For those of you that think Yogi Berra is somehow related to cartoon character Yogi Bear, I suggest that you return to your AOL homepage. The rest of you should check out my predictions for 2011 so you can make fun of me later on in the year. I’m covering my ass by conjuring up a blend of snark, prognostication, and a sprinkling of insights. I’m not saying which is what, so it’s up to you to decide how seriously to take this.
As we lurch towards the end of the reign of holly-jolly Mayor Jerry Sanders, hizzonor’s quests for legacy and the race to replace him are sure to be dominant stories by year’s end. Add a special election in June, to be decreed by our new Governor, which promises to be an epic battle between the forces of good and evil over the future of our State, along with a Trojan horse ballot measure posing as a magical solution to the woes of our local schools and you’ve got a blockbuster fantasy thriller of a year in front of you.
The Downtown Magical Mystery Tour
Sure, San Diego has pot holes with Yelp! reviews, our libraries are barely functioning, and the specter of bankruptcy looms large, but the pursuit of giant shiny structures constructed with public funding remains a priority for our Mayor.
Ground was broken in 2010 for the Schoolbrary, a white elephant if there ever was one, created via City Hall induced elfin magic that cobbled together a coalition based on the wish lists of philanthropists, organized labor and downtown developers. Will 2011 be the year in which an actual educational need is found for the school part of this deal? I think not.
The long time dream of City politicos for a new City Hall building will emerge from the shadows again this year, as the changed composition of the City Council will allow this idea to make it off the drawing boards without the need of the approval of those pesky voters. Two new council members — Republican Lorie Zapf and Democrat David Alvarez — are not among those who previously committed to voter approval for the $293 million project. And, as we’ll see, getting stuff approved without the wretched agony of voter consent is going to be a common theme for 2011.
Sometime during the first quarter of the New Year, San Diegans are going to hear about plans for financing the expansion of our beloved Convention Center, soon to be dubbed the “Jolly Green Giant”. The building that will save Comic Con will be a 3.5-million-square-foot facility outfitted with environmentally “green” whistles and bells that City and convention officials hope the project will earn a “LEED Gold” rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. Not only will it save the environment, Mayor Sanders is promising 6,700 more jobs and as much as $17 million in additional sales and hotel taxes for the city’s general fund. And somehow all this will happen at no cost to taxpayers.
Last, but hardly least, we have the grand plan for a new football stadium in downtown. It doesn’t make economic sense no matter how you look at it, unless the taxpayers are willing to foot the costs. Thanks to the backroom machinations of Republican state Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, the cap on funds for San Diego’s downtown redevelopment disappeared last October. Never mind the promises of San Diego politicos, lead by Hizzonor himself, of a “transparent process”. This issue is now history, a done deal. And anybody who raises questions about the efficacy of a new altar to testosterone and beer buzzes is obviously opposed to creating “tens of thousands” of jobs and probably kills puppies in their spare time.
Not since the days of the Egyptian Pharaohs have we seen such longing for legacy. We can only hope that one of these grandiose projects gets named after Mayor Sanders.
The Mayoral Race Shapes Up
While actual elections for the top job in San Diego are not slated for 2011, much of what happens on the local scene will be heavily influenced by political posturing as the year progresses. Despite the fact that both political parties are, generally speaking, contenders for voter loyalty, all three of the top contenders are of the Republican persuasion. Here are the front runners that you need to watch:
Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher. Yup, the same guy who conjured up the stadium deal. And Fletcher’s mojo was made even more powerful by way of his sponsorship of Chelsea’s Law, which imposed tighter restrictions on sex offenders in the wake of the murder of Poway teenager Chelsea King earlier this year by a registered sex offender. With the promise of jobs, crooks kept behind bars where they belong and his following of the proven path to political success laid down by Pete Wilson: Marines, State Assembly and then mayor, Fletcher is presently considered the front-runner.
City Councilman Kevin Falconer: The man who torpedoed floatopia, enabled the voters of east county to ban booze on our beaches and won the heroic battle to install $3500 park benches along sunset cliffs has his eye on the prize, or so the pundits tell us. Kevin’s good at two things: waffling for as long as possible on controversial issues and constituent service. Look for lots of fundraising breakfasts should he decide to run.
City Councilman Carl DeMaio: He’s been busy building a political machine since landing in San Diego, fresh from the halls of the Heritage Foundation, using his failed ballot initiative (to cut pay for workers on City contracts) and his point position as the leader of the anti-Prop D forces to build mojo. Carl’s running for the job so he can be that last person in the building and turn off the lights on San Diego’s City government.
Let’s throw a few other names into the hat while we’re speculating here, just for karmic balance: Tony Young, Lori Saldana, Todd Gloria and Richard Barrera. Is any of then running? Nope. Which leaves us with the long shot, dark horse democratic candidate: Donna Frye. Even the best fortune tellers in town won’t commit on this one.
The Scandal That Should Be
“If it seems too good to be true, it probably is”.
That adage should probably be adopted as the official slogan for our fair City. The endless cycle of promises and promises broken defines San Diego’s history. You need look no further than one of our local Business Improvement Districts for the most probable source of our City’s next really big scandal.
The scandal simmering just below the surface locally stems from a lawsuit filed by former City employee Scott Kessler, who claims that he was fired from his position as deputy director of the Economic Development Division after cooperating with police and federal agents investigating alleged conflict-of-interest violations in the North Bay and Little Italy BIDs.
As reported by Don Bauder over at the Reader, this lawsuit has implications that go all the way to the top:
The deposition of Mayor Jerry Sanders in the Kessler vs. San Diego suit indicates that District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis had a meeting with Sanders to tell him she would not prosecute the thoroughly-researched case against Little Italy political powerhouse Marco Li Mandri and his associate, felon Paul (Joe) Mannino. After admitting that Dumanis had come to him, Sanders was asked by Josh Gruenberg, Kessler’s lawyer, if Sanders had ever heard of a situation in which a district attorney had had a meeting with a mayor to explain why a case wasn’t being prosecuted. Replied Sanders, according to the transcript of the Aug. 27 deposition, “I — I — I — I had never heard of it. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.” Gruenberg asked who had called the meeting. The mayor said Dumanis called it.
Bauder went on to comment:
If Bonnie Dumanis were standing on a downtown street and saw a prominent real estate developer — particularly one that was one of her contributors — gun down six people, she would look the other way.
This lawsuit is headed to court this spring. I’d love to predict that San Diego’s head pot prosecutor and Hizzonor will take a fall, but it’s much more likely that a settlement will be reached that prohibits any of the parties from discussing what they know. The official FBI report is out there on the internet and it’s obvious that Bauder’s seen a copy of the depositions in the case. Gosh, if San Diego only had a watchdog institute instead of Chihuahua brigade….
The School Reform Charade
Regular readers here at the OB Rag already know about the Trojan horse ballot initiative being pushed by the San Diegans for Great Schools Group. (I promise a detailed analysis of the actual law that they are proposing in the near future.)
If and when a special election is announced for June, it’s likely that the backers of this measure will attempt to get it on the ballot. There’s been nothing less than a full court press in recent weeks of signature gatherers standing around in front of high traffic shopping areas asking for signatures that will “Save Education”. One report that I heard was that the solicitors were complaining about the number of voters who were refusing to sign the petitions, as compared to the “freedom of choice” petitions that they were also pushing for Walmart. None-the-less, I’m assuming that they’ll get the required 190,000 or signatures required to get ballot placement.
Interestingly enough, the San Diego Unified School District decision to pursue a “bottom up” program of educational excellence, as opposed to the “top down” program at the heart of the “Great Schools” scheme, has been collecting favorable notices nationally, including this one, in the Huffington Post.
As a result, this ballot box battle could have national significance. Look for an unusually hard fought campaign. The “Great Schools” people have mega bucks backing them, albeit secretly. Civil libertarians, progressives and small “d” democrats can be expected to rally against the measure, which many feel would violate the “one man-one vote” interpretations of the US Constitution by allowing an unelected group to select school board members. Other school districts that have migrated towards an appointed or hybrid school board as a means of education reform have left the appointment process up to elected officials, allowing voters recourse, as happened in Washington DC during 2010, when their Mayor went down to defeat over education issues.
Well, that’s enough predictions for one day. Share yours in the comments section below. Happy New Year!