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Blog Archives - 2008 First Quarter


The Friends of Jerry Sanders got a $1 million windfall. 03/28/08

                                             by Pat Flannery                           top^

, I'm back. I was just "tooling up" for the next round of "The Battle for San Diego". Also, I had to figure out how to continue this blog without going broke. As you can see from the "Paid Advertizing" opposite, I may have found a way, at least for this election year.

Essentially, what I have been doing for the last three and a half years on this blog is "voter education". Who most needs to "educate" voters? Candidates! Therefore those who feel that their candidacies benefit from my kind of "voter education" are more than welcome to advertise on my blog. Those whose lies I expose will probably go elsewhere.

Why did I have to "tool up"? I discovered that you cannot run video streaming from an ordinary web hosting account. Nor can you send any more than 400 email messages at a time using Cox or AT&T for example. I wanted to do both. I had outgrown ordinary web hosting.

I formed a new company called "Web Hosting for the World" and rented rack space in a datacenter in LA. I then had to purchase a wide range of enterprise-class software, install it and get it up and running. It was quite a learning curve. But I did it and am now a full-blown ISP.

I then purchased a large database of San Diego County emails, phone numbers and home addresses, the kind of databases used by large political campaigns and consultants. I spent weeks breaking the list down by zip code, precincts and many other criteria. So now I am ready to go to work to "educate" San Diego voters by email and USPS.

So, let me get back in the fight with this story - 301 University Ave:

On September 12, 2006, on the recommendation of Mayor Sanders, through his staff, the City Council approved a 12-story high-rise mixed-use commercial and residential development in a low-rise 1 to 3-story area of Hillcrest.
On October 17, 2006 a community group called The Friends of San Diego, a California non-profit corporation, filed a lawsuit against the City of San Diego and developer, La Jolla Pacific Development Group Inc. The lawsuit challenged the City’s decision of September 12, 2006.

On August 20, 2007 the court issued a tentative ruling
with a Final Judgment on August 23, 2007. Here is a summary of that ruling compiled by Friends of San Diego. In essence, the court ordered the City to rescind its approval of the project on September 12, 2006. Sanders and the Council had broken the law.

The developing partners, Bruce Leidenberger & Mike McPhee of La Jolla Pacific Development Group, Inc., are friends of Jerry Sanders. They own 3230 5th Avenue and run their developer business out of Suite 100.

Jerry Sanders used that building as his campaign office in 2005!

As Urban Properties Inc. Leidenberger and McPhee are also the developers of the Deca project at Robinson and Park. A funny thing happened on the way to the bank on that one. A member of Jerry Sanders' staff at the Development Services Dept.,  made a "typographical error". They wrote the zoning down wrong. Ooops!

Leidenberger and McPhee were "accidentally" given approval to build six additional units! They got to build 37 condos at approximately $600,000 per unit instead of the maximum of 31 allowed by the zoning. That was a windfall profit of millions.

The "error" was not reported until construction of the Deca project was well underway. The developer was allowed to continue.  In an apparent effort to cover their tracks, the DSD staff proposed that the entire block be up-zoned to what was "mistakenly" applied to Deca. Under Mayor Sanders DSD has become a tool of developers, not of government.

To illustrate the special treatment Sanders gave to Leidenberger and McPhee, especially their 301 University Ave. project, Jaymie Bradford, a Policy Advisor to Mayor Sanders, turned up at a settlement conference between La Jolla Development Group and The Friends of San Diego. She said she was there representing the Mayor.

But the Friends of San Diego beat the Friends of Jerry Sanders at  301 University Ave.. They proved it can be done. That is why I am back in the fight - this time to win. I will support any politician who serves the people, not developers or other special interests. We all need to get in this fight.


Union-Tribune: prime-time lies, buried retraction. 03/13/08

                                    by Pat Flannery                               top^

Some of you may be wondering if I fell off the end of the earth or had started St. Patrick's Day early this year as I had not written a blog in over a week. Well, the truth is, in the three and a half years of writing this blog (I started it in November 2004, right after the 2004 election), last week was the first time I became seriously discouraged.

Why? Because of the Union-Tribune's lies.

Over the last four years I have spent a great deal of time and energy trying to get the truth out about this City's finances and particularly about its pension system. In my last blog on March 3, 2008, the one immediately prior to this, I did the best I could to explain to people that the Mayor's new Pension Plan will not save the City $25 million per year as the Mayor claims in his press release and "Fact Sheet".

Then right on cue Bob Kittle compounds the Mayor's lie by using the opinion column of the Union-Tribune to repeat the Mayor's falsehoods.
Here is that U-T prime-time Sunday "Insight" editorial entitled "Reform at last - Sanders' plan curbs runaway pension costs", on March 9, 2008, subsequently retracted, buried deep in yesterday's paper.

That editorial together with Alex Roth's hit piece on City Attorney Mike Aguirre the previous Friday, March 7, 2008, almost drove me to despair. Hence the blogging silence since Kittle and Roth exercised their First Amendment rights to use a monopoly "newspaper" to blatantly misinform the public. What chance does a lone blogger have?

In his eagerness to boost the reelection of establishment-compliant mayoral incumbent, Jerry Sanders, Bob Kittle wrote the following highly inaccurate statement about the City's finances:

"Under the changes sought by Sanders, taxpayers would save $25 million the first year, with the savings mounting in subsequent years. (The taxpayers' contribution to the pension plan this year is $162 million.) The first-year savings of $25 million is equal to the entire operating budget of San Diego's central library and its 35 branches."

Those were Kittle's own words, not just a direct quote from Sanders' so-called "Fact Sheet". Kittle's editorials are blatant political "boosting" to an extraordinary degree, more reminiscent of 19th Century yellow journalism than today's enlightened age. Kittle is too familiar with this City's finances not to have known that Sanders' claims were bunkum.

As for the origin of the name "yellow",
We called them Yellow because they are Yellow,” wrote the Press, a New York City newspaper, in1898. I think the name is still apt for Kittle's column today.

Falling over himself to "boost" Mayor Sanders' reelection chances against challenger Steve Francis, Kittle ends his "yellow" editorial with:

"Mayor Sanders deserves credit for tackling the retirement system crisis head-on. His plan is not only sensible, but absolutely essential to San Diego's financial future."

If that's how the U-T and the downtown establishment intend to get Sanders reelected, by putting out lies about the City's finances, then they will fail. A campaign built on lies will fail, even in San Diego.

As for Alex Roth's latest of many hit pieces on Aguirre (Roth's "reporting" seems to have become a mere extension of Kittle's "yellow" editorials),  Aguirre himself refuted Roth's "misstatements" on the Aguirre Campaign web site. Here is Aguirre's detailed response.

Roth wrote in his piece:

"And a Superior Court judge is to hear arguments this month on whether the city charter gives Aguirre the power to file certain types of suits without council permission.

The judge's ruling, and the appeals that might follow, could help cement a legacy that will outlast Aguirre's tenure: a binding judicial ruling on the scope of the city attorney's powers."

That made me wonder if the real purpose of this particular U-T article was not to influence Superior Court Judge William Nevitt in his pending decision regarding the role of the City Attorney, due to be heard on March 21, 2008. Roth's piece went far beyond merely "reporting". It read more like something written by Scott Peters and Bob Kittle sitting on Peters' well-watered lawn in La Jolla, than by a beat reporter.

The U-T and the ruling establishment of this town want a favorable court ruling that will curb the powers of the City Attorney's Office once and for all. They want the City Attorney to be their City Attorney, locked into defending any wrongdoing they may choose to get involved in. That is how it worked until Aguirre came along and that is how it will work again if they succeed in getting rid of him.

In the meantime, I think you can see, I've got my courage back. My sainted Irish mother did not raise a quitter. Let the U-T and Mayor Sanders print their lies. Let them retract in small print. The truth will prevail in the end. I'm sure of it. Why? Because my mother told me so.


A look at Jerry Sanders new "Pension Plan" - Watch your wallets. 03/05/08

                                    by Pat Flannery                               top^

This is Jerry Sanders' new City Pension Plan, released today. It will only apply to "general" employees, hired after December 31, 2008. Police and fire are not affected.
According to Jerry, "the City would have saved $25 million per year if the Plan had been in effect".

He says it will "lower the City’s financial risks, reduce pension costs and eliminate excessive perks".

So, he could have saved us $25 million a year, if he had introduced it at the beginning of his first term in December 2005, instead of at the beginning of his second term, December 2008, (if he is reelected). In other words, he could have saved us $75 million over the last 3 years, but he didn't. Is that what he is telling us?

Of course the truth is that he would not have saved us anything like $25 million per year, even if he had put his Plan into effect in December 2005, because it only applies to new hires. It would take at least a couple of decades to have had any significant impact. Another massive exaggeration and misrepresentation by the Sanders spin machine.

At least he has now officially admitted that there are "benefit excesses under the current system". Where have I heard that before? Certainly not from Jerry Sanders, Judie Italiano or Ann Smith. Up until now Sanders was officially waiting for the courts to tell him whether there were "benefit excesses under the current system".

Amazing what a little political competition will do. Is the fresh wind of the Steve Francis challenge beginning to be felt at City Hall? Or is this a Jerry Sanders/Judie Italiano scheme to fund their current benefits?

Is this "Plan" designed to fake out the voters until the election is over only to disappear into the mists of City Hall, like his 2005 smoke and mirrors "Business Process Re-engineering" promises? Whatever happened to that much-heralded Sanders' "turn-around" wizardry?

Anyway, the problem I see with his new "Pension Plan" is that it actually exacerbates the deficit spiral. Not only does it fail to address how the City will pay down its existing pension deficit (now admitted to be caused by "excess benefits" not by under-contribution on the part of the City), it eliminates its only source of future funding - new hires! It is like a Ponzi scheme suddenly deprived of new investors.

Where then will Sanders find the revenue to fund his existing benefits?

We all know that the pension deficit was transferred to future generations, both taxpayers and employees, by wily legislators like Scott Peters. He now says that he didn't know. Yeah, right. But this latest twist by Sanders & Co. is the cruelest cut of all. By eliminating future employee contributions, the entire burden will fall on the backs of  taxpayers - after Sanders has left office.

I am beginning to wonder if this "Plan" was not better coordinated than we are being led to believe. Very little happens in this city without careful back-room planning. Are we to believe that this came as a complete surprise to Scott Peters, the darling of the unions?

To me, it seems more likely that it is a well thought out Sanders/Peters/unions scheme to bundle up their "benefit excesses" and secure them with Pension Obligation Bonds. That has always been their ultimate goal. It is called converting soft debt into hard debt.

Only Sanders would go so far as to spin the cynical scheme as saving the City money. The San Diego taxpayer needs to be wary of such a mayor. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

The truth is out: Peters lied. 02/28/08

                                        by Pat Flannery                               top^

Here is the transcript of the closed session of the City Council on August 2, 2005 that everybody has wanted to read. Here is a press release from the City Attorney today summarizing the relevant events.

Also, here are two relevant Court Declarations, one from Jerry Sanders and the other from Donna Frye. Both clearly confirm the City Attorney's long standing assertion that he was given the enthusiastic support of the City Council and of the Mayor to pursue in court a resolution of the legality or illegality of the disputed pension benefits.

Scott Peters now wants to say that Aguirre did all this on his own without authorization from the City. Of course, we all know why he is doing this: as a shill for the city unions, particularly the MEA.

Peters tried to smear the City Attorney for doing his job. Peters has abused the legal process by filing a false complaint with the State Bar wrongly asserting that Mr. Aguirre was not authorized by his client, the City, to file a cross-complaint in a matter in which the City was sued. In other words Peters tried to ensure that the unions would win by default.

Clearly Scott Peters does not have the best interest of the City at heart, merely his union backers. His abuse of the State Bar disciplinary process for political purposes should be enough to disqualify him from practicing law let alone becoming City Attorney for any city.

Who will Wall Street listen to - Sanders or Francis? 02/27/08

                                    by Pat Flannery                               top^

This week's legislative session (the Monday and Tuesday weekly sessions are considered one session) was dominated by two agenda items, the Internal Auditor question and the Navy Broadway question (more on that in my next blog).

On Monday mayoral candidate Steve Francis represented a sharp contrast to Sanders on the issue of who should appoint the City's Internal Auditor. Sanders wants to appoint his own auditor, while Mr. Francis wants to follow best business practices.

In the private sector, Francis explained to City Council, "
Auditors are appointed by audit committees, that have the power to fire them. The committee itself is free from executive influence as it is selected by the corporate board of directors." Accordingly, he suggested that "a City auditor appointed by the audit committee and confirmed by the City Council" would best serve the City.

Here is Francis' full address to the City Council .

Several other prominent citizens, such as Norma Damashek President of the League of Women Voters and Fran Zimmerman, former San Diego School Board member, made the trip down to City Hall to voice their concerns over the Mayor's grab for too much control over the City's books. Sanders wants to control the entire audit process, both the Audit Committee and the Internal Auditor, which may ultimately damage the city by causing further delay in accessing the markets.

Sanders failed to get his version of the audit ballot measure passed by the City Council on Monday. He needed five votes, he got three. That did not deter Peters from his relentless crusade to hand Sanders the unfettered control of the City's finances, demanded by the special interests. Peters and Sanders are now joined at the hip as pawns of the developer/hotel industries, allied with the city unions. A deadly mix.

The auditor issue will now be revisited next week, on Monday March 3.

As with all special interest-dominated legislative bodies, when they lose a vote they continue the item until enough legislative arms can be twisted. It reminds me of that infamous vote on the Medicare Prescription Bill in the US Congress a few years ago.

I remember watching that bizarre legislative event live on C-SPAN throughout a long night as the Bush Administration gradually reversed 15 "Nay" votes. Only when the roll call showed a positive result did the Speaker announce the result, contrary to Congressional Rules, which require an announcement within 15 minutes. Some House Members later revealed that their families were threatened that night.

The Sanders' political machine will be hard at work until the final auditor vote is retaken on Monday. But the entry of Steve Francis into the mayoral race may already be changing those dynamics. It is hard to argue with the Francis logic. It is backed by the full force and prestige of Wall Street. This man, after all, is Chairman of a billion dollar public company. Wall Street is more likely to listen to one of their own than an ex-cop intent on protecting his own service pension.

Should the Mayor appoint the City Auditor? 02/23/08

                                    by Pat Flannery                               top^

Sanders' power-grab at appointing the City's Internal Auditor (the very person who will audit his books) will be decided by the City Council on Monday. Here is the Docket Item.

Peters and Sanders want option (2): "
appointed by the City Manager [now the Mayor], in consultation with the Audit Committee, and confirmed by the Council". Donna Frye will continue to oppose the Mayor having any role in appointing the City Auditor. She has consistently pointed out that it is wrong both in substance and appearance and a giant step backwards for this wayward City.

Goldstone's letter to Peters dated February 21, 2008 makes a very weak case for allowing the Mayor to appoint the City Auditor. Goldstone quotes paragraph 3.14 of the revised GAO Yellow Book.

"3.14 Audit organizations in government entities may also be presumed to be free from organizational impairments if the head of the audit organization meets any of the following criteria:

a. directly elected by voters of the jurisdiction being audited;

b. elected or appointed by a legislative body, subject to removal by a
legislative body, and reports the results of audits to and is accountable to a legislative body;

c. appointed by someone other than a legislative body, so long as the
appointment is confirmed by a legislative body and removal from the
position is subject to oversight or approval by a legislative body and reports the results of audits to and is accountable to a legislative body; or:

d. appointed by, accountable to, reports to, and can only be removed by a statutorily created governing body, the majority of whose members are independently elected or appointed and come from outside the organization being audited."

He disregards (a) and (b) and argues solely on (c). His argument rests solely on the words:
"someone other than a legislative body." That's all he has got. He infers that that "someone" could be the Mayor.

City Attorney wannabe Council President Peters will ram it down the Council's neck on behalf of his new best friend, Sanders. They are now partners in liberating the city from Aguirre and open government.

It will be interesting to hear Peters and Goldstone argue on Monday how a Mayor-appointed City Auditor could be
"free from organizational impairments", as if that's what they really want.

In his continuing efforts to serve the master (Jerry Sanders) who pays him $250,000 per year, Jay Goldstone has turned the recommendations of the Government Auditing Standards body, published in what is known as "The Yellow Book", on its head.

If this Council approves this deeply flawed ballot measure for the June ballot, it should be rejected vigorously by the voters. We need an independent city auditor. Even a six-year old child can see that.

The truth about that August 2005 closed Council session. 02/19/08

                                    by Pat Flannery                               top^

Everybody is trying to determine the truth about what happened at a closed session of the City Council on August 2, 2005. Les Girard (Don McGrath's predecessor as Executive Assistant City Attorney) made a surprise announcement at an open session of City Council on August 9, 2005. Here, according to its Minutes, is that announcement:

"Assistant City Attorney Les Girard announced that last week in Closed Session by a unanimous vote with Districts 2 and 8 and the Mayor vacant, the City Council authorized the City Attorney to pursue a modified cross complaint in the action SDCERS versus City of San Diego and City Attorney Michael Aguirre."

The full transcript of this closed session was at the heart of a news story in today's U-T and elsewhere. My take on this controversial closed session hasn't changed much since I wrote a blog on it back on August 15, 2005, to which the Voice of San Diego linked their story today.

To me, it is really quite simple - Peters lied and continues to lie about it, because the unions are extremely angry at him for voting to authorize Aguirre to sue the pension board regarding illegal pension benefits.

First, here is the agenda for that closed session (Item CS-2):
"The City Attorney filed (but did not serve) a cross-complaint raising a variety of issues and will brief the City Council on the status of the matter in closed session, and request appropriate direction."

The full transcript of the session will show that while Peters may have expressed reservations about giving Aguirre authorization to pursue a case against the pension system, he voted for it nevertheless. He has been desperately trying to redeem himself with the unions ever since.

Ann Smith and Judi Italiano went ballistic when they read Les Girard's August 9, 2005 announcement. To remind Peters that they have not forgotten, Smith was standing ominously in front of him at his press conference on Monday when he announced his run for City Attorney.

He may have little choice but to run for City Attorney or she will turn on him and put him in jail for pension fraud. Smith and Italiano have "the goods" on him and they don't take prisoners. Currently he is tasked with preserving Italiano's union presidential benefits. That's what you get when you do a Faustian deal with people like Smith and Italiano.

Desperate to satisfy these relentless bosses, Peters filed a motion before Judge Barton on July 7, 2006, attempting to disqualify Aguirre from representing the City in the pension case. But on September 28, 2006 he withdrew it and filled a complaint with the State Bar instead.

Yes, it was Peters who filed that Bar complaint against Aguirre. He may well have been encouraged to do so by Bonnie Dumanis, who is on the State Bar Board of Governors and has her own reasons for stopping Aguirre - she fears he may run against her for DA in 2010.

Even though the complaint against Aguirre has come up empty so far "somebody" is able to keep it going. The U-T reported: 
"At his news conference, McGrath said “somebody's pressuring” the bar's lead investigator to move forward with the case “in spite of the evidence.”

McGrath, Aguirre's Executive City Attorney, said that the investigator in the case seemed to have completed the investigation then suddenly became active again about the time Peters and Goldsmith entered the City Attorney's race. It is hard not to be suspicious of Dumanis.

Without even reading the closed session transcript (which I understand Aguirre would love to see published), Peters' position seems untenable. Judge Barton cleared this whole thing up back on January 12, 2006.

Barton ruled that the City was always the real "party in interest", notwithstanding "any procedural defect" such as using the name of the City Attorney, Mayor or any other City official, as Peters tried to force Aguirre to do. In other words Judge Barton ruled that it doesn't matter whose name is on a case, the City is always the real "party in interest".

Donna Frye had also cleared up the matter in her Declaration to the Court dated July 13, 2006. Here it is. On page 4 in Par. 12 she said:

"At this meeting the San Diego City Attorney requested and received permission from the City Council to file and proscute the cross-complaint in this action on behalf of the City of San Diego. There was no ambiguity in the City Attorney's request or the City Council's authorization."

For Peters to persist in his bogus complaint against City Attorney Mike Aguirre in spite of Barton and Frye, demonstrates a complete disregard for the truth. He is seriously morally-challenged. This seems to have spread to others on the City Council. San Diego's problem is a moral problem not a fiscal or political problem. And Peters is at the heart of it.

Powerful interests want that City Attorney's office back real bad. Aguirre has proven just how powerful it can be. The question for the electorate will be: on whose behalf should that power be wielded? Elite special interests or the people? It will be an interesting race.

Peters will represent the unions if elected City Attorney. 02/18/08

                                    by Pat Flannery                               top^

Today Scott Peters formally announced that he is running for City Attorney. It was carefully timed to precede by one day his  endorsement by the Labor Council. Here is the Labor Questionnaire.

Although Peters would have been spared such formalities, it is nevertheless informative, particularly number 7: "
Elected officials should intervene on behalf of workers during labor negotiations if management is not negotiating fairly with their union, even when the management is a public agency". That is clear enough.

The unions want to own the elected officials. The pension mess is proof that in the past they were largely successful in doing just that, which explains the presence of Ann Smith, the MEA attorney, at Peters' press conference today. The event looked more like an MEA rally than a press conference. It is obvious who Peters would represent and whom he would "
intervene on behalf of", if he became City Attorney.

So, the battle lines could hardly be clearer if drawn by a Hollywood screenwriter. The three main characters represent the three main elements of San Diego politics - the special interests of developers and the hotel industry: "Judge" Goldsmith and the special interests of the unions: the "Honorable" Scott Peters.

And the third "character": say what you will about Mike Aguirre, he represents no special interests. I have yet to hear him being accused of representing anybody other than the voters. In fact that is the main complaint against him by the city elite. His only counterpart in that respect is Steve Francis. Whatever you may think of either one of them, you have to admit they are their own men, each in his own way.

Here's what Aguirre had to say about Peters' candidacy today:

Mr. Peters says he regrets his vote in 2002 to exchange increased pension benefits for decreased contributions.  I have given him many opportunities to take back that vote and he has refused. He says he did it to save City services. He did it to keep union support.  The very support his candidacy relies on today".

On the Goldsmith candidacy he said:

"Mr. Goldsmith fails to mention that a central player in that fraud, [the pension fraud] former Executive Assistant City Attorney Leslie Devaney is co-chairing and raising special interest money for Mr. Goldsmith’s campaign. Mr. Goldsmith has already made it clear he will do nothing if elected to rid taxpayers of hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal pension debt."

So it is Aguirre and Francis against the special interests. It will be a hard-fought battle, which may be won or lost as early as May, when  absentee voters start making their choices. Francis in particular has a short window of opportunity, while Aguirre will almost certainly survive the Primary, when "events" may well work in his favor for the General.

Accordingly, Francis is launching his TV blitz early. He sent out this media advisory today. I am looking forward to seeing the ads tomorrow. I doubt that Steve will throw me out of his press conference. He is too much of a gentleman for that. Besides he supports underdogs like me.

San Diego is fast becoming a police state. 02/15/08

                                    by Pat Flannery                               top^

Yesterday I got thrown out of a news conference held by Bonnie Dumanis and Bill Kolender to endorse Jan Goldsmith for City Attorney. No kidding! See the video below. I had my very own "mucaca moment".

Somebody had booked the Coronet Room at the Westgate Hotel to host the anointing of "the chosen one", Judge Goldsmith. I say "somebody" because the hotel staff later refused to disclose who had paid for the room. I tried to find out who had officially thrown me out.

I will be checking Goldsmith's campaign disclosure return when it comes out. It better not be the County that paid for that room. And if it was Dumanis and Kolender personally, the cost of the room better be shown as a campaign contribution from those two.

I arrived at the plush Westgate Hotel like the others, media and non-media. I took my place in the TV camera lineup as I often do. Most of them know me by now. I was filming away nicely when I felt myself being manhandled from behind. In a matter of seconds I found myself outside the door wondering what the heck had happened.

Unfortunately I had turned off my camera when I first started to get jostled. I was totally taken by surprise. I did turn it back on just in time to capture my assailant going back into the Coronet Room, looking very pleased with himself. I still do not know who he is, although I asked him.

Here is the video clip from when I started getting pushed around to when the door was closed - with me outside

Even the real "mucaca" was treated with respect, albeit sarcastic respect, by George Allen and his campaign handlers. Senator Allen did not have his goons eject the guy. But San Diego is not Virginia.

Here is Kolender not looking too pleased at my presence. Was he thinking of me as that "mucaca-by-the-sea" person. Did he then signal somebody to have me ejected?

He is right. I am San Diego's "mucaca". At least I am now. And I am just as mad as the original "mucaca" was in Virginia in 2006. I am not going away either.

How ironic that at the very moment I was being forcibly ejected from her published press conference, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis was pontificating about "
thorough investigations and fair prosecutions".

Here she is preaching about legal fairness while her goons are giving me the boot, without even asking my name. So much for open-government and freedom of the press - because I am not one of THEM!

Here is Dumanis in self-righteous political rage against our elected City Attorney:
The city attorney has been destructive, divisive and disruptive, making this a public safety issue . A public safety issue? The City Attorney is a "public safety" issue? Yes Bonnie, this IS a public issue - a "public exclusion" issue.

Take a good look at this closed door. It is what San Diego will look like for all of us if Goldsmith becomes City Attorney.

I stared at that closed door long and hard on Thursday afternoon. I heard the door being locked from the inside.

I listened to the strident voice of Dumanis inside. Is this our future? Have these people really taken over? Is Goldsmith their latest stooge? Is it now: "them against us"?

As an ex-Judge he will fit in perfectly with this lineup of Police Chiefs, Sheriffs, Judges and District Attorney's who regularly lock arms to defend their own. Below is a picture of when they circled the wagons to protect Sunroad's Tom Story from City Attorney Mike Aguirre.

Goldsmith is clearly one of them, which is why they have chosen him.

The locked room at the Westgate Hotel says it all. It was not a pleasant experience for me, and it will not be a pleasant experience for San Diego if Goldsmith gains the City Attorney's office.

Like the current Mayor's office it will be locked to all but the rich and powerful. Sanders and Dumanis are turning this city into a police state.


How "Public" is our "Public" TV station, KPBS? 02/08/08

                                    by Pat Flannery                               top^

I must admit that I listen to KPBS radio and watch KPBS TV more than other stations. But does that make me stodgy? Does it warp my political view to the right? Has listening to right-wingers Bob Kittle, John Warren and Tim McClain pontificate on San Diego politics on "Editors Roundtable" every week for almost a decade moved me to the right?

I think mostly it has just bored the heck out of me. When they don't have Bob Kittle on they now have "editor" Chris Reed, who seems to be measuring himself for a bowtie to replace Kittle. The age of Obama must terrify these guys. Hilary they can openly hate, but Obama?

Here is an exchange of emails regarding the cancellation of "Editors Roundtable" the TV show. As you may know KPBS started selling the TV version of ER to Cox 4 San Diego some time ago. It brought in "commercial" revenue for KPBS, which presumably is allowed under its non-profit "public" charter. I haven't checked the actual law on that.

But what can we learn from these emails?

Well, it appears that Craig Nichols, the young dynamic Vice President and General Manager at Cox Channel 4, has decided that he can do a better "Editors Roundtable" than KPBS. Will he hire the same "stodgy" team? My guess is that he won't. At least I hope not.

Which brings me to the supposed role of "public" television. KPBS cited budgetary constraints for the cancellation of its "Full Focus". Here is its Press Release dated August 1, 2007 announcing that the national "Nightly Business Report" would replace the local "Full Focus". Should a "public" station make programming decisions based on the same business criteria as a commercial station? I don't think so.

The result is that San Diegans will no longer have a regular "public" TV show discussing San Diego politics. KPBS has no plans to allocate TV air time on its own station to the cancelled Cox broadcast. The sad reality is that KPBS was unable to shake off the stranglehold Kittle & Co. had on its programming. Kittle ran "Editors Roundtable" into the ground, as he is doing with the opinion page of the Union-Tribune.

We will now get all our TV political commentary from commercial media, who favor the right. "Public" programming is supposed to counterbalance that. But then most of the funding for "public" broadcasting tends to come from the betteroff "right". Now they can save their money and just watch Cox, with or without "Bowtie" Bob.

An ongoing battle about who appoints the Internal Auditor. 02/06/08

                                    by Pat Flannery                               top^
Donna Frye is gradually wearing down her opponents regarding who will appoint the Internal Auditor. She has strong public support for not allowing the Mayor to appoint the person who will audit his books.

Frye made a major concession yesterday by moving away from her previous demand for an elected Internal Auditor. She is now willing to accept one appointed by the Audit Committee.

Here is a
video synopsis of yesterday's Council discussion.

Council President Peters suggested a compromise - that the Audit Committee make the appointment "in consultation with the Mayor" (whatever that means). But that was still unacceptable to Kevin Faulconer who has doggedly pursued a mayor-appointed internal auditor. Faulconer was elected on Sanders' coattails and shamelessly does his bidding on many issues. Too bad.

Faulconer's refusal to accept Peters' compromise caused the issue to be continued until February 25, 2008. In the meantime the mayoral arm-twisting will continue, courtesy of Faulconer who will continue to lobby on behalf of the Mayor, while Frye will continue to lobby on behalf of the public. Let's hope the public continues to pay attention.


Steve Francis speaks before City Council on Mayoral veto. 02/04/08

                                    by Pat Flannery                               top^

Mayoral candidate Steve Francis appeared before the City Council this afternoon and made an impassioned plea against the proposal to: "Increase the Number of Council Votes Necessary to Override a Mayoral Veto". Read this Item on today's City Council Agenda:

"ITEM-202: Two actions relating to Submitting to the Voters a Ballot Proposition Amending the City Charter to Make the Strong Mayor Form of Government Permanent, Add a Ninth Council District, and Increase the Number of Council Votes Necessary to Override a Mayoral Veto."

Here is a video of Francis before City Council
and here is his accompanying press release. It shows that he does not share Mayor Sander's passion for control of the Legislature as well as the Executive. Refreshingly, Mr. Francis seems to understand and is devoted to the long-established American concept of separation of powers.

I don't think my trust in him will prove misplaced. I sensed from the start that he genuinely wanted power in order to wield it on behalf of the ordinary people, not hand it over to greedy insiders, both union and business, as Sanders has done.

Perhaps there is hope for San Diego yet. I once thought that the only ones likely to seek power for unselfish reasons would be people left of center like Donna Frye and Mike Aguirre. I stand corrected. True altruism can exist right across the political spectrum. Wealth does not necessarily change a person. Francis seems to demonstrate that.


The Strong Mayor and Labor Negotiations Reform. 02/04/08

                                    by Pat Flannery                               top^
City Attorney Mike Aguirre and Mayor Jerry Sanders may have finally found some much-needed common ground in the matter of Labor Negotiations Reform. Aguirre issued this Memorandum of Law on Labor Negotiations Reform on Friday February 1, 2008 and held a press conference to introduce and explain its concepts.

Here is a video synopsis of that press conference
"The present Mayor has made it clear that he does not intend to follow past practices in which the City's position in collective bargaining was directed by the City Council through the City Manager. This is a correct and appropriate conclusion under the voter-approved transformation to a Strong Mayor form of government".

Aguirre believes that this is what the voters intended when they voted for a Strong Mayor. He believes that Prop F intended to cut out the "backdooring" that has long been the practice between union leaders and individual council members and that the unions should deal with "a single city official" viz. the Mayor.

It is this back door lobbying of individual Council Members that has been the problem in the past. The unions have often boasted of "owning" a sufficient number on Councilmembers to get anything they wanted out of the Council. Aguirre believes the public want that changed. No doubt the Mayor agrees with him.

The Council as a body would retain important powers but those powers would be exercised in open session and on the record. That is the part that Councilmembers are not going to like. They prefer to meet one-on-one with union leaders like Ron Saathoff and Judie Italiano and make the insider deals.

Aguirre's Memorandum of Law is timely in that the 2008 round of labor negotiations has already started. He has put Councilmembers on notice that they would be in breach of Charter Sections 260 and 265 if they attempt to interfere with the Mayor's right to "promulgate and issue administrative regulations that give controlling direction to the administrative service of the city". In other words the Council can no longer give directions to the Mayor as they did to the City Manager.

If impasse is reached between the Mayor and any union Aguirre recommends that the City follow the resolution model set forth in the State Education Employment Relations Act (EERA).

The EERA impasse resolution model provides for a Independent Fact Finding Panel. Some California cities use an appointed panel but Aguirre recommends that in San Diego the City Council be that panel. The City Council would thus have to "remain independent to safeguard its ability to satisfy its fact finding function under the EERA model".

And there's the rub. Councilmembers are not going to like the "remain independent" part. It's like asking them to take a vow of chastity and there is very little tendency towards that at City Hall.

It will be interesting to watch how this will work out over the coming weeks. Aguirre has again put the cat among the pigeons.


Hiding pension data may prevent City access to markets. 02/01/08

                                    by Pat Flannery                               top^

For Jerry Sanders to insist that three of his top staffers, COO Jay Goldstone, CFO Mary Lewis and Director of Debt Management, Lakshmi Kommi, who together prepare the City's financial statements, including bond issuance papers, be the final arbiters of the accuracy of all financial statements, may be the straw that destroys his credibility.

Mary Lewis was appointed to Goldstone's old CFO job on January 7, 2008. She had previously served under Goldstone as the city’s director of financial management since April 2006. Before that she was Vice President and COO of
Alliance Healthcare Foundation.

Lakshmi Kommi is Director of
Debt Management, (formerly the Financing Services Division of the City Treasurer's Office). She has been with the City since 1993, succeeding her Financial Services boss Mary Vattimo, who became City Treasurer in May 2001.

The Manager's Report announcing her appointment in 2001 said that she would be: "responsible for initial and continuing disclosure reporting in compliance with federal securities regulations, and for managing the Equipment and Vehicle Financing Program. Ms. Kommi serves as a liaison with the bond rating agencies and will be responsible for structuring and executing financing plans for a variety of bond financed projects."

It seems that Sanders now wants her "disclosure" expertise.

Vattimo was subsequently demoted to the
purchasing department in December 2004 amid reports that employees in her office had destroyed documents. She resigned from the City in May 2005. How much of that rubbed off on Kommi is not clear. I remember her from the strange bond issuance affair involving the "Banc" of America who masqueraded as the "Bank" of America, in October 2005.

This "new and improved"
Disclosure Practices Working Group (DPWG), that vets all financial disclosures, will consist of the above three mayoral staffers together with two City Attorneys, Mike Aguirre and Mark Blake. Obviously three votes trumps two every time, consequently it is little more than another mayoral rubber stamp.

Sanders needs this rubber stamp because he is committed to issuing $493 million in pension obligation bonds before June of this year in order to fulfill a $600 million "pension pay down" promise made to the city unions in July 2005. Sanders found $107 million of that $600 million by leveraging the city's tobacco settlement. That was one of the very first things he did after taking office, making it clear where his priorities lie - the preservation of his pension benefits.

His insistence upon putting his people in control of bond issuance and all accompanying disclosure documents (with the City Council's abject concurrence) prompted this letter to the SEC  from Mike Aguirre. It is reminiscent of Diann Shipione's 2003 letter to the SEC that propelled San Diego into the national news by this New York Times article that coined the nickname "Enron-by-the-Sea" for the first time.

I watched the City Council debate the DPWG issue on Tuesday January 22, 2008, and the hour and a half debate by the Audit Committee on Monday January 28, 2008. Clearly it is of fundamental importance to how this city will be managed for some time to come.

Here is a video synopsis
of the City Council debate, largely showing the arguments against giving the Mayor voting control of the Disclosure Practices Working Group (DPWG) as there really wasn't any arguments put forward in favor of the Proposition other than that the Mayor wanted it. The compliant City Council, with the sole exception of Donna Frye, rolled over and gave him everything he wanted.

That action seems to have been the last straw for Aguirre who fired off his letter to the SEC.

The Mayor may come to regret not having listened to Aguirre who has for several weeks behind the scenes been cautioning the Mayor and Council about the dangers of repeating the stupidity of past efforts to hide the pension liability from the rating agencies. Yet that is exactly what Sanders and the City Council are now doing. They are all trying to protect their own excessive pension benefits from Aguirre.

Here are some video highlights from the Audit Committee debate:

Toni Atkins rudely interrupted John McNally, the DPWG's outside disclosure counsel and one of the top securities lawyer in the country, when he dared express the opinion that Aguirre's disclosure concerns were genuine and not political
as the Mayor has unfairly asserted.

It is not the first time Audit Committee chairman Faulconer had to try to put a good face on Atkins' rudeness. She once walked out of an Audit Committee meeting because Aguirre even mentioned the SEC.

McNally went on to explain to Atkins that whenever the chief legal officer of a city has serious  reservations about that city's disclosure, it is "problematic". He further explained that Aguirre was more concerned about the false assertion that the City is in compliance with the actuary requirement, than with the fact that there is not a contract with an actuary, which can be remedied. McNally seemed to agree.

The truth of the matter is that both Sanders, a city pensioner himself, and the current City Council, dominated as it is by the perpetrators of the previous pension securities fraud, do not want an independent actuary poking around in SDCERS files.

Here Aguirre explains why that has become a problem . SDCERS is flat out refusing to provide essential pension information to the public and this Mayor and present City Council are helping it do that.

So now it is up to Sanders. Will he back off and avoid repeating the disclosure frauds of Dick Murphy? Or is he, like Murphy, a slave to the "strong union form of government" this city has endured for decades? 

Somehow I think Aguirre and Francis would make a better pair. Aguirre, as a former securities lawyer, would have much more in common with Francis who has led the company he and his wife Gayle founded, AMN Healthcare Inc. to become a top rated company on Wall Street. I can't imagine Mr. Francis having difficulty understanding the strategic advantages of total transparency in financial disclosures.

Members of Sanders' top staff may yet have better judgment than their boss. Surely a man of Jay Goldstone's long governmental experience must recognize that one must "know when to hold them and know when to fold them". In this instance, as in Sunroad, Aguirre has the better hand. He has already forced them to rewrite their 2005 CAFR.

I am now a Franciscan - a Steve Franciscan that is. 01/25/08


                                  by Pat Flannery                               top^

Robert “Robbie” Robinson gave me the heads-up that Mayoral Candidate Steve Francis would attend last night's meeting of the Broadway Heights Neighborhood Council, of which Mr. Robinson has been chair for the past 15 years - since 1992. That is Mr. Robinson, with his trademark cap, seated at the red-covered table.

Mega-rich white guy Steve Francis seemed as much at home among this largely African-American neighborhood group, in the familyroom of our very gracious host, who also  happened to be African-American, as he would be in mega-rich Rancho Santa Fe rich guy's mansion.

He bonded with these ordinary working folk in this mixed ethnic neighborhood in a way you would not expect from a person who has wrung the bell in the New York Stock Exchange. Neither money nor color had any place in that room last night.

Whether Mr. Francis realizes it or not, and I suspect he does, this is exactly what San Diego needs right now. We need to bridge the various "divides". Francis spoke of more than just the North of 8 - South of 8 physical divide. He has ideas about how to bridge the economic divide and bring about a true urban renaissance. He wants to attract investment into disadvantaged areas. He used the word "underserved" several times last night.

He spoke of more than just economic enterprise zones, he spoke of simple things like encouraging people to open bank accounts instead of going to check cashing places on Friday evening. He spoke of the outreach work the big banks should be doing. He spoke of using the City's franchising power to enable start-up wireless Internet service providers.

According to Francis we all have a moral responsibility to bridge both racial and economic divides. I suspect a Francis administration would have the best and the brightest from all colors and races. He said talent is not the prerogative of any ethnic or social background.

He wants to "put meat on the bone" in the form of real things like a Quality of Life Fund. What a concept. Actual money for "quality of life".

I was told privately that this was not his first foray South of 8. Apparently some weeks ago he walked a crime-ridden neighborhood with a certain local man, just the two of them.

He was asked searching questions last night and seemed prepared to stay until midnight if they wanted him to. He just walked around and spoke to each one as if they were the only one in the room. He gave very direct answers, never evasive, actually seemed to be enjoying the most challenging questions, like their concerns were his concerns.

One of those concerns was the need for more living wage jobs. He agreed that bridging the economic divide is not going to happen by creating thousands of low-paying jobs. Health care is a right not a privilege he said. He supports the living wage ordinance! Only a political candidate who does not have to go cap in hand to business interests could say that. It convinced me that Francis is his own man.

His answer to the final question of the night was the most telling. A lady asked if this was not all an act to get into office and that when he attained power he would be just like the others. He thought for a moment, then said:

"But this is the way I am". You'd have to be there, to feel the body-language in the room, his sincerity got to me and others. I am now a Franciscan. The guy is for real.


Marti Emerald: herald of change. Here comes the Troubleshooter. 01/25/08


                                  by Pat Flannery                               top^

"Marti Emerald begins the campaign for the 7th District City Council seat with an overwhelming lead, demonstrating initial support and favorable ratings that exceed anything we have seen in an open-seat race." 

So says this
Poll released this morning. It was commissioned by her campaign.

It suggests that Marti may be able to win outright in the June primary.

But it could also work against her. It could trigger a massive inflow of money into

the Boling campaign. April is the long-time darling of the downtown "old guard". They are not going to give up Jim Madaffer's conservative stronghold without a fight.

Even if only half of this polling data is true (campaign-commissioned polls are not necessarily push-polls, it's just that candidates tend to release only the favorable ones) it is still a powerful indicator of the mood of District 7, if not the whole city. It is clear that San Diegans, both Republican and Democrat, want change. "Troubleshooter" Marti Emerald has impeccable "change" credentials, while Boling is an establishment figure.

This "herald of change" may be good news for Stephen Whitburn in D3 and Sherri Lightner in D1. Both are perceived as the "change" candidates in their Districts. Carl DeMaio is struggling to portray himself as an agent of change while remaining embedded in the old conservative establishment.

Steve Francis on the other hand has caught the mood of the people by refusing all donations in order to demonstrate that he is beholden to nobody, not even Doug Manchester. Maybe DeMaio, who has substantial means of his own, should have done the same. His proudly displayed contributor list is fast becoming his biggest negative. 

Most San Diegans now realize that for decades they have been governed by powerful insiders, not just unions and developers, but a cadre of diverse special interests, who by banding together to control the politicians, succeeded in putting their pensions and corporate profits above the welfare of the city.

This disempowerment of the old power elite will be the story of the next few years. This is not a Democrat or Republican issue. There is a wind of change blowing across this country and both parties need to trim their political sails accordingly.

According to this particular survey: "
Republican voters overwhelmingly support Emerald 54 percent to 22 percent, while she carries 63 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of Decline-to-State voters." When 54% of Republicans support a "change" Democrat, anywhere, something big is in the air. Insiders are out and outsiders are in.


An Independent City Actuary is anathema to Scott Peters. 01/22/08


                                  by Pat Flannery                               top^

Scott Peters told the City Council
today that "it would be a cold day in Hades" before he would support funding an Independent City Actuary.

Here is page 19 from his Kroll testimony where he seems to have no problem with it. Was he being coy with the Kroll investigators or has he since changed his mind? My guess is the former. He is and always was a shill for the City unions and their pension benefits.

Stymied by Peters and his union-appointed friends at SDCERS, the City Attorney's office has essentially taken over the role of the Independent City Actuary. Using nothing more than the powerful Public Records Act the City Attorney has uncovered most of the embarrassing data that Peters and his union backers would prefer stay hidden. That information was supposed to be provided by an Independent City Actuary.

Peters and his friends would love to de-fund not only the Independent Actuary but the Independent City Attorney and the Independent City Auditor. Insider union control has ruled San Diego City Hall for decades. Now that they have seen what an Independent City Attorney can do they are desperate to put the "Independent" genie back in the bottle.

It is a bit lame for Peters to dress up his opposition to an Independent Actuary in righteous indignation about "incredible overruns". If he is genuinely concerned about "incredible overruns" at City Hall, I can provide him with a long list, many of which he supported. Methinks the Council President doth protest too much.


Resolving our wildlands-urban interface problem together. 01/20/08


                                  by Pat Flannery                               top^

This map was received by the City on or about September 17, 2007. Mayor Sanders was then supposed to hold a public review within 30 days. But the first we heard about it was last week when City Attorney Michael Aguirre revealed it at a press conference.

Mr. Aguirre explained to me that a new State law requires that the City of San Diego, like all other jurisdictions in California, must have an Ordinance in place before July 1, 2008, taking full responsibility
for fire protection in the wildland-urban interface.

In addition to the Ordinance deadline of July 1, 2008, he pointed out that the City had a legal responsibility
to involve the public in a full and open review and that the Ordinance itself was a "Process 5", i.e. it requires a lengthy legislative process that cannot be left to the last minute. He referred me to the following section in the State Government Code:

.5.  Within 30 days after receiving a transmittal from the director that identifies very high fire hazard severity zones, a local agency shall make the information available for public review. The information shall be presented in a format that is understandable and accessible to the general public, including, but not limited to, maps."

I went to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection web site, read up on the whole thing and retrieved
this map, which constituted the "transmittal from the director that identifies very high fire hazard severity zones" referred to in Code Section 51178.5.

I noticed that the map contains this note in the legend: "The version dated September 17, 2007 of the map shown here represents draft VHFHSZs within LRA, for review and comment by local government."

Why did Mayor Sanders and Bill Anderson sit on it since September? Planning Chief Bill Anderson would have known about such a map as it will become part of the General Plan. Why was it not made available to the forty-two Community Planning Groups?

I think we need to have that public debate now. This important discussion should not be confined to a few. We all have a stake in how we resolve our wildlands-urban interface problem. A quick look at the above map shows we have plenty to worry about. We need to work together on this. Next time we may not be so lucky.


Donna Frye discloses her ambitions at Whitburn fundraiser. 01/19/08


                                  by Pat Flannery                               top^

I went to a fundraiser for Stephen Whitburn at Ian Trowbridge's home in Mission Hills last night. Whitburn is running for District 3. It was a feast of scuttlebutt for us policy wonks.

It was an opportunity to talk politics with a surprisingly large group of political savants. I spoke to as many as possible and picked up as much scuttlebutt as I could.

Donna Frye was the featured speaker. She and Bob Filner are among Whitburn's impressive list of backers.

That is Jane Filner, Bob's wife, bottom left in the picture opposite. Jane is probably the best fundraiser in San Diego County, but she has drawn criticism largely because she possesses that very ability.

For many years she was her husband's main fundraiser. But starting this year Members of Congress can no longer employ members of their own family as paid staff. That is probably a good thing, but fundraising is more than a staff job. The message seems to be "if you know the best fundraiser around, don't marry her". Bob's loss is Steve's gain.

Donna Frye has been keeping her cards close to her chest for some time but now seems to have made the tough decisions and is willing to openly share her political ambitions with anybody who asks. Last night we asked. She shared with us that what she really wants is to be Council President after Peters and then County Supervisor.

She is an experienced legislator and would be excellent in both jobs. She takes her work very seriously and does her homework, literally. She is to be found most weekends pouring over backup material for the various items on the following week's Council Docket. I am constantly amazed at the depth of her knowledge of even the most mundane items.

Her eagle eye would be invaluable in managing the Council's business, which is the role of the Council President. Under her Presidency, City staff would know that they must provided complete and timely information for the Council to make informed decisions. There has been much game-playing with information in the past. It became an art.

So it looks like Ms. Frye will be a political force in San Diego County well into the future. It is a great compliment to Stephen Whitburn that she sees in him the kind of personal honesty and political steadfastness she craves for in a new-look City Council. 2008 will be a watershed year for San Diego. Let's hope personal qualities will prevail over corporate greed. Let's hope honesty will replace the dollar as our political currency.


Close encounters of the scary kind. 01/17/08


                                  by Pat Flannery                               top^

The People won a timely victory at City Hall on Monday night. But it was a close call.
John Davies and his "San Diegans for City Hall Reform" came within one vote of making our City Council irrelevant for decades to come.

This "Reform" organization raised $1,008,225 between Jan. and Dec. 2006 and $68,349 between January and June 2007, to finance its power grab.

"The Committee" has not yet filed its Form 460 for July to December 2007.

Here is how John Davies pointedly warned the City Council that his Committee colleagues "had reached the end of their threshold of pain" . He actually used that intimidating language on the City Council. That is the language of
"coups d'état", not democracy. You don't threaten the legislative body in a free republic. This is very close to fascism.

Who are these people? Here is the list of subscribers for that $1,008,225 raised between January and December 2006 and for that $68,349 between January and June 2007. It is the same special interests that are behind Sanders and DeMaio.

They are mostly small service providers seeking sweetheart contracts with the City and a few powerful insiders willing to pay big bucks to have their big "entitlements" expedited through the City permitting processes, like Doug Manchester at the Navy Broadway Complex and Aaron Feldman at Sunroad.

It is Chicago-style corruption with Madison Avenue glitz.

Here is how "The Committee" spent its $1 million in 2006. Fundraiser Jean Freelove raked in $168,132 while political consultant Tom Shepard received $71,567. Freelove and Shepard fulfill the same role for Sanders. Hmmm.

"The Committee" was first formed as a "Controlled, Primarily Formed Ballot Measure Recipient Committee" in 2006 and morphed into a "General Purpose Recipient Committee" after the 2006 November election. Unlike
a "Candidate Controlled Recipient Committee" these General Purpose Committees can raise unlimited corporate funds. They have become the ultimate "special interest" tool.

This aggressive group uses "Reform" as its flag of convenience. It really is the "Committee to take over San Diego" - a power grab pure and simple.

Its ambitious scheme comports perfectly with Council President Peters' scorched earth policy as he maneuvers to cover his exit from City Hall. He is by far the most likely elected official to be singled out by the the SEC as its municipal Ken Lay. Like Lay he had the brains and privilege but he put it to the wrong use. Enron-by-the-Sea may soon have its own Ken Lay - from La Jolla.

Here is Peters using his Council President's bully pulpit to co-opt Councilmembers Kevin Faulconer and Jim Madaffer into coming to the aid of "San Diegans for City Hall Reform". Together they tried to get the rest of the City Council to hand "The Committee" a 75% mayoral veto starting January 1, 2009, two months after Peters, Madaffer, Atkins and Maeinschein leave office.

These four are terrified of Aguirre remaining as City Attorney after they have gone. They should be. They also have much to fear from the SEC because they hid the huge City's pension liability from bond investors. But most of all they should fear The People. Because of their consistent lies while in office, this city has the worst infrastructure of any major city in America - it has practically no firefighting capability, one hundred year old water mains and severely potholed streets.

They should not be allowed anywhere near elected office ever again. At the very least, they should follow their colleague Dick Murphy into disgraced obscurity.

Perhaps that's why Maeinschein announced this week that he is going to run for City Attorney, to protect himself and his colleagues. It may be their only chance.

Aguirre calls this behavior "adverse domination". While these people remain in office they will seek to "adversely dominate" the City Council. Now Maeinschein hopes to "adversely dominate" the City Attorney's office.

Tony Young is not buying any of it . He told "The Committee" what it could do with its money. Before the vote was taken, Davies fired off one last salvo at the Council .

Frye reacted magnificently. "Bring it on" she said! In telling Davies what she thought about his unelected Committee, she made it official: she is not running for Mayor and will be free to fight "The Committee's" power grab "all day long".

I was greatly encouraged by the appearance of one Council hopeful, Stephen Whitburn, who is running in District 3. He was the only Council candidate to speak. It shows that he understood what was at stake . If the voters elect "people" candidates, Republican or Democrat, not "corporate" candidates like DeMaio, whose campaign list is a carbon copy of "The Committee", we may yet preserve our democracy.

On that note here is my
own contribution . There were far better speakers than I, so please forgive the vanity, but it was out of genuine concern for our democracy.

Then came the moment of truth. Peters began to realize that he did not have the five votes. Atkins was wavering. What would have happened if Ben Hueso had been present, only Hueso knows. Peters reported that he really was "very sick" and "unable to speak", which makes me very suspicious about how Hueso would have voted. If Peters tried so hard to have him there .. draw your own conclusions.

Here is the final vote . "The Committee" got four - a close call. We came within one vote of losing our democracy. Peters, Madaffer, Maeinschein and unbelievably Faulconer, voted to disenfranchise the voters who elected them!

Davies has actually gone on record as saying that the Council should be reduced to seven, not enlarged to nine. Democracy and these people does not mix.

The veto override question will now have to wait until what is known as the "sunset package" in 2010. The people will be asked whether to make the strong mayor permanent, whether to expand the City Council from eight to nine and at THAT TIME, whether the Mayor should have a veto at all and if so, what should be required to override it. The whole thing will be put forward as a package in 2010.

It is a victory for those of us who feared what Sanders would do with a 75% override veto, with no guarantee that the Council will ever be expanded to nine. Sanders is only interested in serving the special interests on this


High Noon - Monday at 6:00 PM - City Hall.  01/13/08


                                  by Pat Flannery                               top^

Tomorrow evening at 6:00 PM, Mayor Sanders at the head of a strange union/developer coalition of special interests, will march into San Diego's City Chamber to strip the Legislature of all meaningful authority. What is planned is nothing short of a
"coups d'état" under the guise of "City Hall Reform".

Heading the union part of this "reform" coalition, police chief Bill Lansdowne may turn up in dress uniform, complete with braided cap and side arm. Police and fire personnel expect to be the biggest beneficiaries of Sanders' enhanced mayoral powers. For their support, the police and fire unions hope to get huge salary increases in 2008 and have their retroactive pension "rights" validated. That should be easy for Sanders as he was one of the chief beneficiaries of pension benefit retroactivity. His "multiplier" was backdated over 20 years from 2.5 to 3.

It is not hyperbole to call the recommendations of this Strong Mayor Charter Review Committee a "
utsch", when you consider what it is they are "pushing". Here are their main proposals, most of which have already been found "acceptable" by Council President Peters, some Councilmembers and IBA Tevlin:

  1. Allow the City Auditor to be appointed by the Mayor.

  2. Require a two-thirds Council majority to override a mayoral veto.

  3. Change the Audit Committee to consist of only 2 members of the City Council (currently 3), one of whom shall serve as Chair, and 3 "members of the public".

  4. Define the "civil client" of the City Attorney as the "municipal corporation".

  5. Allow any City entity to retain outside legal counsel.

  6. Remove the need for Council confirmation of the City Treasurer.

Allowing a City Mayor to appoint a City Auditor is unheard of in local government circles. The five largest cities in America elect their auditor.

The San Diego proposals turn the concept of "best practice" on its head. They make Enron's internal controls look positively exemplary in comparison.

Requiring a two-thirds vote to override a mayoral veto in an eight-seat City Council means six Council votes. That is 75%. An impossible legislative hurdle.

Expanding the City Council in 2010 to nine would bring the "six" requirement down to 66.66%. But Sanders wants his 75% override now. If he gets it, he and his backers would undoubtedly campaign against any City Council expansion in 2010. Why would they give up their their 75% veto stranglehold? Additionally, it is unlikely that voters would approve money to expand an unpopular City Council. 

If this
Sanders/union/developer coalition achieve that 75% veto override, they need only control three votes on the City Council to rule San Diego with an iron fist. The most likely three votes are: Kevin Faulkoner, already seated in District 2, Carl DeMaio, running in District 5 and April Boling, running in District 7. All three are solid Sanders supporters because they share his campaign contributors.

Even if this coalition fails to take District 7, it still owns Tony Young in District 4. Tony knows that those who will "do it with you" can "do it to you". He knows that the BIA will do to him what they did to George Stevens, pick a fresh guy and get a Council seat on the cheap - if he forgets who put him on the City Council.

This special interest money is flowing into the campaigns of DeMaio and Boling. Scott Peters' current seat in District 1 is also attracting its share. Both the developers and city unions want to stop the very independent-minded Democrat, Sherri Lightner, from taking that seat. Centrist Sherri suits the free-wheeling voters of La Jolla, University City and Penasquitos, who are not likely to be swayed by outside money. District 3 is largely Democrat but its main constituency, the gay and lesbian community, has warmed to Sanders since his gay marriage flip-flop.

Not only does this Sanders/union/developer coalition want to appoint the City Auditor,
they want to hire and fire his/her staff. Then they want to appoint the Audit Committee to which the Auditor will report!!! They would do that by appointing three "members of the public". I wonder who they might be - all three will no doubt be numbered among those marching into City Chambers tomorrow evening.

The Charter Review Committee recommended that the City Charter specify the "municipal corporation of the City of San Diego" as the City Attorney's "civil client". Any future City Attorney would then be bound by strict attorney-client privilege rules. In the unlikely event that such a mayoral puppet would dare give "wrong" advice, they further recommended that "any City entity" be able to retain an "outside counsel".

The Committee wanted to thus emasculate the Office of City Attorney and ensure that there could never be another Aguirre. But the Mayor and City Council appear to be baulking on that item for now. Sanders' priorities seem to be the 75% veto override, control of the City Auditor and control of the Audit Committee. He wants to secure those before Peters,
Maddafer, Atkins and Maeinschein depart.

So there you have it. This may be your last chance to attend a
Council meeting with any meaning. It is bad enough now, but imagine next year sitting there week after week watching Carl DeMaio, Kevin Faulconer and April Boling play bobble-heads for Sanders. That's where we're headed if Sanders gets his "Reforms".

If "We the People" allow it to happen, we will enter a dark age in San Diego history. Let's hope enough people care. If you care, turn up on Monday evening.

If you wish to fully understand what is at stake, read the supporting documents for tomorrow's meeting. Here is the Agenda and back-up material, Part 1 and Part 2. This "
utsch" has to be defeated. Four City Councilors, who will be gone within a year, stand ready to sell out to Sanders tomorrow night. This four, who have sold out before, should not be making critical decisions for future generations.


Democracy San Diego style. 01/09/08


                                  by Pat Flannery                               top^

Read the "employer" column on Carl DeMaio's latest Contributions filing. It  reads like a roll call of the special interests that have controlled San Diego for decades. And Carl is going to Reform City Hall? Hmmm.

Here is DeMaio with Bill Kollendar and Bonnie Dumanis. He fits right in, doesn't he?. Look at the zip codes of his
Contributors. There are very few from District 5.

San Diego went to district-only elections to end this buying of City Councilmembers by outside money interests. The City Council was to be elected by local people, but something went terribly wrong.

Now, for even less "investment" than in the bad old days of citywide elections, relatively small special interest groups like the Firefighters Union and the Building Industry Association can own one or more Councilmembers on the cheap.  Democracy San Diego style.

Tony Young was elected in District 4 with only 6,911 votes in 2004 and with 10,275 in 2006, representing 162,500 people! That allowed Republican BIA, with an eye for a bargain, to step in and sponsor Democrat Young in both elections. They now own him lock stock and barrel, as evidenced by his voting record.

The BIA was able to purchase a Councilmember for less than the price of a truck. The good people of District 4 got screwed as those in District 5 will, if they don't come up with a real District 5 candidate. DeMaio, like Tony Young, will represent the special money interests that paid for his campaign - you dance with the one that brung ya.

Currently there are only two candidates running in District 5, Carl DeMaio and Bob Ilko, both Republicans. Mitz Lee, also a Republican, dropped out because she felt a strong sense of responsibility to the School District to which she had been elected in 2004 and for which she had served as Vice President. Rather than switch to the City Council she decided to remain with the District and run for reelection in December 2008.

From January to June of 2007 Attorney Bob Ilko raised $2,640, mostly from his own family. DeMaio in the same period raised $56,169 from outside business interests and matched it with $55,899 of his own money. Ilko hasn't yet turned in his second half 2007 contributions but DeMaio has. He raised $92,365 and matched it with $92,365 of his own. You need an awful lot of popular support to fight off that kind of outside money - otherwise it will be more democracy San Diego style, more pay-to-play politics.

DeMaio only recently moved into District 5. Surely his new home, Rancho Bernardo, the ultimate "burbs", is the last place a gay man would want to live. Isn't there anybody, Democrat or Republican, in Rancho Bernardo, Mira Mesa or Scripps Ranch who cares enough about their communities to fight to represent them at City Council?

Richard Rider says: "Carl needs not to just win, but to CRUSH any opponents". All that money just to crush Ilko? A moderate Republican? Is moderation so bad Richard?

Come on District 5, give DeMaio and his outside money machine something to really CRUSH - local democracy as it was intended to be. Clearly it will take a lot more than "moderation" to beat the outside money takeover DeMaio calls "reform". Is this the future for sleepy San Diego? Is this why DeMaio moved here from DC? I knew we were asleep but I didn't think we were dead.


Why we must have an elected City Auditor. 01/06/08


                                  by Pat Flannery                               top^

Read this newly-released "2008 Annual Report on Internal Controls". John Torrell, the previous City Auditor, quit last year infuriated when Fred Sainz, the Mayor's media guy, rewrote vital parts of his 2007 Annual Audit Report.
Our new Mayor-appointed City Auditor, Eduardo Luna, seems more amenable to such political management.

I read the entire Report and Exhibits. It is full of empty rhetoric, lots of praise for the Mayor but little real information, like it was written by a press officer not by an accountant. Perhaps Sainz wrote the whole thing himself this year. Why not?

Watch Sanders present Luna's Audit Report to the people of San Diego Friday. Luna stands dutifully on the Mayor's right while his $250,000 per year Chief Operating Officer boss, Jay Goldstone, stands eager to serve on his left. The whole thing as usual was stage-managed by Fred Sainz. He politely thanked everybody for their attention.

Sanders has thus surrounded himself with well-chosen staff who are willing to take the money and do the bidding of the man who hired them.

His current Chief of Ethics and Integrity, Jo Ann Sawyer-Knoll, is a perfect example. She knows all about serving men in high places. She was Alan Bersin's dutiful lawyer for the School District from 1998 to 2003.

She now earns $150,000 working for Sanders. But does anybody know what she actually does? Perhaps she gives ethics lessons to senior staffers like Janice Weinrick? Or perhaps she helps
Jill Olen "investigate" how staff trainer Jill Olen could have handed out "cheat sheets" to the 8,000 City employees required to pass an emergency-management exam so that the City could receive a Homeland Security grant? That's right, Sanders appointed Olen to investigate Olen. But Sawyer-Knoll knows exactly how to handle such delicate tasks. She did the Sunroad "investigation".

Speaking of Sunroad,
remember this picture?

This lineup of judges, San Diego Sheriff, Bill Kollendar, DA, Bonnie Dumanis and Police Chief Bill Lansdowne, as they stood with the Mayor to block Aguirre's case against Tom Story, the ex-City planner and ex-Mayoral Chief of Staff turned developer as a Vice President of Sunroad, for allegedly breaching §27.3501 of the San Diego Municipal Code. Here is what that Section says:

"It is unlawful for any former City Official who received compensation from the City to work on a particular project during his or her City service to engage in direct communication with the City, for compensation, with regard to any pending application for discretionary funding or discretionary entitlements before the City relating to that particular project on behalf of any person other than a Public Agency for a one year period immediately following termination of service with the City."

According to emails widely circulated at the time, Tom Story was in flagrant breach of that law, yet the above lineup of judges and law enforcement officers conspired to defeat the law. When you disagree with such people you have a "conflict of interest", which is what they accused Aguirre of having. It's a conflict of interest alright, between those who put up the money to elect judges and DAs and us lowly taxpayers.

This old power elite will fight like demons against a charter change to an elected City Auditor. They will even try to abolish an elected City Attorney. They aim to regain ownership of the Attorney's Office and put a "place-man" in the Auditor's office.

It is easy to see why. Can you imagine what would happen if somebody like Aguirre became City Auditor? How many financial skeletons would come tumbling out of the financial closet? Aguirre put a stop to the giveaways and has been rummaging in the legal closet ever since getting elected three years ago. He is still discovering skeletons.

Getting back to the sham Audit Report, the East Coast rating agencies and financial markets will not buy the self-serving platitudes Sanders feeds to the people of San Diego. This is what the
Wall Street Journal had to say about San Diego last week in a major year-end editorial. Our laid-back City has an abysmal reputation in the financial world and Sanders' laid-back bonhomie will not impress the gnomes of Wall Street.

He wants to borrow billions of dollars this year to placate the unions by paying down their (union-created) pension debt and to repair our aging infrastructure. But he comes across as an ex-cop who is in over his managerial head.

Wall Street does not believe that this City is serious about its finances. It believes right. We lost an excellent City Auditor in Torrell. I remember how reassuring it felt having John on the other end of the telephone, being just as curious as I was to find out what was going on with Dennis Kahlie's strange $152 million private bond placement with the "Banc" of America. I still don't know the truth about that deal, but I haven't forgotten. The moment Sanders was elected everything shut down.

The Golding/Gwinn years were the good old days of secret giveaways. Control of the City's finances must be wrested from those shady insiders who have been keeping two sets of books for decades. We got a brief glimpse behind the curtain under John Torres. We now need to make it permanent. We need a free spirit like Aguirre as City Auditor.


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