In a City Council meeting in October, Councilwoman Marti Emerald had bitter words with a redevelopment official over the secret legislative deal to allow billions in tax proceeds to continue going downtown. The official, Frank Alessi, was mostly inarticulate in his refusal to provide answers to Emerald’s questions.

It turns out that one of the clearer answers he did provide was false. When pressed about his involvement in the plan — “When did you first learn of it?” — Alessi answered with this: “There was probably a week or, two weeks ago that was.”

Reporting and a public records request for emails, however, show he was actually involved six weeks earlier than he said he was, and even organized a conference call to discuss the issue in September.

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What does Alessi have to say for himself? “There’s always a failure, not always, but periodically there’s a failure to recognize a moment in time six months ago or three months ago or four months ago, especially when you’re being interrogated,” Alessi told City Hall reporter Liam Dillon in an interview. “I don’t care if you’re in a court or you’re in someplace else.”

Is this mistaken testimony important in the big picture? It’s not clear if Alessi would have gained an advantage by fudging reality. “Still, Alessi’s testimony shows that yet another component of the redevelopment deal’s official story has crumbled when exposed to scrutiny,” Dillon writes.

Um, Never Mind, Walmart. Carry On:

By 7-1, the City Council voted to give in to pressure from voters and dump its ordinance virtually banning super-duper big-box stores (like those that Walmart may build).

A Walmart-supported petition drive forced the council to either give in or call a costly special election. Local voters haven’t been very union-friendly in some cases — labor doesn’t like Walmart — and they might have drop-kicked the measure if there was an election.

At Least Alpo Didn’t Buy the Rights:

L.A’s proposed downtown football stadium — one of two would-be Angeleno stadiums up there that might woo the Chargers to their smoggy confines — doesn’t actually exist. But it has a name now (Farmers Field) and a $700 million naming deal with the insurance company.

Prettification Effort Waits and Waits:

Colina Del Sol Park in City Heights has had a bad reputation as a hangout for scary characters, but there’s been an effort to turn it around. Among other things, local kids painted decorative tiles to decorate picnic tables, hoping they’d discourage graffiti and give the park some special flair. The tiles have now been sitting around for a year, waiting on the city.

How Much Does Your School Cost?

As we’ve explained, there’s a debate brewing over whether smaller schools are worth the extra cost. How does your local San Diego public school rank in terms of the cost per student and its “market share” — the percentage of public-school students in your neighborhood who go there? We’ve posted a spreadsheet with answers to these questions and more.

A Quarter-Principal for You:

It seems like a pretty simple rule: each San Diego public school gets its own principal. But this year, there’s a twist: several smaller “schools within a school” will get to share a principal, and parents are sounding the alarm, especially at Crawford High, where four schools would get a single principal. There’s another twist: the school board hasn’t signed off on this yet.

Affordable Housing Funding at Risk?

A local housing official says other California cities don’t have a local source of affordable housing funding like San Diego does, a claim that could play a role in the debate over the future of redevelopment funding, which helps pay for less-expensive housing for poorer people. Is she right? San Diego Fact Check finds that the claim is mostly true.

Home Prices Keep on Dipping:

Our real-estate guru Rich Toscano reports on what he told me is a “continued orderly decline.” Is he talking about his personal life? Naw: he’s referring to the Case-Shiller home price index, which leveled out in November after a sharp drop in October.

Tucson Proceedings Not Here, for Now:

The next hearing for the suspect in the Tucson shootings will be held in Arizona, a San Diego federal judge has ruled, although there’s still a possibility that the trial could be moved here, where both the judge and the main defense attorney are based. The March 9 hearing was to have been held in Phoenix, but federal judge Larry Burns, who was brought in to oversee the proceedings, moved it to Tucson.

The defense attorney for the suspect is expected to push for a change in venue for the trial, and Burns said in an order that the current decision doesn’t affect the suspect’s right to request a move elsewhere.

Can Citizens Just Vote ‘Present’?

Nathan Fletcher, a local assemblyman and rising Republican political star, has weighed in on the governor’s plan to put a tax increase before voters in a special election: he says he’ll support the idea “if voters not only had the choice to extend taxes, but also had a choice to cut taxes.”

One proposal would allow voters to make decisions — up or down — regarding several taxes, such as the personal income tax, the sales tax and the vehicle license fee. In regards to each tax, voters would be able “to increase it by whatever amount, to decrease it or reject both,” a tax watchdog told the San Francisco Chronicle.

I could be wrong, but I seem to recall that we have a legislature to make these kinds of decisions so we don’t have to. One more thing: many Republican legislators signed a no-tax pledge. So would this plan violate that? The answer seems to be uh-uh.

Interesting. Is that like a guy who promises he won’t commit adultery but agrees to present the question to an appropriate party as long as “no” is one of the possible answers?

Look! Up in the Sky! It’s Nothing!

The skies are clear above an 80-acre farm in Riverside County. Too clear.

The Solana Beach-based owners of the farm have “sued virtually all low-flying air traffic out of the sky,” the Desert Sun reports. That includes hot-air balloon folks and even a pest control flight operator.

What’s going on? The newspaper says “the lawsuits have the net effect of stopping anyone from looking down on the farm’s heavily fortified compound,” which apparently aims to become a meeting place for VIPs and a site for “highly confidential” research. The farm even has a “No Tresspassing” sign (the spelling error is theirs) that warns “Unauthorized entry of property will result in armed response, guard dogs and no exit.”

In other words: It’ll be pretty bad. You know, like a staff meeting, just with guard dogs and security officers.

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at and follow him on Twitter:

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at

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