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He’s head of a political influential local association of corner stores and grocery stores, but East County’s Mark Arabo is more than a lobbyist. The son of Christian immigrants from Baghdad, the 32-year-old Arabo is becoming a major voice on a variety of issues like the Iraqi “genocide” with listeners all the way to the White House and national cable news. In his own phrasing, he’s the national spokesman for Iraqi Christians.

In the first part of a three-part series about Arabo, VOSD’s Liam Dillon writes about the man “who wants to be in a position to speak for everyone someday. But not everybody believes his voice represents them”: “His association’s stores, primarily owned here by Chaldeans, are frequently derided for promoting alcohol interests and offering low-quality food in poor neighborhoods that have few other grocery options. And while Arabo has made his organization into a major player in local politics, he has also left a trail of campaign finance shenanigans, including a bizarre story about two freezers full of potentially illicit ice cream.”

Alpine High: MIA Now and Forever?

The East County community of Alpine sounds like a snowbound paradise, but reality is a bit different. There’s no snow, and townsfolk say they should be closer to nirvana if politicians would just do the right thing. At issue: They want their own high school, but the local school district that runs high schools isn’t playing along. So there’s now a lawsuit that’s costing taxpayers a bundle.

VOSD contributor Ken Stone has the story, one that’s actually looking promising for Alpine residents who want a school of their own.

Sit-Down with Labor Leader

In a one-on-one podcast interview, VOSD’s Scott Lewis sat down with Mickey Kasparian, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers and the Labor Council in San Diego.

Kasparian is a Democrat, but he’s turned on Dems in the past who he believes aren’t representing labor’s interests. (Olga Diaz, anyone?) “Councilwoman Myrtle Cole is on the list right now, it looks like,” reports Lewis.

Kasparian also shared his thoughts on Walmart, international trade and Rep. Scott Peters.

County Supervisor Drama Gets Hotter

As the U-T’s Logan Jenkins puts it, four members of the county Board of Supervisors are mightily “ticked” at their only Democratic colleague, embattled Supervisor Dave Roberts, and won’t spend a dime to defend or support him as he faces allegations regarding the workplace. (NBC 7 has more details about allegations.)

“It’s unclear if Roberts has broken the law or simply been a narcissistic boss who alienated a critical mass of his staff. Huge legal difference,” Jenkins reports. “But what’s painfully clear is that the four-person jury of his only political peers is fed up with the Solana Beach rookie.”

Jenkins notes that the board paid a settlement in another workplace case for another supervisor. But not this time. Meanwhile, there’s lots of talk about Republicans rushing in to take advantage of a very vulnerable Dem. Councilman Mark Kersey says he’s mulling a bid for the supervisor job.

Inside the U-T Purchase

Media watcher Ken Doctor is out with an extensive interview with L.A. Times publisher Austin Beutner, who’s in line to take over the U-T when a purchase by his parent company becomes official. At the Times, Beutner has launched a free daily email briefing (what a concept!) that’s quickly grown in popularity and is focusing on events like meet-ups along with “chats, book clubs and more.” The idea is to provide “more than text on a page.”

“Engagement is key,” Doctor reports, “but well-paid, high-quality journalism remains the underlying mechanism.”

Beutner also says he’s looking more at the immediate long-term — the next few years — instead of only tomorrow and next week as freaked-out newspapers have been.

Paper: Students Hassled Over Video

The newspaper of San Diego City College says authorities inappropriately hassled a team of student video journalists, including one of Middle Eastern descent, who dared to shoot footage of a local FBI office: “One student in particular had a police detective from the San Diego Joint Terrorism Task Force show up at her house demanding the footage they were recording and also asking for the whereabouts of the other students, two of the three identified students said … they need a warrant to do so and did not have one, according to the student journalists.”

The paper says the FBI and SDPD have blown off emails and phone calls.

One Paseo Up for Big Re-Vote

• The City Council’s big vote on the $750 million One Paseo project in Carmel Valley is scheduled for May 18. Thanks to a successful referendum petition drive, the Council will have to either reverse its previous approval of the housing/business development or punt the decision to voters. The meeting will take place at Golden Hall so more people can attend.

Why does the project matter to anyone outside the Carmel Valley neighborhood? The U-T says it “could serve as a precedent paving the way for more intense developments in many parts of San Diego.”

Quick News Hits: When the Jury’s Out

• VOSD’s weekly Culture Report checks in on a local independent bookstore (a “strange little shop”) called Ducky Waddle’s and reports on a new boss at the Timken, Comic-Con at the downtown library and more of those fabulous Niki de Saint Phalle sculptures.

• Former San Diego Tribune reporter Frank “Sal” Saldaña has died at the age of 87. Times of San Diego begins his obituary this way: “He helped talk a suicidal man down from a high-rise ledge — then interviewed him safely on ground. He dodged blows aimed at a KKK leader — then calmly wrote a news story.”

Saldaña is the father of former legislator Lori Saldaña.

• Dozens of abandoned cats have taken up residence on a jetty in Ocean Beach. (10News)

• A new report finds that 45 percent of people in San Diego who receive jury summons don’t bother to show up. That’s tremendously higher than the average in the 15 largest counties in the state, and it seems to raise the risk that people who get summons (like the one I have now) will get plopped onto juries.

Yikes! Excuse me while I hide myself away on a jetty in OB. Meow?

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego and president of the 1,200-member American Society of Journalists and Authors (asja.org). Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

Randy Dotinga

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

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