It’s fair to say many business and political leaders are not fans of attorney Cory Briggs. His lawsuits using California environmental laws have stalled projects throughout Southern California. He’s been a major player in bids to kill off developments in San Diego. Critics, including San Diego’s city attorney, can’t stand Briggs but he sometimes wins big and their attacks haven’t hurt him.
In the San Diego city attorney’s race, Briggs is backing Gil Cabrera, one of several Democratic candidates. To one of Cabrera’s foes, this is devastating: “The city attorney’s job is to protect taxpayer dollars, and Briggs is an impediment to progressing as a city,” says rival candidate Mara Elliott, a chief deputy city attorney.
Andrew Keatts decided to explore the relationship between Briggs and Cabrera, who claim their rapport will benefit the city and its taxpayers.
“Gil asked for my endorsement and said, ‘You understand my goal is to put you out of business,’” Briggs said. ‘I told him, ‘Godspeed.’” Cabrera, former chair of the city’s Ethics Commission, puts it this way: “I think he’ll be more inclined to consider my viewpoints than someone who always tells him he’s full of it.”
San Diego City Council Race Getting Tough
The other day, Scott Lewis broke the news that the Lincoln Club, a conservative group, had formed a new PAC had been called “Neighborhoods. Not Stadiums.” It’s funded with $100,000 from the Club and it’s all in support of Ray Ellis, the Republican who’s chief rival in the District 1 City Council race is Democrat Barbara Bry.
Now we see what some of that money went to. It’s a slick mailer that dings Bry for supporting something the Chargers also support: the Citizens Plan authored by Briggs, former Councilwoman Donna Frye and supported by former Padres owner John Moores and JMI Realty.
“We must put the priorities of our 1.4 million residents ahead of the interests of the billionaires seeking taxpayer subsidies,” it quotes Ellis saying.
Bry is furious and putting on a press conference Wednesday to rebut it. She does support the Citizens Plan but she is ardently opposed to public subsidies for the stadium. The U-T fact checked the claim that supporting the Citizens Plan is de facto support of subsidies for a stadium and Lewis did a similar version for TV. In short, the Citizens Plan does not allow for funding a stadium. But if a stadium does rise next to, or on top of, the convention center the Citizens Plan helps build, it could be hard to argue its completely free from taxpayer support, no matter how much the Chargers pay for it.
If she really wants to make sure no stadium gets any taxpayer dollars, the cleanest way would be to say no stadium should go next to, or on top of, a convention center in East Village.
Climate Action Confusion
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer wants the city attorney to clarify whether the city’s Climate Action Plan, lauded in news stories across the country, really does have a unique enforcement attribute. That’s after our story Monday shook up the local political and environmental world revealing that everything we thought about the landmark plan might be wrong.
Election Roundup: Senate Showdown
• The candidates seeking to replace U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer debated in San Diego Tuesday. Public radio’s California Report was in town and it checked in with both Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Sara Libby, our own managing editor. Listen here.
• KPBS profiles the San Diego school board race in the district that serves southeastern San Diego.
Opinion: Fix the Primary System
In a VOSD commentary, Jeff Marston, co-chair of the Independent Voter Project, raps the current local primary election system, which awards victory next month to candidates who get more than half of the vote.
“Doesn’t a primary election imply that a general election is to follow?” he writes. “So how does the city get away with telling its voters that the first stage of the election, the citywide primary, may not really be a primary at all?”
Culture Report: Mixing Art and Produce
Its name, “Art Produce,” suggests it’s a place where you’d find zucchini origami. But North Park’s Art Produce is actually an art gallery and more. There’s also “a large outdoor garden and patio, a community classroom that hosts art classes for kids and families every Saturday afternoon, performance and workshop spaces, a public gallery a tostada restaurant and an outdoor beer bar,” VOSD’s weekly Culture Report explains.
Art Produce is 15 years old, and the woman behind it has learned some lessons like this one: “people are reluctant to pay $10 or $15 to see a live performance, but if you give them a beer they’ll pay $35.” So what’s next? She’s turned the gallery into a polling place since “having to go and vote at churches has always gotten under my skin.” (I vote at a church myself and used to vote at a mortuary. One raises you up, and one takes care of the other direction.)
Welcome to Endless Drought
The winter brought rain that eased the drought, but Gov. Jerry Brown isn’t ready to end restrictions. In fact, he ordered Monday that some be made permanent.
“Under the governor’s executive order, emergency drought regulations, like bans on hosing down driveways or watering lawns within 48 hours of a rainstorm, will remain indefinitely,” the NY Times reports. “Urban water suppliers will be required to report their water use to the state each month and develop plans to get through long-term periods of drought.”
But the LA Times notes that state water officials are pushing for changes that would allow local water agencies to adjust or even abandon certain conservation goals.
How Uber, Lyft Keep Winning in Calif.
Uber and Lyft, the big players in the call-a-ride business, aren’t invincible. This week, they abandoned Austin, Texas, because voters insisted that they require drivers to undergo background checks via their fingerprints.
In California, though, they’re zipping through legislative obstacles and even vanquishing the taxi industry, which has its own powers of persuasion in the halls of power.
How did this happen? The L.A. Times points to four reasons. Among them: They’re tight pals with Democratic legislators (with some notable exceptions, like local powerhouse Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who’s tried to trim their sails.) Also: State regulators have been wary about stepping in with tighter rules, but they don’t want cities to fill the gap.
• Uber drivers are creating a kind-of-but-not-really-a-union worker group in New York City. (NYT)
• Uber smash! While it’s very popular, the company has earned a reputation as a bully and a jerk.What should it do? A commentary in Vox contends, a bit unbelievably, that “it’s going to have to become a company that people trust and admire.”
That hasn’t stopped other companies from being successful, of course. Still, Vox thinks it should become nicer by treating drivers better, getting rid of “surge” pricing and doing more to help disabled people get around.
Quick News Hits: Look! Up in the Sky!
• “A 91-year-old Allied Gardens widow has won a temporary reprieve from the city of San Diego after Mayor Kevin Faulconer heard her public plea to spare a beloved tree targeted for destruction,” the U-T reports.
The city thinks the pepper tree, at Mission Gorge Road and Greenbrier Avenue, is unstable. Now it will get a second opinion from a tree doctor.
• Sharp Grossmont Hospital says it used surveillance cameras in its women’s health center to nab a doctor who was pilfering drugs from anesthesia carts. But it may have captured image of patients too; the hospital says it’s no big deal since only investigators will get to see the footage. (NBC 7)
• Oh man, this campaign. Consider this quote by an expert in a new NY Times story: “Hillary has embraced this issue with an absolutely unprecedented level of interest in American politics.”
What’s this about? UFOs. Or, in the politically correct terminology preferred by extraterrestrial enthusiasts and Clinton herself, “unexplained aerial phenomenon.” She promises to open government files on such things unless there’s a national security risk. And she’ll get the government to open up about Area 51 too. She may be, unexplained aerial phenomenon types say, the first “E.T. candidate.”
This news inspired me to dig into San Diego’s UFO history. And we have one, dating back at least to 1865 when stagecoach riders saw east of town spotted a “hovering glowing craft some 100 feet across. It then zipped up into the sky.
In 1947, hundreds of San Diegans reportedly saw a “gigantic cigar-shaped object” in the skies overhead. And in 1947, a group of friends on Palomar Mountain reported seeing 184 flying saucers move across the sky in formation. Another observer estimated the number at 204.
In 1952, one of the Palomar Mountain UFO spotters and friends would meet an extraterrestrial in the Southern California desert. As the story goes, another cigar-shaped ship arrived, landed, and left an alien — a long-haired man of “almost feminine beauty” clad in a seamless chocolate brown jumpsuit — to chat with him.
Wow. David Bowie sure gets around.
Correction: An earlier version of this post misspelled Mara Elliott.
Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego and national president of the 1,200-member American Society of Journalists and Authors (asja.org). Please contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.