocate plans to turn the city's current downtown library building into a new home for the Family Justice Center when a new library opens, possibly in 2007.
Fulhorst advised him, however, that he could lobby city officials only if he was unpaid or got compensation solely from a public agency such as the District Attorney's Office.
Gwinn said lobbying provisions won't apply to him because the foundation isn't paying him to lobby.
He is leaving office in December because of term limits and plans to work part time starting in January with the District Attorney's Office to create family justice centers countywide and aid efforts against child abuse, elder abuse, sexual assault and family violence.
Gwinn was instrumental in starting the Family Justice Center in 2002. The center at Seventh Avenue and Broadway is home to prosecutors from the City Attorney's Office, police officers, medical professionals, military representatives, advocates for victims of domestic violence, and social service organizations.
It operates out of city-leased office space and has become a model for similar one-stop centers around the country.
In December, the National League of Cities will honor San Diego and three other cities for outstanding public and private partnership in the creation of the center.
Gwinn is an unpaid board member for two nonprofit corporations set up to support the efforts of the Family Justice Center and Camp Hope, a camp for victims of domestic violence and their children that also operates on city property. He is president of the board of directors for Camp Hope Inc.
The $1.6 million federal grant will provide training and technical assistance to federally funded family justice centers nationwide over the next two years. Gwinn said he will be a national director for the effort.
Gwinn estimated he would earn about $50,000 a year from the District Attorney's Office for working up to 20 hours a week on creating two or three new family justice centers. He said those details are not worked out yet.
From the federal grant, he will receive $47,500 in 2005 and $95,000 in 2006, according to Fulhorst's advice letter.
Gwinn downplayed his role in obtaining the federal grant. He said the foundation hired a private consultant to write the grant, but he acknowledged reviewing a draft of the application.
"I didn't sign the grant," he said. "It was applied for by the Family Justice Center Foundation. I didn't lobby anybody. I didn't try to influence anybody. They asked us to apply."
He said the federal government asked the San Diego foundation to apply for the assistance and that it was the only agency that applied, so there was no competitive bidding for the money.
Gwinn said he consulted with Deputy City Attorney Rick Duvernay about whether the relevant state law applied to him, and Duvernay concluded it did not.

Ms. Beak, City Beat, 9/13/04
Congestion woes and the politics of blind faith
In general, it's unwise to trust anyone who practices "blind faith," unless, of course, they are loaning you money. Then it's OK.
But otherwise blind faith is a dicey concept, even outside the realm of the whole God thing, suggesting a willingness to toss aside common sense and turn over your credit card to that friendly stranger at the gas station. Blind faith seems like the type of thing people should avoid, in the same way it's best to avoid stepping off cliffs based on the belief that an athletic chimp will reach out and grab you on the way down.
Yet, a certain amount of blind faith is always present in our day-to-day lives, from the gut feeling that Paris Hilton will some day end up working in a Dairy Queen to religious leaders assuring us that God has a spy-cam in our bathroom. Sometimes you just have to believe.
Politicians are big in the blind-faith business, especially when it comes to spending money. Trust us, they say. Have faith, they say.
When President Bush asked for an $87 billion blank check to rebuild Iraq, Congress demonstrated faith that some of the money wouldn't end up being used to buy Play Stations for Kurd opium dealers. The Democrats, in turn, have faith that voters across the country in places like Florida and Texas will recognize that the President has made several "miscalculations."
Right here in the Des Moines of the West, the grand masterminds of our traffic world are asking folks to demonstrate a little faith. They've been doing such a swell job on this whole roads thang, they want voters to extend them another $14 billion or so for the next 40 years, i.e., until most voters are dead and no longer concerned about trying to head east on Highway 76 at rush hour.
The request, which will appear as Prop. A on the Nov. 2 ballot, is a proposal to extend a half-cent sales tax to fund the San Diego Association of Government's (SANDAG) master plan for transportation. By some wacky burst of drunken good luck, when the so-called TransNet funding was approved by a majority of voters in 1987 it included a provision requiring a renewal of the tax in 2008.
Thanks to the fine print, voters will get a chance this November to evaluate whether this money has been well spent over the last 17 years.
This is where blind faith comes in, since someone would have to be blind not to notice that the traffic situation in San Diego is a hellish nightmare.
In fact, Prop. A is turning into a fundamental showdown between the blind-faith folks, who believe the current system is working just okie-dokie, and the pissed-off Sam's Club shoppers who think the transportation planners are smoking crack.
The measure has already generated fierce debate, but the opposition forces appear to have the upper hand.
"Look around," the Sierra Club's Carolyn Chase, one of the leaders of the opposition, told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "If you can honestly say that traffic has kept up with growth the last 20 years, then renew (the tax)."
Damn, it's hard to argue with that whole reality concept, which is why all sorts of people are united against the idea of writing SANDAG, which handles regional traffic planning, another check for 40 years. On this issue, conservative old-liners are siding with the Sierra Club, which is one more sign that it will soon start raining frogs.
SANDAG is fighting back, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising to remind constituents they're not wasting money. They've also succumbed to pressure from North County's old-guard politicians and grudgingly agreed not to spend too much money on mass transit, showing that the same poet-philosophers who designed the current transportation system are still in charge.
SANDAG officials are asking for a little faith, which is either very sad or very pathetic. Transportation planners rank just slightly above IRS auditors on popularity charts these days, at least among San Diegans who actually need to go somewhere.
This is, of course, grossly unfair to the transportation planners; it's not their fault.
In fact the whole debate over Prop. A has little to do with transportation planning. They could spend $50 billion and not make a dent in the situation. It doesn't really matter whether they spend the money on roads or personal hovercrafts for county residents.
Either way, the money will do squat, at least until there is a fundamental change in thinking among San Diego's bold leaders. It's fairly simple, really: If they continue to build more houses, the roads will continue to get more congested. If you build the houses before the roads, you are in a state known as "perpetually screwed."
That state is also known as California. The state could tax chewing gum and raise billions more dollars for roads and it wouldn't make any difference, as long as the politicians continue to jam stucco duplexes into every ravine in the county.
If they are denied their buckets of TransNet funds, the politicians will at least have to seriously consider how to handle traffic before they rubber stamp another adult contemporary living complex for their buddies down at the Building Industry Association.
Shooting down Prop. A will send a clear message to the weasel politicians that the days of blind faith are over

America's Second Loneliest City
By Don Bauder, The Reader, July 29, 2004
(Don Bauder writes a weekly column for The Reader and can be reached at

Sociologists lament San Diegans' lack of political participation and social cohesion. The overlords celebrate it -- secretly, of course.
Four years ago, Robert D. Putnam, Harvard professor of public policy, authored a book, Bowling Alone, postulating that Americans are socially alienated -- not participating in civic culture. Without the cement of social networks and interconnectedness -- what Putnam calls "social capital" -- societies will become more apathetic and less educated, he argued.
It brought to mind an old joke. Question: "What's more dangerous -- ignorance or apathy?"
Answer: "I don't know, and I don't give a damn."
Putnam's researchers went on to measure social capital of various geographical areas. San Diego was one of 40 jurisdictions that participated. The results were dismal. Putnam said San Diego was the second-loneliest city in the U.S.
In a number of categories (such as social and interracial trust, political participation, giving and volunteering), communities were assigned an expected score of 100 based on demographic factors such as education and age distribution. If a region scored above 100 in a category, it was doing well. A score below 100 was poor.
San Diego was below 100 in every category -- usually far below. In political participation, only one of the 40 geographical areas did worse than San Diego. In both civic leadership and interracial trust, only two did worse, and in giving and volunteering, only five scored lower. Some gloated that San Diego got a 93 in social trust. But that topped only 11 areas.
Some groups, such as the San Diego Foundation, pledged to do something about it. Late last year, San Diego State University announced an effort to promote civic engagement, called "Envision San Diego: The Creative Community."
In promoting its mission, Envision quotes San Diego pollster and social commentator Daniel Yankelovich, who has astutely observed a growing disconnect between citizens and elected officials.
But Envision erred from the outset. It appointed a steering committee of 23 persons. Two were from the Union-Tribune, two from San Diego magazine, and one each from Sempra Energy, SBC (Pacific Bell), Qualcomm, the biotech trade group San Diego BioCom, the convention and visitors bureau, regional chamber of commerce, and Regional Economic Development Corp. Those members, along with several others, gave the overlords or their lackeys a plurality.
Could an establishment-dominated group tackle the tough questions? For example, could it examine 30 years of biotech in San Diego and ask: has this industry spawned jobs and successful companies, or has it made insiders and venture capitalists rich in initial public offerings? Biotech jobs are still less than 3 percent of San Diego's civilian employment. Only a few companies -- mainly Agouron (now part of Pfizer) and Idec (Biogen Idec) -- have been successful. But those who got cheap shares in initial public offerings got rich. In short, biotech has widened the already deep divide between rich and poor in San Diego but has not yet made many scientific strides. Can the overlords, who rake in dough from the stock offerings, evaluate biotech's contribution? Please.
John M. Eger, a communications professor at San Diego State, was a driving force behind Envision. "The things that ought to happen aren't well communicated," he says. "There isn't a constituency to support good things."
True. But then I asked him point-blank if the membership of that steering committee would be an impediment to achieving good things -- that is, if the establishment really has a vested interest in San Diego's societal disconnectedness, ignorance, apathy. He didn't agree with the last point, but he did concede, "The steering committee is no more. You are right. If they had their way, we would not be able to do these things."
By the next morning, he had changed his mind. The steering committee "insisted that Envision be as open, inclusive, diverse, and transparent as possible. [This is] important, as I may have given the wrong impression," he said. His change of heart had shone a bright light on San Diego: the overlords control so much of the wealth and power that any group trying to promote independent thinking and an active electorate will never get adequate funding, mainstream press coverage, or off the ground.
On March 31 of this year, California state librarian Kevin Starr, a University of Southern California professor and expert in state history, said at an Envision forum that San Diego "has always had a strongly engaged oligarchy," or government by a small ruling elite. No argument there.
On May 14 of last year, Federal Bureau of Investigation probers raided the offices of three city councilmembers who were later charged with wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. For several weeks, the raid dominated print and electronic news. In early June, Competitive Edge, which does polling for KPBS, asked citizens if they knew about the raid. Almost 27 percent didn't know about it; more than 52 percent said they were "somewhat familiar" with it. And one-third said there was no ethics crisis among local politicians.
It shows that ignorance and apathy are tools of the oligarchy. How else can you explain how the citizenry has been conned? In 1998, when the city was voting on the ballpark, people were assured that the city was flush with money and among the nation's best-managed local governments. Only a few were pointing out that the infrastructure was run down, and the city was balancing budgets by selling land, failing to maintain police and fire equipment, and underfunding the pension system. Last year's fires and pension crises woke up some people -- but how many?
In November of 2002, Diann Shipione, a member of the city's pension board, told the city council that the system was badly underfunded. P. Lamont Ewell, then assistant city manager, declared she had "slanted and misrepresented the facts" and her comments were without merit. But early this year, the city admitted it had been concealing the pension shortfall, and the federal government launched an investigation. Shortly, Ewell was named city manager. Hmm. Last week, the council made reforms that confirmed Shipione's warnings. In the same session, Michael Zucchet -- one of the three councilmembers under indictment -- proposed (and the council passed) a measure that could knock whistle-blower Shipione off the board.
Similarly, Zucchet engineered a deal with the Chargers that was actually worse than the ones of 1995--1997 that produced the 60,000-seat guarantee. "I asked that we get information at least ten days before the Chargers vote," says councilmember Donna Frye, the only one to vote against it. "The public needed to get information in a timely manner." Instead, she got it late Friday afternoon; the vote was Monday. Typical.
The Chargers (darlings of the oligarchy) won again. They wangled a rent reduction and gave up little. The council "maximized the opportunity for the Chargers to blackmail the citizens of San Diego," says former councilmember Bruce Henderson. The Chargers now have the flexibility to get backing for a subsidized stadium here or get out of town to a juicier market, Los Angeles.
The push for the strong-mayor vote this November was an example of oligarchical rule. "A select group of individuals were working behind closed doors," says Frye. "When the measure was brought forward at the city council, the documents presented to me did not include a copy of the city charter, which was being superseded. We are supposed to assign power to the mayor, and we are not provided a strikeout, underline version of what is being changed in the document that is our city's constitution."
Similarly, the council regularly votes for mitigation measures to satisfy environmental impact reports, "and nobody is making sure the mitigation measures are ever performed," says Frye.
Among many things, citizens have not been told how money for infrastructure maintenance has been diverted elsewhere, how much Petco Park is costing, and how much downtown condos have been subsidized by redevelopment-agency bonds, says Henderson. "It is literally impossible to get information from the city," he says.
And that's exactly what the oligarchy wants

Crime, accountability good reasons to nix strong mayor proposal
San Diego Daily Transcript, July 02, 2004, Letter to the Editor
Since we are "America's Finest City," why would we want to change our form of government from city manager to strong mayor?
But this is what Mayor Dick Murphy wants us to do. His reason is that the big cities in the United States use the strong mayor system. Those big cities, in order of population, are: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia.
Since public safety is the primary concern of city residents, I looked into the violent crime rate in these cities, using the FBI crime index. San Diego's rate is 565 per 100,000 people. New York's rate is 977. Chicago is 1,630. Los Angeles is 1,353. Houston is 1,119. Philadelphia is 1,571.
Don't expect lower crime rates by changing to strong mayor.
A principal argument against the city manager system is the manager is not "accountable" while the mayor is accountable to the voters.
I believe the opposite is true. We recently witnessed our city manager being forced to resign. We can't do that to a mayor. If we don't like a mayor's performance after one year, we have to wait three years to un-elect him or her. If we are into a mayor's second term, accountability declines to zero, since he or she can't run again.
Have you noticed that the folks who backed the "ticket guarantee" now back the strong mayor proposal?
-- Mel Shapiro, San Diego

Does Big Money Doubt Murphy?
By Don Bauder, San Diego Reader, April 22, 2004
'Timing is everything." Richard Nixon said it. Stand-up comics say it. Is Mayor Dick Murphy trying to be a comedian or a dour Dick Nixon? Or both?
It's comical that with Murphy perceived as a weak mayor, and with three council members under criminal fraud indictment, Murphy is promoting a vote for a strong-mayor, strong-council system. What timing!
Ponder. With the San Diego government's penchant for secrecy finally coming under well-justified attack, Murphy met secretly with a group of corporate- welfare pushers and suddenly announced his campaign for strong-mayor, strong-council government. Again, exquisite timing. Then it came out that the average city resident's sewer bill is 23 percent -- $133 a year -- higher than it should be because big companies are paying inordinately low rates. And Murphy had kept that subsidy secret from voters for two years. Solution? Give the mayor more power. As comics say, "Grrreat timing!"
And speaking of timing, folks: Murphy wants voters to okay this massive change of the city charter in a hurry -- in November, with barely any citizen input. Corporate- welfare mendicants have been lobbying for such a system for years, and the reason is obvious. The business community wants centralized power-making because it makes it easy to tell "who is operating the city and who we should turn to," says the chamber of commerce's Mitch Mitchell unabashedly.
When power is centralized, the city manager has less authority, and checks and balances are emasculated. "A lot of mischief can be created," says councilmember Donna Frye, who forced the secrecy reforms and also forced the city to admit its massive sewer subsidy to business. "It's easier for people to focus their energy and dollars on one or two candidates and have the ability to gain control of an issue and keep the public pretty much shut out."
"There is so much money involved in political campaigns in this day and age, and if you have a strong-mayor form of government, it would further politicize the system," says John Lockwood, former city manager. "If you raise a lot of money, you are beholden" to donors, Lockwood points out. "A manager doesn't have to raise a penny."
Frye and Lockwood are stating it gently. For too long, San Diego mayors and councilmembers have been for sale to the highest bidders. The blame for the city's desperate financial condition belongs overwhelmingly with current and former mayors and councilmembers and only partly with corrupt and/or inept city managers.
The city plundered its pension system, sold off assets, and neglected its infrastructure and equipment maintenance so that it could balance its budgets and therefore finance corporate- welfare projects, mostly related to professional sports and real estate. Mayors and councilmembers, whose wallets bulged with funds from downtown nabobs, pushed those projects and pressured city managers and bureaucrats to cook the books.
And the recently revealed sewer-billing scam is just the tip of an iceberg that should be investigated by a grand jury. "I remember from my own experience that big business and certain individuals with a lot of clout enjoyed reduced sewer bills or possibly weren't billed at all," says Abbe Wolfsheimer Stutz, a 1985-1993 councilmember.
"All of our problems since 1995 have been the result of mayors who overwhelmed the professionals, the weak city managers," says Bruce Henderson, former councilmember, citing numerous instances in which the administrative branch buckled when confronting a mayor. "It doesn't make any difference whether you have a strong-mayor system or a strong-manager system; you are going to get good government only if you get good people."
Murphy's proposed strong-mayor, strong-council system could be nothing more than a return to the spoils system: "It's a question of having political stooges or having staffs of professional people whose jobs are not threatened simply because they do not follow the current political whim of the people in power," says Henderson.
To be sure, those in the administrative branch shouldn't have caved in to the pressure -- shouldn't have kept expenses hidden, commingled funds, told lies in bond prospectuses and fudged numbers (such as projections of ballpark tax receipts). But if current federal investigations lead to criminal convictions, administrators shouldn't be the only ones going to prison.
It's much like the big corporate scams these days. To a disgusting degree, financial officers who may have sold $2 million worth of stock in a fraudulent scheme get clamped in handcuffs, while top-level executives and board members who sold $600 million or $1 billion worth of their stock go free. Lower-level company administrators don't take huge personal risks for modest rewards; they are cooking the books at the behest of top-level miscreants. The same is true in governments.
In recent years, charter- change committees have suggested that the mayor be the chief executive officer, head of the executive branch, with the ability to dismiss a chief administrative officer without recourse. The mayor could fire the police chief, fire chief, and planning director subject to city-council review. The mayor would also be responsible for the budget -- a truly frightening idea in light of mayoral machinations of recent years.
Murphy wants line-item veto powers. "Suppose a couple of councilmembers don't support everything the boss mayor wants to do. It wouldn't be that difficult for the mayor to line-item veto projects in those councilmembers' districts," says Frye. "Whole communities could be punished. The mayor could cut basic services and fund pet projects. The pro sports teams would have an even easier time than they have now."
A classic example of mayoral power abuse is going on right now with Frye. She is the only councilmember who has been right on the big issues. Alone, she voted against continued underfunding of the broke pension system. She refuses to give away the store to sports teams. Through her efforts, and against Murphy's wishes, the city is moving away from its secrecy obsession. So Murphy refuses to make her chair of any committee.
The establishment wants councilmembers who are for sale. The purportedly new paradigm is an ugly old one: Tammany Hall or Boss Daley.
In trying to rush a charter change to the ballot, Murphy is repeating the same mistake made in 1929, says city attorney candidate Michael Aguirre, who researched city history on the topic. In 1929, powers-that-be wanted a quick okay of a strong-city-manager form of government. It was defeated overwhelmingly.
Immediately, the city decided it needed citizen input. Leaders called "freeholders" held numerous community meetings and gathered ideas. By 1931, the city was ready to go for the strong-manager system. The press was overwhelmingly for it. In the end, so were the voters.
By contrast, with Murphy, "There was no public input. It was all done behind closed doors at the very time the city council has made a historic decision to open up city-council meetings," says Aguirre.
Aguirre is not necessarily opposed to a strong-mayor system. But today's proponents "will be hard-pressed to convince the public it is a good idea, when the people proposing it don't have a strong record of commitment to the public interest."
In recent years, in fact, "We have had a weak-city-manager form of government," points out Aguirre. "It will be very difficult to convince the public that we don't have a special-interest form of government now."
The timing of the Murphy proposal is so bizarre that it has engendered an intriguing theory: that the big-money power brokers think Murphy is ineffective. They prefer his opponent, Ron Roberts, who has historically manifested obeisance to overlords feeding him money.
So, to let Murphy self-destruct, the big boys convinced him to put the proposal on the November ballot. Voters, seeing how ridiculous it is, will punish Murphy. Then the corporate-welfare leeches will get a version more to their liking from the servile Roberts. This admittedly challengeable theory poses several questions: Does Murphy know he is being Machiavellied? Or, knowing how severe city finances are, will he be happy to let some other mayor deal with them?
Realistically, as Wolfsheimer Stutz says, the financial woes may not be sorted out by a strong mayor, strong council, or strong manager. The job will go to a strong bankruptcy judge.
©2004 San Diego Reader. All rights reserved

City Council District 1
John Lamb, City Beat, 2/25/04
When he first ran for public office in 2000, Scott Peters described himself as a Democrat, albeit not too loudly, lest those La Jolla Republicans hear it. Fact is, District 1-the northern coastal region-has a history of sending odd sorts to City Hall. Bill Mitchell held sway over the district for many years, but never overcame the "dolt" label earned the time he asked where the 11 was on a phone so he could call 911. Peters' predecessor, Harry Mathis, while a nice enough fellow, frequently nodded off during lengthy
council debates.
Ask a spectrum of people from the district what they think about Peters, and you might get a handful of answers-anything from "Who?" to descriptions like "aloof" and "snob" to the downright unfriendly "stuck-up son of a bitch." Rarely, however, will you hear, "Oh, he's one of us."
It's also rare that a devout political supporter from a recent election
would be so fed up with a candidate that she'd run against him in the next cycle, but that's just what Kathryn Burton is doing.
Along with flight-school owner and Republican Phil Thalheimer, Burton has
made it her current mission in life to deny Peters another term on the San Diego City Council. She speaks of projects that have moved like greased lightning through the planning process at the behest of Peters, who in turn has had a field day collecting thousands of dollars from development
interests. (Thalheimer keeps tabs of Peters' real-estate-related campaign contributions on his website with something he calls the "impropriety meter"-it presently points at more than $135,000.)
In less than four years, Peters has managed to make a lot of enemies. Peters would say that's the price one pays for being a moderate. He's burned bridges with several community planning groups, environmentalists and community watchdogs. He's faced a recall threat over his cheerleading on a massive condo project in Bird Rock and done the bidding of realtors by opposing the city's "just cause" eviction ordinance.
So why doesn't Peters just jump the fence and become a Republican? It's a question that puzzles a lot of people who thought they knew the guy. He claimed his expertise as an attorney would help the city avoid legal pitfalls, but it clearly hasn't

Write-in madness, Mayor race may hinge on What's Her Name?
Union Tribune, October 11, 2004
What's in a name? Let the registrar of voters count the ways. When an estimated 443,700 San Diego city voters go to the polls next month, or vote earlier by absentee ballot, untold numbers will no doubt want to write in the name of City Councilwoman Donna Frye, the only officially qualified write-in candidate for mayor. And untold numbers of them will no doubt write it at least a little bit incorrectly, in untold variations.
Some may simply write in Frye's last name. Some may misspell it, perhaps leaving off the "e" or inserting an "i." Some may get Frye's last name right, but the first name wrong. Some may just write in "Donna," with no last name at all. You pick the variation, some voter will probably write it in.
What counts and what doesn't?
State law isn't much help. It says only that election officials must determine each voter's intent and that the name that is written in must be "a reasonable facsimile" of the candidate's true name.
So who decides voter intent and "reasonable facsimile?" Ultimately, it will be the county's top election official, Registrar Sally McPherson, on the hot seat.
It may not be precisely like the presidential election in 2000, when Florida election officials had to determine voter intent on the basis of "hanging" or "dimpled" chads from the old – and now discredited – punch-card ballots. But there are similarities. And, if the mayor's race is close, it may take nearly as long to resolve.
On election night, county computers will tally the votes for the two candidates whose names will appear on the ballot, incumbent Dick Murphy and challenger Ron Roberts. They will also count the total number of write-in votes cast, but they won't know how many were validly cast for Frye. So unless Murphy or Roberts gets more than 50 percent of the total votes – perhaps a big if – San Diegans will probably have to await the processing and counting of the write-ins to learn the next mayor.
That processing will begin, by hand, the morning after the election. A write-in board of staff from the county registrar's office and experienced election workers will process and count them. McPherson will resolve questions or disputes.
McPherson says the write-in board normally consists of two two-person teams. For this election, she will be increasing the number of teams, which will hopefully speed things along.
The whole process is public, open to candidates and campaign staff, the media and John Q. Citizen. It could take days or even weeks. The legal deadline for the count to be certified and sent to Sacramento is Nov. 30.
In the primary election this March, there were 50,000 write-in votes cast countywide in different races. Only 2,000 turned out to be for valid write-in candidates. All 50,000 still had to be processed.
With absentee voting having already begun, we take this early opportunity to urge voters considering a write-in candidate to learn that candidate's name. For those who vote at one of the 1,629 polling places on Election Day, there will be a list of qualified write-in candidates. Check it.
And we bid good luck to Registrar McPherson.

For Mike Aguirre- City's financial crisis demands his skills
Considering the gravity of San Diego's deepening financial crisis, the race for city attorney is one of the most critical on the Nov. 2 ballot. For discerning voters, the choice between Michael Aguirre and Leslie Devaney also poses perhaps the most difficult decision of the election.
As we have noted previously in this space, the contrasts between Aguirre and Devaney are stark. Aguirre is an ambitious political activist who is making his fifth bid for public office. Devaney is a soft-spoken administrator who served as No. 2 under City Attorney Casey Gwinn for the last eight years. This is her first electoral campaign. Whereas Aguirre savors the presence of television cameras, Devaney is prone to gulping nervously before stepping up to a microphone. He is brash and combative. She is demure and proper.

In ordinary times, our instincts would favor the slow and steady Devaney over the hard-driven Aguirre. But these are not ordinary times. San Diego is confronting multiple challenges of disastrous proportions – criminal and civil probes by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Attorney's Office, and a menacing avalanche of pension debt that threatens to wipe out fully 25 percent of the general fund.
In our judgment, Devaney lacks the depth to deal with the broad-ranging crisis at hand. Aguirre, on the other hand, is ideally suited – provided he remains focused constructively on the proper role of the city attorney and does not try to exploit the office for political self-aggrandizement.
That is a very big proviso. In fact, given that in his career Aguirre has filed a barrage of politically motivated lawsuits against the city and other local government entities, we acknowledge that our endorsement of him is a gamble. It is a gamble that he is wiser and more mature than in the past, a gamble that he will play a responsible role in helping San Diego recover from the crippling wounds inflicted by successive mayors and city councils.
If he chooses to work with, rather than against, the next mayor and City Council,
Aguirre can draw on his own considerable experience as a trial lawyer specializing in pension and securities fraud. As a young assistant U.S. attorney, he directed an investigation into a San Diego pension fraud case which culminated in the conviction of 17 people, including the pension fund's lawyer. Later, as assistant counsel to the U.S. Senate's permanent subcommittee on investigation, he drafted a report on pension fraud. A certified fraud examiner, Aguirre has been involved in a variety of other pension and securities cases.
He pledges, if elected, to staff the City Attorney's Office with the best legal experts he can find to address the pension crisis and the city's amply documented failures in its reporting and disclosure standards for securities matters. Today, one can only wonder how a more vigorous stance by the City Attorney's Office might have averted the present debacle.
Lastly, Aguirre promises to be a spur for open government. One of the reasons the city is in this mess is that the mayor and council have conducted far too much of the people's business behind closed doors, suppressing bad news and sidestepping public scrutiny as serious problems have festered. If, once again, Aguirre approaches this problem constructively, we believe he can help overcome the sclerotic status quo and have a beneficial impact on San Diego.

PROP F - Strong mayor form of government, Stacking the deck on behalf of special interests
By Norma Damashek, Union Tribune, October 14, 2004
Here's the question: Should San Diego change the way our city is governed?
Here's the answer: If we're talking about reforms to eliminate the entrenched culture of secrecy in our city, restore fiscal stability and responsibility, stop providing corporate welfare, open the door to closed meetings, chip away at the old boys network and demand accountability from our elected officials for their actions and votes - the answer is an unqualified Yes.
But if we're talking about Proposition F, a plan created by a self-appointed group of special business interests to rearrange the pieces of city government without including a single government reform - the answer is a resounding No.
Proposition F sets up a political shell game. It reorganizes the city charter to shift political power into the hands of a "strong mayor." With one hand, it grants autonomy to this new chief to run the city from his (or her) private office. With the other, it removes existing safeguards to protect the needs of neighborhoods and communities.
Proponents of the plan tell us that a substantial shift of power into the hands of a strong mayor will lead to greater accountability from our politicians and to a more efficient city. They want us to believe that a so-called strong mayor is what we need to make this a first-class city. They suggest that if only our mayor had more power to assert himself, our fiscal crisis could have been avoided.
In fact, Proposition F does something quite different. In the midst of financially chaotic times it interjects increased destabilization. It introduces into San Diego an unprecedented level of politicization and a significant potential for political corruption. And by tilting the crucial balance of power between the mayor and City Council, it sets up adversarial power plays that substantially decrease the rights of communities and neighborhoods to be heard, heeded and protected.
It is bad enough that Proposition F is a boiler-plate proposal, with pieces borrowed from disparate "strong mayor" cities with their own share of political problems. But to add insult to injury, Proposition F neglects to include many of the balancing mechanisms adopted by these and other cities to ensure that "ordinary" citizens will be dealt with fairly, like sufficient numbers of city councilmembers to make sure that all constituents are adequately represented, or an elected public advocate to speak up directly for the people, or elected community councils to safeguard and promote local priorities. In contrast, this proposal eliminates the checks and balances that have long kept City Hall's political doors open to community voices from all corners of San Diego.
How did it happen that Proposition F stacks the deck so fully on behalf of downtown and other special interests? It was done through a simple act of omission - no neighborhood representatives, no community groups, no "ordinary citizens" were invited to participate with the power brokers in the process of redefining city government.
Common sense and political experience tell us that the fairest and most successful way to fix, change, and/or improve city government will be through an elected charter reform commission representing all our residents, all the players, and all group interests. It's the only way to create a tailor-made plan for positive change that will specifically focus on San Diego's issues and unique identity.
So, is this the time for San Diego to experiment with a new government system? Definitely not, if the choice is Proposition F. But if the San Diego public decides we need large-scale charter change, the League of Women Voters will step forward to support a legitimate process to develop a legitimate reform plan for our city.
Damashek is vice president for Advocacy and Public Policy for the League of Women Voters San Diego

Frye's mayoral bid: spoiler or spectacular? Write-in candidate has shaken up race in S.D.
By Philip J. LaVelle, UNION-TRIBUNE , Oct. 3, 2004 . ANALYSIS
The San Diego mayor's race had all the appeal of a can of flat soda, with two buttoned-down Republican rivals locked in a grim remake of the 2000 contest.
Until Thursday.

With her write-in candidacy announced that day, Councilwoman Donna Frye injected some fizz into this can. Frye proved she has star power, attracting media in numbers not seen at a San Diego political event since the last time Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger blew into town.
Councilwoman Donna Frye (center) spoke about her write-in candidacy for mayor with Ethery Soutar yesterday at the Ralphs supermarket on Balboa Avenue in Clairemont Mesa.
Frye, 52, has a biography one would expect Hollywood to cook up for the story of a San Diego local who makes it onto the City Council. A product of the beach culture, she is a clean-water activist and surf-shop owner, married to legendary surfer Skip Frye.
The launching by this populist Democrat of an insurgent campaign changes the dynamic of the race, with just over four weeks to go until the Nov. 2 election. But exactly how it plays out in this technically nonpartisan contest is tough to predict.
Does Frye hurt Mayor Dick Murphy more than she hurts county Supervisor Ron Roberts? Or is it the other way around?
And, of course, the greatest question of all: Can she win? The odds are against it, but who knows?
This much is clear: San Diego's political plate tectonics have shifted.
It's also clear that by entering the contest, Frye exposes herself to inevitable media scrutiny and opens her record to attacks from Murphy and Roberts.
She will be pressed, for example, to offer more in the way of solutions to the city's fiscal crisis than her underlying principle that the public has a right to know what City Hall is up to, and to participate in finding solutions.

"No one disagrees that there should be more open dialogue about issues that are being discussed at City Hall," said Eugene "Mitch" Mitchell, vice president of public policy at the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, a group often at odds with Frye. "But shining a light on it isn't going to educate us as to where we are, what truly happened and where we're going, and how."
And then there's Frye's voting record, in which she is often the lone "no" vote. Some voters will see admirable dissent, while others will see unwillingness to forge consensus.

"It's not a case of being against things," Frye told reporters Thursday. "I think the fact is, yes, I'm against bad decisions. Yes, I'm against fiscal irresponsibility. I'm against giving away public land.
"There's a lot of things I'm against. But what I'm for is, I'm for the public. I'm for open government. I'm for fiscal responsibility. I'm for listening to people's questions."
Frye said she will unveil her platform this week.
"I'm not going to stand here and say I have all the answers – I don't," she said. "But I do have the ability to listen and to hear what people are saying and to get people together and bring them together to find a comprehensive solution."
Can Frye pull it together with a campaign on the fly? The conventional wisdom is that a write-in candidate can't win and can only play the spoiler.
Some scenarios:
Frye pulls votes from Murphy and Roberts, weakening both, with the outcome unclear.
Orange County pollster Rick Manter has been tracking Murphy's support while testing San Diego's attitudes toward hotel-room taxes in surveys begun in January 2003. His polling shows Murphy is stronger with Democrats than Roberts is.
Manter said Frye appeals to two general groups – Democrats and people disenchanted with City Hall. The result?
"It cuts both ways," he said. "Clearly, she's going to draw on the mayor's base of support. That's a fact. The open question is whether in the next 30 days she can also tap into voters angry at City Hall. Those are obviously people Roberts is banking on."
Frye draws Democratic and environmental support from Murphy, handing Roberts the mayoral victory that has eluded him twice, in the 2000 general election and the 1992 primary.
"With Donna in the race, Murphy can't change the topic and make it a referendum on Roberts," said Larry Remer, a former Roberts strategist. "He's got to defend from two directions."
"Donna does two important strategic things for Ron: She gives environmental voters and Democratic and pro-labor voters some other place to go."
Frye splits the anybody-but-Murphy vote, weakening Roberts and ensuring a second term for Murphy, despite the battering he has endured in recent weeks of national media coverage of the city's fiscal crisis.
"If she campaigns and secures a significant number of write-in votes, it will benefit Murphy primarily," said Tom Shepard, also a former Roberts strategist. "She can only be seen as a spoiler. She can't win."
Maybe. Maybe not.
It has been 22 years since a write-in candidate won a major contest in San Diego County, when Ron Packard of Carlsbad was elected to Congress. Most write-in candidacies fail miserably.

But Frye is an adept grass-roots campaigner, and San Diego's voter demographics are favorable, with 39 percent registered Democrats to 34 percent Republicans and 21 percent who decline to state any party affiliation. This latter category typically vote with Democrats in the city's coastal precincts, and Frye may also attract "coastal Republicans," known for their environmental sensibilities.
Also, her candidacy has important organizational constituencies rethinking their earlier endorsements.
Jerry Butkiewicz, secretary-treasurer of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, said the 122 unions he represents will be meeting next week to consider whether to stay with Murphy or bolt to Frye.
The Sierra Club's political committee will take up the question of dumping Murphy for Frye on Thursday, said club official Carolyn Chase, a Murphy appointee to the city Planning Commission.
"We have a large population of 'anybody but Ron,' " Chase said. "When Donna comes on the scene, I think a lot of environmentalists are going to go to her."

Pension fund crises fueling mayoral duel, Murphy, Roberts clash on financial leadership
By Philip J. LaVelle, Union Tribune, October 11, 2004
Ron Roberts has used San Diego's troubled pension system as a blunt instrument, relentlessly pummeling Mayor Dick Murphy in his bid to oust him from office in the Nov. 2 election.
Lost in all the outcry over San Diego's pension mess is Roberts' record as a county supervisor and the condition of the $5.1 billion county pension system.
After years of surpluses, the county retirement trust was plunged into deficit in 2002 after a Board of Supervisors vote to boost benefits by $1.1 billion.
These lucrative increases improved benefits for county employees, including the Board of Supervisors, by about 50 percent and launched a stampede for the exits by older workers, some of whom were permitted to retire at full pay.
To whittle down the resulting deficit, county officials borrowed more than $1 billion in pension obligation bonds to be repaid, with interest, over many years.
Because these bonds pay lower interest than the rate assessed to the deficit, the county has saved millions of dollars on interest payments.
"I give them high marks" for timing the pension bonds, said Lisa Briggs, executive director of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association. "But the rest of it they need to watch very, very carefully. Awarding benefits that you can't afford is bad public policy."
Michael Conger, a lawyer who has sued the city and the county in pension cases, sees more similarities than differences.
"The city and county pension systems are peas in a pod," Conger said. "They are both dangerously underfunded because both (county and city officials) granted massive and unaffordable pension hikes to their members."
The San Diego County Employees' Retirement Association has a $1.4 billion deficit, attributable to benefit hikes and investment losses, according to its most-recent actuarial report published in March.
The county pension system now has a funded ratio of 75 percent, a measurement of assets versus liabilities. Fully funded systems are said to have 100 percent funded ratios; red flags are raised when funded levels dip below 85 percent, Briggs said.
The $3.2 billion San Diego City Employees Retirement System has a $1.17 billion deficit and a funded ratio of about 68 percent.
To service the boost in benefits, the county pays about $250 million a year into the pension system, up from $50 million in 2002. Debt service on the outstanding pension bonds costs taxpayers about $91 million annually, according to the county treasurer's office.
Trouble lurks: The county pension system has more than $672.8 million in losses that have yet to be tallied on the books. These losses will be accounted for over the next five years, in keeping with the system's practice of "smoothing" gains and losses over five years.
Murphy, whose poll numbers have slipped amid weeks of bad news out of City Hall, says the county has serious problems.
"It is hypocritical for Roberts to be criticizing the city for its handling of its pension plan when they've handled theirs in the same, ineffective way," Murphy said in an interview at his home last week.
The mayor also argued that the county pension deficit is really $2.2 billion, not the reported $1.4 billion, because it should include the roughly $800 million in outstanding pension-bond debt.

"It wasn't a bad decision to do that," Murphy said of the county's bond sales. "It was probably a good decision. What I'm saying is, if you borrow $10,000 on a second trust deed to pay off your credit card, that's a good decision, but you still have $10,000 worth of debt."
Roberts, in an interview at his campaign headquarters last week, was asked several times whether the 2002 vote and subsequent borrowing was bad public policy that pushed the burden to current and future taxpayers.
He did not concede the point and insisted that the county has acted responsibly on its pension system, which has strong credit ratings.
"There isn't any problem at the county," Roberts said. "The county wouldn't even be mentioned if not for the fact the city has a financial crisis going."
The city's pension deficit is attributable to underfunding dating to 1996, investment losses and benefit increases. Underfunding and financial reporting irregularities at City Hall have sparked multiple credit-rating downgrades and investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department.
At his news conferences, Roberts uses blowups of national news stories on San Diego's pension to buttress his case that Murphy must go.
Roberts said the county boosted benefits in 2002 to eliminate a two-tiered benefits system.
"It brought all of our employees into a single system. . . . There should be one level of pension benefit for everybody," he said.
Roberts said unlike the city, the county has no Deferred Retirement Option Program, which enables city workers to draw retirement pay in the last five years of employment.
Also unlike the city, the county does not allow workers to buy service credits to gain higher benefits in retirement than actually earned on the job.
However, the county's retirement formulas allow most workers to draw fatter retirement pay than city workers.
"If you call the city's plan a Cadillac, the county's is a Mercedes," Conger said.
Both governments were not alone among California municipalities in boosting benefits for workers represented by powerful public-employee labor unions.
Roberts insisted the county is on top of its pension obligations.
"At the end of the day, the question is: Can the county afford the pension, the wage and benefit package that it has, can it meet those obligations on a yearly basis, can we do that without stressing the system? The answer is an unqualified yes," he said.
The costs are high, according to figures published by the county pension system.
On June 30, 2001, the county system had a $238.7 million surplus and a funded ratio of nearly 107 percent. By June 30, 2002, after the benefit increases and investment losses, the system's assets plummeted, leaving a $1.2 billion deficit and a 75 percent funded ratio.
"When you see a pension fund dip that dramatically," said Briggs, of the taxpayer association, "it causes you to question whether they took into account the long-term impact of those benefits, especially in light of the performance of that system overall."
Meanwhile, the back-and-forth between Roberts and Murphy has spread like poison beyond the bounds of the mayor's race.
Supervisor Pam Slater-Price recently yanked her endorsement from Murphy and sided with Roberts, citing Murphy's remarks about the county pension system, and county Treasurer Dan McAllister has hinted he may follow suit.
"I think it's pretty disingenuous for anyone to cast stones at a system that works," said McAllister, who is credited with pushing one of the pension-bond sales at a savings of about $33 million in interest. "I resent the implication we're not doing a good job for the county, because we are."

Council foes of secret meetings push changes in hearing; gain ally
By SCOTT LEWIS, San Diego Daily Transcript , March 15, 2004
Two San Diego City Council members formally proposed drastic changes to the procedure that allows them and their colleagues to convene closed sessions Monday.
Councilwoman Donna Frye and Deputy Mayor Toni Atkins also gained the rhetorical support of Councilman Jim Madaffer when they presented the rest of the body and Mayor Dick Murphy with seven changes that would require the City Council to consider public comments and vote on the agenda of all closed sessions.
The move would create a modus operandi that would force the council to debate the validity of secret meetings and help the public understand whether withholding information from the public is actually in the public's best interest or not, they said.
The changes would also require the City Council's docket to include an "easily understood" description of what is scheduled for discussion in closed session.
Atkins and Frye also proposed that a reporter from the Office of the City Clerk transcribe verbatim all of the closed-session conversations maintained by the council.
In justifying the need for a change to the status quo, Frye said the council could be held accountable for unlawfully holding closed session discussions. Yet, she said, they do not make a formal decision to convene those conversations.
"As long as we are going to be held responsible for something, I certainly want a voice in whether or not I'm going to meet in closed session," Frye said. "How can we protect ourselves and the public if we are not even allowed to discuss it?"
Frye and Atkins boycotted the last closed session held March 9, and Madaffer said he would consider joining the protest of Tuesday's scheduled secret meeting.
A number of residents spoke in favor of more openness in the city's business.
City Attorney Casey Gwinn said the question of whether to go into closed session or not has always been a "policy call" of the mayor and City Council.
"I have been conscientious at every turn to make sure that if a discussion tends in a direction that's impermissible for the closed sessions that I don't allow it to happen," Gwinn said. "I do believe that this mayor and council and the city attorney's staff and the managers staff have acted with integrity in this and that's important to me personally."

The two candidates to replace Gwinn when term limits force him out of office spoke in favor of Frye and Atkins' motion.
Consumer fraud attorney Mike Aguirre told the council that there is a "vital link between bad decisions and closed sessions."
Executive Assistant City Attorney Leslie Devaney said the proposals sound "eerily similar" to what she has talked about during the long campaign for city attorney.
She has previously said that she had advised her superior, Gwinn, to push the council for more openness.

La Jolla Light: Accountability and City Hall - OUR VIEW
City Councilwoman Donna Frye is one of our favorite local politicians. Her style of representation is, like herself, no frills and uncompromising. We suspect that she makes life miserable for her fellow council members because she would rather be unpopular than wrong.
We may not always agree with her positions, but we enjoy nothing more than watching her in action at City Hall, asking questions in a straightforward, probing style that is so uncharacteristic of her comrades.
Along with City Councilwoman Toni Atkins, Frye has undertaken a new crusade at City Hall. The two women are in open revolt against the way our City Council practices the prerogative of "executive session" meetings.
Frye is quick to point out that she is not inferring that executive sessions are inherently bad. As a matter of strategy in legal cases or other sensitive issues, they are unavoidable. But what bothers Frye is the public perception of executive sessions. They are symbolic of a governing style that, quite frankly, is not working.
San Diego's governance is at a low point these days. We have budget problems, poorly equipped fire and police services, three City Council members under indictment for corruption, and a football team trying to pick our collective pocket, just to list a few present problems.
Frye would like the mayor and City Council to look squarely at these issues and come to terms with them. And this should be done in an open fashion.
She is not saying that there is a cause and effect between secret executive sessions and our current situation. The real problems downtown are a lack of accountability by our elected leaders rather than the protocols for council meetings. However, by calling attention to a simple fact, the need to be more open about council business, Frye is shepherding the council towards the first step towards reform, the admission that something is wrong in America's Finest City.

That Donna Frye has made such a sensible, though modest gesture shows just how canny she is.
The job of cleaning up City Hall calls for a sensitive, patient, yet effective gadfly. We believe Frye is just the person for the chore.

Ex-official admits second ethics breach, wants to pay fine, By Caitlin Rother , Union Tribune, 1/ 6/04
Byron Wear, who has been off the San Diego City Council for more than a year, has acknowledged that he committed a second ethics violation while in office and has agreed to pay a $7,000 state fine.
Wear, a former District 2 councilman, recently agreed to pay the penalty for failing to disclose a loan on economic interest statements he filed in 1998, 1999 and 2000. In 2002, he paid a $2,000 fine to the city Ethics Commission for a separate violation.
"I am glad to make a $7,000 contribution to the general fund of the state of California to resolve this matter and help our new governor balance the state budget," Wear said in a written statement yesterday.
Wear said his omission was inadvertent. His former partner in a development project, Christopher Montgomery, had "assumed all responsibilities of the partnership, including paying the loan," Wear said.
Attempts to reach Montgomery last night were unsuccessful, but he previously has said he was "responsible for all payments, taxes, etc."
The state Fair Political Practices Commission is expected to decide later this month whether to accept Wear's agreement to pay the fine. The action comes nearly four years after government watchdog Mel Shapiro filed complaints with the city attorney and district attorney, alleging that Wear "failed to report his business positions, investments, loans and certain land owned by a business entity on his financial disclosure forms."
Shapiro said the state fine is "better than nothing, and it's a sharp contrast with the (decision by the) city attorney, who had the same information and did nothing."

Another of Shapiro's complaints against Wear led to the city commission's fine.
Sally Williams, a deputy district attorney under Paul Pfingst, wrote Shapiro in June 2000 that she didn't intend to file a civil action against Wear but was referring the complaint to the state commission.
H.L. Abrams, an investigator for City Attorney Casey Gwinn, wrote Shapiro a letter in December 2000, saying he saw "no prosecutable criminal violation."
Wear signed an agreement with the state commission Nov. 21, conceding he failed to disclose a loan from Narciso and Sylvia Zarate on three reports. Wear had faced a possible maximum fine of $9,000 for three violations of the state Political Reform Act.
Wear was fined by the city Ethics Commission for failing to pay his campaign debts within 90 days and for accepting an illegal contribution by negotiating down the cost of a campaign mailer. He had faced $35,000 in possible penalties before negotiating the $2,000 fine.
After agreeing to pay that fine in November 2002, Wear withdrew his nomination for a $139,500-a-year seat on the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority board. His council term ended the next month.
The state fine will not become final until the commission board votes on it at its Jan. 14 meeting.
Wear's loan was secured by three parcels in southeast San Diego that he co-owned with Montgomery, his partner in Pepperview Canyon Estates LP, until June 2001.
County records show Wear and Montgomery filed a trust deed on those parcels to record a $7,000 loan from the Zarates in March 1996. Wear disclosed an ownership interest in those parcels but did not report the loan, according to his agreement with the state.
In October 2001, Wear amended his economic interest statements for 1998 through 2000 to disclose the loan, the agreement says.
Wear said yesterday that he filed the amendments after he was notified by the state commission and "following extensive legal research conducted by my attorney."
He also amended those statements in October 2000 to show that he had disposed of his interest in the property, according to a letter his attorney filed with the city clerk's office at the time.
"It is important to note that the FPPC did not find any conflicts of interest on any vote I cast as a councilmember regarding these amendments," Wear said yesterday.
Wear has said he withdrew from the partnership in 1994 but later learned that the proper legal documents were never filed with the state. He did so in October 2000 but did not transfer ownership of the property to Montgomery until June 2001.
Wear was still technically a co-owner of the three parcels when the county placed $7,263 in liens against them because of unpaid taxes. The liens were removed in 2002.

QUO VADIS, SCOTT PETERS, A swing to the right for the La Jolla councilman

by John R. Lamb. City Beat, 12/24/03
"O praeclarum custodem ovium lupum!" proclaimed Cicero, one of early Rome's most proclaimed thinkers. An excellent protector of sheep, the wolf!
 Fast-forward a couple millennia, and that sentiment shadows an incumbent San Diego city councilman who faces a fierce battle for re-election in the coming year. In 2000, attorney Scott Peters ran in the northwest corner of town known as District 1, as a self-anointed environmental attorney, although his record suggested that his bread was buttered by companies seeking ways around environmental laws. The following year, he helped himself to more than $100,000 in campaign contributions from developers, and soon people were wondering if this guy really was the environmentalist Democrat he claimed to be.
 Now, Peters will be confronted with his past, and in doing so, he seems to be hedging his electoral bets by seeking the endorsement of a local group far removed from liberal sentiment.
 "Scott Peters ran for office as a community advocate. He has been anything but that," said former supporter and now-opponent Kathryn Burton, a Democrat with the community experience and backbone to challenge Peters in the coming March primary.
 "There is only one real Democrat in the race," one political consultant told CityBeat recently. "Her running gives a place for hard-core Democrats to go to who know Peters sold out-and [who] will not vote for a Republican… under any circumstances."
 These are not just some radical activists who feel this way when it comes to Peters, who has characterized such allegations of selling out as "baloney." But even a prominent city official, at a recent holiday party, made light of Peters' Democratic dilemma.
 The official jokingly noted that more federal indictments might be headed San Diego's way, including one against Peters "for impersonating a Democrat." The person also made light of several appearances a yellow-jacketed Peters made at news conferences during the recent wildfires, even though no flames made it to his district.
But that was a roast, where fun is poked at everyone. An election is an entirely different bird, and Peters will be reminded probably on a near-daily basis of the difference between candidate Peters and Councilman Peters.
Burton, who is running against Peters along with flight-school owner and Republican Phil Thalheimer, has had her sights set on the incumbent from La Jolla for some time now. Burton announced her intention to run using a grove of felled historic trees at Torrey Pines State Park as a backdrop. She said Peters, the candidate, had opposed the bridge-widening project that required the tree removal. But now he's its biggest promoter, she charged.
"Scott Peters has a history of fast-tracking controversial projects without full environmental and public review," Burton said at her campaign kickoff. Those projects, she added, span the council district, and include proposals to build new parkways, biotech developments near schools and massive condominium projects on the coast, such as the Seahaus development in Bird Rock.
 "His campaign contribution list reads like the Yellow Pages of special interests," said Burton, who moved to San Diego with her husband in 1990 and has spent years with the local Sierra Club and on community planning boards.
She presently chairs the Torrey Hills Planning Board. So, you'd think Peters would be running away from developers and into the arms of environmental activists. Not the case, as it turns out. Although he does sport the endorsement of the local Sierra Club-payback, Burton claims, for appointments made to various city panels, including the powerful Planning Commission and an environmental task force-Peters has been seeking out nods from groups rarely associated with liberal causes.
 In October, Peters wrote to the ultra-conservative Lincoln Club of San Diego County seeking its endorsement. In the letter, Peters boasts of his efforts "to earn a reputation as fair, effective and business-friendly."
He also notes with pride his work on other environmentally questionable projects, from the controversial Vista Sorrento Parkway near Interstate-805, his-and Mayor Dick Murphy's-challenged claim of a 58-percent reduction in sewer spills. (Environmental groups have countered that spills may be down, but that the overall quantity of spilled gunk is worse.)
 In the letter, Peters also thumps his chest over his opposition to efforts to make San Diego's rental-housing market more fair to tenants, claiming that political hot potatoes like rent control and evictions requiring just cause "would undercut our efforts" to "make housing in San Diego a more attractive investment for private capital." In other words, yet more incentives for developers.
Peters also noted that he "resisted efforts" by his more left-leaning council colleagues to cut funding to such questionably effective organizations like the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. and the Convention and Visitors Bureau, which spend a ton of money telling people to come work and play here-like people don't know about San Diego already.
 In a slap to labor, which supported his last campaign, Peters wrote: "I have consistently opposed imposition of project labor agreements on projects, except where (as in the case of the ballpark) the project proponent saw an advantage to it."
 Asked why he was seeking the Lincoln Club endorsement, Peters wrote, "I share with the Lincoln Club concern for a healthy, vibrant local economy and forward-looking leadership so San Diego can realize its potential as one of the world's great cities. Your support for my candidacy can help build the broad consensus necessary to achieve our shared goals."
 Burton and some political observers, however, suggest that Peters has worn out his welcome with the Democratic Party. "With Democrats like that, who needs the Republican Party?" she scoffed.
 The consultant agreed: "This shows that Peters' Democratic base is really unhappy with him.
 " Regarding Peters' Sierra Club endorsement, Burton, noting the irony, found "serious inequity" with the decision. "We have a candidate who requested an endorsement from the Lincoln Club and he is getting the Sierra Club endorsement," she said. Get ready for a weird and woolly 2004.

Peters' aide moves to PR firm, sparks controversy By Terry Wells, Carmel Valley News, 9/19/03
 Opponents of a controversial biotech project are crying foul after learning that a longtime aide to 1st District Councilman Scott Peters has resigned to work for a consultant who has advocated that project's approval.
K.C. Strang, who has worked for Peters for two years, leaves his post Sept. 19 to take a job with Public Solutions, a consulting firm that has worked on behalf of Los Angeles-based Terrabrook, the master developer of 2,600 homes in Torrey Hills.
 "All of a sudden, this point man for Peters is jumping ship to work for a lobbyist for Terrabrook," said Victor Marshall, a resident who has opposed the biotech complex proposed on four lots West Ocean Air Drive and Calle Mar de Mariposa.
"The appearance of impropriety is on the part of K.C. Strang is of great concern to me."
Strang said on Wednesday that he was surprised to hear of criticism of his new post, and noted that he is bound by the city's ethics rules not to lobby on behalf of any project within the city limits for a year.
"I will not be doing any work with the city of San Diego," he said.
 The concerns about Strang were aired Sept. 16 at a meeting of the Torrey Hills Community Planning Board during the agenda's public comment period.
 A local citizens group called the Torrey Hills Community Coalition has filed lawsuits concerning the biotech projects, winning one battle this summer involving the Pacific Centre proposal to build a five-story structure to house biotech research. Legal wrangling over two other parcels proposed for development by Applied Molecular Evolution and Nexus Biosciences are still under way.
 Residents have said they were particularly concerned about potential emissions of solvents from the facility, and its proximity to the newly opened Torrey Hills Elementary School. A fourth suit is also active, filed by the Del Mar Union School District, which operates the school.
 After a San Diego judge ruled this summer in favor of the Torrey Hills residents in the Pacific Centre case, the San Diego City Council opted not to appeal.
 Peters contends that critics in Torrey Hills are unfairly painting his office staff as strongly in favor of the development, noting that it was his suggestion that the city drop the fight it was waging to defend its approval of the Pacific Centre plan.
"There's a very small group of people that have continued to be critical about this," Peters said. "I think it is very unfortunate that this has been said about someone who has worked as hard as K.C. has for the community."
 According to Peters, Strang has played a role in some of the key achievements in his district in the last two years, including the success of efforts to lease city land to the YMCA in Carmel Valley, and negotiations over a well-received shopping center development planned by Vons that will serve Carmel Valley and Torrey Hills.
"K.C. has done a lot for the community, and I'm really proud of his work," Peters said.
 But residents contend that Strang has been dismissive of their concerns about the biotech projects in talking to local real estate professionals.
 Diana Padgett, president of the Torrey Hills Community Coalition, said Strang has criticized her group's members in a conversation with a local Realtor. She claims Strang told the Realtor that Torrey Hills residents knew about plans for the biotech projects before buying their homes.
 That question of prior knowledge - vehemently denied by the residents - has been a core issue in their battle with the city over the biotech projects, she said.
 "That kind of misinformation coming out of Peters' office is just inexcusable," Padgett said. "It's a kind of 'blame the victim' approach, and I don't think they ought to get into that."
 Dr. Manish Wadhwa, another neighbor of the proposed biotech development, said he was angered to hear about Strang's new position, saying that it "screams of impropriety."
Wadhwa also said he was also frustrated by suggestions that he should have known he was locating next to a biotech development. Maps showed a two-story office complex, not a five-story structure that would emit toxic fumes, he said.
"Number one, we did not know about that," he said. "And number two, whose side is Scott Peters' office on anyway?"
Strang denied having told Realtors that residents were complaining about a development they had known about in advance.
 "I don't ever recall saying anything like that," Strang said. "I don't know where that one is coming from."
 A press release from Peters' office was issued on Wednesday confirming that Strang would be leaving his post. It included comments from Frisco White, chairman of the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board, that praised Strang.
"K.C. has been an asset to our community," White said in the prepared statement. "He lives here and grew up here and has worked hard to improve the quality of life in Carmel Valley. I wish him well in his new endeavor and thank him for all his hard work. He was not afraid to get in the trenches on behalf of the community."
 But the chairwoman of the Torrey Hills planning board, activist Kathryn Burton, took the opposite view, calling Strang's move to Public Solutions a "clear example of how lobbyists infect the political process in San Diego" in a prepared statement of her own.
  "It is sad for Scott Peters' office that (Strang) lacked the judgment and sense of propriety to take a job with the very lobbyist who has worked so hard against this community - to build a business utilizing hazardous materials directly across from our neighborhood elementary school."

... pattern of campaign money laundering, by John R. Lamb
 A visit to local public-relations hotshot Colin Flaherty’s website,, reveals a cavalcade of advice to the media challenged. “Reporters like hearing from real people. With real information. Not high-priced media manipulators,” goes one bromide. How Flaherty will handle not-so-flattering events next week is anybody’s guess. In Sacramento,
the state Fair Political Practices Commission on Sept. 3 will consider approving a $76,000 penalty against the former award-winning journalist for having “engaged in a pattern of campaign money laundering, and campaign non-disclosure” to support a host of pro-development candidates in three California cities between July 1997 and September 1998.
 According to a brief filed by FPPC attorneys, Flaherty most significantly orchestrated a “rather sophisticated” scheme to funnel campaign contributions through friends, acquaintances and family members “to secretly finance a slate of candidates in the city of Perris that he perceived as favorable to a project of his client.” That client, Carlsbad-based Barratt American Homes, is one of the busiest homebuilders in Southern California. The company has reportedly invested $100 million in the Riverside County town, near Lake Elsinore and some 30 miles north of Fallbrook. In the last 10 years, the company has sold more than 200,000 homes nationwide and in Europe.

Flaherty is charged with 36 counts of violating the state Political Reform Act for making political contributions through 11 other people and then reimbursing those people. He is also charged with two counts of failing to file a semi-annual major-donor campaign statement for exceeding the $10,000 contribution limit in 1997 and 1998. Each count carries a possible fine of $2,000. Flaherty—a former San Diego Reader reporter who later opened his own public-relations firm, Flaherty Communications, to help clients deal with the media—did not respond to e-mails or phone messages from CityBeat to comment on the charges.
 A web search of his phone number turned up an address in Hillcrest that belongs to Pacific Bell. According to an FPPC investigator’s report, Flaherty told the agency in late 2000 that Barratt was his biggest client at the time, “and that while Barratt American Homes had received permission to build a large residential subdivision in the city of Perris [now known as Village of Avalon], it was hoping to revise the conditions of the city’s approval regarding the project.” The investigator said Flaherty “went on to say… that Al Landers,
 Perris city councilman and candidate for Perris mayor in 1997, was in support of the changes his client was seeking….” Landers is currently a member of the Perris City Council. The FPPC claims that Flaherty was able to conceal himself as the true source of the campaign contributions by “asking independent contractors, friends, relatives and others to make campaign contributions, and then reimbursing those persons for their contributions.” Among those Flaherty allegedly enlisted in the scheme included media consultant and columnist Lisa Ross, former Immigration and Naturalization Service spokesman Rudy Murillo (now a director of the state’s Commission on the Californias), a woman who cleaned his Encinitas house at the time, a freelance writer, a high-school basketball coach, a woman who did website work for his firm, a nephew, his nephew’s roommate and a younger sister. None of the
intermediaries could be reached for comment, but several told FPPC investigators that Flaherty offered to reimburse them at the same time that he solicited the contributions. Such campaign-contribution reimbursements are illegal in California. According to the investigator’s report, Ross said she didn’t know why Flaherty had written her personal checks. Her reimbursed contributions went to two San Marcos City Council candidates in July 1997, including current Councilman Hal Martin, two Perris City Council candidates that now sit on the council, and one contribution to the Riverside County Business & Property Owners Coalition, which the FPPC alleged was a funding vehicle for pro-development council candidates in Perris. Murillo told investigators that he, too, was uncertain why Flaherty had written personal check to him, other than that over the years [Flaherty] and he had a practice of ‘loaning’ each other money that did not have to be paid back.” During 1997 and 1998, Flaherty—operating through his own major donor committee—contributed more than $27,000 to various candidates and committees, including the campaigns of former councilmen Byron Wear and Juan Vargas, county Supervisor Bill Horn and a committee for then-Gov. Pete Wilson, which received nearly $4,000 in in-kind contributions in August 1998 for “cake, balloons, pictures and music.” Of the bulk of the charges, the FPPC brief noted: “Making a contribution in another person’s name is one of the most serious types of violations of the [Political Reform] Act, because it denies the public of information about where a candidate receives his or her financial support.” Flaherty was clever in his dealings, the FPPC brief added. “He made payments to the Perris candidates under $100, and treated the persons who worked for him as independent contractors, not employees, so that his name did not have to be reported on the recipients’ campaign statements as a contributor or the employer of the contributor.” The reimbursements also were “often not in amounts exactly matching the contributions, or were made in cash,” making detection of the laundering scheme more challenging, investigators said. He also failed to produce personal or business records to document his contributions, “further making his reimbursement payments more difficult to detect.” A spokeswoman for the FPPC said the full commission can lower the amount of the fine, but because Flaherty has filed no notice to defend himself in the matter, that seems unlikely.
 Note to our local Ethics Commission: At least some government agencies are taking campaign money laundering seriously.

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Beach brawl, Critics blast votes cast by Gov. Davis' appointees to coastal panel.
By Laura Mecoy -- Bee Los Angeles BureauSeptember 29, 2002
 LOS ANGELES -- The vote, cast in the final minutes of one of the California Coastal Commission's longest and most contentious meetings, startled the audience and left many wondering who would benefit.
 The panel's vice chairman proposed exempting Malibu's Point Dume area from potential building restrictions, and a majority of the 12-member panel agreed.
 The commissioners were on their way home before coastal activists realized television magnate A. Jerrold Perenchio, Gov. Gray Davis' largest individual campaign contributor, could potentially be a big beneficiary."Jerry has given more than $900,000 to the governor," said Steve Uhring, Malibu Coastal Land Conservancy president. "That gets a lot of attention, and it seemed to have worked in this case."
For environmental leaders, the vote two weeks ago represents another example of the continuing influence wealthy landowners have in coastal development and access decisions -- influence that even the comic strip "Doonesbury" is lampooning.
 Environmentalists had expected that influence to wane with the 1998 election of Davis, the first Democratic governor in 16 years and a longtime supporter of environmental and coastal protection.
  But environmental leaders say coastal development, especially in Southern California, continues apace because of a commission the Sierra Club claims is as "pro-development" today as it was under the last GOP governor.
"We are standing and watching as the last remaining coastal resources are lost," said Mark Massara, director of the Sierra Club's coastal program.
  Davis maintains he is protecting the coast while striking a balance between the environment and economic growth. He has won the endorsement of the Sierra Club and other major environmental groups for his re-election.
 But the Sierra Club also claims that two of the governor's four Coastal Commission appointees are orchestrating votes on the panel, often in his behalf, and the organization has launched a letter-writing campaign calling for their ouster.
At the same time, election-year attacks on Davis' fund-raising practices are bringing new scrutiny to campaign contributions made by those with business before the Coastal Commission.
  "In concept, the governor and the Legislature really support coastal protection," said Ann Notthoff, advocacy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council California. "But when it gets down to the tough trade-offs on land use ... the voices of the wealthy property owners in the coastal zone are heard more loudly than they deserve."
  Established by the 1972 Coastal Act, the commission regulates land and water uses along the state's 1,100-mile shoreline. It often is subjected to shifting political tides because the governor, Assembly speaker and Senate Rules Committee each appoint four of the commission's 12 voting members. These members serve at the pleasure of their appointing authorities.
 The Coastal Commission has regulatory power over some of the state's priciest real estate. So politicians and lobbyists long have considered those seeking coastal permits to be a potential source of campaign contributions and lobbying contracts.
  In 1993, former Coastal Commissioner Mark Nathanson went to prison for soliciting $975,000 in bribes in the 1980s from a dozen people, including many in the entertainment industry, who were seeking coastal permits.
  As part of a plea bargain, he wrote letters to the government in which he claimed Davis conspired with him to fix cases before the commission in exchange for contributions to Davis, who was an assemblyman at the time.
Davis spokesmen have vehemently denied the charges, and federal prosecutors never acted on the claims, which they said were groundless.
  No one is suggesting that sort of corruption today. But the 1990s economic boom drove up demand for coastal development, and legislative term limits and Davis' unrelenting campaign fund raising increased political contributions.
With both forces at work, environmental leaders say, the Coastal Commission is facing extraordinary pressure to approve projects along the state's coastline.
 State Resources Secretary Mary Nichols said demand for coastal projects is, indeed, on the rise. But she said Davis doesn't pressure the commission on behalf of his campaign contributors.
  "He wants the commissioners to do their job," she said.
  In Perenchio's case, the commissioners said that is what they were doing. They were approving a contentious land-use and zoning plan for Malibu when they cast the votes that affected the wealthy contributor.
  Perenchio, who donates to Republicans and Democrats alike, wants to build a retail development in Malibu's civic center.   He has offered the city property in Point Dume for much-needed ball fields and other facilities as an inducement for it to grant him civic center development rights.
  The Coastal Commission's staff wanted to impose a two-year moratorium on civic center development to give the city more time to develop a comprehensive plan. Perenchio's representative, Dave Reznick, and the city of Malibu lobbied against it.
  The commission rejected the moratorium. Nichols then proposed withdrawing a controversial environmental designation proposed in the land-use plan that would have sharply restricted new construction in most of Malibu.
  The motion failed by one vote, leaving commissioners worried they couldn't muster the seven votes needed for final approval of the land-use plan.
  Commission Vice Chairman Dave Potter immediately proposed exempting just Point Dume from the new environmental designation. He said later he picked Point Dume because it is Malibu's most developed area, and that he didn't know Perenchio owned land there -- a claim that caused some of his fellow commissioners to scoff privately.
  Had the environmental restrictions passed, said Marcia Hanscom, executive director of Wetlands Action Network, Perenchio's Point Dume land would have been far less attractive to the city or anyone else because of the limited potential for construction.
  "Perenchio got totally what he wanted out of this deal," Hanscom said.
  Perenchio's spokesman didn't return phone calls seeking comment.
  Commissioner John Woolley said the "11th-hour" Point Dume exemption was "very troublesome." But he said he supported it to secure the seven votes needed for final passage of Malibu's zoning and land-use plan.
And despite the compromises, environmentalists hailed the plan as one of the commission's most significant achievements in years.
  Another major contributor to Davis who received a favorable commission ruling is Gary Winnick, founder and chairman of the now-bankrupt Global Crossing Ltd.
  Over the past three years, his company and four other telecommunications firms won expedited permits to string fiber optic cable in the coastal zone. They have contributed more than $500,000 to Davis since 1998.
Peter Douglas, the commission's executive director, said the Davis administration pressured the panel to move as quickly as possible but never suggested it sacrifice environmental review.
"We certainly weren't comfortable with moving the permits at the pace we did,"
he said. "There were still issues being raised."
 He said some of the firms have failed to meet the conditions of their permits. Two of them, Tyco and Global Crossing, are now in bankruptcy court.
  Nichols said the Davis administration wanted quick action because the technology was "important to the state's economy," not because of the donations to the governor.
  "It was all about coordination" among competing proposals, she said. "People attack us, and rightly so, when there are agencies that don't talk to one another."
 Playa Capital Co., another Davis contributor, has won hotly contested Coastal Commission votes on its development in the Ballona Wetlands in West Los Angeles since 1998. It gave significantly less than others -- just $30,000. But it paid $511,332 to five lobbying firms in the past four years. Among those lobbyists are former Coastal Commissioner Susan McCabe and Davis fund-raiser Darius Anderson.
  Environmental activists have been fighting for 25 years to restore the Ballona Wetlands where Playa Capital is building a mini-city of residential and commercial space. In 1990, a former owner of the property agreed to set aside 340 of the 1,087 acres in the development for wetlands and uplands.
  Then, another group of environmentalists sued to halt all construction. They lost but have continued to fight the project at the commission and in court.
In the latest dispute, coastal commissioners approved road improvements near the site because, they said, the project would relieve traffic and improve beach access. Coastal activists sued and scored a victory last week when a Superior Court judge kept in place an order preventing construction.
Hanscom, who has led the fight against Playa Capital, called the Coastal Commission's votes on that and other issues "death by a thousand cuts."
   "There is a huge disappointment that the Coastal Act is not being carried out the way the voters thought it would," she said.
 This year alone, according to the Sierra Club, 4,000 new luxury hotel rooms will open along the coast in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties.
 "What we are arguing over is the last remnants of the coastal zone," said Massara, of the Sierra Club. "We are fighting, literally, over scraps. And in most of Southern California, we have already lost."
He evaluates the Coastal Commission's voting records for the Sierra Club and said the panel's support for the environment has dropped 37 percent since 1997.
 Massara said last year's overall score of 41 percent support for the environment is comparable to the coastal panel's scores when Republican Gov. Pete Wilson was in office.
 The score card gives the Senate's appointees high marks, and Davis appointees the lowest, with a record of just 28 percent environmental support.
  The Sierra Club's letter-writing campaign calls for the governor to fire his two appointees who compiled two of the lowest scores: Cynthia McClain-Hill and Gregg Hart.
  The governor recently re-appointed the two commissioners.
   "He believes they are doing an outstanding job," said Steve Maviglio, the governor's spokesman.
Massara claims McClain-Hill "hates environmentalists" and Hart "votes for whoever puts up the most money."

Hart didn't return calls seeking comment, but McClain-Hill denied the charges.
   "To say that I or any other coastal commissioner could orchestrate a vote is almost an insult to the rest of the commission," she said. "If there is an outcome I seek, I argue consistently for it. ... If that is orchestration, then I would plead guilty."
 She said she follows the law and votes with the commission's majority 80 percent of the time. The Los Angeles land-use lawyer said environmental groups believe the Coastal Act gives the commission more power to stop development than it actually does.
   "The difference between coastal commissioners and activists is the commissioners are bound to be fair and follow the law -- not in a way that prohibits development but in a way that facilitates development that is consistent with the law," she said.
Maviglio said Davis chooses appointees, like McClain-Hill and Hart, because they take a centrist approach to issues, rather than catering to interest groups.
  Nichols, the state resources secretary, also said the governor doesn't intervene in matters before the coastal panel. But the governor fired one of his commission appointees after she bucked his wishes on a critical vote, and he appointed another alternate in time to vote for a seawall sought by music mogul and campaign contributor David Geffen.
  Kitch Eitzen, who was appointed as Commissioner Woolley's alternate two years ago, voted in favor of a resolution opposed by development interests that called for increased state review of federal habitat plans. It was her first and last meeting as a commissioner.
  "I was naive enough to believe I was appointed to vote my good conscience and not what Davis wanted," the former Humboldt County planning commissioner said. "Davis is a micromanager who is bought by his contributors."
Nichols said Eitzen was dismissed because the governor's office mistakenly approved her appointment -- not because of her vote.
  "Commissioner Woolley nominated her as his alternate, and her paperwork got signed as a routine matter," the resources secretary said.
  Eitzen called the explanation "B.S." and said her firing was a "shot across the bow" to other commissioners who might be considering exercising independent judgment.
 The alternate Davis appointed in time for Geffen's seawall vote in May 2000 was Tom Soto of Santa Monica. Soto sided with Geffen, who has donated more than $90,000 to Davis since 1998. Soto has attended just a few meetings since then.
"He only shows up when (the regular commissioner) is not there, and there's an issue with juice behind it," one commission insider said. "It's pretty blatant."
 Soto didn't return calls seeking comment.
  Nichols called the claims "paranoid nonsense" and said the commission's 7-3 vote gave Geffen the same permission accorded other homeowners who prove they need a seawall to protect their property from erosion.
 Opponents claimed Geffen's house wasn't in danger, and he wanted the seawall for privacy. But Nichols said opponents seized the issue of Geffen's seawall because of his celebrity.
 "This focus on a couple of wealthy, big-name property owners is a huge distraction from what the commission does," Nichols said.
 She said the commission has a "huge record of accomplishment" in improving water quality and protecting the coast. But all of that, she said, gets overlooked in the controversies over the rich and famous.
The Bee's Laura Mecoy can bereached at (310) 546-5860 or
 The Coastal Commission voted 7-3 to let music mogul David Geffen build a controversial seawall in front of his Malibu home. 
  Playa Capital Co., a contributor to Gov. Gray Davis' campaigns, has won several Coastal Commission votes for its development in the Ballona Wetlands in West Los Angeles. Environmentalists have been fighting for 25 years to try to restore the area where Playa Capital now is building a mini-city of residential and commercial space.
Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench,
Published on October 3, 2002