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Former City Attorney Mike Aguirre, taxpayer John Gordon, attorneys Maria Severson and Larry Shea hold a press conference outside 101 Ash St. the day after the city took legal action to try to back out of its 101 Ash and Civic Center Plaza leases. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

A team of attorneys for the city is seeking to void two major city leases following the revelation that a former volunteer real estate consultant for the city was paid more than $9 million for his work on those leases.

City Attorney Mara Elliott and other city lawyers this week alleged that downtown real estate broker Jason Hughes violated Government Code Section 1090, which bars government officials from having financial interests in contracts they broker in their official capacities. The state law has also been aimed at contractors and consultants like Hughes, particularly when they provide advice to government officials those entities consistently follow.

VOSD’s Lisa Halverstadt broke down the essential case being made by the city in two legal actions filed this week attempting to undo its 101 Ash St. and Civic Center Plaza leases. She also spoke with multiple attorneys who said the city seems to have a viable case against the former volunteer real estate consultant.

Hughes’ attorney, meanwhile, argues that Hughes’ reported disclosures to top city officials, the informal nature of his role at the city and the time since the payments were disclosed complicate matters for the city.

Convention Center Tax Is Headed to Court

As expected, the city of San Diego’s attempt to raise the hotel room tax to pay for a convention center expansion, low-income housing and street repairs is headed to court, after two groups announced Thursday they were taking the city up on its invitation to challenge their effort.

The groups, the statewide conservative group Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the local progressive group Alliance San Diego, both allege the tax increase is illegal because the city is saying the tax hike passed with 65 percent of the vote, even though voters were instructed that the measure needed two-thirds approval to win.

Earlier this year, the City Council voted to call the measure a winner anyway, based on recent court cases that suggested citizen’s initiatives don’t need to meet the same voter approval as tax hikes placed on the ballot by public agencies themselves. Lisa Halverstadt broke down that issue in April.

But the city knew its attempt to declare victory would need to go to court, so it asked the San Diego Superior Court to validate its argument that the measure really passed, and invited any opponents of their claim to challenge them. 

The Push to Shield Kids From Uncomfortable Truths

As conservative parents have mobilized against curriculum they say is critical race theory (most of which is not critical race theory), many have said they’re doing so in an effort to protect kids from discomfort.

“There’s too much talk of White privilege, White supremacy, and it’s not fair to teach that to innocent kids,” one parent told the Union-Tribune.

But, as Will Huntsberry writes in the latest Learning Curve column, we’re surrounded by uncomfortable facts, including many that describe realities in San Diego schools: “In San Diego County, Black students are nearly three times as likely to be suspended as other students. Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than White people. Native American and Black people experience higher unemployment than Whites. And Native American, Latino and Black people were two to three times more likely to die from COVID-19 than White Americans.”

We saw glimpses of these tensions brewing last year when efforts to implement anti-racist policies and curriculum in Coronado schools were met with intense backlash.

Consultant Delivers Homelessness Recs to Gloria

A consultant hired by Mayor Todd Gloria to assess the city’s homelessness response delivered a slew of recommendations to the mayor this week.

In a memo released Thursday, former U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness executive director Matthew Doherty urged the mayor to increase city officials’ focus on delivering housing solutions over crisis responses, bolster its efforts on address street homelessness including downtown and better clarify the role of police in the city’s homelessness initiatives.

Doherty also called for the city to revise its 2019 homelessness plan later this year to address the aftermath of COVID-19 and increase the city’s focus on racial inequities, among other recommendations.

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by Andrew Keatts and Lisa Halverstadt, and edited by Sara Libby.

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