Fighting the Bias of the ‘Voice of San Diego’

by on October 30, 2012 · 31 comments

in Business, Editor's Picks, Media, Politics

by Larry Remer

How would you feel if you were a baseball player in the World Series and you found out that the first base umpire was on the payroll of the other team?

That’s kind of how I feel about the Voice of San Diego’s coverage of Proposition Z.

I am running the Yes on Prop. Z campaign; and for months I’ve sparred with reporters and editors from ‘Voice of San Diego’ about the negative slant of their coverage. They just parried back and defended what they’d written, as reporters usually do when campaigns and public agencies complain their stories.

But then the first deadline for disclosure of campaign contributions arrived and the No on Prop. Z campaign disclosed its donors.

It turned out that Buzz Wooley, a La Jolla investor, was listed as the largest single donor to the No on Prop. Z campaign. That same Buzz Wooley is also listed on the Voice website as a founder and the current chair of the Voice Board.

This seems like a pretty blatant conflict of interest to me. It also explains a lot.

It explains why the Voice’s coverage of Prop. Z has been so slanted and why the Voice’s “Explainer” states that Prop. Z will increase taxes by more than it actually will.

It explains why Voice CEO Scott Lewis wrote that the School District had doubled the size of the bond, when this had not happened.

It explains why the Voice repeats and elaborates on the SD Taxpayer Association’s objections to Prop. Z without reporting that the Taxpayers Association is supporting other bonds in the county that contain these same elements they’ve labeled as “flaws” in Prop. Z.

 A quick aside here: the Taxpayers Association, which is a big business group, is also a sponsor of the Voice; which only a cynic might think is why they get such favorable coverage.

It explains why the Voice said it was “Mostly True” when the Taxpayers Assn. charged the School District was spending thousands to buy $399 iPads, even though the District produced invoices showing the cost to be $430 (with tax). This last flight of fancy was so egregious that it prompted a protest from Ricky Young, editor of the UT’s Watchdog Team and certainly no ally of the Democratic-leaning SD Unified School District. Young derided the Voice for allowing the Taxpayers Assn. to add financing costs to the costs of the iPads. “If you buy a house for $150,000 and it costs $300,000 with interest, you don’t tell people ‘I bought a house for $300,000′,” Young said.

And it explains why the Voice, while reporting on the Taxpayers Assn. opposition to Prop. Z, failed to report that this very same Taxpayers Assn approved the decisions of the School Board when they were made and is only now criticizing those decisions in the context of its opposition to Prop. Z.

Now, maybe you’re wondering if the Voice is going to probe the Taxpayers Association and whether or not they have a “hidden agenda” behind their opposition to Prop. Z. I keep waiting for this. After all, on the Voice website they describe their Mission as being an “investigative news organization that gives concerned citizens the tools they need to engage in important conversations about their community. We are unlike any news outlet in San Diego because we dig deeper to uncover the truth . . .”

But, just in case the Voice doesn’t uncover this truth, you should know that:

The Taxpayers Association opposes Prop. Z because the School Board passed a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) for the 2008 Prop. S bond and for Prop. Z, should it pass. Under a PLA, contractors are required to employ union workers and pay union wages and benefits. Additionally, San Diego Unified’s PLA further requires that employees be hired from the community where the work is being done (which, in this case, includes many of the most economically hard hit communities in the region).

I had breakfast with the head of the Taxpayers Association “Issues Committee”, where ballot measures are vetted for potential support. The first words out of his mouth were, “I have it in for San Diego Unified because of their PLA.” We had a spirited breakfast and he admitted to me that he, “didn’t care if opposing Prop. Z hurt the children” because “the PLA is wrong.”

 In the campaign against Prop. Z, the Taxpayers Association has joined with the anti-labor, Republican business group, the Lincoln Club. And in the latest campaign disclosure Buzz Wooley has been surpassed by the Lincoln Club, which is now the largest donor to the No on Prop. Z campaign.

Another point. I’ve read in the Voice about the Taxpayer Association’s opposition to Prop. Z. but I’ve never read about the support for Prop. Z from the San Diego Middle Class Taxpayers Association, a rival group with a larger membership, that testified 3 times at the Board in favor of Prop. Z and signed the Prop. Z ballot argument.

Seems if you’re going to report on the opposition of one taxpayer group, you might want to give your readers the perspective of a taxpayer group that is supportive.

But that would be like expecting the umpire to be fair in calling foul balls hit down the right field line.

A little more disclosure here from me. Some of you know that I used to write for the alternative press (the Door and Newsline) before I became a political consultant in the late 1980s. I work for Democrats and for progressive ballot measures and I’ve run several school bonds for San Diego Unified. I am paid for this, of course, but I also think that Prop. Z is incredibly important.

Our local schools have experienced devastating budget cuts. California was once in the top 5 nationally in per capita student funding. It is now 47th. You wouldn’t know from reading the Voice, but San Diego’s test scores are up for the past 4 years because of the District’s Technology Program (which included the iPad purchases). Prop. Z provides incredibly critical local funding for schools, without which these gains will be in jeopardy.

 But don’t look to the Voice for objective coverage of the local schools. In addition to Buzz Wooley, their major donors include three key people who, last year, spent hundreds of thousands in an ill fated effort to stack the San Diego School Board with appointed members.

But Buzz Wooley isn’t simply one of the hundreds of donors who have given $100 to support what they think is independent journalism. He’s a Founder and the Chair of the Voice Board. Either he runs the show, or he’s some kind of a dupe (which I doubt).

So, when I saw Buzz Wooley’s involvement with the No on Prop Z effort, I called Voice CEO Scott Lewis and told him his boss was a partisan in a hot campaign and suggested a brief disclaimer to that effect might be appropriate at the end of any articles relating to Prop. Z.

After all, I noted, both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal include mentions in any stories where thier corporate entities have an interest. In fact, the Voice, in its coverage of the Irwin Jacobs/Balboa Park controversy, mentioned that Jacobs was a donor to the Voice.

By the way, Irwin Jacobs is a donor to Prop. Z and signed the Ballot Argument in favor of Prop. Z. He is especially supportive of the funds the District has spent to bring technology into the classroom which has helped raise test scores for 4 straight years. This is the program that wires every campus and classroom with high speed internet, networks teachers and kids in the classroom so their progress can be monitored in “real time” and that includes providing computers (iPads and Netbooks) to students.

In any event, Scott Lewis did not take too kindly to my suggestions. In fact, he was very gruff, arrogant, nasty and abusive. He cursed a lot, accused me of “bias baiting” the Voice, and said essentially that he had no intention of letting his readers know that Buzz Wooley, the chair of the Voice board and his boss, was funding the No on Prop. Z campaign.

I guess he thought that was it because he ended our conversation by hanging up on me.

Larry Remer is a political consultant in San Diego. He was involved with the alternative press in San Diego back in the 70’s & 80’s; he and SDFP editor Doug Porter were co-editors of the San Diego Door.

avatar Judy October 30, 2012 at 5:44 am

Wow! Thanks for the enlightening article Larry! Now it all makes sense why Voice seems so bias to me. It is sad that we have hardly any unbiased news sources here in SD. Thank you SD Free Press.

avatar KP October 30, 2012 at 8:11 am

The VOS is just another biased tool for the Lincoln club and the like. VOS is a less obvious version of the U T.

avatar Scott Lewis October 30, 2012 at 9:42 am

Where to start …

I was in a car with a colleague and she can verify that I did not “curse a lot” when I spoke to Larry Remer in the conversation he mentions. I did in an earlier conversation with him, though, so I’ll cop to that. I thought Remer had a thicker skin as he certainly isn’t shy himself.

I did hang up on him as he lobbed threats that he was going to attack our credibility in various formats.

Voice of San Diego does not have a “corporate interest” in Proposition Z. We have two major supporters with opposing opinions on the initiative. We have 1,400 other supporters, dozens of sponsors and partners. I have not polled them on their position on Z.

Remer says the New York Times and WSJ disclose interests like what he’s demanding. Please show me where, on stories, their reporters disclose each interest their companies’ shareholders have in the politics and policies they cover. They don’t, it would be too onerous.

We faced tremendous scrutiny when we covered the Balboa Park planning and decided to make a special disclosure for Irwin Jacobs because he was leading the entire project. It was his project.

Recently, we decided to scrap this and replace it, like Texas Tribune does, with a generic disclaimer after every article and a link to our list of supporters. Here, you can also find our Form 990s and other FAQs and explanations of how we operate.

We would never be able to get anything done if our reporters were required to poll all of our supporters and completely disclose on each article what donors think about each topic we cover.

Anyone who would like is welcome to come to our monthly Member Coffees or schedule a time to talk about anything more in depth, to grill us or get more information.

We’ve decided to make it transparent whence our funding comes, keep that updated and clear and let our work stand for itself. You can review our analyses and decide for yourself whether they had merit or were the tools of our corporate overlords. Ultimately, we have to hope they stand on their own.

As for my own columns, I first got interested in Z when, watching a school board meeting one night, I saw a new construction bond come up a “son of Prop. S.” I immediately was struck at how it was being sold as a way to retain teachers. It was pitched as a $30-$40 increase to property taxes per $100,000 of assessed value of property a resident owns. The district later decided to go for $60, hence my column.

Ironically, the same day Remer called and threatened me, I had been absorbing the blowback from a fact check we’d put out about the other side of the Proposition Z argument. Opponents of the measure were convinced we were in the tank for it.

This is the way election season always is. And although it’s my favorite time of year, it’s also my least favorite because of this. Perhaps we can do even better with transparency, and we’ll review this complaint.

But we are already among the clearest and most transparent news organizations around and I’m very proud of that.

avatar JEC October 30, 2012 at 10:59 am

I’ve known Larry a long time – and I do not call us friends. But Scott, an attack on your credibility is not much of a battle – not much to defend. You and those who continue in the Copley legacy make shrill white noise, a misdirection and a disservice. Scott, it’s about the issue – our schools, our future. Larry’s making noise to try and win his position – an issue that most certainly does not hinge on Larry. But you? Split hairs, dodge the reason for the discussion and milk the egos and make it personal – when in truth – the links of VOS – if not corporate then connected by faith – faith in an ideology that sat at the center of WWII. The PLA – come on, pay union wages, pay a worker what they’re worth – and that draws a “never!” We’ve been raped and pilleged by the local plutocracy – our infra-structure stinks; our venerated trolley the most expensive and least usable in the country; roads so bad you have to pay attention to the car you drive; electricity rates the highest in the lower 48; a city loaded with debt thanks to ballparks and convention centers; building a new bigger library though we have no money to run it – as a library for the people. We can only imagine the surprises you and your club have in store. Scott, face it – as to credibility – you are on the dark side.

avatar Larry Remer October 30, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Scott,
To borrow from the Bard, “The lady (in this case the gentleman) doth protest too much, me thinks.”

Face it. Your position is untenable. Buzz Wooley is, accoridng to YOUR website, the “founder” of VOSD and the current “chairman” of your board. He’s not some guy who sent in $50. He’s your boss.

When I called you, he was the SINGLE BIGGEST DONOR to the No on Z campaign (since surpassed by the Lincoln Club). I wasn’t asking you to change a word of your coverage. I was only suggesting that your readers deserved to know that fact.

The more you prevaricate (that means “avoid giving a direct and honest answer”) and obsfucate, the more you prove my point. You not only have a bias, you have something to hide.

I also find it quizzical that you admit hanging up on me and say you did so because I was threatening to “attack our (i.e. your) credibility.” Now, I was an investigative reporter for nearly 20 years and I can only say that this is the exact same rationale the various scoundrels I used to write about used when they slammed doors in my face, called security guards to remove me from their premises, or otherwise tried to duck or dodge the tough questions I was asking.

In other words, you’re acting much more like a “perp” than, to use your words: “most transparent news organization around”.

Seems to me like you know how to dish it out, but you can’t take it when the tables are turned.

avatar Scott Lewis October 31, 2012 at 9:24 am

What am I hiding? As you say, you got this information from our website. I hung up because the conversation had quickly gotten unproductive and I had an appointment to attend. You’re free to come to the office and troll me for hours at a time.

Woolley does not direct our point of view on stories and that’d be untenable with other major supporters and our reporters. We are building a broad, diverse funding base and our donors and board members have a range of views on each campaign and policy we follow.

I’m not going to try to catalog their views on each policy on each story we write, which is why we make our funding transparent in one place, which invites this kind of scrutiny. How more direct can I be without just acceding to your demand?

avatar Larry Remer October 31, 2012 at 10:21 am

You had no problem putting a note at the end of your articles on Balboa Park that Irwin Jacobs (the proponent of the controversial park makeover) is a contributor to VOSD.

But, when you learned that your BOARD CHAIRMAN was the LARGEST SINGLE DONOR to “NO ON Z”, it suddenly became to onerous a task for you to inform your readers.

Something stinks at VOSD, Scott. This is not about “acceding to (my) demand.” This is a chance for you to COME CLEAN. I’m actually doing you a favor.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

avatar Larry Remer October 30, 2012 at 11:49 pm

OMG. I jut sat down to catch up on my reading and there it was: In Monday’s Wall Street Jornal, on pge B12, there’s a lengthy story about whether News. Corp., which is owed by Rupert Murdoch, is considering making a bid for Penguin, the publishing house.

And lo and behold, in the 6th pararaph, a simple declarative sentence: “News Corp. owns The Wall Street Jounal.”

avatar Scott Lewis October 31, 2012 at 9:33 am

Again, this WSJ disclosure describes is a corporate asset — an actual ownership disclosure. If we were reporting on my house, we would point out it was my house. Wall Street Journal writes about elections all the time, how do its shareholders stand on elections and propositions? Is that disclosed in their stories? No, it’d be impossible.

What you’re demanding is that we both discover and disclose all of the opinions our various major supporters have on every policy we write about. I do not often know what our board members think about candidates or policies.

I’m not going to ask our writers to find this out for every story they write. I’d rather make all of our funding transparent and let people hold us accountable, as they do.

avatar Larry Remer October 31, 2012 at 10:16 am

There’s an old German proverb, “Whose bread I eat, his song I sing.”

I can’t imagine a VOSD reporter asking a City Councilmember about a vote on an issue affecting a major contributor and accepting as an answer that he/she (the Councilmember) can’t keep track of the views and interests of his/her contributors.

If you want to continue to play “hide the ball”, Scott, that’s your decision. All you’re doing is undermining the credibility of VOSD and proving to me and the world that your coverage is slanted in favor of your contributors.

avatar Ricky Young October 30, 2012 at 9:43 am

Larry, thanks for the mention… I’m curious how you think the Middle Class Taxpayers Association has more members than the SDCTA. My impression is the SDCTA board alone has more members than the whole Middle Class group, but maybe I’m not giving the new organization enough credit for having grown since I last checked in.

avatar Larry Remer October 30, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Ricky, you’re welcome. I appreciate the intellectual honesty.
The Middle Class Taxpayers Association informs me they have more than 600 members who have signed up at various foums and events. Their president, Pat Zaharopoulos, a retired Deputy Attorney General, testified at the San Diego School Board in September when the Board voted to ban the use of “Poway-style” high-interest, long term loans in Prop. Z. The Association also appeared a 3 School Board Hearings in support of Prop. Z. Their website is: http://www.middleclasstaxpayers.org.

avatar Liz Ochoa January 14, 2014 at 10:22 am

While writing a story on the future of “public” funded newspapers, I found this gem of an article. Only goes to show that public media can be just as corruptible and biased as private.

Glad to see you’re still fighting the good fight Larry. During my early years in journalism working with you at Newsline you inspired me so much with your uncanny ability to ferret out the truth, as well as your tenacity and vision for a better world. Liz Ochoa

avatar Prattle On, Boyo October 30, 2012 at 10:17 am

I’m not surprised at all as I have previously determined that the Voice of San Diego has always been a tool for the 1% pretty much from Day One of its debut. In the same vein as the UT and Orange County Regsiter, it has a long, sordid history of censoring anyone who dares express an opinion that does not favor the oligarchy.

avatar Michael Robertson October 30, 2012 at 10:47 am

Readers – please view this as the ad hominem attack it is. When you don’t have the facts on your side you attack the messenger personally. This is what you’re reading. Here are the facts.

– Financing iPads with a 3 yr life with a 25 year loan is foolish and why the true price is $4000+
– Schools have figured out they can jack up property tax with sentimental pitches about it being “for the kids” rather than fueling every expanding expensive, ineffective education system. They’ll keep doing it until taxpayers wise up.
– The VOSD doesn’t censor. I have posted critical posts many times and they appear.

avatar JEC October 30, 2012 at 11:36 am

You are right – buying limited life equipment with bond money is foolish – though it was done for the Sheriff in the jails; for the Courts and DA in the Hall of Justice in fact Michael, I think it’s there because the underwriters (banks/brokers think Goldman/Sachs) with the blessing of bond counsel (think hot shot out of town lawyers) have always included limited life equipment, especially computers. But also think – a water heater lasts about 7 years; HVAC about 10. In fact most of the operating equipment inside a building lasts only about half of the term of the typical bond. In the end bonds aren’t smart. Only and 2/3rds of the total cost is usable – the rest going to banks/brokers/lawyers. That’s why we should increase taxes without the rational of buying a bond. So yes on Prop 30 AND 38 – a solution you, Michael, can support, right?

avatar Doug Porter October 30, 2012 at 11:11 am

EDITOR’S NOTE: These story is drawing a lot of comments and we’re always happy to see reaction. There are a few folks that have submitted comments this morning that do not fit into our terms of use (see button at top of page), so please, folks, if you haven’t commented here before, take time to read the TOU.

avatar MCK October 30, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Wow, that is solid presentation of overwhelming evidence. If VOSD (not to be confused with VOBW) acts quickly, it has a chance of saving some of it’s reputation. Good luck VOSD! SD needs you more than you need BW.

avatar Frances O'Neill Zimmerman October 30, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Well, it took Larry Remer (whom I know and actually like) 21 paragraphs to disclose that he got paid by this Labor-backed Board of Education to “explore” whether another bond issue would be a good idea at this time (it isn’t) and to then mount the expensive campaign to sell Prop Z to the voters (which won’t happen.)

The Voice of San Diego has never figured out its independence and bends toward the pet projects of corporate moguls like Irwin Jacobs, Rob Dammeyer and Buzz Woolley who support the journal. Woolley is actually a founder. All three scions were backers of that ill-fated replace-the-elected-school-board-agenda awhile back and all three men think charter schools are better than public schools with teachers unions (they aren’t.)

As Remer says, Voice COO Scott Lewis should be held to account for playing fast and loose with a lot of the “facts” he’s published, and not just on school matters. Excellent education writer Emily Alpert was fired, allegedly for austerity reasons, eleven months ago. Since then VOSD has become an increasingly unreliable operation, as Remer accurately points out, in many areas. I myself have gone round and round with VOSD on a lot of inaccurate reporting of public school issues.

Most recently, I have been publicly appalled by Voice reporter Liam Dillon’s slanderous coverage of excellent mayoral candidate Congressman Bob Filner. I wish Democrat Larry Remer had seen fit to defend Democrat Bob Filner as vigorously as he defends his personal stake in passing the flawed and doomed Prop Z.

Personally I am voting NO on bond issue Prop Z because it’s being floated by the same unreliable School Board majority of John Lee Evans, Richard Barrera and Shelia Jackson who brought us the recently-passed bond issue Prop S. In my opinion, these Labor-backed trustees broke faith with the public by enacting the Project Labor Agreement only after the measure passed public muster, and they improperly gave away $20 million of the proceeds to help build the Mayor’s favorite trophy edifice, the downtown Central Library. The Board trio tacked an unneeded high school onto the design to justify the contribution — a charter high school that won’t need to conform to state earthquake standards and whose purpose hasn’t even been designed yet.

So NO on Prop Z, in spite of Larry Remer’s selective spinning.

avatar Michael Robertson October 30, 2012 at 5:13 pm

Commenters are straining to find a conflict where none exists.

It’s true Irwin Jacobs is a backer of VOSD. He’s actually a backer of Prop Z. He wrote an editorial in the UT supporting it. If Jacobs directed VOSD then they wouldn’t be writing stories critical of Prop Z.

In any organization of size there will be conflicting views of financial backers. That alone doesn’t mean there’s a conflict.

avatar Frances O'Neill Zimmerman October 30, 2012 at 5:23 pm

By the way, former VOSD education reporter Emily Alpert now writes for the Los Angeles Times.

Also, I forgot to say: the San Diego Board of Education acted irresponsibly to approve Remer’s bond measure Prop Z asking for a local tax increase even though it was clear that voters continue to struggle in the wake of the Great Recession and that there would be two additional statewide tax-increase propositions for education on the November ballot — Prop 38 and Prop 30.

avatar Larry Remer October 30, 2012 at 11:14 pm

Shame on you, Fran.

One. Richard Barrera and John Evans had NOTHING to do with Prop. S. It was put on the ballot by John DeBeck, Katherine Nakamura et al. Barrera and Evans were not even on the Board at the time.

Two. Re: the PLA. I don’t get your problem with it. Under the PLA, contractors MUST hire from the community. In areas like Southeast San Diego, the PLA has been the best “Jobs Program” going. And the Prop. S projects are under projections. Finally, I have no idea what kind of “faith” was broken with the public. When Prop. S was on the ballot, we were asked about a PLA. The contractors asked us. The unions asked us. We said, very explicitly, that a decision about a PLA would be made by the Board after the election. So, the public knew that. And the public also knew that the Barrera/Evans majority were pro-labor. Maybe you don’t like PLAs (though I can’t figure out why). But, if you do, be intellectually honest and oppose them on a policy basis. Don’t make up fairy tales about “breaking faith.”

As regards the Schoolbrary: Prop. S allocated money for a school downtown. The high schools near downtown (notably San Diego High) are tremendously overcrowded. The High School in the library will relieve some of that overcrowding. Again, your real opposition to this is because the people behind the Schoolbrary are the same people that supported Bersin and opposed you when you were on the Board. You may be angry at them; but that’s not a sufficient reason for your opposition to Prop. Z.

It’s really too bad that you, of all people, would oppose Prop. Z just because you don’t like the current school board (for real and imagined reasons). The Prop. Z projects are desperately needed. The District has more than $7 billion in needs; and that amount is growing each year because Sacramento budget cuts have forced the District to forgo all the the most pressing maintenance and repairs. The District’s Classroom Technology Program will run out of funding if Prop. Z fails.

Is Prop Z perfect? Probably not. But neither was Prop. MM, which you played a vital role in putting together and passing.

You’re too smart, Fran Zimmerman, to let the perfect be the enemy of the good (or, in the case, the critically needed, very good).

avatar JEC October 31, 2012 at 6:53 am

I too will not vote for Prop Z. I support public education, believe in the need, but no more debt. The debt model is bankrupting, hocking our future as we try to sustain the present. The reasons for debt are always good reasons. But bond debt is treated to much like a free lunch – and, if anything, it’s money that comes at a premium.

avatar Michael Robertson October 31, 2012 at 10:20 am

Rather than deal with the facts, Larry attacks Scott’s and VOSD. Prop Z will dump more money intto a broken govt school system which will never be satisfied. There’s no data to suggest more money will improve academic performance.

avatar Larry Remer October 31, 2012 at 10:57 am

What makes you say the school system is broken?
-Test scores are up 4 years in a row, thanks to the Technology Program funded by the last bond.
-The dropout rate is down; lowest of all the urban districts in the state.
-Prop Z also provides money on a per capita basis for Charter Schools (the first time in the state this is happening).

Here’s the deal: 130,000 kids attend public school in San Diego Unified each day (non-charter and charter). There are more than 7,000 classroom teachers (again, non-charter and charter) who give their all to these kids. State funding has cut hundreds of millions from teh District. The teachers just accpeted a pay cut to avoid 1500 layoffs. California used to be among the top 5 in per pupil school funding nationwide. Today it is 47th.

Is the system perfect? Probably not. But you have all of the major factions who are actually “engaged” in the schools — the teachers, the charters, the PTA, San Diego Taxpayers Advocate — supporting Prop Z because it is badly needed. You even have the guy who ws the major funder of an initiative to “reform” the school board supporting Prop. Z and signing the Ballot Argument. Irwin Jacobs.

Prop Z won’t fix all of the ills of the schools. To do that, we need to continue the hard work of engagement that has improved test scores and brought down the dropout rate.

But, you actually have a clear choice: You can repair schools, bring technology into the classroom and help prevent teacher layoffs today. Or you can build prisons tomorrow.

avatar JEC October 31, 2012 at 11:01 am

Dismissing our schools as just another “broken govt school system” there is data – lots of it. In a democracy what do you, Michael, accept responsibility for? Broken systems? Broken government? And who’s got you so convinced that the government created by the likes of Tom Jefferson and Ben Franklin is crap! The very people who now have control over our lives and our government. As clarified by FDR, when private power exceeds the power of your democractically elected government – and over 20 U.S. corporations have greated financial reserves than the US government – that’s my dear sir is called fascism. You want data – there’s lots of data showing how GOP policies create recessions; there’s lots of data showing that tax cuts hurts the economy by taking money out of circulation. The Bain Capitals of the world are leeches – or for Halloween Vampires, sucking captial out of producive enterprises. But in the end it sounds like neither of us will vote for Prop Z – but for completely opposing reasons.

avatar Frances O'Neill Zimmerman October 31, 2012 at 8:24 pm

Larry, I do believe you are wrong about who backed the shifty terms of Prop S, the last bond measure for San Diego Unified. I will forward this article and comments to Mr. deBeck for his review.

As for PLAs, they are okay, but they should be disclosed to the public before — not after — any bond is floated. Bond issues require fair-dealing and public trust. Neither were present in the design of Prop S .

Ditto for the $20 million in bond money diverted to the Mayor’s Central Library. The only reason a vague line about “a school downtown” was inserted into the Prop S language was to justify the subsequent deal that was cut. There was no need for a high school downtown and there was no charter organization clamoring for a school either: you dreamed up the language to justify making the gift — good for the Mayor and his pals (the downtown friends of Bersin you mention) and good for Labor, whom you have long represented.

There is still no plan for that charter high school even now, though I understood that
Scott Himelstein over at the USD Center for Policy and Law (the agency that hates teachers unions and pushed the failed pad-the-school-board-with-appointees initiative) has been tasked with its design.

So let’s be honest. Prop Z is a good deal for you even if it loses and is an ill-timed crap-shoot calling for higher property taxes when people are still struggling after the Recession and when there are two major taxes-for-schools measures on the State ballot. I guess that adds up to “shame on you.” If the charter school ever materializes, it will be a further drain on San Diego Unified School District resources.

avatar John A. Gordon October 31, 2012 at 9:58 pm

Much as I like Fran and worry about Scott and the skimpy reporting at VOSD, a couple of things must be noted.

I’m chair of the Prop S Citizens Oversight Finance Subcommittee and must confess that that neither Scott, Will Carless or Fran have ever asked us anything about anything or even attended a Prop S meeting. Maybe Will didn’t have a car to get there. I’ve been at every meeting and never seen any of them. Will’s lack of attention is most shocking since he totally missed the developing Poway story and got the story totally from a Detroit Schools analyst (that he didnt give credit to). After the VOSD laid off Emily Alpert, Will should have covered that topic.

Those who know me know I’m a hands on financial analyst that makes a living by looking at complex financial analytical matters, from a very critical perspective. With 3.5 years watching SDUSD, there is no doubt that SDUSD has vast unmet physical plant and programmatic requirements that have not been met, and will not be met if Prop Z action is not undertaken. Prior bonds couldnt have done it.

Therefore, I am proud to support Prop Z.

John A. Gordon

avatar Frances O'Neill Zimmerman November 1, 2012 at 11:36 am

Like John Gordon — and even like wily campaign consultant Larry Remer — there will be folks with good hearts, a commitment to public education and a strong connection to Labor (which always backs any project that involves building anything because it means jobs for union members) will back another local school bond measure. But I just can’t do it this time around.

I too have a good heart, a commitment to public education ( though I am unwilling to spend one moment of my time at a Prop S Citizens Oversight Finance Committee!) and in general I believe labor unions are important to the democratic landscape.

But since non-educator Supe Alan Bersin, the politicization of our public schools’ elections, operations and finances has become extreme and insupportable. If it’s not one thing, it’s another, and “it” is never about Kids First. The milquetoast retired admiral Superintendent makes more than $300,000 a year and he has a raft of area superintendents who also make six-figures. This School Board majority was elected with Labor backing and they organize themselves accordingly: they promised raises for which there was no money, then rescinded the raises yet praised themselves for “saving” teachers. Class size has been steadily rising; financial reserves have been decimated; school district property is being sold off at fire-sale prices. They used Homeland Security money to create a high-tech, locked-down, plastic-pass admission-only Board of Ed headquarters at 4100 Normal Street.

And then they float a Prop Z bond issue to raise local property taxes when two other taxes-for-education measures are on the November ballot?

I am voting No on Prop Z. I am voting No on Prop 30. I am voting Yes on Prop 38 because it will help pre-school and K-12 education and the money will be protected for that purpose only — oh, and there’s no regressive sales tax as part of the package.

avatar David November 2, 2012 at 11:50 am

I gave up on VOSD when they saddled up next to many of the already proven unreliable “news” outlets and started using the unintelligent sensationalism headlines in their construction of stories. VOSD was a good original idea that has gone wrong, partly due to the lack of courage to be different, rather than just another parrot squawking the same noise as many others in town.

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