The Starting Line – UT-San Diego Derides Balboa Park Plan Opposition as “Idiotic”; LAPD Bust Up Occupy Artwalk Artists

by on July 13, 2012 · 12 comments

in Columns, Culture, Government, Politics, The Starting Line

The dark lords of Mission Valley know what’s best for us…. Our daily newspaper says that opponents of the Jacobs/Sanders plan for Balboa Park are being “idiotic”.  The paper featured an editorial yesterday entitled “Idiotic, Let Us Count the Ways”.  The Editorial Board pasted that label on Councilwoman Sherri Lightner and Congressman/Mayoral candidate Bob Filner, D-San Diego, among others, for their opposition to the current arrangement. Questions about the process involved in approving the plan, its legality and its shaky financial assumptions, apparently weren’t worth considering by the UT’s opinion makers in Mission Valley as they pursued an agenda that is, at its core, anti-democratic and plutocratic in nature.

Opposition in the community was deep and widespread, with comments about the project running as high as 25 to 1 against.  Are all those people idiots? There was considerable frustration and anger sparked by the perception that opponents were simply being ignored at every step of the way. It’s not surprising that everyday people started to feel like this scenario was simply a show designed to legitimize the City’s special relationship with a Very Wealthy Individual. Passions ran high, and as our reporter Andy Cohen tried to point out, some individuals –on both sides of this issue– may have crossed the line in terms of expressing their disagreement in polite terms.  The fact is that hardly anybody disagrees with the kernel of truth at the center of this debate—that cars need to be removed from the core of Balboa Park. The question was (and is), how do we get there?

The UT-San Diego editorial made it perfectly clear that citizen input will be derided and disparaged in these sorts of instances. Good luck to anybody who dares oppose their grand visions for a shiny new stadium downtown or publisher Doug Manchester’s plans for mega development along the San Diego river—if they called people idiotic for speaking out against the Balboa Park plan, lord only knows what words they’ll come up with for opponents of their own pet projects.

LA Artwalk triggers LAPD tactical alert…The monthly L.A. ArtWalk erupted with violence Thursday night as the LAPD moved to suppress the event, which incorporated messages written on the street at the intersection of Spring and 5th streets that included, “May the youth rise” and “End the Fed.” The ArtWalk, which was advertised via Facebook, was staged with the intention of showing support for people previously arrested for chalking on the sidewalk. Members of Occupy LA handed out free chalk to people as they arrived.  Police in riot gear moved in shortly after 10 pm, using batons and non-lethal projectiles to disperse the crowd, which in turn threw bottles and cans at officers and chanted, “Whose streets? Our streets!”

Is it getting dark in here?…  Facing a vast budget gap, California legislators have suspended some of the requirements of the Brown Act, the state law mandating California counties, cities, school districts and other local agencies to post public agendas and disclose decisions made in closed meetings. The budget adopted in June suspends state re-imbursements for the costs of those provisions for three years, saving the state $96 million dollars. Much of the Brown Act, passed nearly fifty years ago, remains intact, including requirements that most of a city council’s business be done in public meetings. Gov. Brown’s November ballot tax measure includes language that would make the provisions mandatory again, regardless of state reimbursements.

Can somebody shed some light on this situation?… Senate Democrats have announced a Monday vote on the Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act, major legislation that would close loopholes for so-called “social welfare” groups like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS. Using their 501(c)4 status as a shield, these groups take advantage of ambiguities in the law to funnel huge sums of money into attack ads. Presently they are not required to reveal their donors or disclose the corporations and billionaires behind them. The Act would expose special interests by requiring these shadowy groups to actually reveal their donors and take accountability for the ads they run. Known as H.R. 5175 (S.3628-Senate), the bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) and in the U.S. Senate by Charles Schumer (D-New York). A petition to the Senate in support of the legislation is online and can viewed here.

Shocking developments at San Onofre power plant… New data from US regulators revealed Thursday that more than 3,400 steam generator tubes in the generators at the San Onofre nuclear power plant have been found to be damaged, sparking an expert to warn that the problem is more serious than first thought. A reactor at the power plant was shut down in January after a radiation leak was detected.  Investigations discovered unexpected erosion on tubes carrying radioactive water, and the entire plant was shut down. The San Onofre plant has repaired four times as many tubes as combined total of repaired tubes at all other U.S. nuclear power plants “This reveals a far greater problem than has been previously disclosed, and raises serious questions about whether it is safe to restart either unit,” said Daniel Hirsch, a nuclear expert at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

The numbers, please… On Monday Secretary of State Debra Bowen assigned numbers to eleven measures for the November ballot, with Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax proposal topping the list as Proposition 30.  Here’s the list of what you’ll be asked to vote on:

Proposition 30 – Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax increase plan

Proposition 31 – State budget process changes

Proposition 32 – Ban on payroll deductions for political contributions; ban on contributions to candidates from unions and corporations

Proposition 33 – Auto insurance rates based on driver’s history of coverage

Proposition 34 – Death penalty repeal

Proposition 35 – Increased penalties for human trafficking

Proposition 36 – Changes in “Three Strikes” sentencing law

Proposition 37 – Labeling of genetically engineered foods

Proposition 38 – Molly Munger’s tax increase plan

Proposition 39 – Increased taxes on some multi-state companies to fund clean energy programs

Proposition 40 – Referendum on state Senate district boundaries

Border death inquiry under way… The death of 42-year-old Mexican immigrant Anastasio Hernández Rojas is now under investigation by a federal grand jury. He died after being tazed multiple times by border agents who were deporting him in March 2010. The agents claimed they used a stun gun after Rojas became combative. A witness’s video has surfaced that appears to show him lying motionless on the ground as he’s being stunned. The man who shot the video, Humberto Navarrete, has been called to testify before the grand jury.

“The fact that they’ve called a grand jury is in itself a message to Border Patrol that they are not above the law. An indictment is an emphatic statement that they are not above the law, and of course, a conviction would be a resounding a warning,” said Andrea Guerrero, executive director for Equality Alliance, a non-profit, social-justice advocacy group.

Pro-pot protesters to picket political fundraiser… President President Obama’s upcoming swing through the Bay area later this month will be met by protesting medical marijuana supporters unhappy with the administration’s duplicity on the medical cannabis issue. California’s federal prosecutors are bringing the hammer down on Harborside Health Center – the nation’s largest medical marijuana dispensary, and one with the reputation as a legit outfit, and industry supporters led by the National Cannabis Industry Association are going to do the best to express their displeasure. Oakland’s city leaders and other officials have rushed the defense of Harborside, warning of dire economic and social consequences if Oakland’s carefully regulated industry is quashed.

Back in 2007, then-candidate Obama said that he “would not have the Justice Department prosecuting and raiding medical marijuana users. It’s not a good use of our resources.” A 2009 Justice Department memo seemed to confirm as much. But in recent months federal prosecutors have closed down hundreds of dispensaries around the state. The change in attitude stems from a June, 2011 Justice Department memorandum expressing concern about the recent “increase in the scope” of medical marijuana operations and warned industry leaders that they were in violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act, “regardless of state law.” Last year alone, the Oakland operation currently under the gun paid $3.5 million in taxes and employs 125 people.

Issa faces ethics charges… Congressional watchdog and professional Obama critic Rep. Darrell Issa is now facing his own ethics complaint. On Wednesday, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed complaints against Issa with the Justice Department and the Office of Congressional Ethics. The grievances stem from allegations that Issa violated federal law by including material from a sealed wiretap application in the Congressional Record.

As part of the June 28 debate over the contempt charge lodged against Attorney General Eric Holder, Issa placed in the Congressional Record information from a 2010 wiretap application that included specific details “concerning operational tactics and individual targets” of the law enforcement operation called Fast and Furious, according to the complaint filed with the Office of Congressional Ethics. There is precedent for holding Rep. Issa accountable for violating the wiretap statute.  In 2007, the D.C. Court of Appeals found Rep. James McDermott (D-WA) civilly liable for improperly disclosing to reporters a 1996 tape of a conversation between then-Speaker Newt Gingrich and other Republican leaders, including Rep. John Boehner (R-OH).

CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan told the press, “It is ironic that by revealing the warrant application to further his effort to have Attorney General Eric Holder held in contempt, Rep. Issa was willing to flirt with his own potential contempt charge.” Sloan concluded, “Speaker Boehner spent over 10 years pushing to see Rep. McDermott held liable for improperly disclosing a tape.  Surely, we should expect him to just as zealously demand Rep. Issa be held responsible for similar violations of the law.”

On This DayIn 1863 opponents of the Civil War draft began three days of rioting in New York City, which resulted in more than 1,000 casualties. In 1954 the United States, Great Britain and France reached an accord on Indochina which divided Vietnam into two countries, North and South, along the 17th parallel. In 1968 Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild” was released.

Eat Fresh! Today’s Farmers’ Markets: Borrego Springs  (Christmas Circle Community Park Christmas Circle & Palm Canyon Dr.) 7 am – noon, Fallbrook (102 S. Main, at Alvarado) 10 am – 2 pm, Imperial Beach  (Seacoast Dr. at Pier Plaza) 2 – 7:30 pm, Kearny Mesa (No. Island Credit Union pkg lot  5898 Copley) 10:30 am – 1:30 pm, La Mesa Village  (Corner of Spring St. and University) 2 – 6 pm, Rancho Bernardo (Bernardo Winery parking lot 13330 Paseo del Verano Norte) 9 am – noon, Southeast San Diego (4981 Market St. West of Euclid Ave. Trolley Station) 2 – 6 pm

Get a life. It’s a festival of the arts. It’s crafty. It’s a shopping extravaganza. It’s in a historic neighborhood. It’s a chance to see anoutdoor screening of the movie Woodstock!  All this and more at the South Park Summer of Love Walkabout on Saturday, July 14th from 6-10pm. There’s a free trolley to drive you around and the movie lovin’ starts at 8:30 pm on Fern Street.  Facebook page here.

I read the Daily Fishwrap(s) so you don’t have to… Catch “the Starting Line” Monday thru Friday right here at San Diego Free Press (dot) org. Send your hate mail and ideas to DougPorter@SanDiegoFreePress.Org  

avatar Dan Soderberg July 13, 2012 at 8:53 am

Re: UT-San Diego Derides Balboa Park Plan Opposition as “Idiotic.” Mr Porter, as someone from the community who has been on the front line of this issue since the project was unveiled nearly two years ago, being called idiotic by the UT, and other proponents of the project, has been ongoing and continual since nearly the beginning.

We went through the public process provided, only to be ignored through those two years. Oh sure they made some small adjustments to the project. But the community’s main concerns and objections about the project–the concrete off ramp, serpentine road, and paid parking bunker–was ignored. But in the process our opposition was continually characterized just as the UT has done.

The culminating event was on July 9, at City Council where Mayor Sanders, in his opening remarks, repeated nasty remarks he’s made all along. Members of the community who had been derided and ignored for two years–and who knew the outcome of City Council’s vote far in advance–expressed their frustration.

Voicing our frustration of that two years of skewed public process was criticized by your writer Andy Cohen in an extremely over the top, disrespectful and mean spirited way. In short he was every bit as impolite as the UT in characterizing people. Referring to me for example, as a barking buffoon.

While today I do appreciate your highlighting UT’s use of such disrespectful terms as “idiotic,” it is hypocritical when your own writer can’t control a combative, abusive, accusatory pen. If one is a pot calling the kettle black, it becomes part of the problem–not the solution.

avatar Frank Gormlie July 13, 2012 at 10:14 am

I have to echo Doug’s words here. The San Diego Free Press is not a monolithic media project with exactly one set of values and beliefs. We are a coalition of sorts, young and old, hippie and professional, left-wingers, independents, Democrats, anarchists, but we all value grassroots citizen journalism. There is no “master editor” as other media might have. And again, we may disagree with our fellow bloggers’ choice of words – I know that Doug and Andy Cohen have disagreed with some of mine – and I with some of theirs. This does not undermine our joint effort to bring progressive views and neighborhood news to needy San Diego readers.

avatar Doug Porter July 13, 2012 at 9:46 am

Mr Soderberg: You apparently are under the impression that we are of a hive mentality around here. The fact is we physically see each other maybe twice a month. We have different opinions , make mistakes (BTW/I’m not calling Andy’s words a mistake-even if I disagreed with his choice of words I’d keep that argument out of the web site), hopefully learn from from those mistakes and respond to the comments we receive.
You (and others) have made your point here repeatedly. We have heard you. I’m not saying that it won’t happen again, because we’re human. And I wasn’t at the City Council hearing, so I really don’t know what you sounded like. Nobody likes to called something negative (welll, maybe Donald Trump & Dick Cheny don’t mind), I get that. I do know that, even with the best of intentions, I personally have sounded like an asshole, a jerk and a buffoon in the (not very distant) past. I didn’t think so at the time, but as I look back at my behavior I try to grow from my experiences.
I happen to think what the UT did in their editorial was wrong. And I don’t feel hypocritical for saying it. I’m getting on with my life and not dwelling on what happened yesterday. Personally I’ll support the fight to keep the Jacobs plan from happening, as I suspect that we as a group will.
Try and have a good day. Doug Porter

avatar Anna Daniels July 13, 2012 at 10:37 am

From “idiots” to “liars?” I lowered my expectations on the U-T editorials many years ago. I was surprised however to see the odd “fact check” today in the VOSD–“Public Ignored in Balboa Park Debate?” http://tinyurl.com/7xturgk The determination that Bruce Coons is a liar on the issue about the accommodation of public input in the debate is frankly much more disturbing to me than the U-T’s imperious dismissal of the unwashed masses.
Dave Rolland’s CityBeat editorial succinctly cuts to the chase: “A better way would have been for Jacobs to pledge money for a project to eliminate cars from the plaza and let a public process determine how it should be done.” That didn’t happen. And VOSD chose not to use that overarching assessment of public input in it’s fact check article.

avatar Bruce Coons July 13, 2012 at 11:41 am

Hi Frank and Doug,
I very much appreciate yours and Andy’s articles and your many, many efforts over all these years on behalf of us all. I’m not sure what burr was under Andy’s saddle the other day. As one who did make a single statement that I regret on Monday, to be attacked for things I didn’t say and still to this day not have it corrected properly is disappointing. We have come to expect a high caliber of reporting from Andy as his work is often outstanding, so the calling of names and personal attack was a bit of a shock. Since the days when I stood with Frank marching against the war, or filling in the Corps of Engineers project in the Beach at OB at night, or fighting the gentrification of OB, our language is extremely tame compared to our activist roots. Frank, I remember well the original OB Rag and the Free Press. Dan was 100% correct in his statements and I applaud his straightforward and appropriate candor delivered against a sea of misinformation with complete and utter contempt for the views of the people of San Diego. We were also surrounded by threatening police forces who told us before entering the chamber how we were to behave and even where to sit and restricted our movement throughout the day, it reminded me all to well of the early days. We need to stick together, the stakes appear to be as high as they have ever been. I suspect that if Andy reviews the council meeting he may regret some of his statements too.

Bruce Coons

avatar Ian Trowbridge July 13, 2012 at 4:14 pm

I am not going to get involved in this dispute. I am just so pleased to listen to people who, in their own way, are trying to improve civic responsibility, quality of life and social justice in this city. We need so many more people to make a difference.

avatar Bruce Coons July 14, 2012 at 11:17 am

Have we all become too much a part of the machine we are supposed to be working to change. Have we lost ability speak the truth? Have we finally met the man and is he now us? God I hope not.

avatar Shelley Plumb July 14, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Please read Sherri Lightner’s response in today’s fishwrap and then tell all your friends in District One to vote for her in November.

avatar doug porter July 14, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Sadly, the UT-SD has seen fit not to post Ms. Lightner’s response online. I searched her name in their search engine, and went through all the letters to the editor for the past three days to no avail. If anybody can find a link, let me know and I’ll post it here so people don’t have to deal with UT-SD’s ridiculous paywall.

avatar Bruce Coons July 14, 2012 at 7:10 pm

Yes, it is only in the print version as of now.

avatar Shelley Plumb July 16, 2012 at 8:36 pm

Doug, here it is:
http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2012/jul/14/tp-reasonable-minds-can-disagree-respectfully/

Sorry, I’m technically challenged — my computer wouldn’t let me leave it as a link.

avatar John P. Falchi July 17, 2012 at 9:16 am

(written in response to the UT Editorial on the Jacobs Plan)
It is not idiocy, my dear UT friends to want to preserve the historical integrity of Balboa Park, particularly when National, state, and city historical preservation authorities, like the National Trust, the National Parks, Caltrans, our own State Preservation Office, the HRB Board, the Committee of 100, SOHO, 4 of the 5 community planning groups in district 3, the League of Women Voters, the Parks & Rec Board and many many others who, sincerely, believe that the Jacobs Plan would damage the park’s historical status.

Neither is it idiocy to continue to support free parking throughout Balboa Park as its founding fathers wanted this and wrote it into its founding principles. If you had read the letter to the UT editor earlier this year from the Zoo Authorities you would know that a paid parking garage in the park would lead to paid zoo parking and this, in turn, could very well lead to paid parking in all of the other nearby available free parking , because it is clear to those who understand parking that the proposal within the Jacobs Plan in that regard is unsustainable. Therefore, as in other like parking ventures Sam Diego has mistakenly engaged in, the city’s general fund would make up the shortfall, to be sure!

Nor is it idiocy to not want the historical beauty of this fine park to be disfigured by a freeway exit from Cabrillo Bridge that would be a concrete monument to Irwin Jacobs, but a monumental eyesore to many others who would have to gaze upon it day after day. Call your opponents whatever dastardly names you choose, but make no mistake about it, my editorial friends, they are clearly not idiots

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