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Tuesday, February 06, 2007 | Froot Loop Airport

The San Diego County Regional Airport Authority is going back to do a basic study of building an airport at Naval Air Station North Island — even though a detailed study is already well underway.

Board member Paul Nieto, who called for the basic study at North Island, had this to say about the out-of-sequence study: “You’ve got to juggle. Unfortunately, it’s not a cereal-box process. We just want to make sure, in those iterations, they’ve studied the Tier I criteria.”

Cereal-box process?

We don’t know what that means, either.

But for more on the North Island study, look for the story Tuesday.

— ROB DAVIS

Plane Gazing

The director of Mount Laguna Observatory is a bit worried.

Putting an airport in Boulevard — 15 miles away from the observatory — could render the space-gazing station nearly useless.

The problem? Light pollution.

As it stands, Mount Laguna is buffered by Anza-Borrego State Park and Cleveland National Forest. When the sun sets, it gets dark at Mount Laguna. Very dark. 

But building an airport nearby would change that, Paul B. Etzel, the observatory’s director, told a San Diego County Regional Airport Authority committee today.

Boulevard — also known as the Campo site — is one prospective home for a new San Diego airport.

The light pollution from an airport would be troublesome, Etzel said. But airplanes flying directly over the observatory would be much worse, he said. Bright landing lights could ruin dark skies.

“It’d be like moving Mexicali to Campo,” Etzel said.

An Imperial Valley airport could also pose problems, Etzel told the authority’s strategic planning committee. If flight paths crossed the observatory, he said even a plane’s running lights could impact stargazing.

The uncertainty about the airport’s future home is hindering fundraising at the observatory. Etzel said efforts to raise $7.1 million to construct a 96-inch telescope have stalled.

If the authority chooses Boulevard as the airport’s future home, it would have to mitigate its impacts on the observatory. Etzel said the site is valued between $15 million and $45 million.

— ROB DAVIS

New Parks Chief

Monday, March 13, 2006 — 1:06 p.m.

Mayor Jerry Sanders appointed Grossmont College President Ted Martinez, Jr., on Monday to oversee the city’s libraries, parks and recreation programs.

Martinez will replace Ellie Oppenheim, a longtime city administrator who recently split town to take a job in Reno, Nev., as the deputy chief operating officer for Customer and Neighborhood Services.

Martinez has run Grossmont College for the past six years.

— EVAN McLAUGHLIN

Council Members Play Defense

Monday, March 13, 2006 — 11:11 a.m.

Four members of the San Diego City Council are up for re-election this year, and all will face challengers in the June primary.

Councilman Kevin Faulconer of District 2, which stretches along the coast from downtown to La Jolla, was just elected to a council post in January. He will face Kennan Kaeder, business attorney and former head of the local Democratic Party, in June.

Also in January, Councilman Ben Hueso was also elected to represent District 8, which includes the city’s neighborhoods below downtown and along the border. In June he will compete against teacher Remy Bermudez and businessman Tim Gomez after defeating both in the primary last November.

Councilwoman Donna Frye will defend her District 6 council seat, which represents Clairemont, Mission Valley and Kearney Mesa. Community volunteer Judy Riddle and Sandy Summers will challenge Frye for her seat. No occupation was listed for Summers, though he is one of the more colorful speakers to address the council on a regular basis.

Councilman Tony Young will defend the District 4 post, which oversees Southeast San Diego, after taking office just one year ago. Young will face community volunteer Bruce Williams.

The primary will be held June 6. If no candidate achieves more than 50 percent of the vote in June, the top two vote-getters will advance to a runoff election in November.

— EVAN McLAUGHLIN

Redeveloped Airports

For everyone following the development of a new airport proposal, it’s worth reading The New York Times’ look at what happens when old airports close.

Interesting stuff. Might the Times revisit the topic in 2030 and write a story about the redevelopment of Lindbergh Field?

ROB DAVIS

Imperial Closure

Imperial Beach’s waters are closed again.

The county’s Department of Environmental Health posted IB’s beaches Saturday, after rainfall sent sewage-laced rain runoff from the Tijuana River into the Pacific Ocean.

The Tijuana River was more than gurgling Saturday. I took a first-hand look at what happens in the river basin post-rainfall Saturday afternoon. One word that describes it: Brown.

About 200 million gallons of the sewage-y stuff flowed through the river Saturday, and it’s still chugging along, according to a river gauge maintained by the International Boundary and Water Commission. Currents are pushing it north.

Water access at Border Field State Park and Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge remains closed. That’s been in effect since Feb. 21.

ROB DAVIS

Sanders: Workers Should Stay

City Attorney Mike Aguirre on Thursday told city workers they would be better off finding work elsewhere because the service they perform for the city won’t earn them the pension they were promised. The city doesn’t have the money to pay it, he said.

Hours later, Council President Scott Peters said Aguirre’s comments were irrelevant, and the mayor stepped in Friday with a memo to “all city employees” quell reaction to the fiery city attorney’s comments.

Mayor Jerry Sanders wrote an e-mail thanking city workers for their service and, in a polite way, said Aguirre’s comments were off-base.

“Unfortunately, often times things get said in the public arena that are either wrong or just plain unfortunate,” he wrote. “I think the City of San Diego is a great place to work and that your hard work and daily efforts are very important.”

— EVAN McLAUGHLIN

Spam Scam?

The city seems to have run into another e-mail glitch.

The San Diego Union-Tribune, a local newspaper, reported Friday that up to 9,000 of e- former City Manager Lamont Ewell’s were intentionally erased and opened an investigation into the matter. The discovery came as the city and its information technology arm were honoring a public records request the newspaper had filed.

Following up on the request, the city’s Information Technology & Communications determined that there were only 43 e-mails for all of 2005 in Ewell’s e-mail box. The San Diego Data Processing Corp., a nonprofit arm that handles IT for the city, later found a snapshot of his e-mail box that showed that he had more than 8,800 total messages.

“It is important to note that we have no factual knowledge what occurred between these two snapshots,” Sanders wrote in a memo Friday.

It is uncertain whether Ewell’s scenario was isolated, or if other City Hall inboxes are missing their e-mail data.

The revelation comes months after Ewell, now Santa Monica’s city manager, declared a don’t-delete directive for city employees. The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission have been probing City Hall’s financial dealings and searched e-mails as one tool for its investigation. It’s unclear whether Ewell’s e-mails have been subpoenaed.

The city has fallen victim to a problem with accessing its documents before. The city’s audit committee, who is preparing a report for outside auditors before they certify the City Hall’s books, announced that the Vinson & Elkins law firm was unable to access nearly one-third of the 160,000 documents it compiled for its own probe.

City officials called for an investigation into the Ewell matter and for an overhaul of the city’s record-keeping practices on Friday. Mayor Jerry Sanders said policies for retaining documents differ from department to department and need to be standardized.

A task force consisting of City Clerk Liz Maland, City Attorney Mike Aguirre, acting Chief Information Officer Matt McGarvey and San Diego Data Processing Corp. chief Tom Fleming will evaluate the city’s e-mail retention policies. The panel will prepare a report on the policies and practices and also offer suggestions.

Aguirre also said that his office has opened a separate investigation into the matter and will keep the Justice Department and SEC updated on its findings.

— EVAN McLAUGHLIN

But Did They Get the Message?

A few posts ago, the attorney for the city’s white-collar workers basically said, “Thanks, but no thanks,” to the mayor’s request to mediate the continuing pension dispute, which challenges over $700 million in employee benefits.

“This is to advise you that I received your letter dated March 5, 2002,” Sanders wrote Wednesday.

— EVAN McLAUGHLIN

New Subpoenas

A federal grand jury has issued a new subpoena for information regarding a meeting of the San Diego City Council in January 2002.

The U.S. Attorney’s office has been sifting through information about San Diego’s pension crisis looking for criminal behavior since 2002. In January, prosecutors announced that they had secured an indictment of five former players in the city’s retirement system.

Now, according to the a new subpoena released by the City Attorney’s Office, a grand jury has asked for “any and all documents and communications related to the San Diego City Council’s closed session meeting on January 29, 2002. Documentation should include, but is not limited to, draft and final versions of presentations, notes, draft and final versions of Closed Session Reports, and draft and final versions of memos and e-mails.”

The indictments handed out in January indicated that the five people charged with felonies for their actions while administering the city’s pension system worked closely with “others.”

The subpoena was sent on March 6 and the documents are expected to be in the Grand Jury’s hands March 31.

—SCOTT LEWIS

Doh! McGuigan

A former city employee’s case against the city of San Diego for underfunding its retirement system from may be wrapped up as early as May, a judge said Friday.

Superior Court Judge Richard Strauss said he will decide on May 26 how to rule on William McGuigan’s case to force the city to make a $178 million payment to the retirement fund. If denied, McGuigan can ask for a full jury trial, which would begin Sept. 15.

The city also has until April 21 to decide whether it will admit or deny certain statements made by City Attorney Mike Aguirre in various interim reports. Michael Conger, the attorney for McGuigan, contends that he has the supporting evidence to prove that the city paid a less-than-actuarially-sound amount into its pension fund from 1996 to 2005, but said the city is arguing other lawsuits based on those facts too.

“The city can’t eat its cake and have it,” he said Friday.

Council President Scott Peters has indicated that the council will weigh in on whether to make those admissions, probably at a meeting in the next two weeks.

— EVAN McLAUGHLIN

Blowin’ in the Wind

Plans to build a supplemental airport at Naval Air Station North Island may not takeoff if the wind gods have anything to do with it.

A San Diego County Regional Airport Authority analysis found that meeting Federal Aviation Administration wind-standards might reduce the proposed site’s capacity.

FAA regulations require airports to be able to operate 95 percent of the time.

Ten years of analysis show that gusts at the Coronado site would force the authority to create four different flight patterns to comply with that standard.

But some intersect with Lindbergh Field’s flight patterns. This creates what agency staff call a “dependent operation,” as the two runways would have to coordinate their arrivals and departures with one another.

The authority is still evaluating exactly what effect it will have on air traffic control coordination and the number of flights that can take off and land from the site. They expect that it will reduce the airfield capacity.

The authority’s strategic planning committee will take up the issue when it meets Monday morning.

— SAM HODGSON

A strange wet substance is falling from the sky, causing the ground to dampen and cars to slow on San Diego’s freeways.

Through extensive research and in-depth reporting, the investigative team at Voice has determined that the aforementioned substance is in fact rain.

More than half an inch of rain is expected today. We have found umbrellas are a good weapon in the battle against this strange phenomenon.

— SAM HODGSON

Peters on Promises

At his weekly press briefing, Council President Scott Peters sharply rebuked City Attorney Mike Aguirre’s comments about the city not honoring its pension promises to employees (see entry below).

“I intend to honor the city’s debts,” said Peters, who added that bankruptcy was not an option and that the city will likely issue pension obligation bonds to pay down its pension deficit once it regains its financial footing. “We owe it to our city employees … to stand behind our obligations.”

The city currently has an estimated pension shortfall of about $2 billion. A more precise number is due out next Friday.

Peters added, “I’d hope that the public recognizes the irrelevance” of Aguirre’s estimates when an actuary, who forecasts the pension fund’s financial standing, has approved the system’s numbers.

Aguirre has long stated that Peters is not a credible source of information because he sat on the council that approved a pension funding deal that provided new benefits for employees at the same time the city was seeking relief from its pension bill. The city attorney has also sued the actuary Peters referred to for malpractice.

EVAN McLAUGHLIN

Get Out While You Can

City Attorney Mike Aguirre on Thursday advised current city employees to seek work elsewhere if they are concerned with their future retirement pay because the city will likely not have the money needed to pay the pension benefits it promised.

After sharing with reporters statements that allegedly show that half of the retirement fund’s money is promised to the one-third of the pensioners — the current retirees — Aguirre said that retirement system’s funding level is inadequate to pay the 13,000 members of the plan who are not yet drawing pension checks.

“When you’re retired, you’ve already made a judgment to leave the workforce, so you’re options are dramatically reduced,” Aguirre said. “As to other 13,000, they are still active members of the workforce. The other 13,000 can make life-changing decisions still.”

Aguirre said city employees could find work elsewhere to avoid the heartbreak of working for decades only to find that the money that was promised to them was gone.

Leaders of the city’s public employee unions have vowed to enforce the benefits that were granted to employees though labor negotiations, despite Aguirre’s attempts to roll back benefits increases that were granted in 1996 and 2002. The city attorney is challenging those benefits because he said there was no legal stream of funding provided to support them and that they were created by retirement trustees who had a conflict of interest in a deal that made effective the benefit boosts.

The departure of workers would also benefit the city, he said, because the city could restructure the bureaucracy to create lesser-paying jobs that would not be so burdensome on City Hall’s books.

“Our workforce is just too expensive,” he said.

— EVAN McLAUGHLIN

One-Bedroom House $265k!

It’s true.

There are single family homes in San Diego for less than $300,000.

Check out this little 

— WILL CARLESS

Another Manager Bails

Ellen Oppenheim officially jumped from the city of San Diego’s teetering ship March 6, sending a letter of resignation to Mayor Jerry Sanders and the City Council.

As the deputy chief operating officer of neighborhood services for the city, Oppenheim had just been brought into Sanders’ new fold. She had been a deputy manager under the old system of government. She leaves to take a job as head of the Reno Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority.

“San Diego is a wonderful city and your city government is doing good work for the residents and visitors to the area,” she wrote. “While there are clear challenges ahead that must be addressed, there are also great strengths and opportunities.”

SCOTT LEWIS

On Second Thought

The water was reopened in Pacific Beach today. Turns out that the sewage spill we reported on didn’t get to the water. The county’s Department of Environmental Health sent out a correction this afternoon.

A low-flow diversion structure in the storm drain sent the sewage back to the pump station.

Water contact closure signs have been removed. Tourmaline Surf Park has reopened.

I should’ve gone surfing this morning.

— ROB DAVIS

Swimmingly Clean

Imperial Beach surfers can hop back in the water for the first time since Feb. 28. The county’s Department of Environmental Health announced reopening of the IB water and Silver Strand State Beach today.

But the shorelines remain closed at Border Field State Park and Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge. The water there has been off-limits since a quarter-inch of rain fell Feb. 19.

The small rainfall — compounded by currents pushing north and another heavy rainfall last week — brought toxic sewage sweeping down into the Pacific from some of Tijuana’s poorest, under-developed neighborhoods. Many lack sewage infrastructure or plumbing. 

— ROB DAVIS

Downtown Inventory Spikes

For the last two weeks it looked like spring was in the air for downtown San Diego. For the first time in weeks, inventory levels of unsold condos in downtown San Diego dropped, undoubtedly resulting in a sigh of relief from downtown sellers and Realtors.

But this week the inventory has spiked again, according to Lew Breeze, a downtown Realtor who has been compiling statistics about the 92101 ZIP code for the last three years. Breeze’s Web site, www.92101.info lists all the condos currently for sale in the downtown ZIP code.

The inventory level this week stands at 478 condos, up from 467 condos a week ago. Since last week, the median price of condos for sale has dropped from $645,000 to $636,250, its lowest level since September 2005.

With downtown set to add some 11,000 condos in the next few years, rising inventory levels concern sellers hoping to offload their condos at a profit. Many experts have said that the high level of growth seen in downtown is unsustainable, and that many planned condo projects will not end up being built.

WILL CARLESS

Another Spill

The water is closed in Pacific Beach after a 16,200-gallon sewer spill Monday night.

We would have told you sooner, but the Voice of San Diego and other news outlets didn’t get the news from the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health until late last night. The news release landed in our inboxes at 6:44 p.m.

A blockage in a sewer main at Cass and Van Nuys streets in PB started at 4 p.m. Monday and was cleared by 9:24 p.m. About 13,200 gallons of sewage were recovered, but the other 3,000 went into a nearby storm drain that empties north of Tourmaline Surf Park.

The beach has been posted between Law Street and Tourmaline; signs will stay up until samples show the water is safe for recreation.

A second spill Monday night spewed sewage into San Diego Bay. The Department of Environmental Health said a grease blockage was to blame for that 5,480-gallon spill in the 2800 block of 39th Street.

All of the sewage flowed into Chollas Creek, which feeds San Diego Bay at the 32nd Street Naval Station.

That spill didn’t impact recreational waters.

ROB DAVIS

Atkins’ Absence

Councilwoman Toni Atkins was noticeably absent from a vote Monday that, if approved, would have changed the city’s policy on funding the legal defense of former retirement officials. So were Council President Scott Peters and Councilman Jim Madaffer.

The measure garnered a 4-to-1 vote from the council members who were present Monday, but the proposal ultimately failed because it was one vote short of the five needed for approval.

Peters and Madaffer notified the press days ago that they were attending the American Public Transportation Conference in Washington, D.C.

On the other hand, Atkins had attended a press conference in Barrio Logan hours earlier. Her absence at the 2 p.m. council meeting drew the ire of City Attorney Mike Aguirre. A spokesman said she fell ill shortly afterward and went home for the day.

Aguirre accused Atkins of running away from a controversial vote that would have repealed a resolution providing unconditional legal defense for the employees the city attorney is suing in pension-related lawsuits.

“I don’t shy away from votes. It’s ludicrous. I’m not even going to respond to that,” Atkins said through a spokesman Tuesday.

Atkins and several other sitting council members voted to enact the resolution on the same day in 2002 that they granted new pension benefits to employees. The benefits are the center of Aguirre’s ongoing legal battle against the retirement system.

The council’s failure to approve the proposal affirms a judge’s ruling that the city must pay the legal bills for several retirement officials. The council initially denied the funding in August, when the majority of that shorthanded council favored picking up the tab but was also unable to collect five votes.

— EVAN McLAUGHLIN

The attorney for the city’s white-collar union scorned Mayor Jerry Sanders’ invitation to mediate the ongoing dispute over pension benefit increases in a letter Sunday, saying the style and substance of the mayor’s proposal was unacceptable.

“In sum: What were you thinking?” wrote Smith, who represents the 6,000-member Municipal Employees Association. “If your intention was to communicate in good faith, sending a letter late on Friday afternoon followed by a press conference the next day is not the way to do it.”

The mayor asked the four unions currently entangled in the city’s pension-related litigation to begin mediating the dispute March 22 with a retired federal judge. Mediation may reduce the time and money it will take to judge whether benefit increases granted in 1996 and 2002 are legal. City Attorney Mike Aguirre is attempting to roll back the estimated $700 million in benefits, claiming the officials who approved them had a conflict of interest.

Smith reaffirmed her union’s stance that the benefits are constitutionally guaranteed and cannot be rolled back, posing a problem for the mayor. Sanders is hoping to find the middle ground between the city’s claims and the union’s beliefs.

“Since my view is that the pension benefits in issue cannot be rolled-back or diminished due to the Constitutional protection they enjoy as vested benefits and due to a host of other legal and equitable reasons, I explained to the Court that mediation — which contemplates compromise — was not likely to be useful to the parties at this stage of the litigation,” Smith wrote.

— EVAN McLAUGHLIN

Objective Airport

The San Diego County Taxpayers Association is calling for more objectivity as the region draws closer to choosing a potential new airport site. So far, the association says, the discussion has been one-sided — with the airport authority’s promotional materials providing the loudest voice.

The non-profit, non-partisan association wants a more thorough disclosure of facts as the November ballot measure draws closer, association President and Chief Executive Officer Lani Lutar said.

A lot is at stake. Lutar said the airport could be “the largest single investment of public funds in the history of the area.”

The association’s chipper-sounding TGIF committee — that’s Transportation, Governance, Infrastructure and Finance — drafted six criteria that will determine whether the group will endorse the airport proposal.

Among them: The San Diego County Regional Airport Authority should increase the capacity of Lindbergh Field by maximizing the use of the area’s other airports — and should look into uniting all local airports under one umbrella. Eight airports are managed by San Diego County (not the authority) — including McClellan-Palomar Airport and Gillespie Field.

Lutar also called for the authority to spell out costs of building roads and related infrastructure leading to an airport. That could have the greatest impact on area taxpayers, she said.

 — ROB DAVIS

NAR’s Monopoly Challenged

A story in today’s Wall Street Journal reports that the US Justice Department has filed an antitrust lawsuit against the National Association of Realtors over the trade group’s Internet listing policy. According to the article, the suit alleges that the practice restricts competition from Web-based brokers.

“NAR’s policy prevents consumers from receiving the full benefits of competition and threatens to lock in outmoded business models and discourage discounting,” the story quotes the department as saying.

The article also quotes J. Bruce McDonald, deputy assistant attorney general for antitrust:

“The purchase of a home is one of the most significant financial decisions a family can make, and NAR’s policy stifles competition to advantage some of its members at the expense of home buyers and sellers across the country.”

The NAR defended its policy, saying that it has merely harnessed technology to the benefit of consumers, and said that it did not understand the motives behind the case, the article says.

We’ll have more on this as it develops.

— WILL CARLESS

IT Chief Gone

Mayor Jerry Sanders accepted the resignation of Rey Arellano, the city of San Diego’s chief information officer, this week.

Under the previous city manager, the chief information officer oversaw the technology and networking functions of the city. But Sanders and Ronne Froman, the city’s new chief operating officer, are methodically reorganizing the city. The patchwork of information-technology systems at City Hall is next on their list for reform.

It’s unclear whether Arellano goes willingly. In January, scores of managers like him sent in their voluntary resignations to comply with a mayoral edict. Sanders had promised in his campaign for mayor that he would demand resignations from all city managers. He said he would then decide which ones he would accept.

It was kind of an awkward request. How do you write a letter of resignation when you don’t want to resign?

Sanders’ staff figured out a solution, offering managers a form letter that they merely had to sign.

Arellano, however, was one of the few who sent in a personal letter along with his form.

“It is very difficult for me to write this letter although I understand the need to take this action, for I strongly believe I would make an active member of your leadership team, working toward solutions that will demonstrate that the city is the best run government in the country,” he wrote.

—SCOTT LEWIS

Ruling Released

Wow, just as I finished that last post, we got this. Judge Jeffrey Barton appears to have stuck to his tentative ruling that the pension board can have a lawyer independent of the city.  

SCOTT LEWIS

A Lawyer’s Word

The City Attorney’s Office has dug up a couple of archives that might be interesting to those following the continuing debate about whether the city’s pension system should be allowed to have an attorney independent of the city of San Diego.

City Attorney Mike Aguirre says no. The San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System is a department of the city, he says, and because Aguirre’s the lawyer for all city departments, he’s the lawyer for that department as well.

The pension system’s attorneys disagree, claiming Aguirre would have a conflict of interest. The retirement system and the city will have to be at odds, at times, they argue, and which side will he choose when they are?

Many of Aguirre’s critics, including former city attorneys, have taken up the fight.

Their old boss, however, former City Attorney John Witt, was of a different mind. The recently released documents show him vigorously defending the right of the city — and therefore, voters — to determine who is the legal counsel for the pension system.

“Until a court rules otherwise, it is the people’s prerogative to decide who should provide legal services to the board and they have spoken through (City) Charter Section 40,” Witt wrote in April 1993.

That “until a court rules otherwise” part may be key, though, considering Judge Jeffrey Barton appeared to be ready to do just that.

What’s your opinion on Aguirre’s move? Send a letter to Voice of San Diego to argue with the man himself.

SCOTT LEWIS

Fake Neighbor Fun

Just to carry on the “It’s a grey Monday morning and we need something to cheer us up” theme, check out this hilarious photo essay about a downtown condo sales event.

The “fake neighbors” are a special treat, but the dead-pan running commentary was what got me.

WILL CARLESS

Cute Fixer-Upper

If home prices in San Diego put even the most modest of condos out of your reach, there’s always Tijuana a short drive south.

Though the border waits can be a hassle, and there may be a few problems with crime, there are a few bargains to be had south of the border.

Check out this cute fixer upper on the market for a mere $39,000.

WILL CARLESS

Cleaner at Coronado

The beaches reopened today at Coronado, just in time for another winter rain shower.

(In fairness, though, should we really call it a winter rain shower? How about an early, early summer shower.)

Beaches remain closed from the border north to Silver Strand State Beach, the result of sewage-contaminated runoff from the Tijuana River.

Duke Gets 8+ years

Former Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham was sentenced to 100 months in prison Friday, several months after the disgraced public official admitted accepting $2.4 million in bribes. During his prison term and after, Cunningham will be required to make payments on $1.804 million in fines and back taxes.

The emotional Cunningham was immediately taken into custody. He had pleaded for time to see his aging mother before her death.

Prosecutors said they were pleased with the verdict, which they called the harshest punishment of a corrupt member of Congress ever.

U.S. Rep Duncan Hunter appeared at the sentencing hearing to support Cunningham.

“Duke Cunningham has been a close personal friend for more than 30 years,” Hunter said.

WILL CARLESS

Questions Answered

Friday, March 3, 2006 — 12:56 p.m.

Should a supplemental airport be built in North County? Should a military base be used? And just what happened in that meeting with B.J. Penn, the assistant secretary of the Navy?

Suffice to say, the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority will have a lot on its plate when it meets Monday morning.

If you’re following the issue, it’s worth taking a look at some of the reports the authority will address at its 10 a.m. meeting. The full board will be briefed (for a second time) on the viability of joint-use airports at each of the area’s three military bases. The authority’s four-member strategic planning committee heard the presentation earlier this week — though all board members were there listening and commenting.

Earlier in February, the same committee recommended ending considerations of two North County sites near Escondido as possible supplemental airports. The board can formally axe

And some light will be shed on the closed-door meeting with Penn, whose boss, Donald Winter, panned the idea of joint-use civilian-military airports in a letter last week.

Check back next week for the Voice of San Diego’s continuing airport coverage.

ROB DAVIS

Who Appoints Whom?

A friend reminded us today that — in contrast to what we implied in an earlier post — Mayor Jerry Sanders’ two picks to fill spots on the city’s pension board are not necessarily shoo-ins. The City Council must confirm the appointments.

In San Diego’s new “strong mayor” system of government, the mayor, according to a Feb. 28 legal opinion, retains the power to nominate people to such boards as the pension board, Centre City Development Corp., the Ethics Commission and several others. But those nominations are still subject to confirmation by the City Council.

In one interesting twist, however, the mayor will have very little say now over who becomes a commissioner on the San Diego Unified Port District’s governing board. The port’s by-laws say that its San Diego representatives are appointed by that city’s “legislative body.”

So, the City Council now has full control over those appointments, although it’s subject to a veto by the mayor. That veto may only be symbolic, however, because the council can easily override it with the same number of votes that made the appointment.

That will be a bit of a change from the past. Former Mayor Dick Murphy, for instance, took it upon himself to select port commissioners that the City Council then approved. One of his picks, remember, was Peter Q. Davis. Who is now the current pick of Mayor Sanders to take over a seat at the retirement board.

Want another twist?

The mayor gains a little power his predecessors didn’t have before. Last year, the City Council demanded that the city manager take control of the board that oversees the San Diego Data Processing Corp. Now that the mayor is the city manager, he will exercise full control over that board.

So if DPC officials start buying $20 tequila shots for all their buddies again, we’ll know who to blame.

SCOTT LEWIS

Join the Fun

The beleaguered city retirement board will have a new class of entering freshmen: two new appointees from Mayor Jerry Sanders and a new representative of city employees.

Retired banker and former mayoral candidate Peter Q. Davis has the biggest name of the new group. Davis has served as the chairman of the Board of Port Commissioners for the San Diego Unified Port District. He was also the chairman of the Centre City Development Corp.

Mayor Sanders also appointed V. Wayne Kennedy to the board. Kennedy is the former vice chancellor for administration at the University of California San Diego.

Finally, Franklin Lamberth will be one of two representatives of general members of the retirement system on the board. Police and fire have separate representatives. Lamberth will take over the seat vacated by John Torres. Torres is currently facing felony conflict-of-interest charges for his alleged role in approving pension enhancements that he will benefit from.

Lamberth, who works in the environmental services department, won his election to the seat after a run off. Part of his campaign was to convince his colleagues that he could stand up to City Attorney Mike Aguirre the best. Aguirre has been working diligently to become the attorney for the pension board.

“I will not let this fox into our henhouse,” Lamberth wrote on a ballot statement.

—SCOTT LEWIS

Pointing Out Problems

Voice of San Diego’s reach may be spreading throughout the globe, a recent story we published seems to have touched a nerve.

In Kelowna, British Columbia, a condo project called Discovery Bay was built by Pointe of View Developments — a company based in Calgary, Canada. The project was recently identified as “under designed” and structurally unsafe. That’s relevant to San Diegans because the Canadian developers are currently working on what will eventually become the largest condo development in downtown San Diego.

While writing the story, I interviewed the city of Kelowna’s inspection services manager, Ron Dickinson. Residents of the Kelowna building were informed in an October letter from Dickinson that their building was unsafe, and that they should move out. I wanted to know why, four months later, the building was still inhabited.  

Dickinson was nonplussed, offering little. Finally he protested “Isn’t this story about San Diego, not Kelowna.”

He was right, and I left it there.

But it’s not the end of the story in Canada. This morning I received an email from a journalist in Kelowna, who copied a story he had outlining the following policy changes taking place in our neighbor (way) to the north:

“The final solution to the Discovery Bay construction troubles is still a ways off, although the city has implemented a lesson learned from the shaky structure,” writes the reporter, Grant Jones of the Kelowna Daily Courier.

“As a result of the design and foundation problems at the Sunset Drive condos, the city is now requiring that the design of all major structures undergo a peer review by others in the business,”

Jones quotes the beleaguered Dickinson:

On another note, drilling at Pointe of View’s downtown development began yesterday after a hiatus of several weeks. You can be sure we’ll be keeping an eye on them to ensure none of the Kelowna Conundrums make it this far south.

— WILL CARLESS

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