Here we go with the second round of answers from today’s adventures of The People’s Reporter:

Assignment: Norman asked: “What’s the status of Zucchet and Inzunza? And how come so much time has gone by with no activity on their case? Hmmmmmmmmmmm?”

I talked to Michael Zucchet, the former city councilman, and he said the government’s appeal is pending in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. When I asked him how long he expected it to go, he replied: “A couple of years is my guess.”

I then talked to the attorney of fellow former City Councilman Ralph Inzunza. The attorney, Michael Pancer, said Inzunza’s appeal is also pending in the 9th Circuit. Pancer said briefs have been filed, but there is still no date for arguments.

There’s no way to know for sure when a final decision will come down, he said, but “it will be decided this year for sure.

Inzunza was sentenced to 21 months in prison, but has remained free pending appeal.

You’ll remember that Zucchet was originally found guilty by a jury on nine counts, but later had seven of them tossed out altogether by a judge, and the remaining two counts were sent back to trial. The government has appealed the judge’s decision.

Here’s a little snippet from my story in 2005 on the day Zucchet’s charges were reversed and Inzunza was sentenced. It was a pretty extraordinary scene there in the court room.

Friday, November 11, 2005 | Justice took diverging paths Thursday for two former city councilmen whose fates have been zipped together since the FBI raided City Hall two-and-a-half years ago.

In a case that fissured the city’s political establishment to the core and served as preamble to the fiscal and political crisis now gripping San Diego, a federal judge Thursday sentenced former City Councilman Ralph Inzunza to 21 months in prison for his role in a scheme to loosen strip club regulations. The work was done on behalf of an industry lobbyist in exchange for clandestine campaign contributions.

Before sentencing Inzunza, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller threw out related corruption convictions against former Councilman Michael Zucchet. Miller disposed of seven of the nine convictions handed down by a jury nearly four months ago, saying there was no link between Zucchet’s actions and campaign contributions he received from the strip club lobbyist.

The remaining two convictions against Zucchet will go back to court for a new trial. Lance Malone, the lobbyist for the owner of Cheetahs strip clubs who was portrayed as the bagman in the scheme, was sentenced to three years in prison.

A third former city councilman, Charles Lewis, was also charged in the case but died of liver disease last year at age 37 before the trial started.

“The human wreckage in this case is extraordinary,” Miller said during Inzunza’s sentencing. “It spans everything from acquittal to conviction to death when you really think about it.”

Assignment: Buddy in Mission Valley wrote: “Please contact the Mayoral Candidates and ask them what they have in mind for sources of “new” revenue to get the City out of the financial mess it’s in. Based on current revenue sources, the City will continue to fall behind in most, if not all, areas where more funding is needed. We need facts, not promises. Then, perhaps our leaders could get citizens to trust them and a tax increase might have a chance of passing. Let’s see.”

I talked to Vince Vasquez, the policy guy for candidate Steve Francis. Of course, first off, he stressed how bringing transparency and accountability to the budget would be a big saver of cash. Then he listed the following:

  • Wi-fi franchises: The city could receive money for selling the right-of-way for a wireless Internet service provider to put wireless Internet up around the city. That provider would then get the funds that users of the service pay.
  • Fire districts: The city could form a fire prevention district that would allow it to levy fees in order to bond and build fire stations citywide. The fee would be added to the property tax bill, as San Diego Unified School District’s Prop. MM school bond did, Vasquez said.

    He also suggested the creation of a “wildfire prevention district” for the neighborhoods that are prone to be hit by wildfires, something that would add a fee for 10 years for local residents and businesses to help fund fire prevention.

  • Quality of life fund: Francis wants to raise $5 million from philanthropists to fund such things as: a tax credit for working families, seed money for innovative projects, homeless outreach, reserve firefighter training and educational programs.

Oh, and Vasquez was quick to add this bit: “It’s important that to note that none of these are actual tax increases.”

Kevin Klein, an aide to Mayor Jerry Sanders’ reelection campaign, said the mayor certainly didn’t have any plans to raise taxes, either. He then said that Francis’ plans to dedicate more funds to police and firefighters would require at least $150 million. He didn’t have anything more to add.

Assignment: John said “Find bin Laden.”

On it.


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