Monday, May 27, 2013

Gifts to Republicans for Taxpayers Association Banquet and ADL dinner

Dirty dancing for supper
By Matt Potter
San Diego Reader
April 17, 2013

It’s almost time for the San Diego County Taxpayers Association’s annual “Golden Fleece” banquet, famous of late on YouTube for its promotional video featuring GOP San Diego city attorney Jan Goldsmith, dressed up as a chorus boy and dancing behind someone dressed as a junkyard dog. The lobbyist group’s blow-out is particularly popular among city-council staffers and their politician bosses, who are treated to drinks, food, and a video floor show by various special interests that buy tables and hand out tickets for free to those they seek to influence.

The group itself is a registered lobbyist ­— backing privatization measures, among other big-business-friendly issues — and its board is heavily populated by some of the city’s biggest influence-peddlers, always in the market to rub shoulders with the city council powerful and their minions.

Last year, for instance, Job Nelson, chief of staff for Republican city councilwoman Lorie Zapf, attended courtesy of the association itself, as did Alexandra Bell, another Zapf staffer, according to their annual statements of economic interests filed earlier this month. Katie Hansen, chief of staff for GOP councilman Kevin Faulconer, got into the bash thanks to a $160 freebie from controversial private-school operator Bridgepoint Education.

In addition to the taxpayers association’s dinner, Hansen also enjoyed the hospitality of the Biocom Pac, run by lobbyists for the local pharmaceutical industry, getting a ticket worth $50 to a Biocom reception in August. Evans Hotels, the homegrown San Diego hotel empire — whose president Bill Evans was one of those behind the lawsuit against Democratic mayor Bob Filner in an attempt to get him to sign a funding deal negotiated by previous GOP mayor Jerry Sanders — gave Hansen a $100 ticket to an “ADL dinner” in October.

She also went to the “Manta Launch Event” at SeaWorld, courtesy of the aquatic and amusement park, an admission worth $146.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Grand Jury creates false report regarding deaths at San Diego County jails

City Beat has done a high-profile in-depth series on jail deaths. Is it possible that not a single grand jury member bothered to Google the subject before signing off on a false report? No. The members couldn't all be that incompetent. They were chosen for the grand jury because they're all "team players". So what's the point of having a grand jury?

This story reminds me of a Los Angeles Times story about the "know-nothing" Medical Board of California.

Grave error: San Diego County Grand Jury reports incorrect jail-mortality figures
By Dave Maass
City Beat
May 14, 2013

The San Diego County Grand Jury issued its annual inspection reports for the regional jail system, praising the San Diego County Sheriff for its "efficiency and dedication of the staff at each of the county detention facilities."

But would those remarks glow so brightly if the Grand Jury—a body of 19 citizens empaneled to investigate complaints against public officials and inspect detention facilities—had received accurate information about deaths in the county’s jails?

According to the report, the Grand Jury noted that there were four deaths—including two suicides—at the facility between July 1, 2011, and Aug. 1, 2012. Those numbers are severely inaccurate.

Fact: During that period, 11 inmates died in county jails; five of them were suicides. That’s according to records obtained by CityBeat from the San Diego County Medical Examiner and the Sheriff’s Department through the California Public Records Act.

In “60 Dead Inmates,” an investigative series published during the last two months, CityBeat found that San Diego’s five adult detention facilities collectively had the highest mortality rate of California’s 10 largest jail systems. The Grand Jury received the information directly from the Sheriff’s Department; we have now provided the Grand Jury foreman with copies of the records substantiating the number of deaths.

“The numbers reported were based on information received from the Sheriff’s Department. In reconfirming the information with the Sherriff’s [sic] Department it was determined that the figures previously reported were incorrect. Based on the new information received the Grand Jury will be issuing an amended report to reflect the correct statistics,” Grand Jury Foreman Paul C. Christian wrote in a brief email to CityBeat.

The Sheriff’s Department did not respond to emailed questions.

Two of the inmates CityBeat profiled in its investigative died during the 13-month period examined by the Grand Jury. Shane Hipfel, a bipolar inmate who died after attempting to drown himself in a toilet in the Central Jail’s psychiatric unit, was mentioned in the report, but not by name. A homicide that occurred in jail was not referenced: Russell Hartsaw, a senior citizen who was beaten to death by other inmates at the George Bailey Detention Facility.

It’s possible that the Sheriff’s Department provided the Grand Jury only with statistics from the San Diego County Central Jail, where four deaths did occur. Three of them were suicides, one was natural.

If the sheriff did provide inaccurate statistics, it would not be the first time. In 2010, the Sheriff’s Department told the Citizens Law Enforcement Review Board (CLERB)—which is charged with investigating jail deaths and complaints against county law-enforcement officers—that only four inmates had committed suicide in the county jails. The number was used to justify the sheriff’s decision not to implement CLERB recommendations that would’ve addressed suicides in jail.

The accurate number of suicides during those two years is six.

Six is also the number of inmates who have died so far in 2013 in San Diego County jails, including three by suicide and two by drug overdose. The cause of death in the sixth case is unknown. CityBeat is awaiting the Sheriff’s response to a public-records request.

The Grand Jury report makes no mention of CityBeat’s reporting on jail deaths; nor do the inspection reports of juvenile facilities include information on the overuse of pepper spray, which CityBeat reported on in May 2012.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Have hoteliers taken over San Diego?

Hoteliers use tax money to produce profits for themselves while sabotaging civic projects.

San Diego Hoteliers Meet Their Waterloo
Voice of San Diego
Mar 5, 2013
By George Mullen

Politically and philosophically, I do not always see eye to eye with Mayor Bob Filner. However, in this case, the mayor is absolutely correct in challenging the "hotelier cabal" that has been silently running San Diego for years. The situation is reminiscent of what necessitated federal anti-trust laws to protect citizens and free enterprise from predatory and abusive monopolies. You see, the hoteliers’ domain of control in San Diego is widespread and extends to the Tourism Marketing District (TMD), Tourism Authority (formerly the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau), Convention Center, 2015 centennial celebration, numerous political figures, as well as many civic entities if you know for which the board-member names to look. They use TMD "taxpayer" monies to promote their for-profit interests while claiming them to be synonymous with San Diego's civic interests. They employ shallow marketing campaigns often with detrimental residual value to San Diego, such as "Happy Happens" — a direct play off the slang "Shit Happens" — what marketing person in their right mind would subliminally and contextually associate our beautiful city to "shit"?

The abuse and damage this cabal has inflicted upon San Diego is extensive; the time has come to pull back the curtain and reveal the truth. Here are but two examples:

First: Instead of building a compelling, long-term brand and message for San Diego, the hoteliers (via the TMD and Tourism Authority) have repeatedly and shortsightedly embraced superficial marketing campaigns to fill their hotel rooms for the next quarter. Consider the years and millions of TMD taxpayer dollars the hoteliers have spent running this show — is there even one lasting San Diego message or image we can point to that will help drive people to San Diego over the long-term? Perhaps something along the lines of New York's "Big Apple" and "I Love NY," or Las Vegas' "Sin City" and "What Happens Here, Stays Here"? Sadly, no. Instead, we are saddled with the likes of "Happy Happens," "Hey! Sheer Bliss Is Calling" and "Yooo Hooo, Big Smiles Are Calling." The lack of creativity and vision is deafening.

...Second: The state of San Diego’s 2015 centennial celebration, or, rather, lack thereof, is the direct result of a hotelier power grab. Let me explain; I authored three op-eds (two in U-T San Diego and one in VOSD) outlining a visionary approach for our centennial. The articles prompted many civic leaders and Balboa Park aficionados to give the ideas significant attention, and many encouraged me to be a participant in the planning. Simultaneously, however, the TMD gave $300,000 as seed capital to the centennial organization. In reality, this donation was the hoteliers buying the centennial on the cheap (ironically, with taxpayer money), and stacking its board with their people. Remembering my prior refusal to heel to their on-high wishes to end the "City of Life," the hoteliers promptly froze me and my proposed ideas out of the centennial.

In December 2011, Mark Germyn resigned as CEO of the centennial. Bill Haviluk and I saw that the centennial was in deep trouble, and we promptly put our hat in the ring to apply for the position. Our stated goal was to build a spectacular big vision centennial that would be remembered for decades — and, fortunately, there was still narrowly enough time to put it together. We offered our services as a team, or individually, if preferred — me, with passion and visionary centennial ideas, and Haviluk, with vast experience and know-how.

Astonishingly, the centennial board leadership never responded to our multiple inquiries. Haviluk, one of the most experienced theme park operators in America with an expertise in attracting large numbers of people and accommodating them in event settings, didn’t even warrant a call back? We even had esteemed civic leader Malin Burnham listed as our main reference, with his permission to do so. Instead, hotelier lobbyist and front man Mike McDowell (with no experience in this realm) was suddenly hired as CEO of the centennial, with hotelier Terry Brown (chairman of the TMD) signing on to pay half of McDowell’s $200,000 salary and benefits package. An audacious conflict of interest to be sure, but who would dare question the hotelier’s motives in “their” town? Clearly, the event was no longer a San Diego or Balboa Park centennial; it was now a "hotelier centennial," where filling hotel rooms, especially in the difficult off-season, would be the priority.

What do hoteliers and lobbyists (specifically the ones in charge of our centennial) know about putting together a high volume theme park or celebration? Not much, it turns out, and they are scurrying away from their Waterloo as fast as they can: 1) McDowell just resigned as CEO to go back to work for Brown and the hotelier lobby (as if he hadn’t been all along); 2) No big plans have been put in place for the centennial, and, tragically, time is now too short to put together most of the big visions I and others had previously proposed; 3) The centennial has been named Edge 2015, more akin to a Gillette Razor ad campaign; 4) There is effectively no money raised (despite McDowell’s claims the centennial would be a $30-to-$50-million event); and 5) Adding insult to injury, a Los Angeles firm has been hired to produce “our” San Diego centennial. (The collapse of Irwin Jacobs' plan for Balboa Park is a separate issue entirely; however, you can bet the hoteliers will try using it as a scapegoat for the centennial disaster they created.)...

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Randy Cunningham out of prison

Duke Cunningham released to halfway house

Dec. 12, 2012
Greg Moran

SAN DIEGO — Former Republican Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, who has been in federal prison since admitting to taking bribes, has been transferred to a halfway house in New Orleans for the final few months of his prison term.

Cunningham, 71, was transferred from the federal prison in Tucson, Ariz., on Dec. 5, according to Edmond Ross, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

Cunningham, who was from Rancho Santa Fe, was sentenced in 2006 to eight years and four months in prison, and has spent the majority of his term at the Tucson prison.

He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud, wire fraud and tax evasion in 2005. He admitted taking more than $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors, in return for using his congressional power to steer federal contracts to their companies.

Cunningham is scheduled to be released entirely from federal custody in June. His transfer to a halfway house is common for federal inmates who are close to their release date, Ross said.

“It’s meant to serve as a bridge between the individual being in prison and transitioning back into the community,” he said.

Halfway houses generally have much greater liberty for inmates than prisons. No walls or fences confine inmates, and they are able to go out into the community during the day, with permission of the staff, to seek work, go to counseling or other approved activities.

Ross said inmates are generally not accompanied when they go out into the community but are monitored by staff required to be accountable for all of the time they spend away from the facility.

There are curfews, rules and work requirements while staying at the halfway house. Cunningham could stay there up until his release date in June, or perhaps be released earlier and put on home detention.

In a letter in May to U.S. District Judge Larry A. Burns, who sentenced the former congressman, Cunningham said he planned to live in a remote cabin in Arkansas when he is free. He asked the judge from San Diego to restore his rights to carry a gun so he cold hunt, but Burns said he could not do that.

His plan to live in Arkansas near his mother and brother could explain why he was assigned to a halfway home in New Orleans, Ross said. Typically the bureau tries to place inmates close to where they will live after their release.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index for 2012

I agree with Cristoph Wilcke that the perceived increase in corruption after the "Arab Spring" might be caused by people simply having higher standards and being more willing to judge public servants.

Newly Released Index Finds Perceived Corruption Increased After 'Arab Spring'
December 05, 2012

As demonstrations continue to rage in Cairo, nearing almost two years after the revolution's onset, perceived corruption in Egypt and neighboring countries has worsened, according to a newly-released index.

Transparency International's (TI) 2012 Corruption Perceptions index ranks countries from 0 to 100 based on perceived levels of public sector corruption — 100 meaning no perceived corruption. Egypt dropped six places and now ranks 118th out of 176 countries.

Following Mubarak's downfall and Egypt's first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, hopes were high. But now, after Morsi's power grab yielding him near absolute power and a controversial draft constitution in the works, anger has once again consumed Cairo's streets.

"We know that frustration about corruption brought people out onto the streets in the Arab world," TI's Middle East and North Africa director, Cristoph Wilcke, told Reuters. A democratic transition has not easily come to Egypt. Morsi is now facing allegations similar to those that toppled Mubarak's regime, and protesters are now demanding Morsi be held accountable and step down.

"As far as we can tell, very little has happened on the ground ... as far as putting in place systems that we know work to prevent corruption," Wilcke said.

Syria, currently engulfed by bloodshed, fell 15 places in the index to 144th. Tunisia fell two places, now ranking 75th, and Morocco fell eight slots to 88th out of 176 countries. While the numbers across the board look bleak for the region, Libya climbed eight places to 160th, following the Libyan civil war that ended last October, a hopeful sign for the rest of the region.

In comparison, the United States ranks 19 on the list, just below the United Kingdom. Israel takes 39th, and Cuba ranks 58, following Jordan, which has recently seen an uptick in protests. Greece, where protests over unemployment and corruption have been exploding since 2010, ranks at 94, the same as Colombia and India. Somalia is perceived as the most corrupt country in the world.

Around 78 percent of the Middle East and North Africa is perceived as corrupt – though it's not the lowest on the corruption totem pole, compared to 95 percent of Eastern Europe and Central Asia seen as corrupt, and 90 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa. (See here for a series of interactive infographics).

While the effects of the Arab Spring have yet to fully surface, and the transition to true democracy is far from over, Wilcke stressed that a worsening in Middle Eastern countries' rankings may merely be a result of people acknowledging and addressing the issue of corruption, not necessarily because corruption is increasing. "It's not possible to change things over night," he said...

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Scott Peters has pulled further ahead of Brian Bilbray in 2012 election results

NOV 09, 2012
Daily Kos Elections Live Digest (afternoon edition)
by David Nir

"...5:01 PM PT: CA-52: With the latest update from San Diego County, Dem Scott Peters now leads by 1,334 votes, almost doubling his 685-vote margin over incumbent Brian Bilbray from Thursday. The SD Registrar of Voters estimates 325,000 ballots left to be counted county-wide, which likely means 75-80K in CA-52 alone..."

Friday, November 09, 2012

Jess Durfee: Change has come to San Diego

Letter from Jess Durfee:

Ballots are still being counted, but I feel confident in saying that in one of the closest congressional races in the country, we defeated Tea Party Republican Brian Bilbray and elected Scott Peters in the 52nd District. Democrats will now hold a majority of the county's congressional delegation for the first time in recent memory.

When he takes office on the County Board of Supervisors, Dave Roberts will be the first Democrat with a seat at that table in almost two decades -- and San Diego's first openly gay County Supervisor ever.

Assemblymember-elect Shirley Weber will be the first African-American to represent our county in the state legislature. And with Marty Block's decisive State Senate victory, Democrats will hold supermajorities in both houses in Sacramento for the first time since 1933.

Statewide, we helped ensure that Prop. 30 passed and Prop. 32 was soundly rejected...  

--by Jess Durfee
Chair, San Diego County Democratic Party
Member, Democratic National Committee