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Donna Frye made her mark on San Diego when she served on the City Council, but now she finds herself back in the spotlight with her new role as the city’s director of open government. Thursday, former Councilman Carl DeMaio denounced her (Frye’s reply: “Who?”), as Mayor Bob Filner tries to carve out special rules to allow her to get a job with the city again even after beginning to collect her pension.

Our Andrew Keatts interviewed Frye about her proposal to put community planning groups’ agenda’s online in a way that will help people extract data and understand what’s going on. “Their agendas, there’s almost never any minutes and there’s certainly almost no background material,” she said.

• Frye’s deputy, Steve Hadley, warned a community planning group, Rancho Bernardo, that it wasn’t following open-meeting rules and that the mayor may recommend it be de-certified. This upset the group quite a bit and it’s unclear if the mayor is backing up Hadley. This is from the Rancho Bernardo/4S Ranch Patch.

Frye helped Mayor Filner mark “Sunshine Week” on Thursday by unveiling a new section of the city’s website dedicated to open government, reported RB Patch.

Confused About Tourism Fee Row?

The recent dust-up between the mayor and hotels over tourism money can be difficult to keep straight. Our Scott Lewis did not pass “Go” or collect $200, but instead sat down with NBC 7 San Diego’s Catherine Garcia (and a Monopoly board) to lay out the whole affair in our most recent edition of San Diego Explained.

It’s no game, though. The San Diego Tourism Authority sent layoff notices to 85 of its 100 employees. “The layoff notices, which could go into effect within the next 60 days, would affect a broad swath of workers, including accountants, IT workers, sales representatives and marketing executives,” wrote The Daily Transcript.

That there’s that many employees to lay off also illustrates the dramatic increase of the size of the agency, once known as ConVis. The city cut funding in 2004 amid strife. When the special fee on hotel rooms was levied, half of the revenue was dedicated to the agency, which changed its name to the Tourism Authority.

• On a related note, the other hotel room surcharge the city is trying to increase, this one to expand the Convention Center, is legal, a judge ruled Thursday. The preliminary court ruling that upheld a controversial tax passed in San Diego by only hotel owners last year was reaffirmed. Opponents say it’s a tax that should have been voted on by the public and they’re going to appeal. (U-T San Diego)

Temporary Housing Lags Behind

Twenty years ago, federal homelessness funding was focused on encouraging cities to develop more “transitional housing”, a term used to describe places for homeless people to stay while they completed other programs. Our Kelly Bennett reports that last year, San Diego’s transitional housing programs were only able to move 43 percent of their tenants to permanent housing. The federal government wants that number to be more like 65 percent.

“Forty-three percent on a page is a horrible number. It’s not a number that we are proud of,” said Pat Leslie, a social work professor at Point Loma Nazarene University who coordinates the countywide Continuum of Care which organizes the region’s application for federal funds each year.

“Meanwhile, transitional housing is becoming a less popular tool — federal guidelines are being rewritten in favor of moving homeless people into permanent housing,” Bennett wrote.

D4’s GOPer Turned Democrat

On Wednesday, we profiled Myrtle Cole, who is one of nine candidates vying for the city council seat representing the 4th district. Yesterday, Liam Dillon offered up a reader’s guide to another candidate, Bruce Williams. “Williams has worked on and off for the city since the late 1980s, including as an aide to former Mayors Susan Golding and Dick Murphy, and spent the last four and a half years in [Tony] Young’s office,” Dillon reports.

Williams recently registered as a Democrat, Dillon notes, and District 4 has the largest number of registered democrats in the city. But his new party label has yet to totally set in. “At one point during our conversation, Williams referred to the Republican Party as ‘we,’” wrote Dillon.

Filner’s Promises: Bike-Friendly San Diego

Our Lisa Halverstadt reported on the progress of the CicloSDias street fair, a “5.2 mile-bicycle ride through the city from Logan Heights to City Heights,” planned for August 18th. The  street fair is one of Mayor Bob Filner’s campaign promises we’re tracking the progress of.

Filner wants to make the city more friendly to bicycles and bicycling events. How’s he doing? “Working On It,” explained Halverstadt. “The concept of shutting out cars hints at Filner’s larger challenge: San Diego’s streets aren’t truly bike-friendly unless the cars disappear.” 

St. Patty’s, Off The Beer-Soaked Path

If the idea of spending your St. Patrick’s Day weekend waist-deep in booze and draped in green doesn’t appeal to you, our blogger Libby Weber has some suggestions for alternative ways to enjoy the weekend. How about Mariachi at the opera, or an Irish poetry reading? “Wild for Wilde? Got a jones for Joyce? Yearning for Yeats? Independent bookseller D.G. Wills is hosting its annual St. Patrick’s Day Open Reading of Irish Poetry and Prose at 7 pm. on March 17,” Weber wrote.

City Attorney Bans Solo Filner Meetings

The relationship between our elected city attorney and mayor has been tense recently, but has now deteriorated to the point where the city attorney’s staff have been forbidden from visiting the mayor’s office without a witness, KPBS reported. “City officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that directive came after incidents involving Filner and lawyers from the city attorney’s office,” wrote KPBS. 

Some local journalists sneered at the use of anonymous sources there. 

“I don’t think anonymity should be granted this easily, especially for such weak claims (he threw a paper ball!),” wrote the U-T’s City Hall reporter, Craig Gustafson, on Twitter. Veteran courts reporter Greg Moran agreed.

News Nibbles 

• Our Scott Lewis got a dressing down from City Attorney Jan Goldsmith when Lewis asked Goldsmith about the quality of legal advice Goldsmith had dispensed to former Mayor Sanders in connection with Prop B, KPBS reported. This was at a panel Lewis moderated about public employee pension reform put together by the Taxpayers Association. 

Lewis also asked DeMaio, who was on the panel, when we would finally be done with pension reform. Here’s what DeMaio said

• We got a window Thursday into what developers in LA offered the Chargers to move to a new stadium. They wanted to buy 49 percent of the team for $5 million per percentage point. A tough price to swallow for Chargers’ owners. The developers were then going to bear the entire cost of the stadium, reported the LA Times. The stadium plan appears dead.

• Hillcrest now has a free trolley that will run from 6-10 p.m. on Thursday through Saturday. (NBC 7 San Diego

Desperate Times Underwater

When the CEO of Wells Fargo came to Carlsbad on Thursday to speak at a retail lending conference, one single mom-of-two saw her chance to keep her family and home together.

Betty Badro waited until CEO John Stumpf was midway through his keynote speech before she mounted the stage with a check, reported San Diego Free Press. Badro “tried to explain that she was hoping to forestall a scheduled foreclosure of her home tomorrow, March 15th,” SDFP wrote. “After months of trying to get Wells Fargo to consider a loan modification, Ms. Badro explained she felt that going to the top man was the only way she could protect the lives of her disabled brother and one of her two children.”

Without another word, Stumpf turned and left the stage. Badro was promptly joined by activists from several groups attempting to address the crowd, who also up and left.

The speaking event may not have gone as planned, but that probably didn’t bother Betty Badro too much. She was notified yesterday that her foreclosure had been indefinitely postponed, SDFP wrote.

Seth Hall is a local writer and technologist. You can reach him at voice@s3th.com or follow him on Twitter: @loteck.

Seth Hall

Seth Hall is a local writer and technologist. You can reach him at voice@s3th.com or follow him on Twitter: @loteck.

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