By Doug Porter
A non-profit group set up by the city to create a world class year long celebration of the centennial of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park hasn’t produced much of anything concrete to date, despite spending millions of dollars in public monies. And they’re making the claim that their lack of progress is nobody’s business.
Citizen activist David Lundin’s inquiries into the machinations of the group responsible for planning the Balboa Park Centennial Celebration have stirred up quite a fuss. After reading reports about difficulties and missed deadlines by the entity (Balboa Park Celebrations, Inc) he filed a series of requests for documents (ala Public Records Act).
The resulting exchange was simply stunning in its arrogance and hostility. My response from reading the email exchange between Lunkin and the group is that something must be seriously amiss with this group.
Via UT-San Diego:
The nonprofit group organizing a yearlong party in San Diego’s Balboa Park in 2015 has taken the position that it does not have to make public its contracts, letters or other documents, saying it is not subject to disclosure laws even though it received and spent millions of tax dollars.
Balboa Park Celebration Inc. was entrusted by the city with planning the 100th anniversary of the Panama-California Exposition at the park.
The group on Friday told a citizen seeking records that it was not created by a legislative body and has no board members who represent a legislative body, key criteria for entities subject to open-meeting and open-records rules.
“As our team is busy trying to put on an event for millions to enjoy, we must devote our limited time to more productive activities,” spokesman Victor Avina wrote in an email.
The Balboa Party group has yet to reveal any of the promised corporate sponsors for the event. Its funding thus far has come via $2.8 million in city tourism and hotel tax dollars. Board members of the Tourism Marketing District have deferred consideration of a request by the group for an additional $3.2 million, citing a lack of progress.
A letter submitted just prior to her resignation from Julie Dubick, the latest of three CEOs to resign from the group, admitted some of the much vaunted events and corporate relationships for the 2015 celebration were “aspirational.”
From UT-San Diego:
A Jan. 1, 2014, deadline for the committee to provide the city with a full calendar of events resulted in a still indefinite, incomplete schedule, and no word of any specific corporate or private underwriting.
An Inside Job
You would think that, perhaps, our City Attorney or even the District Attorney would be sniffing around by now. But you’d be wrong. This is business as usual, not to be trifled with by anybody demanding a public accountiung.
Read some of the very interesting observations sent along to SDFP in email from David Lundin:
- Julie Dubick was former Mayor Jerry Sanders Chief of Staff;
- [Media outreach coordinator] Jerry Braun was Mayor Jerry Sanders top PR Flak
- Sanders initiated the creation of the private Balboa Park Celebrations Inc. in 2011 while he was Mayor;
- Under the terms of a comprehensive October 25,2011 Memorandum of Understanding approved by Sanders, BPCI was given exclusive control and jurisdiction over the Park and its assets for 2014 and 2015 , the City abandoning any rights or powers over the Park for this period to the private corporation;
- Sanders controlled who was appointed to the BPCI Board. They were his buddies, friends and supporters;
- After Sanders left office, Dubick became the CEO of BPCI at a salary of $15,000 a month + benefits. Her salary was to increase to $20,000 a month during 2015.
- Braun became a PR “consultant” to BPCI at a fee of $8,000 a month, increasing to $12,000 a month in 2015. These positions were never advertised or offered to the public. The salaries are paid from City General Funds and Hotel Tax revenues ;
- Dubick resigned from BPCI in February of 2014. She took a position with Gafcon, Inc.. a San Diego based construction and consulting business. Yehudi Gaffen is CEO and founder of Gafcon, Inc. He is also a member of the Board of directors of BPCI;
- Gaffen , Gafcon, Inc. and a Gaffen-created entity, “Great Park Design Studio”, have been Project Managers and Contract Administrators for several portions of work on the “Great Park” in Orange County on the former El Toro Marine Base. The work has experienced major delays and massive cost-overruns. According to one Audit, Gaffen’s billings were so “brief, vague and general” as to make impossible to understand what work was actually performed;
- Victor Avina, listed as a staff member of BPCI on its website, is also employed at LOMA Media in San Diego. Between July and September of 2013, LOMA Media was paid in excess of $100,000 by BPCI for PR work and “community outreach.” I believe the contract was not put out publicly for competitive bids or proposals;
- In January and February of 2014, both Dubick and Braun refused to answer questions from the Press regarding BPCI, its progress, its finances, sponsorships or the Centennial schedule;
- The City Council has never held any meaningful oversight hearings relating to BPCI, its creation, the contractual delegation to BPCI of all authority over the Park during 2014 and 2015, its finances, progress, or BPCI’s refusal to make its books and records available to the Public as Public records;
- BPCI continues to have exclusive and unrestrained control over all aspects of the Park schedule and public venues for 2014 and 2015 under the terms of the October 25, 2011 MOU with the City signed while Sanders was mayor;
- BPCI had specific Milestone Reports due to the City on November 1,2012 and January 1, 2014. BPCI failed to meet the explicit requirements of the MOU regarding the contents of these reports. The City did nothing about these material breaches;
- BPCI has failed to release am accurate schedule of events and venues to be used, list of sponsors, budget for 2015, or internal documents;
- Braun continues to be retained by BPCI as PR consultant at $8,000 a month. He will not meet with the Press, and will not answer any questions from the Public;
- The City Council has not set any future public hearings on these issues. Both I -Mayor Gloria and Mayor-Elect Faulconer have refused to make any comments on BPCI to the Press or the Public.
iMayor to the Rescue?
In an “exit interview with UT-San Diego published over the weekend, iMayor Todd Gloria pledged to “present to the public a format of a celebration event that is achievable.” He also strongly suggested that, although the Balboa Park group’s missteps go back before December 2012, the current mess was former mayor Bob Filner’s fault.
From UT-San Diego:
When Bob Filner became Mayor I was excused from that process and wasn’t included in anything and didn’t have a great deal of knowledge of what the centennial celebration looked like under his administration other than what I might read in your paper. So when I took over in August it had become this $100 million extravaganza where kings and sheiks and others were going to come to San Diego and we were going to have this celebration. That was really beyond the more modest version of a $20 million to $30 million celebration that I think Jerry Sanders and I had discussed.
At the same time as the expectations were raised, very little was done from the mayor. I think the Centennial Committee tried its very best but this event depends heavily on mayoral leadership. No time was spent raising money. And hence the predicament we find ourselves in today.
I have been reluctant to pull the plug on this because I think we have to do this. We should do this. You know in 1915 this city of 40,000 people put on a multiyear world’s fair and really set us on 100 years of prosperity as a result. We can’t let that milestone go by with just a sheet cake. And it’s my expectation that we will not do that. What I’ve tried to do is sort out where we’re at internally and to right-size this event to something that is doable within the next 10 months to pull it together.
A New Standard: We’re Not as Bad as the SDPD
San Diego’s bad reputation arising from the police scandal is spreading nationwide.
From Raw Story:
The arrest of an Austin jogger on jaywalking charges earlier this week — dragged screaming to a police car after apparently failing to present ID properly — has become the stuff of viral video after a University of Texas at Austin student captured the incident.
Now, Austin’s chief of police has weighed in, telling the public they should be glad his officers aren’t treating people even worse.
“This person absolutely took something that was as simple as ‘Austin Police – Stop!’ and decided to do everything you see on that video,” Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said at a press conference Friday, according to Austin NPR station 90.5 KUT. “And quite frankly she wasn’t charged with resisting. She’s lucky I wasn’t the arresting officer, because I wouldn’t have been as generous. … In other cities there’s cops who are actually committing sexual assaults on duty, so I thank God that this is what passes for a controversy in Austin, Texas,” Acevedo said.
Mayor-elect Faulconer met with SDPD Chief Lansdowne on Friday. They reportedly had a “very good and frank” conversation about what Faulconer’s expectations.
As mayor, Faulconer said he will move forward with a proposal to place cameras with police officers, and he will allocate money for that purpose in his upcoming budget proposal.
He will be deciding on the number of cameras and how quickly they are implemented in the next couple of weeks.
The concept of body cameras being worn by police is generally supported by civil rights organizations, who point out a federal judge’s observation that complaints against officers can decline by as much as 88%.
Council Likely to Approve Protection for Seals at La Jolla Children’s Pool
The San Diego City Council is expected to adopt a proposal prohibiting public access to the beach at the Children’s Pool during harbor seal pupping season.
A staff report saying municipal and other laws against animal abuse have not been effective in preventing harassment of the seals will be presented at today’s (Feb 24) council meeting.
The proposal before the council would bar people from using the Children’s Pool from Dec. 15 to May 15 each year, when the seals are giving birth and weaning their young. The report calls for this proposed action as the “the minimum step” in preventing the harassment of seals.
SDFP has a video of one such incident of such harassment recorded yesterday (Sunday, February 23). An earlier incident can be seen here.
A note from the person posting the video says:
On 2/23/14 at about 1pm, [redacted] protests upcoming San Diego City Council vote on closing La Jolla seal rookery for pupping season by flushing mothers and nursing pups. Watch him in the upper right corner as he jumps into the water from the rocks by the sea wall, scaring all remaining seals off the beach.
[The individual named in the above comment has been redacted, since we have no means of authenticating that information.]
The city council will be voting on a resolution that dates back to 2010.
Because it’s a small beach, even entering the water opposite the side where the seals are, can still cause the seals to flush into the water,” said animal rights lawyer Bryan Pease.
“Mothers can become separated from their pups,” he said. “So the idea is to completely keep people off of the beach during the pupping season.”
The new restrictions, if approved, would not take effect until given the go-ahead by the California Coastal Commission— process that could take one year. The report from city staff says their counterparts at the commission support the seasonal beach closure.
Many La Jolla residents are opposed to the ban.
From CBS8 News:
The La Jolla Community Planning Association voted 9-6-1 at a meeting in January to reject the proposed ban. Area residents have never supported a seasonal beach closure, said Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, who contends that the rope barrier has been an effective deterrent.
“The reality is that in recent years the harbor seal, sea lion and shorebird populations have dramatically exploded up and down the coastline,” Lightner said.
“The city needs to follow suit of other California municipalities, and put into place a comprehensive Coastal Management Plan to deal with protection of public beach access as well as health, safety and environmental issues caused by the proliferation of marine mammals along San Diego’s 23-mile shoreline.”
A New and Interesting New Mayoral Vote Count
The County Registrar of Voters released a follow up (although not final) report on Friday, showing the mayoral contest between city council members Kevin Faulconer and David Alvarez to be closer than originally announced. Faulconer’s win was apparently by six percentage points instead of the widely reported eight points(52.89% vs 47.11%).
Faulconer’s triumph can be attributed to a huge lead in early absentee ballots (56.64% vs 43.36%). Election day vote totals were very close, with the mayor-elect just edging out Alvarez (50.36% vs 49.64%). And in the later absentee ballots Alvarez actually won by more than 15 points ( 57.84% vs 42.16%). Those late ballots, unfortunately for Alvarez, accounted for only 38, 405 out of the 290, 179 votes cast.
On This Day: 1803 – The Supreme Court ruled itself to be the final interpreter of all constitutional issues. 1956 – In Cleveland police invoked a 1931 ordinance barring people under the age of 18 from dancing in public unless accompanied by an adult. 1988 – The Supreme Court overturned a $200,000 award to Rev. Jerry Falwell that had been won against “Hustler” magazine. The ruling expanded legal protections for parody and satire.
Check Out the SDFree Press Calendar
Thanks to the efforts of Brent Beltran, the San Diego Free Press now has an on-line calendar of events. You can see events in the arts, performances and political gatherings of every persuasion by clicking on the ‘Calendar’ Tab at the top of the page. To get your event listed, drop us a line: firstname.lastname@example.org
Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to “The Starting Line” and get an email every time a new article in this series is posted!
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@