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Blog Archives - 2006 First Quarter

 

The coming city land sell-off bonanza - 03/20/06

 
 

by Pat Flannery

City employee union leaders such as Ann Smith keep referring to compliance with the City Charter as a Mike Aguirre "legal theory". Scott Peters and most of our City Council agree with these union leaders, they say Aguirre is wrong. Where does that leave them with regard to the City Charter they swore to uphold?

We should be outraged that our elected leaders are thumbing their noses at the basic law of this City. We don't need to go to court to know what the Charter says, we can read! The simple fact is that this Council illegally granted unfunded benefits to buy employee silence in 2002. Disgraced former Mayor Murphy and several other Councilors, particularly Scott Peters, should presently be in jail for this crime.
"I think it would be wrong for us to have negotiated benefits in 2002 at the City Council and then take the position in court that they're illegal" Peters told the Voice.

How else are we ever going to get out of this pension mess? Sell off city land of course. That is what Sanders' developer friends are urging on him. That is what Ann Smith and the unions are urging, knowing the developers will push for it. And guess who is patiently sitting there waiting for the big sell-off bonanza - Jack McGrory.
 

 
 

Individual ownership is under threat in San Diego - 03/08/06

 
 

by Pat Flannery

All this talk about relocating the airport 100 miles out in the desert is part of a strategy to make the airport expansion seem not so bad after all. The developers are patient and thorough. They want to get their greedy hands on that whole area from I-5 to Dog's Beach  and from I-8 to the Airport. That would make the NTC deal look small.

Any developer worth his salt knows that the way to do big deals nowadays is to exploit an emotive public issue like the lack of an adequate school, a dysfunctional airport, a ballpark or anything else where the public will vote their emotions not their minds. The people want their airport near at hand not out in the desert. The developers know that.

It will be portrayed by the developers and some money-hungry Councilors as just a few rich local residents along the coast bellyaching about increased noise mixed with nostalgia for the razing of older apartment buildings in the Midway and Rosecrans area together with the removal of now unsightly WWII industrial buildings along I-8  and I-5.

Even if you fall for the inevitable slick PR and you come to see the whole airport expansion project as "progressive" and "forward thinking" there is still a serious issue that is less obvious. It is present in all large redevelopment projects around the country.

Tens of thousands of individually owned titles to small pieces of urban property are being extinguished every day. The subdivision of yesteryear is being reversed.

It is a bit like what happened in rural America when millions of individual farm holdings were merged into single titles held by large agricultural corporations. It changed America slowly but irreversibly. Most of the agricultural land of America is now owned by large corporations, many of them foreign. Is that what is in store for urban America.

Take East San Diego for example. If Sol Price and the redevelopment kings have their way all that area from I-805 to La Mesa and from El Cajon Blvd to I-94 will be corporate owned. Tens of thousands of formerly individual city lots will be no more. They will disappear from the County Tax Assessor's Roll. Corporate apartment owners and shopping mall kings will become the urban equivalent of the agricultural combines.

Is that good for America? I don't think so. Individual property ownership is what made America the great country it is. Will "redevelopment" do for the capitalist system what Stalin's "forced collectivism" did for Soviet communism? Will it concentrate power in the hands of a few? Stalin knew the power of individual ownership. That is why he killed 20 million of his own people to destroy it, in order to achieve power.

It is time We the People took a serious look at what is happening under the banner of "redevelopment". We are heading in the wrong direction with regard to ownership.
 

 
 

How lobbyists destroy a free market place - 02/26/06

 
 

by Pat Flannery

Privatization and outsourcing are here to stay. All around the world people trust the free markets more than they trust their own governments.

In Ireland for example most people  are opting to purchase prepaid trash bags from private trash collection companies rather than pay their local authority a flat fee per household for trash collection. They prefer a pay-as-you-go private system. Some local authorities are trying to close them down - for costing the Councils "business"!

But the people are winning because an unexpected consequence of trash privatization in Ireland was a dramatic increase in recycling. People found they could cut down on the number of pre-paid trash bags they needed to purchase by exactly the amount they recycled. So they recycled. That's why I like free markets.

What then is the role of governments in today's market-driven world? Simple: supervision. Government's job is to ensure a level playing field for competition and then stand back and let it happen.

Unfortunately many governments around the world are not playing referee or striving to ensure a level playing field, they are abusing their power to rig the markets in favor of their political contributors. Nowhere is this more evident than in America and no party is more guilty than the Republican Party, who tout themselves as the free market party.

A reader recently sent me
this article. It dramatically illustrates Republican abuse of power while in government. To so blatantly rig the markets in favor of their friends, on such as massive scale, strikes at the very heart of our democracy.

The writer quite rightly points out that the marvel of it all is not that they did it, but that WE are letting them get away with it. Every day we allow favored companies to "beat their competition, not in the marketplace, but in the lobbying place" we put our democracy, not to mention our economy, in mortal jeopardy.

It is time we tackled the whole question of lobbyists at local and national level.
 

 
 

A little advice for City Attorney Mike Aguirre - 02/17/06

 
 

by Pat Flannery

As Mike Aguirre sizzles in the hot seat Mike Conger has so cleverly fashioned for him (Mike has to decide whether to turn around and defend City Hall on the very charges he so eloquently leveled at it in his seven famous "Interim Reports") I may have a suggestion for him on how to dampen down the fire if not actually put it out.

Why not put the monkey on Levitt's back? After all he is getting well paid for it.

Levitt and his so-called "Audit Committee" were hired to "reconcile" the Vinson & Elkins Report with the Aguirre Reports. That is what their letter of engagement says. Let them determine the truth of the whole pension mess. Isn't that what Audit Committee's are supposed to do? Get to the bottom of things?

If Aguirre was mistaken in his findings let the great Arthur Levitt, former Chairman of the SEC (together with his three wise men from the East) point out the truth to us befuddled Westerners. If Aguirre stands corrected, then so be it. I'm sure Mike will gracefully acknowledge his errors and dutifully proceed to use all his best legal powers to defend the City against all-comers, including his own hitherto erroneous findings if needs be.

Now if I were Mike Aguirre that's what I would do. We should all accept the wisdom of the $900-per-hour-guru to whom Scott Peters and the rest of the City Council (excluding Ms. Frye) paid out so much of our money - $17 million so far.

Put the ball in Mr. Levitt's court I say. Let's see if the facts as determined by Mr. Levitt in his long awaited Report, now promised for May 2006. What could be more appropriate than our City Attorney, like a good lawyer looking out for his client's best interests, accepting the findings of such an eminent man as Arthur Levitt?
 

 
 

Will the real Mike Aguirre please stand up - 02/15/06

 
 

by Pat Flannery

Just as whether Sanders would pay $10 million ransom to Arthur Levitt and his gang was the acid test of Sanders' sincerity (which he failed) Aguirre's decision whether to stand by his reports or run for cover will tell us who Mike Aguirre really is - is he a genuine reformer or did he just use the outcry for reform to claw his way to office.

Mike Conger knows this pension stuff every bit as well as Aguirre does and has put Mike in the hot seat over his reports. Now we will find out whose attorney Aguirre really is - Scott Peters' or ours.  Whichever way Aguirre jumps Peters will crucify him. Peters smells blood. He wants to bring Aguirre down. Remember Peters is owned and operated by the City employee unions and we know what they think of Aguirre.

Aguirre was very free with his advice to Donna Frye when she was running for Mayor, e.g. her taxation policy (which really was his policy), now he should listen to her for a change. If he does I am sure he will continue to represent those who elected him - us.
 

 
 

Apathy is the mortal enemy of our quality of life - 02/14/06

 
 

by Pat Flannery

My apologies to those of you who have been looking in vain for my daily blogs. The cause: I went to my native Ireland before Christmas and overstayed. I will have one leg in San Diego and the other in Ireland for a few months as I work on a wireless Internet project in the old country, at least that's my excuse. Ireland really is a magical place.

I still read all the San Diego politics every day whether I am in San Diego or in Ireland. The only difference now is that I read the Irish stuff as well.

The interesting thing is the similarities on both sides of the Atlantic. It seems that wherever one goes nowadays the struggle is between the business community trying to run everything and ordinary citizens trying to protect their quality of life. Success or failure of either party is directly related to the degree of their participation in politics. There is no doubt that political apathy is the mortal enemy of citizens' quality of life.

A stronger and more direct cause of my silence was my deep disappointment that Mike Aguirre has abandoned his reform agenda. He is just another ambitious politician now. Thank goodness Donna Frye has not wavered. She still opposes paying ransom money to Arthur Levitt and his gang and is the only one at City Hall that can be relied upon to think as a citizen not as a politician.

On the bright side we do have some excellent civic watchdogs like Mel Shapiro who do a wonderful (and thankless) job in front of the Council every week. Let's hope they don't get disillusioned - remember, apathy is the mortal enemy of our quality of life.
 

 
 

A clash between Sanders and Aguirre is inevitable - 01/03/06

 
 

by Pat Flannery

Jerry Sanders is faced with a San Diego version of the "Know Nothings", a 19th century New York gang. The Know Nothings preyed on immigrants in New York as the KKK preyed on black people in the South. When arrested for murder and other hate crimes they clammed up and "knew nothing".

Now it seems that Mayor Sanders cannot get a straight answer to any question at City Hall. It is suddenly staffed by Know Nothings. Nobody knows how many people work there, what they do, what their responsibilities are, whether they are management or staff. Nobody knows what contracts the City has with anybody nor even what properties the City owns. Can you imagine the employees of a private company getting away with such nonsense? But they will. Just watch.

They all know what pension they will receive and how to go out on disability. Of course Jerry already knows all about that as he did it himself, from the police.

He is now the entrepreneur/mayor and is learning to speak like one because it was Republican money that got him the job. Do Republicans care about good government? Of course not. All they care about is steering their development projects through planning with the minimum cost to them and the maximum grants of free public land.

The danger for the citizens of this lovely city over the next year or so is that they will become distracted by a phony hue and cry about reform while their city is being looted out the back door in secret give-aways to Sanders' developer backers.

A clash between Sanders and Aguirre is inevitable. I can't imagine that Aguirre is fooled for one moment.

These two men may like each other instinctively, having spent most of their working lives in law enforcement of one kind or another, but they now serve two very different constituencies. By no stretch of the imagination can Sanders be considered a reformer. But Aguirre must live or die (politically) by reform.

Republicans have never been reformers. Business is their sole preoccupation. They always promise reform but they always take what they came for and leave even more debt and chaos than they found. They simply do not understand the concept of government. To them all government is bad therefore the least of it the better.

What we are likely to see therefore after a few years of Sanders and his cronies is even more massive City debt and a whole lot of excuses. That's Sanders job. And the Know Nothings have it figured out. All they have to do is sit on their hands and say nothing, do nothing, tell him nothing. They know that Sanders and his gang will take what they came for, lots of development dollars, and leave everything as it was - only worse.

I just hope Donna Frye will be still around to pick up the pieces. Anybody who thinks that these Sanders guys are here to clean up City Hall are living in cloud cuckoo land.
 

 

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