OB RAG Crystal Ball 2011

by on December 29, 2010 · 17 comments

in Culture, San Diego

As Yogi Berra once said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

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.

Councilmember Kevin Faulconer with Mayor Sanders in the back.

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.

Councilmember Carl DeMaio

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.

Mayor Jerry Sanders during happier, sillier days.

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!

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Shane Finneran December 29, 2010 at 1:59 pm

More predictions for 2011…

1. austerity everywhere
2. San Diego’s summer returns rested and refreshed after taking 2010 off
3. OB Rag wins Pulitzer Prize


And Four December 29, 2010 at 2:37 pm

4. Bob Filner Mayor of San Diego!

Has anyone heard about Bob Filner running for Mayor?


Frank Gormlie December 29, 2010 at 2:55 pm

You anticipated our next weekly poll, so great prediction!


And Four December 29, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Nate Fletcher is a good pick, but I voted Bob.

I’ve only been reading this blogs for a short wile, but I love it. great job!


Frank Gormlie December 29, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Fletcher is NOT a good pick. He is currently being pushed as our next mayor by the U-T. He’s a darling of the elitist power centers here in this town.


And Four December 30, 2010 at 7:10 am

I didn’t know that. I was assuming because of Chelsea’s Law that he was one of the good guys.

I’ll look at these canidates and check them out. First time able to vote, so I want to make it a good one.


dave rice December 30, 2010 at 5:38 pm

Well congrats on that, and taking the time to do your homework! Whether or not I like the way you vote, thanks for voting!


RB December 29, 2010 at 4:26 pm

In the San Diego Union on Saturdays, they have a caption contest for editorial cartoons. This week they had an adult on Santa’s lap as the picture. The third place entry was the request to Santa to have Bob Filner become mayor. The entry was placed by Bob Filner. I took it as Bob showing some humor not as him really placing himself in the race.


Luke December 29, 2010 at 5:51 pm

Reel it in, friend.

How often do “backroom machinations” involve a public, televised debate on the floor of the Legislature, and then a public vote of the entire Senate and Assembly?

Take a look at the legislation and you’ll see for yourself that there’s no mention of a stadium anywhere. In fact, it doesn’t commit money to a single project.

How will any stadium plans work practically in San Diego? Well, there will be a public vote – the mayor said so in his State of the City address and reaffirmed the same when Donna Frye, Nathan Fletcher, and the mayor presented a city plan for moving forward with the cap lift.

And in the unlikely event the public chooses to vote for a stadium, you can still call the City Council and tell them to vote it down since they have the final say on any redevelopment appropriations.

All the hype about a potential stadium misses the broader point that billions of dollars will be able to be reinvested in the construction and improvement of infrastructure, parks, housing, and business facilities in San Diego. To top it off, it’s expected to create over 100,000 new jobs and cause a net increase of over $200 million to the City’s General Fund.


dave rice December 30, 2010 at 5:43 pm

A stadium creating over 100,000 new jobs? I’d like to see that claim sourced!

As someone who’s been a Charger fan since I was old enough to talk, was a season ticket holder for over a decade when my wallet was fatter, and a person who’s traveled across the country to see dozens of newer stadiums and can understand how decrepit ours really is, I’d like to see a stadium as much as anyone. But I really don’t think I can come close to getting on board with any kind of proposal in the immediate future – even if that means losing a professional sports franchise that, in all reality, is never coming back if they go.

I see adding some construction jobs short-term, but during a time when that industry is being hit harder than most and could really use a boost. But that’s a few thousand jobs for a couple years. After that, maybe a few thousand low-paying part-time positions for when the team’s in town or the stadium is hosting other events – but most of those jobs exist already, so there might only be a long-term net gain or loss of a few hundred, as I see it.


doug porter December 29, 2010 at 9:13 pm

what a croc, luke…
from the UT 10/8/10:” Last-minute legislation tied to the state’s budget agreement Friday morning boosted the prospects for a new Chargers stadium in downtown San Diego — and the likelihood that any proposal could include hundreds of millions of dollars of public money.

The arrangement, quietly advanced over the last week by Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, R-San Diego, with the blessing of Mayor Jerry Sanders and the knowledge of the team, eliminates a $2.9 billion cap on downtown redevelopment from 1992.

Consequently, the city’s redevelopment planners can halt a $500,000, 18-month study to lift the cap and clear the way for a potential construction boom beyond the stadium. They also will not need the approval from the county, two state government departments and three other government bodies.

The secret way that this process was sidestepped angered some elected officials at both the city and state level, but others said job creation in San Diego should trump procedural concerns.”


doug porter December 29, 2010 at 9:21 pm

more luke:
Bootleg Assembly Measure Creates Stadium Window | NBC San Diego “In the final hours of bargaining over the state budget last week, a San Diego lawmaker ran a remarkable two-minute drill, bootlegging a measure into the budget that would lift the cap on redevelopment spending in downtown San Diego — and create clear skies for a Chargers stadium deal.”
Voice of San Diego: Voice of San Diego
Randy Dotinga
October 9, 2010

Should law be patched together in the middle of the night when hardly anyone is watching? Sacramento seems to think so: in a last-minute move that sent local eyebrows skyward, the state legislature slipped a bill into budget negotiations Thursday night that would pave the way for San Diego’s downtown redevelopment agency to more easily pay to build a downtown football stadium.

This is hardly a case of simple bureaucracy at work. As we report, the mayor’s promised “transparent process” over this issue is now history, and the effect of the deal on the city’s day-to-day budget is unknown, just as voters begin considering boosting their sales taxes to bail out the city. On top of all that, “the deal was done in stunning secrecy.”


doug porter December 30, 2010 at 9:12 am

Meanwhile over at City Beat, the “other liberal media outlet”, as we like to refer to them, John Lamb has his predictions for 2011. Money quotes: (Re: Mayors Race) “Who’s crazy enough to want the job?” and (Re: Chargers) “After this ridiculously gut-wrenching season, it gets harder to give a crap.” Check it out: http://goo.gl/nRAyH


dave rice December 30, 2010 at 5:46 pm

Good read, Doug. And I’ve taken to spending a minute or so loudly educating those paid petitioners about the dastardly effects of what they’re pushing for – much to their chagrin and the embarrassment of my fiancée. But I couldn’t find a Yelp article on pot holes, so I had to go to work on that one myself…



Shane Finneran December 30, 2010 at 6:24 pm

Loved your review so much I had to create a Yelp account so I could review it too!


RB January 1, 2011 at 11:26 am

I predict there will be cost overruns during the construction of the downtown library.
The School District will change superintendents again, will increase class sizes, drop full day kindergarten and cut student instructional days to balance their budget. To maintain campaign contributions the Board will propose raising teachers salaries and blocking real school reform.
The Chargers will not get a new stadium.
California Municipal Bonds will get a major downgrade.
Jerry Brown will cut spending, freeze salaries and be vilified by the public employee unions and the far left.
Frye will face DeMaio to become our next mayor, if tax increases are on the ballot DeMiao will win and if social issues are on the ballot Frye will win. And their campaigns will start in 2011.


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