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Blog Archives - 2005 Second Quarter

 
Jerry Sanders is quite the businessman - 06/30/05
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The Reader's lead article today (written by Matt Potter and Don Bauder) deals with Jerry Sanders' business association with William Robert "Bob" Bradley who is "fighting charges that he skimmed money from a troubled company he co-founded, Metabolife International, and stashed the loot in offshore tax havens."

They tell how: "both Sanders and Bradley own 10 percent of a small venture capital firm, Virtual Capital of California. Until he went on leave to run for mayor last month, Sanders was president of Virtual".

The remainder of the piece is mostly about "being remotely connected with a player in one of San Diego's juiciest drug, tax, and business scandals can't be helpful to a politician who would be mayor. Although he blasts city hall's "culture of secrecy" and calls for "increased accountability" and "transparent government," Sanders refused to be interviewed for this story".

Potter and Bauder interviewed Sanders' partner, Tom Stickel, and got him to tell the names of the original shareholders of Virtual Capital of California:
  1. Tom Stickel - 25%
  2. Titan Corporation - 10%
  3. Dr. John Littlejohn of Colorado Springs - 10%
  4. Richard Torykian of Wall Street's Lazard Freres - 20%
  5. Irvine's Les P. Barkley - 5%
  6. V. Wayne Kennedy, retired senior vice president of business and finance of the U-Cal system - 10%

But they did not find out from whom Sanders and Bradley, who now own 10% each, bought their shares. Did Sanders pay cash? Whose shares did he buy?

I agree with Potter and Bauder that Sanders is not exactly a forthright guy and would hardly deliver "open government".

My own inquiries (prior to today's Reader article) had determined that Virtual Capital of California is registered in the State of California as an LLC and is constituted as a Delaware corporation. Nothing wrong with that, I was just curious.

Virtual Capital's web site gave the address 750 B. Street, Suite 2320, Symphony Towers downtown. So I went down there (last week) and was given a prospectus for Coronado First Bank (In Organization). Hmmmm.

The prospectus boasts of having ex-police chief Jerry Sanders as one of its Directors and says that these Directors will receive share options on 30% of the common stock.

Perhaps Matt Potter and Don Bauder will do a piece next week about Coronado First Bank (In Organization). Perhaps they will ask Jerry Sanders if becoming Mayor will  interfere with his banking career in any way. Just a thought.
 

The 10th Floor is in constant closed session - 06/29/05

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This city is a tough place to own a conscience, when it is a sin not to go along with the crowd. Groupthink and herd-mentality is everywhere.
 
It will take more than the sale of City assets or the imposition of a "pension tax" to save this City. It will take the truth!


City and union leaders have been lying about the pension fund numbers since at least 1996, when the city employees' unions agreed to underfund their own pension plan to accommodate Jack McGrory and Susan Golding. The union leaders knew it was illegal and against the interests of their members but it put the city bosses in thrall to them and people like Ann Smith and Judie Italiano liked that.

Smith and Italiano never reckoned on a Mike Aguirre, however. It worked fine so long as they had Casey Gwinn or Paul Pfingst in the City Attorney's office. I shudder to think what would have happened if they had succeeded in electing one of their own, Leslie Devaney, to carry on the tradition. Mike Aguirre's election was a turning point.

But the basic problem is the City Council (or the lack of one).

The Members' offices, together with all their staff should be dispersed out of the downtown 10th Floor of City Hall into their respective City Council Districts.

That 10th Floor warren of long-time insiders has been the breeding ground of much that is wrong with this city. Even if Zucchet and Inzunza are convicted and have to resign their chiefs-of-staff will probably succeed them, either by appointment or by election. Most of the present Council Members are former chiefs-of-staffs. How healthy is that?

This incestuous 10th Floor is in constant closed session. So much for the Brown Act.
 

Jerry Sanders is Murphy II - Thank God for Donna Frye  - 06/24/05
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Like many San Diegans I watched the KUSI mayoral debate last night. It was our first televised opportunity to evaluate the candidates side-by-side.
 
It made good television but distorted the politics behind this very important race. 

The format gave Jerry Sanders a free pass to read his staff-prepared clichéd generalities while it precluded Donna Frye from displaying her vast arsenal of specifics, learned from countless hours on the City Council bench. The other candidates made good points and promoted their respective careers or businesses, but are largely irrelevant.
 
Ms. Frye was able to lean back in her chair, totally comfortable within her own skin, relying on her grasp of the issues, while Sanders had to hunch over his multitudinous, multi-colored staff notes. That spoke volumes to me.
 
The political choice before the people is simple.
 
Sanders is Murphy II. The same back-room people who "appointed" Murphy will control and manipulate Sanders. Donna Frye on the other hand is the people’s candidate. As she said in her closing statement: “you know me”.
 
The big question is: will Madison Avenue-style clichéd generalities beat out substance.
 
By the very nature of things Sanders already has the best spin-doctors (because that is all he has). Frye on the other hand is spin-averse - she has NO spin-doctors - hoping that the truth needs no spin. Perhaps, but alas it may not be that simple in the devious world of politics.
 
To most San Diegans the crucial issue is the City’s relationship with its 10,800 employees.
 
I watched very carefully how Sanders and Frye handled this issue. Sure enough Sanders took his response straight out of the Murphy hymnbook – “negotiate with the unions”.
 
Has he any idea how Ms. Italiano and Ms. Smith “negotiate”? Donna has. She knows that it is hopeless to even think of negotiating with these people and their nominees on the Pension Board (through their former puppet, Murphy). It’s like negotiating with Genghis Khan. That is why she has reluctantly opted for receivership. She knows the power and reach of Italiano, Smith & Co. Now they want a new puppet - Sanders.
 
So what is receivership and how is it different from bankruptcy? Donna needs to explain it a little better, because it is the answer.
 
As I understand it, receivership is appropriate when there is a management problem and bankruptcy is appropriate when there is a financial problem. I think Ms. Frye is right - the pension problem is a management problem.
 
The (union-appointed) Pension Board is stonewalling the City Council. It is like a company’s management stonewalling its shareholders. The shareholders have the right to send in a court-authorized receiver to protect the interests of the shareholders. Donna is attempting to protect the interests of the people of San Diego, but she needs to enlist the aid of a judge or some other expert to explain it to them, to all of us.

The bottom line is that this city’s new Mayor must have the courage and independence to square off with the all-powerful public service employees’ unions – in other words which of the two major candidates are most likely to face down Italiano and Smith.
 
The people have had enough of these incredibly powerful and selfish union bosses, with their proven ability to appoint Mayors, who in turn appoint their chosen ones to the Pension Board. Now they want to appoint another one of their own, Jerry Sanders, as Mayor. If they succeed, this City will indeed face bankruptcy.
 
I don’t know how Donna Frye is going to get that message out, but for the sake of the City, she must. Maybe we should all be wearing buttons saying “Thank God for Donna Frye”. It could be the people's way of facing down union attorney Ann Smith.
 
This City's employees are at war with its citizens - 06/21/05
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I sat at the back of City Hall today and watched city employees, wearing "Thank God for Ann Smith" buttons, cheer their warlord attorney like a bunch of Brown Shirts. It was scary to watch this aggressive body of "privileged" people stand up en masse, clap long and loudly like fanatics and all but give the outstretched hand salute in support of their fiery leader as she strode straight-backed and haughty from the podium.

My own thoughts were: the City Pension Fund is over-benefited, not under-funded.

These people "won" outrageous benefits that bear no relation to what this city can afford or indeed should pay. The City did not steal from the pension fund. It paid a very generous contribution, approximately 16% of payroll every year, way above what most employers in the private sector pay.

Now they want to impose a 12% levy on the property owners of this city or sell off our city parks. Outrageous! Can you imagine a union going to a private company and telling them that? If they are not happy let them try the private sector for a while.

The solution to the City pension problem is to wrap up the defined benefits plan and switch to a defined contribution plan. The City's employees have killed their own golden goose, they have outrageously granted themselves outrageous benefits.

Now they have descending on the unsuspecting people of this city like a horde of bloodthirsty invaders, led by a new breed of warlord, the aggressive attorney.
 
Is Downtown paying its fair share for City services? - 06/16/05
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Watching the City Council painfully scrub the General Fund for a dollar here and a dollar there to pay for the budget shortfall, I was driven to do my own investigation into the city's redevelopment areas and whether they pay their fair share for city services.

I compiled this data from various sources.

A quick glance makes it immediately apparent that five Downtown redevelopment projects receive the bulk of all diverted property tax, called the "tax increment". They are Columbia, Gaslamp, Horton Plaza, Marina and Center City. They received $421 million or 85% of the entire property tax diverted in San Diego City so far. In FY 2003-04 they received $50 million and the amount is growing exponentially every year.

I have tried to estimate the effect on the San Diego city budget.

All property taxes collected in the County remain in the County and are distributed among 465 agencies according to rules created by cumulative tax legislation.

Here is the current allocation pie chart for the County's 1% property tax. You will notice that the biggest recipients are the School Districts who are therefore the biggest losers from what is known as "tax increment" diversion, followed by the County itself and then the combined cities of the County, which of course includes San Diego.

An allocation pie chart for San Diego on its own is not available but assuming the same split as the County, it would receive 11.6% of all property tax within its boundaries.

Assuming further that the allocation would be the same with or without tax diversion (it would undoubtedly be higher but there is no way to estimate what the real estate market would have achieved on its own absent the creation of redevelopment areas) the amount lost to the City in FY 2003-04 would be $8.12 million.

Assuming the sales tax and "room tax" generated in these five areas as a direct result of redevelopment totaled $8.12 million (the State Board of Equalization do not provide a breakdown by area within a city) these projects would be revenue neutral to the city.

Whatever these revenues actually are there remains the issue of unpaid city services, e.g. police and fire. All city services must be paid from the General Fund because redevelopment agencies are prohibited by law from using their "tax increment" revenues for anything other than bonded debt. This has the (presumably unintended) effect of increasing a city's services burden without providing a revenue source.

But there is a solution: - bill the redevelopment areas for the services!

Columbia, Gaslamp, Horton Plaza, Marina and Center City should receive one fair, scientifically apportioned bill for all city services. The city's police and fire protection services for example cost the rest of us a total of approximately $450 million annually.

The city could leave it up to the redevelopment project administrators how they want to pay (so they can’t call it a tax) e.g. by adding it to their redevelopment bonds. They pay for the services of their private partners with bond money, why not the city? Why are city services any different from services such as maintenance by private contractors? Are they not all the direct result of redevelopment, which they were set up to finance?

These five redevelopment areas are certainly not "blighted". They are the most desirable areas in the city and should pay for police and fire protection like the rest of us.
 
The answer to the City Council's audit problem is very simple - 06/15/05
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I don't for one moment believe the latest excuse emanating from the Pension Board for not waiving their attorney-client privilege: that they might get sued personally. If that is truly the case they can avoid liability and do us all a favor by resigning immediately.

Murphy says he could have appointed his friends, but did not. Really! He says he appointed only qualified people. Qualified for what? These people are protecting him. He aggressively led the 2002 fight to remove the Pension Fund's 82.3% underfunding safety net, so John Moores could get his ballpark.

The answer to the City Council's audit problem is very simple.
  1. Pass a resolution calling for the immediate resignation of the entire Pension Board. There is no way Murphy or the Pension Board could resist the authority of such a Council vote. If they did, they would be open to charges of a cover-up. If they think they have legal problems now, let them try that!
  2. New appointees would be required to give a pledge to the Council to waive the attorney-client privileges of the Pension Board and in return be given an undertaking by the City Council that it will indemnify and represent each and every one of them if they are personally sued regarding this waiver.
The City Council could solve the pension problem if they wanted to - 06/10/05
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Last November the voters passed a proposition forcing the replacement of the Pension Board. The City Council let Mayor Murphy handpick a replacement panel committed to sandbagging
the U.S. Attorney and withholding documents needed by our auditors.

The City Council can override Murphy's crooked appointments and replace them with civic minded people who will open the books to our auditors. What's keeping them?
 
Have we lost our city forever to the developers? - 06/08/05

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City Manager Lamont Ewell wrote a fatuous op-ed piece in today’s Union-Tribune revealing much of what has happened to our city over the last few years.

Ewell owes his job to Dick Murphy (city management is not a meritocracy) who in turn owes his job to Corky McMillin and John Moores. These two developers have owned the Mayor’s Office and the City Manager's Office for the last several years.

Reading Ewell’s piece this morning is like reading a joint press release from the McMillin/Moores organizations.

Ewell writes: “Critics conveniently blame the underfunding of the city employees' pension fund as the primary cause for the proposed reductions in services. In reality, our fiscal challenges are not just a result of the pension underfunding. The pension problem is one result of past practices where money that should have gone into the pension system was used to keep unfunded city services running.”

The script is exactly the same as the one given to the public employee union leaders whom, through Murphy, McMillin and Moores also own. The message is clear and well orchestrated - we the citizens now owe the employees and it is time to pay up.

According to Ewell we get to pay for the Developers Ball and we will go on paying.

He then goes on to give the developers' philosophy of good government – fee for service and pay-as-you-go: “Two years ago, we (interesting that) recommended the development of a fee-based program to be applied to those who could afford to pay. This would have allowed us more options in addressing other needs within the city. Regrettably, this concept, which is in place in other communities, was rejected.

So, according to our City Manager:

  1. It is we the citizens that have underfunded our city services, not he that has underfunded the pension scheme.
  2. We must get used to the fact that most city tax revenues have already been "dedicated" to pay for redevelopment projects involving partners like McMillin and Moores, forcing us to pay for our services as we go.
     
The timing of this op-ed piece, the day after we were treated to a day-long wrangle by an almost irrelevant City Council over such bones as a $2 entrance fee to the Botanical Building in Balboa Park, demonstrates very clearly how our city has degenerated from a provider of public services, funded by traditional real estate and sales taxes, to a feudal principality of billionaire developers, funded by the diversion of taxes irrevocably dedicated to their private “projects”, managed by men like Ewell who are lined up to become highly paid employees of said developers (once they attain city pension rights).

All that remains is a trickle of revenue for the general fund. It has all been dammed upstream by robber-baron "developers" like McMillin and Moores.

San Diegans desperately need to fund their own citizen audit of the city budget.

For example, in addition to the property tax diversion, Moores' 26 city block fiefdom around the ballpark will receive a $9.5 million diversion of Transient Occupancy Tax for 2005, with a projected $18 million for 2006. It's not just the property tax increment that is being diverted, they are now eating into our TOT and God knows what else.

How are we ever going to get our city back? A good start would be to go in and get the real numbers. It is our money and we are entitled to know what's happening to it.
 
Business must be regulated by good government - 06/03/05
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San Diego is heading for a full-scale war between City employees and the people, unless the unions sit down with Mayor-to-be Donna Frye and work this out - now.

They may already be trapped either way.

If a judge rules that their pension benefits are illegal, Murphy will not be there to protect them; if found to be legal, their very victory may be turned against them.

The other mayoral candidates will gleefully allege excessive power of the public service unions as their excuse to privatize everything. It will then be too late to turn to Donna.

First to go will be the Parks and Recreation Department. Instead of city employees we will be confronted by a pack of private fee collectors at every park entrance. And that will only be the beginning. The city will be run by a multitude of "businessmen" for their own personal profit, with payoffs to corrupt politicians, as in third world countries.

The MEA needs to rein in Ann Smith. Firefighters Local 145 needs to rein in Saathoff. They have overplayed their hands. They need to listen to Donna who will explain to them what is possible and what is sheer bravado, bordering on suicide. Ann Smith thinks she can force the City to shed assets to cover the pension shortfall, a Republican Mayor may prefer to shed employees by privatizing services.

Murphy gave the City's public service unions everything they asked and more. In return they did not question his giveaways to his redevelopment cronies, such as the ballpark. The "Defined Benefit" pension plan was the perfect feeding trough, but it may backfire.

The unions need to understand that they have been living in a false paradise. Now they must face reality. That face is Donna Frye. She is a working class girl but she is also the people's representative. Donna is deeply committed to fair labor practices but is also deeply committed to the people. That is why they will vote for her in great numbers.

Murphy was the stooge of everybody who called themselves pro-business. For him, like many Republicans, greed is good and government is bad. But the business of government is different from the business of business. That is why Murphy failed.

Donna Frye's ability to talk to the unions as their friend may be all that is between us and Tijuana style city government. Our way of governing cities and the very survival of public service unions may be at stake. The union bosses need to pause and think.
 
Time for Donna to show Mayoral style leadership - 06/01/05
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Donna Frye, as the likely next Mayor, will need a clear mandate from the people.

Therefore she needs to compile a comprehensive plan to put the City's finances back in order without resorting to bankruptcy (assuming the bankruptcy court would even hear our case). The reason we can't borrow money for capital projects is not that we are broke but because Mayor Murphy lied to Wall Street. We seem to have forgotten.

Here (for what it is worth) is my own analysis:
  1. The budget deficit was not caused on the expense side and therefore cannot be fixed on the expense side. It can only be fixed on the revenue side.
  2. The budget deficit and the pension problems are two entirely separate issues.

Here (for what they are worth) are my own proposals:

  1. Outlaw partnerships with redevelopment agencies (all design and construction work can easily be done by contractors, under competitive bid).
  2. Establish a "Defined Contribution" pension plan for new hires and make it optional for existing employees.

First, redevelopment agencies:   ideally redevelopment agencies should be abolished altogether. But the very least that must be done immediately is to outlaw the type of partnership deals that were done with John Moores and Corky McMillin.

Donna needs to focus our attention on the massive amounts of property tax revenues (the so-called "tax increment") that is being diverted away from the City's general fund into the coffers of the growing number of redevelopment agencies. This huge diversion of vital revenues is the primary cause of our deficit problems.

A redevelopment agency does not need a private partner! Does the U.S. Department of Defense own its bases with development partners? Does the State of California own its roads with the construction companies who built them?

In the murky world of public-private partnerships, only the private partner wins.

In addition to runaway tax diversion there has been runaway redevelopment bond creation, halted only by the City getting caught hiding pension underfunding. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise. Now we have to look at the whole issue of bond financing.

All future bonds, including all redevelopment bonds, should require a vote of the people. Right now redevelopment bonds do not need it.

Second, pension underfunding:   this will not be solved by benefit roll backs. It is the very concept of Defined Benefit plans that is the problem. These plans have serious flaws which is a national issue not just a San Diego issue. They are a walking conflict of interest from start to finish.

It is unlikely that any benefit increases will be found illegal. The decision making bodies of this City are all comprised of City employees one way or another. It has been impossible for the City to make any decision regarding pension benefits without a conflict of interest. Mike Aguirre probably will not succeed here besides it will take forever.

The answer is to change to a "Defined Contribution" plan. The existing "Benefits" plan should be frozen in place until all the facts are determined and the legal issues are resolved. No more funds should be put into it until the City's exact liability is known.

It was the City employees' own representatives who screwed up the "benefits" plan. They were too easily bought off by the politicians. Now we need to extricate the City.

Starting immediately all pension contributions should be put into a Special Trust Fund until the rogue Pension Board release all the documents they have been withholding from our auditors. If we are paying for something we have a right to know about it.

Donna Frye should "persuade" Mike Aguirre to redirect his considerable investigative talents away from the City employee unions to the area of redevelopment abuse, in other words to the revenue side of the problem.

Mike should let Bonnie Dumannis deal with the 1090 issue (now that she has finally taken it up). He deserves enormous credit for having led the fight on the 1090 issue. But he can have a much bigger impact on our budgetary crisis by helping Donna tackle the much more important issues of redevelopment abuse and tax diversion.

He's a great guy but he needs to let Donna be Mayor. As City Attorney he should support her in her analysis of how the City is to be led and managed. He may get his own chance one day but right now we need Donna in charge with a clear mandate.

The first thing we need are the comprehensive figures Donna has called for, starting with whatever the Pension Board has been withholding from us.
 

 
  Mayor Murphy and his friends plundered this City - 05/31/05  
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Watching the City Council pass the 2005/6 Salary Ordinance today was a painful experience for any San Diegan.

Mayor Murphy was totally on the side of the City employee unions who attended in force. He ended by saying "thank God for Ann Smith" - their attorney.

He is on their side to disguise his massive raids on their pension fund for give-aways to developers John Moores and Corky McMillin. He is muddying the record by setting the unions and Aguirre against each other. Unfortunately it is working.

Ann Smith, whom Murphy now admires, called on the City to either sell assets such as our public parks to developers or impose a special tax on San Diegans to pay for the pension underfunding, which she characterizes as a loan. Thanks Dick.

Mike Aguirre may be falling for Murphy's trick by going after the City employees and demonizing them. The real demon is Murphy and his developer friends who have denuded this City of income. Murphy duped the City's employees just as badly as he duped its citizens and now has them at each others throats to cover his crimes.

Both city employees and citizens have a long hard road ahead to recover from the unbelievable plunder done to this City by Murphy and his developer friends. The healing will start when people and employees realize they are on the same side.
 
 
  The give-away to developers is real  -  05/27/05  
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Hank Cunningham, San Diego's redevelopment czar, has handed the City a month's notice. He leaves July 1st. He will probably go to Price Enterprises to join former City Manager Jack McGrory, on the "partner" side of the redevelopment game.

Here is how it works: a city hires a "consultant" to declare an area "blighted", the redevelopment agency then "acquires" these blighted properties by eminent domain. It builds malls, hotels, condos etc., greatly increasing the density and property value base.

Increased values generate higher property taxes called the "tax increment". The redevelopment agency retains this "tax increment" income. It uses it to sell redevelopment bonds and gives the proceeds to its developer partners.

In addition to this bonding cash the agency and its partner gets the power of eminent domain. This was originally intended to acquire property for public use but redevelopment agencies are routinely using it to assemble private projects.

Then something very debilitating happens to the city.

The tax increment and bond money must be used for redevelopment purposes only! Redevelopment agencies are prohibited by law from providing services such as police and fire. These remain the responsibility of the city, whose income from property taxes in the project area becomes frozen at the time the agency is established.

San Diego has become a major victim of this practice. Major tax revenues are being diverted to redevelopment agencies and their private developer partners.

These developers hire ex-city employees like Hank Cunningham and Jack McGrory to supervise a system which diverts traditional city revenues into the financing of private projects with no alternative provision for basic city services.

At the end of this year current City Manager Lamont Ewell will probably follow McGrory and Cunningham into this lucrative line of employment.
 
 
  The City Charter must be obeyed - 05/26/05  
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I went to see Donna Frye present the City Clerk with 4,000 signatures nominating her as a candidate for Mayor today. In a lively question and answer session beforehand she seemed to love getting into details with the media.

She laid out the following 8 point action plan:

1. Fully cooperate with all investigations, make sure all documents are provided, work with the City Attorney and support him as the Chief Legal Counsel for the Retirement Board.

2. Appoint Diann Shipione as a member of the Retirement Board, and require every Retirement board member to attend an ethics course on the role of Trustees of Retirement Systems.

3. Continue pushing the Retirement Board to waive attorney/client privilege or find appointees who will.

4. Direct the Retirement Actuary to present to the Retirement Board, the City Council and the public the real pension deficit including all liabilities. Once determined, ensure that our City makes the full Actuarial Required Contribution for every year henceforth.

5. Roll back benefits that are determined to be illegal and fund those which are legal in order to help reduce the unfunded liability.

6. Create a “true” set of Financial Statements for the City so that anyone familiar with operating statements and balance sheets is able to easily read the City’s financial materials.

7. Ensure that all disclosure statements are accurate and fully describe the City’s financial condition.

8. Require the City Auditor and Comptroller to comply with the City Charter and provide, at least monthly, a summary statement of revenues and expenses to show the exact financial condition for each city department.


Nobody can question her command of the financial details or her willingness to study them. She constantly complains of not being given enough information by officials.

Her last point, that the Auditor and Comptroller "comply with the City Charter and provide, at least monthly, a summary of revenues and expenses" is very telling. It tells us that these two officials have been thumbing their noses at the City Charter.

Like Mike Aguirre she is cognizant of the City Charter. The arrogant years of Jack McGrory and Susan Golding have left deep scars on our City's political landscape.

We need to insist that our City Charter be obeyed. That's why I support these two.
 
 
  What is the San Diego Model School Development Agency?  -  05/25/05  
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We all know about Petco Park and how Padres owner John Moores used our desire for a new baseball park to get exclusive rights for the redevelopment of a 26 block area of downtown.

But how many people know about the special State of California Act, sponsored by Christine Kehoe, creating
"a joint powers agency consisting of the Redevelopment Agency of the City of San Diego, the Housing Authority of the City of San Diego, the San Diego Housing Commission, the San Diego Unified School District and the City of San Diego enabling them to enter into
a joint powers agreement" to do just about anything they please under the guise of building schools"?

Here it is, read it for yourself:  this agency has the power
to "acquire property and to construct and improve and finance one or more schools, housing projects, parks, recreational facilities, and any other facilities reasonably necessary for their proper operation".

Why would any developer go it alone to assemble a development site when  politicians will do it for them - by force? Christine Kehoe gave private San Diego developers more than they ever dreamt of in the above Act. A State Act just for San Diego alone. 

I am sure it is no more than mere coincidence that Kehoe is a longtime friend of Jack McGrory who now sits on the board of this powerful new agency and that she seems to be forever running for higher office.

This powerful agency (already active in the redevelopment designated City Heights Project Area) can potentially "redevelop" all of San Diego!

Just when we thought John Moores had written the book on using city powers for private development, Sol Price and Jack McGrory constituted themselves into a two-man City and School District. They have arrogated to themselves just about every power these two bodies possess. Read the Act. McGrory is king of the back-room.

Meanwhile Kehoe laughs all the way to the next higher office, probably the US Senate.
 
 
  The City is more than a business - 05/23/05  
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Mayoral candidate, businessman Steve Francis, says he would run the City as a business. He said for example that he would look at the City's assets as a source of cash to cure the City's fiscal problems. In other words he would consider selling City assets to raise cash. That is exactly what a businessman would do.

But is that what San Diegans want? Their City as a business? I strongly disagree. It is  "city as a business" thinking that got us in trouble in the first place.

The City is a service provider, not a business. The Mayor is a job for a politician not a businessman. Political considerations are very different to those of business. Balancing City income with City expenditure, while inescapable, is not all there is to it. A mere businessman may balance the budget but do a lousy job providing city services.
 
 
  Who is running this City anyway? - 05/20/05  
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Michael Zuchett and Ralph Inzunza are finished politically. It is inevitable that they will have to resign and they know it. Whether they are guilty or innocent is their own affair but they cannot be effective representatives while they are in court every day.

If a plumber told you he could not fix your kitchen this week because he has to be in court you would say "well, I hope you win your case whatever it is, but I need to get my kitchen fixed today, so I must get another plumber."

It is not too late for replacement candidates on the July 26th ballot. Apart from saving us money it would prevent the City Council appointing their own insiders to both seats, which I have no doubt is the plan. They don't like outsiders on the 10th Floor which is why the City is in trouble.

The citizens of District 2 and District 8 have a right to demand proper representation. Guilt or innocence has nothing to do with it. They have the right to demand immediate resignations to allow the election of replacements.

Otherwise we will get insider appointments and more of the same bad government.
 
 
  The "Jack & Susan show" is finally over - 05/18/05  
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Terri Webster, charged yesterday with conflict-of-interest violations, started with the City in 1984 at the age of 22. She is now 43. She could retire on $10,862 per month for the rest of her life. Not bad for a young filing clerk.


Ron Saathoff joined as a firefighter in 1977 at the age of 19. He is now 47. He could retire on $9,703 for the rest of his life. Not bad for a young fireman.

Our City has been good to young people like these who were smart enough to go into City service rather than to college and a private sector job like the rest of us. Learning "the system" proved far more lucrative than learning a job.

That "system" may have been good to some but it has devastated the City of San Diego. Mayor Murphy fitted right in because he reveled in making backroom deals with this "smart" inner circle. It gave him a sense of power he could never get from the people.

If insider Leslie Devaney had been elected City Attorney instead of outsider Mike Aguirre, the people would still be locked out of the City's corrupt decision making system.

Mike's election was a watershed in modern San Diego history. It marked the end of the "Jack & Susan show". Susan Golding, elected as Mayor in 1992, teamed up with secretive City Manager Jack McCrory. Those two liked to exercise power in total secrecy. Staffers who went along and did their dirty work got promoted.

For example, Jack & Susan spent $30 million on the 1996 Republican Convention but not a penny of it ever showed up on the City books. Frazier and Vattimo learned their trade and started their meteoric climb in the system.

But when Murphy resigned it was all over for the "system". It took Bonnie Dumanis a while to figure it out but she finally got it. Typical of Bonnie she now wants to lead the witch hunt. Boy, I would not like to get on the wrong side of that lady.

Yesterday she tried to steal Aguirre and Carol Lam's thunder by doing what she should have done months ago, charge six of the worst with conflict-of-interest violations. She is admitting that Mike Aguirre was right all along. She knows the old days are over.

Her self-serving about-turn will help Aguirre roll back the illegal pension benefits, but it won't do her any good. Next election cycle the people will move Mike Aguirre into her job and send her and her daddy Bill Kollender into retirement.

The future of this City is with Aguirre and Frye. They will recruit and promote a new breed of (honest) City employee. The "Jack & Susan show" is finally over, but the stink will hang around for a long time.

Carol Lam, the US Attorney General, will charge Dick Murphy with securities fraud.  Frazier and Vattimo will testify that they were merely doing their jobs (just as Jack & Susan had trained them). Their attorney has already said that that will be their defense.

The Feds want to make an example of Murphy.
Frazier and Vattimo will be only too willing to throw him to the wolves. If they'll do it with you they'll do it to you.
 
 
  Three important desks were cleaned out today - 05/16/05  
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This is Patricia Frazier, Deputy City Manager in charge of phony accounting for the last few years. She was one of those who thought that pension under-funding was a "confidential" matter. Withholding information from Wall Street is securities fraud so I hope she has a good lawyer.

Terri Webster,
the former City Auditor, was put on "administrative leave" on Friday, then Frazier, Mary Vattimo, the former City Treasurer and Cathy Lexin, the City's human resources director, all quit today. This is a huge development. Webster, Vattimo and Lexin were former SDCERS board members.

Vattimo and Frazier signed the Wall Street documents where they "forgot" to mention that the City was not paying the full actuarial rate into its pension plan.

All four were central to the withholding of subpoenaed documents.
Vortmann's key letter to Pierce was found in one of the 15 boxes  forcibly taken by Mike Aquirre from Webster’s office on January 11th.
Then Frazier "discovered" 50 more boxes of subpoenaed documents when she was being moved to a lower profile job in February.

There have been allegations of wholesale destruction of documents. Let's hope these ladies haven't done too good a job of "cleaning out their desks" today.

Disgraced Mayor Murphy thanked them "for their years of dedicated service". Whatever they were dedicated to it certainly was not to the citizens of San Diego.
 
 
  Donna off to a good start - 05/14/05  
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I went to Donna Frye’s rally in Mission Bay Park today, launching her 2005 mayoral campaign. Her speech was a condensed version of her voting record. I found it reassuring in its familiarity. No doubt about where Donna stands on the issues.

I watched her handle her most dangerous issue, labor. She adroitly thanked her (city) staff for “volunteering” to follow her example in giving back unfunded pension benefits.

They too know that a lot of votes will hang on how well she handles the hot potato of City pay and benefits between now and July 26th. It will require all their political skills.

If she panders to labor, the “business community” will murder her, if she distances herself from her working class roots, she may lose her base. She gave a small hint today as to how she might square that circle - by borrowing a page from the Arnold Schwarzenegger playbook: make everybody “pay their fair share”.

That would resonate nicely against the “business community” by turning their own rhetoric back on them. I like it. She could go on and on about all those in the “business community” who do not pay their fair share, starting with Corky McMillan.

Perhaps she has already tried that phrase out on her staff, before they “volunteered” to be part of the (painful) solution. They would be an ideal focus group. My guess is they would be all for everybody "paying their fair share". She may be off to a good start.
 
 
  Demand change or get a job with the city - 05/13/05  
 

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The City of San Diego must begin to see itself as an ordinary employer, just like any other. That is not the case at present. To be a city employee is to be a privileged person. Membership of the San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System (SDCERS) for example, confers benefits not available to ordinary citizens.

SDCERS is a defined benefits pension plan. These plans were designed to help organizations retain employees and lower direct compensation and taxes. Like many good things they have been abused, nowhere more than in San Diego. 

The advantages of a defined benefits pension plan (e.g. longevity and investment pooling) have been more than offset by the creation of massive unfunded liabilities - the Achilles heel of defined benefits plans. 

Also, the lack of portability of our city's defined benefits pension plan, touted as a tool for retaining employees, is actually a liability in the globalized labor market. There are many new and better ways of achieving "the lower overall employment costs and a more productive work force", claimed by the defined benefits devotees. 

So what is to be done? Simple. Immediately create a new, portable contribution defined pension plan and freeze the old plan in place. That's what you get when you abuse a good thing. Even as it is future generations of San Diegans will be paying for services rendered in the '90s. Enough of that madness.

Sure the 10,000 public employees will scream blue murder. But we the 1,300,000 citizens of San Diego should scream even louder. The tail has been wagging the dog for too long. Our elected representatives and their staffs immediately join SDCERS, right alongside every other employee of the City! Nobody is representing the taxpayer.

That is bad enough but the cozy relationship between the so-called management (the people we elect) and the long-term employees of the City, is profound. Each new City Councilor must appoint experienced people from the 10th Floor of City Hall if they want to get anything done. And even when, as some do, they appointed people from "outside", these (lucky) people immediately become hooked on the privileges.

My advice to any young San Diegan is either (1) demand change, (2) get elected to the City Council or (3) get a job cleaning the city’s latrines, anything.
 
 
  How to break this incestuous cycle? - 05/12/05  
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What is the point of a mayoral election if Mayor Murphy and this corrupt City Council have already granted the public service unions their wish list for the next three years? Instead of getting a strong Mayor we will get an even stronger City Council.

The problem is not that the City Council routinely caves in to the public service unions, it is that the City Council and the public service unions are one and the same - totally indistinguishable from each other.

Most of the people on the City Council were staffers who rose through the ranks to run for office themselves. Councilors routinely swap and loan staff to each other. Public service wage "negotiations" are an internal affair among friends and fellow workers.

They are all in there for the long-haul - for the retirement.The best we can hope for (Sanders is in thrall to the cop's union) is that Donna Frye  becomes Mayor, but all that will change is that she will protest from the Mayor's Office instead of that familiar sole red light for District 6 on the Council's voting board.

And who will succeed her in District 6? Probably a staffer.
 
 
  Defined Benefits vs Defined Contributions pension plans- 05/11/05  
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Like it or not this mayoral election is a showdown between the people and the public service unions. The people know that. The unions know that. The only question is will the candidates be honest with both - and say what must be done.

The reason for candidate coyness is fear of the politically powerful public service unions. It is precisely that power that has the City in such dire straits.

Here are four relevant facts:
  1. San Diego's retirement plan is a "Defined Benefit" plan i.e. no investment risk to the employees, retirement income guaranteed by us the taxpayers.
  2. The alternative is a "Defined Contribution" plan, e.g. a 401(k), where employees bear the investment risk but in return may benefit from good investment results.
  3. San Diego's retirement contracts were negotiated under collective bargaining, governed by a huge body of law, mainly the National Labor Relations Act.
  4. Despite illegalities in City agencies, e.g. conflicts of interests on the pension board, these collective bargaining agreements may be ruled non-rescindable.

It seems to me that the ball should be thrown back into the public service unions' courts. They should be given the following stark choice:

  • Voluntarily rescind the most egregious "benefit enhancing" agreements;
    or
  • Accept a two-tier system where existing employees will enjoy the "Defined Benefits" plan but new hires will come under a "Defined Contribution" plan the City can afford while still encumbered with these onerous "negotiated" benefits.

Politically this puts the public service unions in the position of having to choose between giving up their present ill-gotten "benefits" and the welfare of future members.

Officials like Dick Murphy, who are responsible for "packing" the pension board and other City agencies, should be pursued through the courts as private individuals for betraying the public trust. The public service unions could not have succeeded so spectacularly without the help of several corrupt officials, particularly the Mayor.

They should not be allowed to escape by simply resigning or it will all happen again.
 

 
  The Charter is the key to managing this City  -  05/09/05  
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San Diego citizens should never forget that Mayor Murphy could have fixed the City's problems by simply appointing ordinary honest citizens to the Pension Board who would release what the auditors need to complete the 2003 and 2004 audits. Instead he hand picked appointees who are still keeping vital documents under lock and key.

The new mayor must tell us how he/she is going to get the Pension Board to cough up the sequestered documents. The truth is it cannot be done by the Mayor alone. It will take a close partnership between the Mayor and the City Attorney to defeat the Council vote swappers. The Charter is the key.

If Donna Frye goes upstairs to the Mayor's Office nothing will change in the Council Chamber. When the Clerk calls the roll the same five green lights will light up every time because everything is decided in back-room vote trades. It will make no difference who succeeds Donna in District 6. The vote swap will still be king.

The only thing 5 votes cannot change is the City's Charter. Thank goodness we're a chartered city. Only the people can change that. Together the new Mayor and the City Attorney can hold the Council vote swappers to account.

The City Attorney has been elected directly by the people to enforce our Charter. He is our watchdog. Get used to it Council Members. Mike Aguirre has fired the first shots by challenging the Council's right to under fund the City Pension Fund. Mike is in pole position - the Charter is whatever he says it is until a court rules otherwise.

The new Mayor will need to work closely with Aguirre. Personally I think Donna and Mike would make a great team, but it is up to the people. Sanders made a smart move today by calling on Mayor Murphy to reappoint Diann Shipione to that one vacant position left on the Pension Board.

It shows Sanders understand where the hot buttons are and knows his politics. That one should have been Donna's. She will soon learn learn just how tough Sanders can be. Judging by his web site and his choice of Larry Scott as Treasurer, he is very well prepared, well advised and well staffed.
 
 
  We need a strong people's mayor  -  05/08/05  
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When you read the list of names behind the strong mayor proposal last November (John & Rebecca Moores contributed $99,000, Malin & Roberta Burnham gave $84,000) you realize the truth of what Donna Frye wrote in opposition at the time:
"Proposition F is a power grab by inside players who would drain public services away from our neighborhoods to subsidize powerful developers".

Is it any wonder she has the support she has? Nobody could have said it better.

The power grabbers spent $524,000 on their Proposition F while only $24,000 was spent in opposition. They bought City Hall for a mere half million dollars in order to bilk it of billions. To them government is a business.

Like it or not we now have a "strong mayor" form of government and the only way to stop the bilkers is to put a people's mayor in that office. Donna Frye is the obvious choice. She doesn't do bilking.

So who will they put up against her besides tough guy Sanders? My guess is they will find a rich "uncle Tom" Democrat (the trendy name nowadays is "business-friendly" Democrat) in order to rob Donna of some Democratic Party support.

The public service unions are now big business and a very successful big business at that in terms of pension benefits. They would enthusiastically support an "uncle Tom" candidate. Taking care of neighborhoods or clean water issues is not exactly their bag.

The first major attack on Donna will come from the so-called "business community" which is code for BIG business community as distinct from the small business community Donna has been a part of for years.

This could shape up to be a battle between the BIG business interests of San Diego and the small businesses of San Diego - money versus numbers. The large businesses can raise $524,000 for every $24,000 from small businesses.

Yet votes are the currency of politics. The supreme court is the court of the people.

At stake is billions of City Hall dollars over the next ten years. The question is will those billions go to public services for our neighborhoods or subsidies for the powerful developers. So far nobody has said it better than Donna.
 
 
  Make them obey their own laws  -  05/06/05  
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Mike Aguirre is nobody's bagman. Neither is Donna Frye.

This City Council got so used to City Officials, like former City Attorney Casey Gwinn, signing whatever was put in front of them, that they are now taken aback when an honest City Attorney tells them when they are breaking the law.

I once wrote a screenplay about how a victim of injustice can fight back without turning to violence. The outcome of the story hinged upon the main character "making them obey their own laws". So it is in San Diego, with Mike Aguirre as the main character.

His position is straightforward: you can't run a pension scheme on a credit card, especially a credit card that has been rejected. They must obey City law.

Councilman Scott Peters, a glutton for punishment, said he doubts that Aguirre has the authority to veto the council's budget decisions. In other words, according to Peters, the City Attorney must sign everything the Council puts in front him. That's what I meant by the "dictatorship of 5 votes". These guys really believe it.

Just watch what Peters will suggest next - bring in a couple of $750 per hour shyster attorneys to tell him what he wants to hear. But he will lose this one just as he lost his "appoint a Mayor" campaign. He has a bad case of Murphy's "appointment" disease.

Those special interests include the public service employees unions. As San Diego's likely first strong Mayor, Donna Frye has no choice but to refuse campaign contributions from unions who will be before her negotiating their pay deals.

It would be a clear conflict of interest for any future Mayor to accept campaign money from either developers seeking the power of eminent domain through "redevelopment" projects or from any public service union. The very nature of their business prohibit it.
 
 
  Government by appointment is over  -  05/05/05  
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The fact that the ruling elite of this town are having such difficulty finding anybody to actually "run" for Mayor but had a roomful ready to be "appointed", dramatically tells the story of the culture of "crony appointment" that had gripped this city.

The best message the people of San Diego can send to the bankers of San Francisco and to the portfolio managers of Wall Street is a whopping overall majority for Donna Frye on July 26th. The bankers knew before we did what was going on here.

Just as there are no atheists in a fox hole there are no Republicans or Democrats in Wall Street. Donna Frye's money is every bit as good as Murphy's. Better! She will pay her bond debt; Murphy paid his political cronies.

The curative effects of such a message would be immediate. The corrupt backroom dealers having been ran out of town and responsible government restored would reinstate our credit rating so we can fix the potholes and repair our aging infrastructure before we become a Third World city. We are a tourist city, we have to look good.

The culture of obstructing our City Attorney will cease, allowing him to do his job. Hopefully there will be massive resignations ahead of his posse. Just so long as they go. Maybe he will even get back some of the "benefits" illegally voted to themselves by Murphy's "appointees". That would send another very powerful message.

It was the power of appointment that Murphy so grotesquely abused. The entire Pension Board rip-off can be laid at his door because of it. He was nothing more than a bagman for the downtown power elite. He deserves particular odium for knowingly riding political shotgun for John "Jessie James" Moores.

To give Moores what he wanted Murphy bribed his Pension Board appointees with "benefits" so they would hide the pension deficit from Wall Street. It was that simple.

Murphy should go down in San Diego history as a figure of such disgrace and distaste that nobody will ever again prostitute themselves and our government to such people as Moores. This beautiful city we all love so much deserves better.
 
 
  San Diego's vulnerability to the greedy developers  -  05/04/05  
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According to Jim Madaffer yesterday the City of San Diego has the power to decide the highest and best use of all land within its boundaries. That is what I mean by the dictatorship of 5 votes. I do not use the word "dictatorship" lightly.

It really is dictatorship when a Councilman says that "blighted" is what he says it is. He and the other 5 claim the right to arbitrarily move little businesses to make room for large businesses. Madaffer (on behalf of his developer clients) will move people who have owned their businesses for decades. That's what "redevelopment" really means.

Yesterday Madaffer wanted the gang of 5 to vote for his particular "redevelopment" project - Grantville. He will then vote for their particular project when it comes around.

The good news is that these guys are mean with their bucks (that's how they got them) and they renege on their promises. They can be beaten. They are not all powerful.

The many can the defeat the large.
 
 
  The day the earth moved at City Hall  -  05/03/05  
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A huge victory for Donna Frye. It was the people vs. the lobbyists. The lobbyists lost.

As I sat in City Chambers yesterday listening to Toni Atkins waffle on about democracy, I realized the earth was moving, that she was going to hang Peters out to dry. By the look on his face it was also the first clue he had of her impending treachery.

You know what they say Scott, if they'll do it with you, they'll do it to you.

George Mitrovitch, spokesman for the "stop Donna Frye" brigade, must be feeling the ground move beneath him too. It is the first rumblings of the people's revolution of San Diego. We are going to get our City back. The first crack has appeared.

Poor Peters had to eat crow and make it unanimous for a special Mayoral election. He must be livid at Atkins for not warning him in advance that she was going to change her vote. It's rough up there on that bench, and it will get rougher. The people are awake.

My own contribution (not very well delivered, I get too emotional) asked if it will make any difference whether we even have a mayor, strong or otherwise, as this Council believes that 5 votes gives it the right to do whatever it pleases.

My point (badly made) was that as of Jan 1, 2006 this City Council will have the power to override the so-called  "strong mayor" with the same five votes. They may be even more powerful because they will then have their own budget analyst.

I described this as the "dictatorship of 5 votes" which routinely ignores the City Policy Manual and even ignores Federal subpoenas. That was what I really wanted to get across, but it didn't come out right. Anyway I finished by saying that what was needed was a change of attitude by this City Council. Not very effective, but from the heart.

But then I believe "heart" won over "polish" yesterday. The "people" speakers like myself were all emotional and all for Donna, the "lobbyist" speakers were all polished and all for appointment and delay, anything but Donna.

By the end of the day however, I began to realize that we, the great unpolished, had won.

Now it's full steam ahead to get Donna (re) elected. Not only that but to get her over 50% in the July 26th primary, first time out. Let's move the earth even more under the special interest lobbyists, let's remove it altogether.

What was very revealing yesterday was Inzunza's desperate attempt to figure out a way to postpone the elections to give his voting block more time to put the scare into their bosses, the "redevelopment" developers. He was desperately trying to drag something out of Deputy City Clerk, Joyce Lane, that would help him counter Aguirre's insistence that the overarching legal reality is a City Charter requirement for an immediate election. They all think that given more time they can defeat Donna.

They know that once she gets into the Mayor's Office all their carefully crafted deals with developers under the guise of "redevelopment" will start to unravel. The whole "redevelopment" scam, upon which they depended, will be exposed for what it was.

Then San Diego will write a new page in Time Magazine: "the People's City by the sea".
 
 
  People power, do we have it?  -  05/02/05  
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I am going to the City Hall meeting at 11:00 AM. I will blog from there. It will be interesting to see the interplay between populism and back-roomism. We should get an indication of how much San Diegans care or want to get involved.

If I were Donna Frye I would be looking down at that room this morning, gauging the people power she will need. I hope it will be there.

So that is why I am going, to show that Council Bench that we the people do care and that we are the real power. We need a populist Mayor. I believe "people power" is the counter to Murphy's back-room dealings that got this city into trouble.

I hope both the people and Donna are up to it.
 
 
  Time to cut the Gordian Knot    -    05/01/05  
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An open letter to Donna Frye:
 
Those of us who wrote you in for Mayor in December were looking for strong direct leadership.
 
Murphy and the rest of the City Council continue to thumb their noses at KPMG's questions regarding "public disclosures that were likely to violate the antifraud provisions of the securities laws" by "failure to disclose pension related matters".
 
KPMG will not sign the 2003 and 2004 audits until all subpoenaed documents are released.
 
On behalf of all the people of San Diego, cut through the labyrinth of deceit created by Murphy. Write a strong open letter to the SDCERS board demanding the release of every subpoenaed document. No more legal excuses. Tell them the people want every single document - now.
 
In other words, cut the Gordian Knot. Like the legendary Gordius, king of Phrygia, Murphy has tied an intricate legal knot around his secret machinations to cover his escape. Take up the sword of the people and slash that knot. Don't play their endless legal games. Tell them there is a higher legal authority - the jury of the people.
 
It is the people's power you wield, not that of any office. It means you don't need to wait to get to the Mayor's Office. It is your opportunity to show that you can break the voting ring that is ruining this city. If you can't do it from the Council bench (while you are still one of them) you will not be able to do it from the Mayor's Office, nobody will.

Everybody agrees that Murphy lacked a "sense of urgency and willingness for bold action". They will make sure they get it from their next Mayor.
 
 
  Madaffer's latest mad offer   -   04/30/05  
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They have completely lost the plot. Will somebody please tell these City Councilors that this is the United States, not some third world dictatorship? That they are City Councilors, not commissars or some military junta appointees?

Jim Madaffer told the San Diego Union-Tribune yesterday that he
will "have outside attorneys review Aguirre's analysis". Great. Who will pay for it? Himself?

First the Pension Board goes out and hires "outside attorneys" when they didn't like Aguirre's advice. Fine. Except that they still claim "attorney-client privilege" with our City Attorney when he asks them to cough up the documents we so desperately need to clear our 2003 and 2004 audits. Now Madaffer wants to do the same with the City.

They think they can ignore City laws and City written Policy. Is our City Constitution subject to "outside attorney review" too?

They think their combined vote makes them all powerful. Actually so far, it has.

Under Murphy's tutelage, Madaffer believes that, single-handedly any City Councilor, on the City's dime, can hire some shyster lawyer for $750 per hour, plus $900 for his shyster supervisor, to tell any City Councilor what he/she wants to hear.

And that it will trump how our City Attorney, the one hired by "we the people", instructs the City Council. No wonder this city is the laughing stock of the country.

If this goes on the entire East Village will soon be populated by "outside attorneys" hired by mad City Councilors like Madaffer countering "bad advice" given by Mike Aguirre. We may invent a whole new industry here - shyster lawyers by the sea.
 
 
  Is Murphy a crook?   04/29/05  
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What everybody wants to know but won't ask: "is Murphy a crook?"

So let's look at what we know.

Murphy could have appointed anybody he wanted to the new pension board. The crux of all San Diego's problems lies in getting our auditors to sign our 2003 and 2004 accounts. All they want is the subpoenaed documents from the pension board.

What does Murphy do? He appoints people whom he knew would not release the papers the auditors require. What does that tell you? 'Nuff said.

But the most galling of all, Toni Atkins and Scott Peters said today in the UT that the City Council is "working 24 hours a day to get those papers released".

What hypocrisy. Do they think we're stupid?
 
 
  Anarchy at City Hall   -   04/29/05  
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The party system is somewhere on a scale between dictatorship and anarchy. Right now we are way over on the anarchy side of that scale because our city government is non-partisan; non-discipline; non-cohesive; a free-for-all.

We neither have Republican government nor Democratic government.

At least in Washington DC we know who is in charge. Boy, do we know who is in charge! Britain knew who was in charge during WWII - Churchill. We need a Churchill to reverse the appeasements of San Diego's recent Chamberlain era. The inmates (special interests) have been running the prison since 1996.

So I say: stand up and be counted. Do you think big corporations and big unions should run this City? Or do you think the people should run this city?

Most of our present slate of City Councilors would stand up for both questions. That is the problem. You can't believe a word from them any more.

The party system has served democracy well. Why should it be spurned in city government? Why should we pretend that there is no party politics in San Diego governance? Of course there is. By pretending there isn't, we lose its benefits.

What are its benefits? In a nutshell, discipline. You accept a position on behalf of your party, you stick with it, no matter who tries to buy you off. Or your party will bury you.

On this City Council we have no idea why any of them vote the way they do. They tell us one thing and vote the opposite. Each sells their vote to the highest bidder.

Political parties have written constitutions just like nations. Becoming a member of a party is like becoming a citizen of a nation. You swear allegiance to its flag and to its Constitution, e.g. you can't be an American and a royalist at the same time.

What do our present City Council Members believe? Nothing apparently. They change their allegiance every day. That's anarchy.

Let's revive the parties, both parties, and make it a fair fight.
 
 
  What if Donna Frye wins her appeal?    -   04/28/05  
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Why should Murphy pay Bob Ottilie to defend his disputed election now? Murphy has nothing to gain from fighting it any more.

Here is what Bruce Henderson had to say yesterday:

"The Court of Appeal has set a briefing schedule (a copy is attached) in the Frye vote case as well as scheduled oral argument for an unspecified date in September. Under that schedule a decision would be expected in October, which would (be) the earliest, therefore, that Donna Frye could take office as San Diego's Mayor"..... more...

Henderson's position is that Frye is fighting for ownership of the "term" and that whoever succeeds Murphy, whether by appointment or by election, can have no better title to that "term" than Murphy had.

It will be interesting to see how Ottilie responds to the judge's "moot" question.

His answer will be highly political. It will tell us just how mad Murphy is at his former "boss", John Moores. My guess is Ottilie will go along with Henderson just to stick it to Moores et al for not coming up with a legal defense fund for Murphy.

The appeals judge could save the San Diego taxpayers the cost of two elections, up to $6 million, by deciding this case in Frye's favor prior to July 15, 2005.

And it's not just Henderson's case, it is joined with Woocher's case because the issue is the same.

The appeals judge has to decide whether by hiring the County Registrar to conduct the 2004 City election, in conjunction with the County and State elections, the City of San Diego forfeited its right to regulate its own election. The trial judge ruled that it had.

Because San Diego is a charter city it has the absolute right to govern its own elections. Unlike the State, the City does not require any bubble to be filled in, just the name.

From what part of his anatomy did the trial judge pull the crazy idea that by hiring the County Registrar of Voters the City threw away the entire City code covering elections? That sounds silly to me. I can think of many instances when we hire a state or nationally constituted entity to provide some service or other, but nobody, to my knowledge, has suggested that in doing so we throw all our related City law out the window.

When we hire the FBI to check fingerprints for example, do we forfeit all our state and city criminal law? I think even I, a non-lawyer could win this appeal, particularly if Murphy mounts only a lackluster defense.

So its not this case that may now be moot, its the whole City Council's posturing and preening about whether to appoint or elect a Mayor that may be moot.

Wouldn't that be nice?
 
 
  Do San Diego Democrats want power or not? -  04/27/05  
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Those who forget that this is all about power, lose.

So let's talk about power:
  • You either have it or you don’t. You can’t be half pregnant, same with power.

  • Nixon once said about power: “when you have them by the nuts their hearts and minds follow”. He was right. Nixon understood power. So did Kissenger.

  • Grabbing them by the nuts is the only way to get this San Diego City Council’s attention, especially the Democrats.

  • Grabbing power is like that. It can be a little distasteful. Don't ask your pastor for advice. There are no nice guys in politics

  • The stock markets demonstrate that all human emotions come down to two - fear and greed. Greed produces bull markets and fear produces bear markets.

  • The Republicans have all the advantages. They understand power. They go to church but they keep their politics and business seperate.

  • Democrats have very little experience of power. They spend most of their lives complaining about their lack of it in the workplace and in government.

  • Will Rogers said he did not belong to any organized political party: he was a Democrat. Leading Democrats is like herding cats.

  • Either that changes or every nefarious plan San Diego's "shadow government" of business interests will be implemented by Democrat Council Members who call themselves "business friendly".

It is already happening. Scott Peters, Tony Atkins and Ralph Inzunza are shying away from an election because they are afraid of Donna Frye. And they call themselves Democrats? Ah yes, the expression nowadays is "business friendly" Democrats.

How will Donna, well you know - get their attention?

That’s the $64 million dollar question. But this is a family BLOG and I will refrain from giving Donna advice. I will just suggest that she reads Kissenger and Nixon, in fact she  need not stray too far from San Diego: just read John Kern and George Mitrovich.
 
 
  Pay the lady or leave the bed   -   04/26/05  
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A battle for the soul of San Diego is unfolding. It is a microcosm of what is going on across America. "We the people" are "as mad as hell and will not take it any more". Aguirre and Frye are San Diego's version of it.

The interesting thing is that populism is crossing party lines. Many Republicans are just as frightened of the power grab by corporations, as are Democrats. And many Democrats are just as frightened at the growing power and arrogance of the public service unions, as are Republicans. Remember the air traffic controllers?

A shadow government of special interests, both corporate and unions, has been running San Diego from the bar in the University Club ever since Susan Golding was sworn in as Mayor on December 7, 1992 promising to "make San Diego the most business-friendly city in America".

Maybe she overdid it a little.

Last week John Kern called the Lincoln Club fat cats together for tête-à-tête over lunch at the University Club and told them that Murphy needed their help. Dick had taken enormous personal legal risks to get the developers their eminent domains and their bond issues, especially the ballpark, now it was time to pay up. It would take lots of money to fight the "bubble" appeal, a likely recall and God knows what else.

The choice he gave them was stark: either pony up or get Frye as your strong Mayor. The strong mayor was supposed to make it simpler for developers to know who to pay, not to be used by a surf chic against them.

By Sunday night John Moores had not called. He already had his ballpark. So Murphy, his wife, Bob Ottilie and John Kern watched the sun go down from Murphy's Del Cerro patio and said "Right. If they want Donna Frye, they shall have her". First thing Monday morning they pulled the plug. Classic Kern.

Like ladies of the night our Mayor and City Councilors rented their votes. But  don't "johns" pay in advance? The developer "johns" wanted it for nothing! And they got it!
 

 
  Murphy's resignation raises more questions than it answers   -   04/25/05  
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Mayor Murphy resigned to day pointing to his many achievements. It's a bit like the Captain of the Titanic boasting about the meals that were served at the captain's table.

What is Murphy's relationship with Shannon Development? We know that Shannon Development is involved in Limerick University's 116 acre development project.

We know that Murphy appointed Fred Pierce to the position of Chairman of the San Diego Pension Fund while he was (and still is) the developer of SDSU's Paseo Project.

These two development projects are remarkably similar.

We know that Mayor Murphy appointed Tim Hushen (who had no prior connections with Ireland) as President of the San Diego-Shannon Partnership Inc. while he was (and still is) a senior official of the SDSU Foundation.

We know that Mr. Hushen makes frequent trips to Shannon Development and Limerick University as a representative of Murphy's San Diego-Shannon Partnership Inc. (now a "sister city"!).

Murphy has an MBA from Harvard, is an ex-banker, and has doggedly pursued this relationship with Shannon Development under the guise of a "sister city". Karl Mellon, Shannon Development's West Coast representative, is also a principle in a Las Vegas venture capitalist firm while still working for Shannon Development.

We still need answers to so many, many questions.
 
 
  Corruption or stupidity?   -   04/23/05  
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The San Diego City Council would not have prostituted the sister city concept by creating a sister city "Partnership" with Shannon Development, an Irish  development company, without having some good reason for doing so. Was it just to please Murphy? They knew exactly what they were doing. But they did it anyway.
... more...

 
 
  SDSU Foundation is now a developer?   -   04/17/05  
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Another prime example of "Redevelopment" abuse.

This Union-Tribune article today on the Paseo Project, was for all intents and purposes written by Jim Madaffer.

The article described Fred Pierce as "a private developer, SDSU alumnus and former CSU trustee."

This keynote speakers directory describes
this "private developer" who "still has to "settle" with 14 of the property owners who own 20 of the 43 parcels of land in the development's path" as the former "president of the board of trustees of the $2.7 billion San Diego City Employees Retirement System". So that's who he is! Then why didn't the Union say so? I think it's a material journalistic fact.

When Fred Pierce "private developer" goes a-wooing these 14 property owners he will be armed with the awesome power of eminent domain. Fred knows how things work down at City Hall. He served them well on the Pension Board, now it's his turn.

Smart private developers like Fred first "cultivate" friends at City Hall then go to work for themselves.
In return they get the power of eminent domain, (government power to force the sale of private property) and the power to issue "redevelopment bonds".
 
 
  A great night for Mike Aguirre   -   04/14/05  
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I went to Mike Aguirre's town hall meeting tonight and was very encouraged with the number of his own staff who turned out to support him.

They put together a great PowerPoint presentation explaining what they do. I wish everybody in this City could have seen it. We should all be proud of the very fine dedicated people we have at the City Attorney's Office. I had no idea how much they did. They are an absolute essential part of our City Government. It would be outrageous to turn it over to an outside agency, run by a nincompoop like Dumanis.

Dumanis and Bill Kolender did Mike Aguirre a favor with their little ambush. They brought to light what the City Attorney's office is all about. But most of all they brought to light the utter arrogance and stupidity of what has become the ruling elite of this City.

If the people who put together this pathetic effort at a coup, are as incompetent at their respective jobs as they were with this caper, they are pathetic. You might think Kolender would have learned something in all the years he has been in public life.

I predict that Chief Lansdowne will switch sides and join Aguirre. Being relatively new in town he must have put his faith in Kolender's vast experience and got badly burned. It is time Kolender retired himself to the bar in the "Lincoln Lodge", where he spends most of his time anyway, while he still has an ounce of integrity left to his name.

Let Dumanis' inevitable downfall over this, be a lesson to all ambitious young politicians: it takes more than sucking up to your boss to succeed, you have to have a little upstairs yourself, obviously Dumanis does not.
 
 
  Yes Bonnie, it is all about prosecutorial power   -   04/14/05  
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Tonight's public meeting in the City Council Chamber is very important for the future of this City.

What is at stake is our ability to hold our officials accountable for their actions. The only way we can do that is to charge them with crimes and misdemeanors when they lie to us. The person to whom we gave that power is our City Attorney.

Now the officials want to strip him of that. Why? Not hard to figure out - so he can't prosecute them. They want their friends Bonnie Dumanis and Bill Kolender to have that power. What does that say about Kolender and Dumanis?

All the more reason why we should never entrust them with the job of prosecuting our City's public officials. Nobody would ever get prosecuted no matter what they did.

I think Mike Aguirre should show the citizens of San Diego what this is all about by prosecuting some of the cases he already undoubtedly has on his desk. There has been massive obstruction of justice down there for one thing. Where are all the documents the Feds have subpoenaed? Isn't failing to produce them obstruction of justice?

Then there is suborning perjury. How many depositions have been taken at City Hall with all those investigations going on ? Has any employee lied for their boss? Has any of their bosses coached them to lie?

Mike, do what we elected you to do, put a few of those lying officials in the pokey.
 
 
  Our crazy city   -   04/11/05  
 

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Well it’s official! San Diego City is now a Sister City with Shannon Development, Ireland. That’s right with an Irish development company! The first "sister city" of its kind in the world. So how screwed up can San Diego really be? This City has finally lost its marbles or it is totally corrupt.

I sat in City Chambers today and watched 8 greens light up to breach their own written policy regarding sister cities which requires “A similar identifiable civic or official group must exist in the city with which affiliation is proposed". Only one person cared, Donna Frye, who pressed the only red button. Is she the only sane (or honest) person down there?

This was the resolution: "BE IT RESOLVED, by the Council of the City of San Diego, that this Council, for and on behalf of the people of San Diego, hereby expresses its desire to be a Sister City to the Shannon Region of Ireland and accepts the shared desire of Shannon Development to seek Sister City partnership with San Diego." 

I spoke in opposition to the resolution pointing out that Shannon Development is not a city. They didn’t care. I pointed out that the Shannon region was not a jurisdiction of any kind. They didn’t care. I pointed out that they were in breach of their own written City policy. They didn’t care. I pointed out that Shannon Development was a Private Company without the accountability of a government agency. They didn’t care. 

Well they should care because this hurts San Diego, it hurts America and it hurts Ireland. The Sister City International people intend to use this "San Diego model" for future Sister Cities all around the world. It is plain wrong and destroys the beautiful "people-to-people" concept initiated by Dwight Eisenhower in 1956.

Must the corporations control everything nowadays? Are we to be left with nothing?
 
 
  Ever read the Brown Act?   -   04/09/05  
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"The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them.  The people, 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.  The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created."

I wish I could claim authorship of that. It is brilliant!

It is part of the preamble to California's Ralph M. Brown Act.

I have transcribed the entire Act and put it right here on my web site in the "Links" column to the right. It is our California citizens Bill of Rights, our only protection against wily politicians who think they own our civic institutions. We should hold them to it's provisions every day. Only our indifference makes them strong and us weak.

We the citizens of San Diego elected a City Attorney, Mike Aquirre, to ensure compliance with the Brown Act, together with many other legal and ethical constraints we have put upon our public representatives and upon our appointed officials, if only we would enforce them.

Last week the Attorney General for San Diego County, Bonnie Dumanis, walked into our City Chambers, unannounced, and demanded to speak under our public comment provisions which is limited to two minutes per person (for you and I that is) no matter how many people ask to speak.

She came prepared with a full-blown PowerPoint presentation, backed up by the physical presence of the Sheriff of San Diego County, Bill Kolender, the City of San Diego's Police Chief, William Lansdowne and the Public Defender, Steve Carroll.

Each had letters, contained in a packet distributed by Dumanis, supporting the proposal she made in the two minute public slot designed for you and I.

She expected to fit all this into two minutes? You be the judge. Was she in breach of the Brown Act by not giving our elected City Attorney notice on something that concerned him and us deeply? She was making a powerful presentation to his and our City Council behind his back! You be the judge. It's your Act.

And she got away with it! Where were you? Not only did she get away with it but your City Attorney, Mike Aquirre, is now being severely criticized in the media and elsewhere for being a sore loser and for getting angry! Are you angry? You should be.
 
 
  Ballparks & Stadiums, it's all about property development   -   04/02/05  
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JP2 (that's what young people called John Paul II) once said "capitalism unrestrained by morality will self-destruct". And he knew a little about the destruction of systems, he was largely responsible for the demise of the Soviet Union.

Nowhere is that more true than right here in San Diego.

We all worry about the separation of church and state, and rightly so, but we rarely worry about the separation of business and politics. To my mind the latter is deadlier.

What we have witnessed over the last few years here in San Diego is the Republican Party viewing city government as a business opportunity. The morals (or lack of them) of the business world have been imported into city government.

That is why City Attorney Mike Aquirre has more investigations going on right now than the FBI. He is battling a whirlwind of City abuses over the last number of years. He is barely keeping his head above water. The latest addition is his investigation into how Corky McMillan was given so much free land at the former NTC.

The citizens of San Diego must come out strong and support their City Attorney, Mike Aquirre. He doesn't have to do this. He could take his City salary and his nice retirement like all the others and pay lip service to morals in public life. He is not doing that. He needs our support.

There is always some corruption in government at every level, we all know that, but something very sinister started in this town with the advent of John Moore and his ballpark project in a redevelopment area they called Village East.

Cities should not be in the ballpark or stadium business. Is there a Department of Sport at City Hall? Of course not. But there is a Police Dept., a Fire Dept., etc., those are the business of city government.

Yet look at what is happening. For years now this city has been mesmerized by the Petco Park project and the Charger's Stadium project. These two issues have absorbed more energy than all the other legitimate departments put together. They have grossly distorted public funding and public financing in this town.

The pension fund crises can be largely traced to the need to get the ballpark bonds sold and cashed at all costs. The developer tail was wagging the citizen dog. But that dog was asleep. Mike Aquirre is trying to wake it up.

The bottom line is that using municipal bonds to finance ballparks or stadiums is an abuse of the municipal bond system. It was designed to finance essential local government infrastructure and services. Ballparks and stadiums are neither essential, government, infrastructure or indeed a service.

You may as well argue for the use of city bonds to finance cinemas and then argue for their use to finance a shopping mall just because it contains a cinema.

Our misuse of these bonds is like a bad tooth - a source of infection. They have infected the public life of the city we all love, with the disease of corporate greed. I hope Mike Aquirre is successful in pulling San Diego's infected tooth - removing the politicians and staff who prostituted themselves for the property developers and land profiteers.

Neither Petco Park nor the proposed Charger's Stadium is about sport, it is a cover for huge developer profits. Wake up San Diego!
 
 

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