The Morning Report
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It’s hard to imagine another San Diegan eliciting the visceral “cancel-my-subscription” reaction that Doug Manchester did when he purchased the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Now, one of San Diego’s most polarizing figures owns its largest megaphone. He has said he’s ready to be a cheerleader. For the Chargers, big building projects and Jesus. But will he use the newspaper as a bullhorn — or a bludgeon?
Our Rob Davis explores that question in a searing profile of the developer-turned-newspaper baron. The piece, which also is running in this month’s San Diego magazine, has been extremely well received.
Besides the portrait of the man and his extravagance, the piece also has some juicy nuggets:
• Manchester plans to develop the land the newspaper’s headquarters sits on.
• Pension liabilities at the paper almost killed the deal.
• Despite his fierce Catholicism and fight to protect the institution of marriage, he admitted his own infidelity.
Former SEDC Officials, Inzunza Punished
The two former leaders of the Southeastern Economic Development Corp. who admitted they embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from the public entity after we exposed their clandestine compensation system will likely not serve a day in jail.
A judge ordered them to pay $435,000 in restitution but they only have to pay $100 a month each. At that rate, it will take until the year 2193 to pay the city back.
Our editor Andrew Donohue put the outrage succinctly: “So let me get this straight: Steal hundreds of thousands in public money, you get no jail time and only have to pay a small % of it back?”
Yes. Will Carless looked into how the city could try to reclaim more of its money.
• Apparently taking campaign contributions with the expressed purpose of working to achieve the donors’ goals is a much worse crime. Former San Diego City Councilman Ralph Inzunza was ordered to surrender to prison authorities Jan. 30 to serve 21 months. NBC 7 San Diego spoke with him. Here’s our story from 2005 when Inzunza was not spared the conviction but his counterpart was.
• SEDC had many contractors and consultants. U-T San Diego explores how they’ll suffer along with many others who depended on that type public funding now that redevelopment has been eliminated.
Hedgecock No Fan of Legislators, Except …
I’ve had several conversations with former mayor and current talk show celebrity Roger Hedgecock over the years. And I’m pretty sure every single one of them included an aside about how much he hated the Union-Tribune. He’s been pretty clear about that.
Maybe that’s changed now that it’s U-T San Diego and it has a new owner. Something compelled Hedgecock to give the paper an op-ed lambasting presidential candidate Rick Santorum and a passage in it caught Liam Dillon’s eye: “Members of a legislature do not make good candidates for an executive position whether you’re talking about mayor, governor or president.”
It went on and on about how bad lawmakers are at becoming executives. Dillon remembered, though, that Hedgecock had endorsed City Councilman Carl DeMaio — a legislator — to become the city’s chief executive, its mayor. He called Hedgecock. What followed is a truly classic San Diego conversation.
Parties Can Donate Unlimited Amounts to Candidates, Judge Says
The city of San Diego can still ban corporations from giving to candidates for office. But it cannot limit contributions from parties to candidates, federal Judge Irma Gonzalez ruled. The decision means San Diego’s $1,000 limit on political party donations to candidates is gone. And since any group can give to parties in unlimited amounts, well, now anyone can give to candidates in unlimited amounts via this route. Am I wrong?
Why Harbaugh Chose USD
YahooSports profiled San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, focusing on his time as head coach at the University of San Diego. The piece is based on a simple question: Why would Harbaugh, with opportunities at big-time colleges, coach at an academics-first little university in San Diego?
He wanted to be the boss, not an assistant. The choice worked out pretty well.
• In another profile worth your time, the U-T tells the story of UCSD’s globetrotting Mary Walshok.
What We Learned This Week
Special Ed Costs Are Skyrocketing, Alternatives Emerge: Despite the fact that San Diego’s largest school district is handling fewer special needs children, its costs to educate them have risen sharply. Charter schools, required to contract with the district for special education, saw their fees double since 2004. Scott Barnett, a district trustee, is trying to understand the special education costs, which amount to nearly a quarter of the district’s $1.1 billion budget: “The problem is that the more you ask, the more you realize how dysfunctional the spending of our resources is at any level.” A consortium of charters, though, has found much more cost-effective alternatives.
• The budget pressure broke out into a war of memos in the district this week. Superintendent Bill Kowba warned that even if the state is able to raise taxes, it will hardly be enough for the district as costs continue to climb. The teachers union says he’s crying wolf.
Breaking! Your Streets Are Bad: During his State of the City speech recently, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders said the city was “in the midst of the largest repaving program in city history — 150 miles of road, more than were repaved in the previous eight years.” That’s nice but with a simple graphic, we illustrated just how bad San Diego’s streets have gotten. Here’s a guide to understanding why. Don’t worry, the city says this is the low point.
You’ve Got a Chance to Learn About Art: Last June, we held a magnificent event where local thinkers explained, simply, what they liked about a type of art. It was a smash hit. Well, we’re doing it again. Better come early as the lineup is fantastic and the buzz is building.
Quote of the Week: “The only way that restitution is going to be secure for victims is by having the defendants repay it. They’ve got to be working to repay it. They can’t repay it if they’re in custody,” said Judge Edward Allard III, explaining why he decided Carolyn Smith and Dante Dayacap would not go to jail for embezzling public funds.
Number of the Week: 35. The percent of streets considered to be in “good” condition in the city of San Diego.
I’m Scott Lewis, the CEO of voiceofsandiego.org. You can contact me directly at email@example.com or 619.325.0527 and follow me on Twitter (it’s a blast!): twitter.com/vosdscott.