Government

Thumbnail image for Taxi Medallions: San Diego’s Licensing Program for Exploiting Immigrants

Taxi Medallions: San Diego’s Licensing Program for Exploiting Immigrants

by Doug Porter 04.17.2014 Battle for Barrio Logan

By Doug Porter

While lots of local politicos are willing to give at least lip service towards increasing the minimum wage or creating affordable housing, the abject lack of interest in rectifying a government sponsored system of exploitation in the local taxi industry is staggering.

The medallion based system of licensing currently in place in San Diego, wherein drivers pay for the privilege of leasing a vehicle that may or may not be roadworthy, insures consumers of two things: scarcity of service and higher fares. This form of regulation might have made sense 80 years ago in New York city when it was started, but today a privileged few and the politicians they fund are the only beneficiaries.

Of all things revealed in a 2013 San Diego State University/Center for Policy Initiatives study–the unsafe working conditions, the dangerous vehicles, the exploitation of drivers–it would appear that Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s response will be limited to the vehicles themselves and, perhaps, record keeping issues.

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Thumbnail image for Supreme Court to Consider Lies in Political Ads

Supreme Court to Consider Lies in Political Ads

by Doug Porter 04.16.2014 Columns

By Doug Porter

Not even George Orwell could have predicted this; an anti-abortion group is challenging Ohio’s law making it a crime to knowingly publish false statements about political candidates.

According to a story in the Los Angeles Times, the case involves billboard ads funded by the Susan B. Anthony List accusing an Ohio congressman of voting for taxpayer-funded abortions based on his support of the Affordable Care Act. The Hyde Amendment, passed in 1976, prohibits using federal funds to pay for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is in danger.

Concerns about any Supreme Court ruling in this case stem from a ruling (made on the same day the court upheld most sections of Obamacare) overturning the conviction of Xavier Alvarez for violating the 2006 Stolen Valor Act making it a crime for a person to falsely claim, orally or in writing, “to have been awarded any decoration or medal authorized by Congress for the Armed Forces of the United States.” The 6-3 decision asserted  the act was an unconstitutional infringement on free speech.

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Thumbnail image for Happy Tax Day! The Rich and Poor Are Now Equally Free to Purchase Political Influence with Their Income Tax Refunds

Happy Tax Day! The Rich and Poor Are Now Equally Free to Purchase Political Influence with Their Income Tax Refunds

by Doug Porter 04.15.2014 Columns

By Doug Porter

It seems appropriate on tax day, given the annual media binge of gratuitous coverage of Tea Party protests at Post Offices and editorial cartoons demonizing the Internal Revenue Service, to survey the political landscape and make some comments about where we find ourselves in 2014.

The vast majority of stories you’ll see repeated by tax protesters on the evening news today are simply bullshit–not that any of these so-called “reporters” will actually fact check them. If some guy carrying a sign about the Muslim socialist in the White House screams ignorant slogans about the gubment, it must be news. Because “everybody knows” all these things they say must be true.

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Thumbnail image for Build Us a Stadium or We’ll Shoot This Puppy – Here Comes the Chargers ‘Deal’

Build Us a Stadium or We’ll Shoot This Puppy – Here Comes the Chargers ‘Deal’

by Doug Porter 04.14.2014 Columns

By Doug Porter

He doesn’t speak for anyone, UT-San Diego sports columnist Kevin Acee says, and he won’t be heard by anyone. Thus, his page-one-worthy column about the likely scenario for a new football stadium ended up on page D-4 in Sunday’s paper.

The story was actually posted on Friday afternoon online, and its significance becomes apparent when you realize that nearly 150 people had posted comments before the dead tree edition hit the streets.

The Chargers stadium scenario story is supposed to be nothing more than informed speculation, of course. Except that (I’d bet) it’s not. Call it a trial balloon, floated in the wake of a ‘preliminary’ meeting between team representatives and the mayor’s minions last Wednesday.

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Thumbnail image for “Taxifornia” Dreaming: Who Really Pays in California?

“Taxifornia” Dreaming: Who Really Pays in California?

by Jim Miller 04.14.2014 Columns

By Jim Miller

Tomorrow is tax day, and we are likely to hear the usual histrionics from the pity the millionaire crowd about how the draconian taxes on the affluent and businesses in “Taxifornia” are killing growth and jobs and driving folks out of the state. There is only one problem with this—it’s not true. Indeed, far from the socialist hamlet that the anti-tax zealots like to portray us as, California’s tax system is still more regressive than progressive.

This is documented in the California Budget Project’s (CBP) Annual report “Who Pays Taxes in California?” that shows that, “Contrary to the oft-repeated claim that high-income Californians pay an unfair amount of taxes, it is actually California’s low-income households who pay the largest share of their incomes in state and local taxes.”

Consequently, the CBP argues that “Given widening income inequality over the last generation, and the ongoing economic challenges facing Californians in the aftermath of the Great Recession, policymakers could take specific steps to reduce the regressive nature of California’s system of state and local taxes and to promote economic security for low-income families.”

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Thumbnail image for The Drug War Fuels Mass Deportation of Nonviolent Migrants

The Drug War Fuels Mass Deportation of Nonviolent Migrants

by Source 04.13.2014 Government

250,000 people have been deported for drug offenses in the last 6 years.

By Daniel Robelo / AlterNet

The drug war has increasingly become a war against migrant communities. It fuels racial profiling, border militarization, violence against immigrants, intrusive government surveillance and, especially, widespread detentions and deportations. 

Media and politicians have tried to convince us that everyone who gets deported is a violent criminal, a terrorist or a drug kingpin. But a newly released, first-of-its-kind report shatters that notion, showing instead that the majority (some two-thirds) of those deported last year were guilty of minor, nonviolent offenses – including thousands deported for nothing more than possessing small quantities of drugs, typically marijuana.

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Thumbnail image for OSHA Wins Case Against SeaWorld Involving Death of Orca Trainer

OSHA Wins Case Against SeaWorld Involving Death of Orca Trainer

by Source 04.12.2014 Activism

From OH&S / Apr 11, 2014 Re-posted from OBRag

OSHA has won the appellate case involving its enforcement case against SeaWorld of Florida LLC following the death of killer whale trainer Dawn Brancheau on Feb. 24, 2010. A 2-1 decision issued April 11 by a panel of three judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit found that SeaWorld “recognized its precautions were inadequate to prevent serious bodily harm or even death to its trainers and that the residual hazard was preventable.”

“The remedy imposed for SeaWorld’s violations does not change the essential nature of its business,” the majority opinion written by Judge Judith W. Rogers states. “There will still be human interactions and performances with killer whales; the remedy will simply require that they continue with increased safety measures.”

This is a high-profile case that was argued Nov. 12, 2013, at the Georgetown University Law Center, with SeaWorld’s legal team including Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP’s Eugene Scalia, son of U.S. Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia.

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Thumbnail image for Sex Crimes Cover Up Alleged: Unbelievably Gross Acts On Mentally Ill Woman Photographed by SDPD Officer

Sex Crimes Cover Up Alleged: Unbelievably Gross Acts On Mentally Ill Woman Photographed by SDPD Officer

by Doug Porter 04.11.2014 Columns

By Doug Porter

Higher ups in the San Diego Police Department may have been more concerned about negative publicity than getting at the facts about accusations alleging sexual misconduct as far back as 1997 by former police officer Anthony Arevalos from according to federal court transcripts obtained by 10News.

A confidential meeting between former chief William Lansdowne and Executive Chief David Ramirez, according to attorney Joe Dicks in publicly released transcripts of oral arguments that reference still-sealed depositions, was held “to try and figure out not if it really happened, not if there are any witnesses left, only to take documentation that is going to come around and bite them in the bottom.”

I looked around the local media this morning. Aside from a mention the VOSD Morning Report, the local media seems to treating this as a non-story.

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Thumbnail image for Press Conferences and Vanity Shovels Cannot Hide the Truth About San Diego’s Crumbling Infrastructure

Press Conferences and Vanity Shovels Cannot Hide the Truth About San Diego’s Crumbling Infrastructure

by Doug Porter 04.10.2014 Columns

By Doug Porter

Newly elected Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s been on quite a tear lately, putting forth a smiling face at press conferences in various neighborhoods around the city. Yesterday cameras rolled as the mayor and local politicos including Councilman Todd Gloria posed and preened over a gateway renovation project on 25th Street in Golden Hill.

Hizzoner says he’s making good on campaign promises to direct more monies (50% of revenue growth, as I recollect) toward street and infrastructure repair. He proudly announced yesterday that $22 million of the anticipated $35 million growth in next year’s inflow would be dedicated to that cause.  

It played real well on TV. Sadly, the truth of the situation is that revenue growth, which will likely come from an improving economy, can’t even begin to address the $1 billion hole San Diego faces when it comes to the basic the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities needed locally.

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Thumbnail image for #NotABugSplat — Art At Its Most Powerful

#NotABugSplat — Art At Its Most Powerful

by Source 04.10.2014 Activism

By pajoly/ DailyKos

The image above is not a Photoshopped jpeg. It is an image massively blown up and staked into the ground to shame the American military drone pilots — and now indeed all of us — as their death from above ply the skies above Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region. It is an art project named #NotABugSplat, co-opting in graphic relief the slang drone operators callously and cavalierly give their victims.

Let that sink in. Bug Splat. Our society is fond of creating colorful euphemisms that are byproducts of truly shitty and shameful public policy. “Collateral damage” is one we all know; it’s clinically distant and sounds so much nicer in print and at a press briefing than “innocent dead bystanders.” (“Medical tourism” is another cheery one that seems almost bucolic instead of being actually a pathetic and desperate consequence of our pay-to-play healthcare regime.)

But, nothing so grossly illustrates our abandonment of any pretense of moral high ground like labeling exploded human beings as bug splats.

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Thumbnail image for Legalization is a Human Rights Issue: Latin America Steps Up Resolve to End the Drug Wars

Legalization is a Human Rights Issue: Latin America Steps Up Resolve to End the Drug Wars

by Source 04.10.2014 Activism

By Wendy Call/ Yes!
Seattle’s South Park neighborhood has seen its share of drug-related crime and violence. Many of its residents are recent immigrants from Mexico; some came north fleeing the drug cartel violence that has ravaged their home communities. So the South Park Community Center was a poignant venue for Mexican poet, writer, and activist Javier Sicilia to speak about his campaign to end the drug war in his home country. He began the evening with a moment of silence for all the lives lost – somewhere between 60,000 and 100,000 – since the Mexican government stepped up the war against drug cartels in 2006. Then, his commanding voice heavy with grief, Sicilia read a poem:

All absence is cruel
and nonetheless, remains like a space that comes from the dead,
from the bleached roots of the past.
Where might we turn?

Sicilia wrote this poem, “The Survivor,” in 2009. Two years later, he became a survivor of heartbreaking absence himself, when his 24-year-old son was murdered, with six of his friends, by drug traffickers in Cuernavaca, Mexico. With the cruel loss of his son, Sicilia did not know where to turn. He wrote a final poem dedicated to his son, Juan Francisco, and then renounced writing poetry.

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Thumbnail image for Bob Filner’s New Book and Other Tales of Alternate Reality

Bob Filner’s New Book and Other Tales of Alternate Reality

by Doug Porter 04.09.2014 Columns

By Doug Porter

So the word on the street, courtesy of columnist Logan Jenkins, is that former mayor Bob Filner is writing a book and looking for an editor. The UT-San Diego columnist has offered to “anonymously ghostwrite. Gratis.”    

I’m sure there any number of San Diego journos who’d love the opportunity. I remember reading lots of self-righteous tweets and barely concealed contempt in coverage by too many of this town’s “reporters.” After all, writing anything else might have excluded them from the crafty beer klatches and opportunities to genuflect before local luminaries so necessary to generate “coverage.”

I can only hope Filner’s period of confinement and reflection has re-enforced the (obvious) notion that “none-of-the-above” would be the only right choice to make when it comes to local scribes.

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Thumbnail image for Politicians Who Oppose Marijuana Legalization Are On the Wrong Side of History

Politicians Who Oppose Marijuana Legalization Are On the Wrong Side of History

by Source 04.09.2014 Government

A majority of Americans support marijuana legalization.

By Tony Newman via AlterNet

A majority of Americans support marijuana legalization – yet not one sitting governor or U.S. Senator supports it, according to a New York Times piece.  

Marijuana prohibition is a disastrous failure. 43 years after President Nixon launched the “war on drugs,” the U.S. arrests 650,000 people a year for marijuana possession – yet marijuana and other illegal drugs are as available as ever. Thanks to the drug war, the U.S. has less than five percent of the world’s population, yet nearly 25 percent of its prisoners.

Colorado and Washington made history in 2012 becoming the first states – and the first two political jurisdictions anywhere in the world – to legally regulate the production and distribution of marijuana, and many states are looking to follow soon. National polls showing majority support for marijuana legalization have been confirmed in states across the country – and not just in states you’d expect but even in Florida, Louisiana, Indiana, Ohio and Texas.

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Thumbnail image for Cheap Corn Permeates Every Facet of the American Diet

Cheap Corn Permeates Every Facet of the American Diet

by John Lawrence 04.09.2014 Culture

By John Lawrence

Corn is the staple of the US agricultural system and food supply. It’s in everything we eat unbeknownst to many Americans.

Corn feeds steers that become steak and fast food hamburgers. Corn feeds chickens and pigs - even catfish, salmon and tilapia. Milk, cheese and yogurt that once came from cows that grazed on grass now come from Holsteins that spend their time tethered to milking machines while munching on corn.

Processed foods contain even more corn than so-called “natural” foods. Take chicken nuggets, for example. Not only the chicken itself but the corn starch that holds it together, the corn flour in the batter, the corn oil in which its fried, the leavenings and lecithin, the mono-, di- and triglycerides, the golden coloring, the citric acid that keeps it fresh – all these ingredients come from corn.

Any soft drink in the supermarket including Coke and Pepsi contains High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) so you can wash down your corn with some more corn. A quarter of the 45,000 items in the average supermarket contain corn.

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Thumbnail image for Lifeguard Ed Harris to Replace Kevin Faulconer on City Council

Lifeguard Ed Harris to Replace Kevin Faulconer on City Council

by Doug Porter 04.08.2014 Columns

By Doug Porter

Three Republican members of the San Diego City Council joined two of their Democratic colleagues to appoint Point Loma resident Ed Harris yesterday to serve out the remaining eight months of newly elected Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s term.

Harris, who heads the city’s lifeguard union, received support from council members Lorie Zapf, Mark Kersey, Scott Sherman, Sherri Lightner and David Alvarez. Democrats will now have a 6-3 majority, theoretically giving them enough votes to override any vetoes from San Diego’s Republican mayor.

The appointed councilman was sworn in immediately following the vote. Harris is prohibited by the city charter from running for election to the seat, so he must step down when his term ends in early December.

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Thumbnail image for McCutcheon, the Majority, and the Challenge of Our Time

McCutcheon, the Majority, and the Challenge of Our Time

by Source 04.08.2014 Courts, Justice

The McCutcheon ruling points us to the defining struggle of today’s generation.

Richard Eskow / AlterNet

The Supreme Court’s McCutcheon ruling will be remembered as a decisive battle in a determined and wealthy minority’s war against the popular will. It is not the first such battle, nor will it be the last. And the people will continue to lose — unless and until the rules of engagement are changed.

One compelling way to look at this ruling is by contrasting its immediate and long-term effects with the American people’s aspirations for their government. They are at cross purposes. Even before this ruling, 64 percent of those polled believed that our country’s economic rules unfairly favor the rich. This ruling will rig the game even further.

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Thumbnail image for At the Behest of the Dirty Food Lobby, Congressman Peters Joins GOP in 55th Attempt to Sink Obamacare

At the Behest of the Dirty Food Lobby, Congressman Peters Joins GOP in 55th Attempt to Sink Obamacare

by Doug Porter 04.07.2014 Books & Poetry

By Doug Porter

Congressman Scott Peters and seventeen other Democrats responded to the clarion call of the dirty food lobby last week by joining with House Republicans in their 55th attempt to to scale back or repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Following intensive lobbying and publicity events by the American Hotel and Lodging Association (hotels won’t be able to provide 24 hour service any more) and the National Restaurant Association (we’ll simply cut employee hours) the House of Representatives voted last week 248 to 179 to change the law’s definition of full-time work from 30 hours a week to 40 hours.

A report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says about one million people would lose employer-backed coverage and the number of uninsured would climb by nearly 500,000 if the law’s work definitions were changed.

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Thumbnail image for Supreme Insanity: How the High Court is Killing Your Democracy

Supreme Insanity: How the High Court is Killing Your Democracy

by Jim Miller 04.07.2014 Columns

By Jim Miller

Last week was a very bad week for American democracy. With the McCutcheon v. FEC decision, the Supreme Court of the United States dealt a sweeping blow to existing campaign finance laws that seek to limit the influx of money in American politics.

In the wake of the Citizens United case that opened the door for big spending by Super PACS and dark money, this ruling takes another step towards plutocracy by striking down overall limits on campaign contributions. By doing so McCutcheon rudely thrusts us further into a new Gilded Age where our economy and our politics are thoroughly dominated by a small minority of the opulent.

Senator Bernie Sanders put it best when he observed that, “The Supreme Court is paving the way toward an oligarchic form of society in which a handful of billionaires like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson will control our political process.” And that’s why it’s increasingly hard to get anything good for everyday people done in Washington D.C., even when a healthy majority of Americans approve of a given policy.

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Thumbnail image for UCSD Graduate Students Protest Controversial Employment Policy

UCSD Graduate Students Protest Controversial Employment Policy

by Source 04.02.2014 Activism

Doctoral students rally against the 18 Quarter Limit

By Daniel Gutiérrez

La Jolla, California — Students at the University of California, San Diego stormed the Office of Graduate Studies Tuesday, April 1, to protest a controversial employment policy implemented across the University of California. The “18 Quarter Limit” restricts doctoral students by only allotting them 18 quarters to be teaching assistants, readers, or graduate student researchers. Such positions, if secured, reduce a graduate student’s tuition from roughly $5,200 a quarter to a mere $196. The action came on the eve of the two-day strike that will be held April 2nd and 3rd at UCSD.

The 18 Quarter Limit greatly affects graduate students who begin their studies in MA programs and then transfer to doctoral programs. This is because their access to funding begins to expire after their first quarter in the university as Master’s students.

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Thumbnail image for So They Are All…All Honorable Men

So They Are All…All Honorable Men

by Source 04.02.2014 Culture

By Norma Damashek / NumbersRunner

San Diegans are no dummies. We know what happens to politically independent, outspoken, public-minded individuals who are brash enough to shake things up. They get maligned, noogied, humiliated, sent packing. Open your mouth too wide in this city and… you’re dead meat.

So we’re polite and genteel. Why look for trouble? Yes, the public gets screwed over and over again but we’ve learned to turn the other cheek. Forgive and forget — that’s our MO.

We swoon over the nice guys, especially the ones with agreeable manners. Like our avuncular ex-mayor Jerry Sanders, our puckish council president Todd Gloria, our sunkissed mayor Kevin Faulconer — honorable men beyond public reproach. Even when they’re plotting to pull the rug out from under us.

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Thumbnail image for A Green Balboa Park Centennial Celebration for 2015

A Green Balboa Park Centennial Celebration for 2015

by Source 03.31.2014 Editor's Picks

By Lori Saldaña

As George Santayana famously observed: “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” But in the case of the Pan-American centennial planning, organizers need to learn from the history of the event to help them re-create its grandeur and appeal, and make the 2015 Balboa Park centennial a celebration of innovation, rooted in the first Exhibition’s origins.

Here’s a brief statement of the original events’ main theme:  ”The purpose of the Panama-California Exposition is to illustrate the progress and possibility of the human race, not for the exposition only, but for a permanent contribution to the world’s progress.”

There may still time to develop a successful 2015 Balboa Park centennial celebration, especially if planners and city leaders broaden their vision to take into account the main themes and purpose of the original celebration, consider what attracted people not only to travel but set down roots here 100 years ago, and actively incorporate those elements into the modern event.

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Thumbnail image for Marijuana POWs in Colorado Could Soon Go Free

Marijuana POWs in Colorado Could Soon Go Free

by Source 03.30.2014 Government

Colorado approves landmark retroactive reversal of pot convictions.

By Owen Poindexter / AlterNet

Colorado residents who were charged with cannabis possession prior to legalization are eligible to have those charges overturned, after an Appeals Court ruling on March 13. A three-judge panel determined that part of a Colorado woman’s 2011 sentence for drug possession should be undone, due to the “significant changes in the law,” that have come about since then, according to RT.com.

Possession of up to one ounce of pot became legal in Colorado on Jan. 1, 2014, leaving tens of thousands of Colorado residents convicted of marijuana possession stuck in an ambiguous legal middle ground, as what they had done was no longer a crime in Colorado, but remains illegal federally. The Appeals Court decision begins to clear away that confusion.

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Thumbnail image for And Why Shouldn’t the Government Force Corporations to Cover Abortion?

And Why Shouldn’t the Government Force Corporations to Cover Abortion?

by Source 03.29.2014 Business

By David Atkins / Hullabaloo

Justice Anthony Kennedy, on whose vote the Hobby Lobby SCOTUS case rests, seems very concerned about the government forcing corporations to cover abortion:

WASHINGTON, DC — Justice Anthony Kennedy thinks gay people are fabulous. All three of the Supreme Court’s most important gay rights decisions were written by Justice Kennedy. So advocates for birth control had a simple task today: convince Kennedy that allowing religious employers to exempt themselves from a federal law expanding birth control access would lead to all kinds of horrible consequences in future cases — including potentially allowing religious business owners to discriminate against gay people.

Kennedy, however, also hates abortion.

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Thumbnail image for Truth Maybe, But No Consequences for Balboa Park Centennial Screw Ups

Truth Maybe, But No Consequences for Balboa Park Centennial Screw Ups

by Doug Porter 03.27.2014 Columns

By Doug Porter
The mismanagement of efforts to stage a year-long centennial celebration of the 1915 Panama-California exposition continues to make headlines today.

A City Council committee order an audit of public funds spent by Balboa Park Celebration Inc. yesterday. A follow-up hearing on April 23 was set by Councilman David Alvarez to measure progress toward production of records and along with information on the shutdown of BCPI.    

Voice of San Diego drew upon its network of movers and shakers (a side benefit of continual fund raising) to produce a report on centennial efforts including points of view from insiders and those close to the soon-to-be-defunct nonprofit.

(I am leaving for town for 8 days starting on Friday, March 28th. Therefore, my daily column will not be appearing again until April 7th.)

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Thumbnail image for Balboa Park Celebration Leadership Snubs City Council Hearing

Balboa Park Celebration Leadership Snubs City Council Hearing

by Doug Porter 03.26.2014 Columns

By Doug Porter

The outrageous conduct by the leadership for the Balboa Park Celebration, Inc. continues.

After blowing through nearly $3 million during the past three years with nothing to show for it, BPCI co-chair Nikki Clay and transition director Gerry Braun have told the City Council’s Environment Committee that they’ll be unavailable for a hearing today.

Committee chair David Alvarez is looking for answers, requesting a report be provided regarding the soon-to-be-defunct group’s activities and along with an explanation for the $13,000-a-month salary being paid to Braun while he winds things down.

UPDATE: Braun did appear, after all. According to one observer:

He was grilled by Marti Emerald for a delightfully painful 20-25 minutes. He stayed on message and script as best he could, but he had no answers to the good questions. 

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