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Talk about Super Walmart. The Arkansas company easily — if expensively — swatted away the San Diego City Council’s attempt to rein in its plans for growth here. But there’s a funny thing that hasn’t gotten a whole lot of attention: the last time the issue of new super-duper Walmarts came up, the company was more willing to compromise.
In fact, as commentator Scott Lewis notes, Walmart in 2007 was amenable to a measure that was a lot like the one that the council recently passed despite Walmart’s opposition. So what’s changed? A company spokesman provides an answer to Lewis. Well, it’s technically an answer. Maybe to another question.
Lewis also notes labor’s response to the council’s decision to back down and let Walmart win in the face of being forced to approve an expensive ballot measure that would be far from guaranteed to win voter support. One local labor player not-so-subtly suggested that the votes of two council members who switched sides were for sale because Walmart gave money to charities they support. (He says he was just being skeptical.)
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Also, a union local accused the duo of selling out and urged members to “ask them about their character or lack thereof. Find out why money is more important to them than people.”
If I ever get around to writing a book called “How to Win Powerful Friends and Influence Political Allies,” this will all be in the “What Not to Do” chapter.
You know that projected city budget deficit of $46.5 million? Scratch that: it’s actually $56.7 million. The city made a mathematical error, counting $10 million in hotel taxes twice, the U-T says.
Remind me to not have the city do my taxes.
‘Brownfields’ Are as Bad as They Sound:
They’re called “brownfields,” and they spell trouble (and big expense) when they’re found around the county. They’re properties whose dirt is polluted and hazardous, or believed to be; there are at least 7,000 in San Diego County, and possibly many more. Now, suspected brownfields — including places where trucks from who-knows-where used to dump dirt — are complicating efforts to revitalize neighborhoods in southeastern San Diego.
“In San Diego’s Diamond neighborhoods just north of National City, the legacy of the community’s industrial and dumping grounds lives on, evident in vacant, festering lots. And even in those that look fine on the surface,” writes neighborhoods reporter Adrian Florido, who tracks how one non-profit community improvement group is dealing with the problem.
The Downtown Debt Switcheroo:
The City Council voted yesterday to dump a bunch of debt on downtown’s redevelopment agency — $215 million in total. As the U-T reports, “the decision frees up $11.3 million annually for the city’s daily operating budget which pays for parks, libraries and public safety while at the same time draining funds available for proposed projects in downtown San Diego, such as a new Chargers stadium or second convention center expansion.”
SD Philanthropists in Top Five:
A San Diego couple made the top five in a new list of the nation’s top philanthropists: Irwin M. and Joan K. Jacobs (who are major supporters of this news organization) donated $119.5 million in 2010, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
Overall, giving is down: the total dollar amount given in 2010 was $3.3 billion, compared to 2006’s $50.7 billion.
An anonymous man who describes himself as the “Unofficial Chief Ideologist for San Diego’s Tea Party” (he keeps himself unnamed because he works for the federal government) went on local conservative blog sdrostra.com to call for the head of Tony Krvaric, the county GOP’s chairman. This comes amid a dispute about the party’s former office; a comment war broke out on the blog and it has now shut off comments. But not before a blog rep complained that “idiots” were launching personal attacks and foul language, adding “(oh … that’s a violation of our own rules … but, facts are facts).” (CityBeat and San Diego Rostra)
A housing specialist with the DataQuick company tells KPBS that a “tsunami” of home sales are going to engulf San Diego when it becomes easier to get financing. I asked our own real-estate guru Rich Toscano to provide a dose of his trademark skepticism (and work him up into a lather).
“He seems to be making an assumption that the mortgage market is going to go back to the way it was — presumably that so-called “private label” (non-government sponsored) mortgages will come back into the picture,” Toscano says. “But the mortgage market has been almost entirely taken over by the government, which is offering mortgages at artificially low rates that private lenders would be crazy to accept. So the idea that private label lending will come roaring back, and this year no less, is just speculation.”
Meanwhile, a new report says housing affordability in 47 of 73 markets had returned to pre-2003 affordability levels as of last September. In Phoenix, an investor tells the WSJ, it’s actually cheaper to buy than to rent. That is, if you can get a loan.
Another housing tidbit: San Diego isn’t one of the top 30 cities with the highest percentage of homeowners with a mortgage who are “under water” (owing more than their mortgages are worth). Riverside and San Bernardino counties are (it’s more than half for Riverside), and the county that’s home to Las Vegas is the highest at 71 percent.
Fact Check TV checks out a claim about local tech startups and examines a “porkfest fallacy” — an incorrect statement made about the secret legislative deal that will allow billions of dollars in tax money to flow downtown.
Stadium Turf Gets a Rave:
People like to gripe about the football stadium in Mission Valley, especially if their paychecks come courtesy of the San Diego Chargers. But the stadium seems to do at least one thing right: a survey by the NFL Players Association finds that it has the third-best natural grass of the 18 stadiums that haven’t gone to artificial turf.
Would It Kill Hollywood to Set a Good Hit Show Here?
The Matthew Perry sitcom “Mr. Sunshine” premieres tonight, featuring its star as the owner of a San Diego sports arena called the Sunshine Center (a realistically lame sports facility monicker). The San Francisco Chronicle isn’t kind: It says the show is a “downer” and “this whole enterprise is so incredibly sad,” but the NYT says it has potential.
Aim Higher (or Hire):
Researchers from UCSD are out with a book that provides a top 10 list of sectors of the economy that will be full of jobs in coming years. If you blend eight of the sectors together, it sounds like there will be a boffo market for independent consultants who teach English as a foreign language to elderly action-sports innovators who need renewable-energy-based health care provided by mobile media at work.
Look for a class on this at the Learning Annex soon.
Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.