Mayor Faulconer’s Convention Center Expansion: It’s Huuuge

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By Doug Porter

Oh, those boys and their big shiny toys. Having failed in past years to gain approval for a waterfront expansion of the San Diego Convention Center, the City is about to throw its weight behind a $90,000 study promising “huuuge” (ala Trump) returns.

The Union-Tribune says Mayor Faulconer finds the report so persuasive that he’s prepared to back a ballot measure increasing hotel taxes for 2016. Since those taxes are dedicated revenues, two thirds voter approval will be required.

Today we’ll take a look at the spotty record of the outfit hired to do this report, along with various options along the way to getting a super-majority to go the polls and vote for this expansion.   [Read more…]

Disposable People: Obama, the TPP, and the Betrayal of Human Rights

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By Jim Miller

During the lead-up to the vote on the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership (TPP) that the President narrowly won, Obama and his surrogates consistently suggested that those in labor and other allied groups opposing the deal were “fighting the last war” and were against “the most progressive trade agreement the world has ever seen.” Indeed, he even went so far as to accuse critics like Senator Elizabeth Warren of “making stuff up”.

As we know, Obama defeated labor and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party and, in concert with Republicans and just enough New Democrats like San Diego’s own Scott Peters and Susan Davis, he succeeded in forwarding the multinational corporate agenda.

Since that time the gaze of the national media has turned elsewhere and, as negotiations have encountered difficulties, the administration has sunk to new lows in its zeal to finish the deal on the TPP.   [Read more…]

Escondido’s Lyin’ King Sees Riches in the Safari Highlands Ranch Proposal

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By Don Greene / Escondido Democrats

In one of the more poignant scenes in the movie, The Lion King, Musafa says to young Simba, “Look, Simba, everything the light touches is our kingdom.” It seems that we have a touch of that same attitude on our City Council. As Mayor Abed and the rest of the council majority look out to the east, you can almost hear him say the same thing.

Instead of birthrights and becoming King of the Animals, Abed speaks in our hypothetical of property rights and becoming King of the Developers. The land he looks over is the proposed Safari Highlands Ranch project, a 1084-acre land annexation and subsequent 550-home development, in unincorporated Escondido, just north and west of the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park.

This project, and the means by which they intend to bring it to fruition, fits the S.O.P. of Abed and the council majority; they work the backroom deals with the developers and other agencies and put on a happy face with the public.   [Read more…]

Battle Lines Form in California Over Ambitious Climate Change Bills

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Big Oil Goes Into Big Lie Mode With Campaign

By Nadia Prupis / Common Dreams

California lawmakers are preparing to face off with the state’s powerful fossil fuel industry in a battle over two potentially groundbreaking climate change bills.

The more contentious legislation in question, the Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015 (SB350), would increase California’s share of electricity from renewable energy sources to 50 percent and reduce the state’s use of oil in half by 2030—the equivalent of removing 36 million cars and trucks from the roads over the next 15 years—through new technology and more efficient planning.

The second piece of legislation, the California Global Warming Solutions Act (SB32), would raise mandates for oil refineries and power companies, among other big polluters, to lower their greenhouse gas emissions.   [Read more…]

My Day in Court, Short and Bittersweet

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By Bob Dorn

I had the distinction of being the first person thrown off a jury peremptorily in a courtroom this week. Before any evidence was introduced in this criminal misdemeanor case (a DUI), and before prosecution and defense had opened their arguments, the judge was forced to dismiss me from service.

It was the Deputy DA who had me thrown out. I’m not sure I understand why he did it. In legal terms, it was a peremptory challenge, and it means the attorney who exercised this right, the Deputy DA, could object to my presence on the jury without offering any cause or reason.

Was it my blue eyes? Do I look like a drunk? My curriculum vitae? Was it something I said?   [Read more…]

NLRB Ruling Could Be a Game Changer for Unions

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By Doug Porter

A Reagan-era standard allowing corporations to maintain an arms-length relationship with their workforces fell by the wayside yesterday as the National Labor Relations Board ruled in favor of the Teamsters in a dispute with California recycler Browning-Ferris Industries.

The bottom line here is that big companies may be held responsible for what goes on in the workplace. Organized labor is pleased with the decision. Wall Street isn’t. The actual ruling concerned the use of temporary employees. What people are reacting to are its game changing implications.

There are lots of poorly informed (meaning full of crap) analyses being passed off in various media accounts.  To use a baseball analogy, just because a team acquires a high performance player doesn’t mean they’ll have a winning season. Just ask the San Diego Padres.   [Read more…]

Welcome to TrumpLand: A Local Example of Bigotry USA! USA! Style

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By Doug Porter

I’ve been trying not to say too much about The Donald. He’s playing the media like a great violinist plays a Stradivarius. He says jump and the stenographers posing as journalists say “how high?”

I can no longer remain silent in the face of the hate-mongering coming from this public figure aimed at Latinos. He’s giving ammunition to assholes, and there are real consequences, even on the streets of San Diego.

When a well-known and respected public advocate can’t take his child to a park without being race baited, it’s time to stand up and say No More. And, yes, it is precisely the rhetoric favored by Donald Trump that’s encouraging an upswing in bigotry.   [Read more…]

SANDAG’s Transportation Plan is Stuck in Reverse

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By Hutton Marshall / SanDiego350.org

Climate change is a local issue that reaches every corner of the globe. Human activities, especially burning coal, oil and gas, are pumping heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. More than any other time in human history, we’re seeing unlivable marine habitats, rising seas that threaten to subsume coastal societies, and, on land, increases in extreme weather including droughts, floods and severe storms. The changes are happening everywhere, but the effects are felt locally. And the solutions have to come from changes we make in every community.

At SanDiego350, a local nonprofit fighting climate change, we believe that San Diego is at an important crossroads where we must decide how we will reduce our contribution to Earth’s looming climate crisis.  Once a month in the San Diego Free Press we’ll discuss some of these issues, and how San Diegans can help address them.   [Read more…]

Women’s Equality Day: Celebrating the Success of Militant Protest

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The argument of the broken pane of glass is the most valuable argument in modern politics.–Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst

By Doug Porter

Women’s Equality Day (August 26th) marks anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, giving women the right to vote.

There are observances this week in San Diego, including a re-enactment of an early-century Suffrage march in Balboa Park.

Organizations including the League of Women Voters, the United Nations Women’s Equity Council, the Older Women’s League and others, will join members and supporters of the Women’s Museum at 5pm for a Rally on Thursday, (Aug 27th) at the Kate Sessions Statue, at the 6th Avenue end of the Cabrillo Bridge, followed by a parade across the bridge info the Organ Pavilion where the last free concert of the summer will be held at 6:30pm.

While this commemoration will be celebratory in nature, it’s important to remember, as Frederick Douglass once said, “Power never concedes nothing without a demand.” In many sanitized versions of US history, the struggle leading up to that victory is depicted as controversial only because women left their roles as wives and house-makers to protest. The reality of what transpired is considerably different.   [Read more…]

Nail Salon Workplaces Need A Touch Up

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By Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez

Today I am convening an informational hearing in the Capitol as Chair of the Select Committee on Women in the Workplace, bringing together stakeholders to discuss the challenges faced in the industry and to hear personal testimony from nail salon workers. I’m encouraged to be joined by the Chairs of four other Assembly Committees and other legislators to begin the collaborative process we need to achieve the change these workers need.

Recent in-depth coverage in the New York Times revealed shocking, systematic abuse going on right under the noses of thousands of nail salon customers every day. The reports found employees living in squalor and isolation, underpaid or completely unpaid, and ravaged by health problems possibly connected to chemicals they handle on the job. It echoed and expanded upon reporting done recently in California, drawing new attention to deeply troubling working conditions in the nail salon industry across the country.

Today’s hearing is an important start to ensure that the employees of these salons are effectively covered by California’s workplace safety and wage and hour laws. These laws should guarantee all workers fair treatment and safe working conditions, and it’s our responsibility to make sure they work.   [Read more…]

Privatizing Pensions and Idolizing Profit in the 21st Century

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By Doug Porter

Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik has been on a tear recently, rolling out essays challenging the validity of claims made by those who claim privatizing retirement is the way of the future.

At the core of these conservative/libertarian arguments against public support for defined pensions is a fundamental belief in the supremacy of the “market” as a force in society. 

The problem with this viewpoint comes when actual results for those programs participants are measured. The market has no obligation other than profit, which is only guaranteed for those managing the transactions.   [Read more…]

The Day Nancy and I Got Together

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By Ernie McCray

I’ve been thinking about my dearly departed Nancy with August 23rd a day away as I write. It was on that day, in 1975, forty years ago, that I moved in with her, in her little apartment on 24th and Russ, next to Golden Hill Park.

So I find myself celebrating that day, in my thoughts, remembering with a little quiver, what I had to do to start a life with her: break another woman’s heart, my wife, a woman I loved. If I regret anything in life it’s causing her such misery and pain.

But, especially when I look back on it, I was following my destiny, the dictates of my soul, wherein I knew as instinctively as I breathed, that I had no choice, in the cosmos, but to be with Nancy, that the two of us were soul-mates, destined to be together as the stars are meant to be aligned in the sky.   [Read more…]

Tyranny of the Majority: The American Winner Take All System

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No wonder that, among the 21 democracies in Western Europe and North America, the United States is next to last in voter turn-out…

By John Lawrence

A lot of people these days are concerned with getting the money out of politics. That’s an admirable goal, but it doesn’t solve the problem that’s built right into the American political system: a voting system in which the majority rules and there is no minority representation because the winner takes all. At every level the US is divided up into districts whether its state assembly and senatorial districts, US Congressional districts, San Diego city council districts or what have you. Citizens in a particular district can only vote for one candidate and the candidate with the most votes wins in that district.

Even states can be considered voting districts and in each state you can vote for two US Senators, just not at the same time. If there are candidates you like outside of your district, you have no democratic decision making process with which to vote for them. For example, I can’t vote for Bernie Sanders for Senator because I’m not a resident of Vermont. Similarly, I can’t vote for Elizabeth Warren because I’m not a citizen of Massachusetts. The US voting system on every level is archaic.   [Read more…]

It’s Strike Three for San Diego Unified’s School Board President, But She’s Not Out

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By Doug Porter

San Diego Unified President Marne Foster was in the news over the past few days, and not in a positive light.

The State Attorney General’s office, according to a story in the Union-Tribune, is asking pointed questions about a fundraiser held last month to help pay off debt and college costs for her sons.

On August 19th, the San Diego Unified School District issued a response to a grand jury report on ethics questions concerning Foster, essentially telling the panel to “shove it.”

Mario Koran at Voice of San Diego posted a piece today on Foster, filling in the blanks on long standing allegations about her role in the firing of a highly ranked school principal who refused to go along with special privileges for the School Board Trustee’s son.   [Read more…]

Why Teach? In Defense of the Public Good

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By Jim Miller

These days it seems a new school year can’t start without being greeted by yet another pronouncement that my profession and/or higher education itself is heading for the dustbin of history. Last year around this time, I pondered the proclaimed death of the English major and this year the front page of the most recent issue of Harper’s is bemoaning “The Neoliberal Arts: How College Sold Its Soul.”

In this insightful piece William Deresiewicz hits on themes familiar to anyone who has been around higher education for the last few decades. Neoliberal education is a product of “market fundamentalism,” an “ideology that reduces all values to money values. The worth of a thing is the price of a thing. The worth of a person is the wealth of a person. Neoliberalism tells you that you are valuable exclusively in terms of your activity in the marketplace—in Wordsworth’s phrase, your getting and spending.”   [Read more…]

San Diego Takes the Lead in Greenpeace Strike

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By Andrew J. Mackay and Bryan Kim

On August 5, 16 of 19 canvassers for Greenpeace in San Diego walked off the job. They were followed by a majority of the Sacramento office. 22 total employees of the Frontline program, Greenpeace’s in-house fundraising program, have had enough of labor policies that give them no job security.

The strike, led by two veteran canvassers in Socialist Alternative San Diego, comes against an organization that claims to be progressive. However, Greenpeace uses a quota system where even veteran fundraisers can be fired for missing quota two or three weeks consecutively. Senior workers bring in six or seven times their salary in recurring donations, yet are routinely fired. Morale is understandably very low. But choosing to resist, they have mobilized in defense of their jobs and dignity. Non-profits beware: the persuasive skills developed by your employees can be used against you. Instead of selling Greenpeace, organizers now sell the strike against it.   [Read more…]

Preserve Carlsbad Open Space the Right Way: Let Us Vote

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By Richard Riehl / The Riehl World

When it comes to air pollution, the Carlsbad City Council’s report on the Agua Hedionda Initiative, the “9212 Report,” reads a little like “close enough for guv’ment work.” When it comes to traffic congestion, it’s a developer’s faith-based initiative. But when it comes to the city’s projected $2.6 million a year tax revenue windfall it’s, “Whoopee, we’re gonna be rich!”

City staff took 2 ½ months to write the August 7 report. The Council and general public will have had 17 days to read and think about what’s in its 254 pages, and the 542 additional pages of supporting documents, before next Tuesday, August 25, when the Council will decide whether to approve the plan with no further review, put it on the ballot for voters to decide, or take more time to think it over.   [Read more…]

Campaign Zero: A ‘Blueprint for Ending Police Violence’

'We must end police violence so we can live and feel safe in this country,' Campaign Zero states on its website. (Photo: Basil-Malik/flickr/cc)

By Nadia Prupis / Common Dreams

On Friday, activists with the country’s growing racial justice movement unveiled a new campaign to end police violence, bridging protester demands with data and policy to create structural solutions to the crisis that has gripped national attention for more than a year.

Launched as an online manifesto with an interactive website, Campaign Zero proposes new federal, state, and local laws that would address police violence and reform the criminal justice system—including demilitarizing law enforcement, increasing community oversight, limiting use-of-force, and requiring independent investigation and prosecution of police violence cases.

“More than one thousand people are killed by police every year in America,” the group states on its website. “Nearly sixty percent of victims did not have a gun or were involved in activities that should not require police intervention such as harmless ‘quality of life’ behaviors or mental health crises.”   [Read more…]

KPBS Bars Affordable Housing Advocate from Midday Edition Panel

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By Doug Porter
UPDATED 8/26 With response from KPBS…

The spat between KPBS/inewsource and attorney Cory Briggs reached a new low this week when an invitation to retired civil rights leader and affordable housing advocate Rev. Richard Lawrence to participate on the Midday Edition program was abruptly withdrawn.

Lawrence, whose list of honors includes the San Diego Housing Federation’s “Lifetime Achievement Award” and  a San Diego City Council declaration making November 10, 2013 “Richard Lawrence Day,” was supposed to be participating in an August 17th panel on San Diego’s declaration of an affordable housing state of emergency.

The reasoning behind his “dis-invitation” was that Lawrence sits on the board of San Diegans for Open Government and vigorously defended attorney Cory Briggs in the wake of allegations of misconduct made by KPBS/inewsource.   [Read more…]

Readers Write: It’s Time for the Downtown Crowd to Pay Its Own Way

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Editors Note: Attorney Cory Briggs responded to a commenter on Thursday’s Starting Line item regarding a proposed ballot measure on hotel taxes and a shared a bit of history about the tourism industry’s relationship with the City of San Diego. We’ve taken the liberty of posting it as a “Readers Write” essay.

…I offer this for the sake of precision. The scam is very clever, and I don’t want people to mistake one bad actor for another (which is very easy to do in this town because there are so many). To win at the ballot box, we need the public to understand exactly what’s going on. (I’ll jump on my soapbox at the end.)

The SDTA is not taxing anyone. The City is taxing tourists 10.5% as TOT and then another 2% for the “Tourism Marketing District Assessment” but it’s really a tax. The hoteliers claim to have imposed the TMD tax on themselves as a “self-assessment,” which is how they rationalized not putting the 2% hike to the voters, but then wrote the rules in a way that allows them to put the 2% TMD tax on their hotel guests’ bills right next to the TOT. The hotels collect the money from their guests and pay it over to the City, and the City then writes a check for that same 2% (after deducting a small admin fee) to the San Diego Tourism Marketing District Corporation.

The SDTMDC is run by a small handful of big hoteliers, and they get to decide how the money is spent. At this point, the public has no ability to influence the rate of the TMD tax or how it is spent — except at the ballot box if we get enough signatures on this initiative.   [Read more…]

Pardon the Interruption, Bernie: Why Black Lives Matter Is in Politics to Stay

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The criticism aimed at Marissa Johnson and Mara Willaford have ranged from the deeply piercing to the explicitly racist. But what they did was necessary, a welcome harbinger of more direct disruption.

Marcus Harrison Green / Yes! Magazine

“America is a racist nation. Look at this country’s true history. Look at its foundations. It was founded on the genocide of Native Americans and the continued enslavement of black Americans.”

A Black Lives Matter protester laid it out bare, raw, and unapologetic to me and the hundreds of others who stood shoulder to shoulder on the grassy courtyard of Seattle Central Community College. It was the day after Mara Willaford and Marissa Johnson engaged in a now-famous disruption at Bernie Sanders’ rally in Seattle, where the democratic presidential candidate was scheduled to speak in front of a largely (and seemingly) progressive white audience.

The criticism aimed at the two’s actions has ranged from the deeply piercing, to the contextually vapid, to the explicitly racist. The two women have had their lives scrutinized, religion questioned, and progressive values challenged.

All because they would not allow a white man to speak.   [Read more…]

The Hillary Question: Two Telling Tales

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By Doug Porter

Six months ago, most Democrats believed the upcoming presidential primary season would be little more than a warm-up for the coronation of Hillary Clinton as the party’s choice to face off against the GOP’s nominee.

A feisty Vermonter with wiry hair has upset the Democratic applecart. Today’s column will start off with two tales of Hillary, told with the hope of providing insight into the nature of her as a candidate. (Those hoping for a bashing session will have to wait for another day.)

I, for one, thought the early campaign months would be focused on the circular firing squad that has come to represent the Republican contest for the nomination. Fortunately, my stockpile of popcorn won’t go to waste.   [Read more…]