If you’ve been here a while, you’ve heard the complaints about City Hall: it’s said to be bought and sold by business interests like the tourist industry and developers. Councilman David Alvarez works at City Hall, but he doesn’t fit this picture.

Alvarez, who grew up poor in the Barrio Logan neighborhood, has cast high-profile votes against the interests of hotel and downtown types. In a Q&A, he tells us about downtown’s blessed-upon-high status (“average citizens don’t have lobbyists”), about being an outsider and about being frozen out at City Hall (“it’s unfair”).

“I really, really felt that those who have more power have the ability to make decisions for those who have less power,” he said. “You know about the north of 8, south of 8 divide that everybody talks about. Whether it’s schools, whether it’s city government. That’s a lot of the sentiment that I bring.”

U-T Thinking about Buying NC Times

Doug Manchester, the new owner of the Union-Tribune, tells us that he’s thinking about buying the North County Times, although he hasn’t made an offer yet.

Lee Enterprises, the parent company of the NCT, has filed for bankruptcy. The NCT, the product of a merger between dailies that served North County’s coastal and inland areas, has been around for 16 years.

Like just about every other paper in the country, the NCT has been ravaged by layoffs and dips in circulation and advertising. Lee might be willing to sell it to help it stay afloat during bankruptcy.

If Manchester buys the NCT, he’d own the region’s two big dailies. He would also get a toehold in Riverside County. If he’s really enjoying this newspaper mogul thing, Manchester could then launch an offensive against that county’s dominant paper, the Press-Enterprise. (Disclosure: I used to work at the NCT and still contribute to it.)

Get Mayoral This Holiday Season

Got a few spare moments to catch up on your political reading? We compiled links to engaging stories about the four top mayoral candidates, along with our City Hall reporter’s perspectives about them. 

There’s Councilman Carl DeMaio, who a while back gave this classic quote to the U-T about his wealth: “Don’t people know I’m a man of means now? I drive a BMW!”

There’s District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, who we deemed San Diego’s most powerful politician.

Rep. Bob Filner’s been in politics so long we dig up a lengthy Los Angeles Times profile from 1987. And then there’s Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, who became a lot better known after an infamous secret midnight deal to save redevelopment.

We this week told the story of Fletcher’s time as a Marine, tracing his time in Iraq and northern Africa and seeing how it ties into his political career. A few commenters accused us of running a puff piece that neglected other aspects of Fletcher’s career. But this piece was just about his military service. We will be publishing many more stories about the backgrounds of all the major mayoral candidates. Remember, it ain’t over until the fat lady gets gastric-bypass surgery. Oh wait, that’s not how it goes?

We Need You to Help Fund This Public Service

We’re more than two-thirds of the way to our goal of raising $80,000 this month. But we’re not there yet, and we need your help.

There’s no simpler way to say it: We’re a public service organization that relies on reader donations to stay afloat. We explaine why, if you value our service, we need you to support it. And we list our latest members.

Click here to donate.

Taking Politics Seriously. Well, OK, Satirically

• Two CityBeat employees and a couple other local folks met this week and filled out the necessary forms to run for president in Arizona’s presidential primary. It’s apparently extremely easy to get on the ballot.

I thought about running for president too, but I’m too distracted by my faux candidacy for San Diego mayor. (Campaign slogan: “Why not the worst?”)

My first act will be to impose a tax on every boneheaded driver who fails to understand how freeway on-ramps and off-ramps work. The city’s gonna make a mint, people!


What We Learned This (Short) Week:

U-T Owner’s No Stranger to Politics: It’s well-known that Doug Manchester, the new owner of the U-T, is conservative and has an interest in politics. His financial support of Prop. 8, the anti-gay-marriage measure, was well-publicized and drew heavy criticism from people in the gay community, some of whom weren’t convinced by (or are unaware of) his public apology.

Now we know more about what he thinks about local politics, possible signs of how the U-T editorial page will make endorsements. The Daily Transcript found that he’s given money to support the campaigns or interests of two current mayoral candidates — Councilman Carl DeMaio and Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher. 

No Worries (at Least Aloud) over Library Funding: A library booster doesn’t sound concerned that his organization will raise enough private money to keep the downtown library project from capsizing. The deadline is this month.

Securing those donations would be the final hurdle that’s long stood in the way of, and long delayed, the library’s completion.

Meanwhile, our commenters seem mostly happy that the new library may be on track, although Richard Ross thinks it should be called the “new downtown (library hours) homeless shelter.”

I asked the city librarian about the homeless issue a few months ago. (During the few hours when it’s open, the downtown library is a haven for transients). She said the library doesn’t discriminate. Essentially, its job isn’t to decide who has a right to use the library and who doesn’t. She did say there’s a precedent in San Francisco of stationing a social worker for the homeless at the library.

Behind the School District’s Budget: There’s a funny thing about San Diego school district’s budget: despite all blame thrown at the state by district leaders, San Diego Unified is actually getting only a bit less in inflation-adjusted funds per student than it did a decade ago. Fast-rising health-care costs and costs for special education are going up too even as their numbers go down.  


Don’t Forget to Anoint the Annoying

Which blatant falsehood uncovered by San Diego Fact Check aggravated (or intrigued, annoyed or appalled) you the most in 2011?

Was it County Supervisor Bill Horn’s humdinger of a tall tale about his supposed history as a civil rights activist? (That’s got my vote). Or the mayor’s outlandish claim about extensive city layoffs that were anything but extensive? Or the other false and good-gawd-you-can’t-be-serious claims from council members, local officials, the DA, a congressman and more?

Let us know so we can bestow the Whopper of the Year title on a deserving whopper creator. (That’s kinda like a job creator, just less socially valuable.)


Quote of the Week: “I should have said it was an urban legend rather than a scientific fact.” — famed scientist Freeman Dyson, admitting he had no evidence to support his claim in The New York Review of Books that fatal shark attacks off San Diego led to fewer drownings.


Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga

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