Piñata formerly known as Mayor Filner blamed
By Doug Porter
The Balboa Park Celebration, Inc., a group empowered by former San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders to organize a centennial celebration of the Panama-California Exposition, is calling it quits.
Despite having $2.8 million in taxpayer-funded startup monies and a contract giving them exclusive control over the nation’s second oldest urban cultural park, the organization is dissolving its corporate entity and handing back its responsibilities to the City of San Diego.
Centennial organizers have been in the spotlight in recent weeks, amid calls for greater transparency. BPC, Inc steadfastly maintained to the end that they were under no legal obligation to reveal financial information or documents related to their activities. Lawsuits were being prepared, news accounts questioning their activities began appearing on a regular basis, and incoming mayor Kevin Faulconer joined the chorus of public concern.
Boosters for a mega-event originally forecast “a spectacular celebration producing an extraordinary visitor experience. Hopes were high that a year-long event would double park attendance to 20 million and “generate 600,000 hotel room nights, the equivalent of four Comic-Cons, and result in $278 million in direct visitor spending.”
The group went through three executive directors and two big name promoters since the deal was agreed to by the city in 2011. They repeatedly missed deadlines to present progress reports to the City Council.
From UT-San Diego:
In January, city tourism officials put off consideration of a $3.2 million request for additional funding, saying the group had not proved it could be successful pulling off the celebration.
The nonprofit celebration group was run by two former top aides for former Mayor Jerry Sanders. Former Sanders Chief of Staff Julie Dubick received $15,000 a month plus benefits, and former Director of Special Projects Gerry Braun was paid $8,000 a month as a consultant.
The 2015 budget called for boosting their payments to $20,000 and $12,000 a month, respectively. Dubick resigned last month amid the controversy.
From the onset, activities of the Balboa Park Celebration group appeared to be strongly influenced by, if not under the actual control of, the city’s big hoteliers. Civic activist George Mullen, whose attempts to be part of the planning process were ignored, warned via op-eds published at Voice of San Diego that the event planning had been hijacked by a hotelier cabal.
Here’s the conclusion of one of those articles, published (remember the date) on March 19, 2013:
Due to numerous management and board missteps, our 2015 centennial celebration is in real jeopardy, and time may be too short to save it. Mistakes, missteps and setbacks in a “best of intentions” effort is one thing; it’s an entirely different thing when those mistakes, missteps and setbacks are the byproduct of a hidden agenda to serve the special interests of a powerful hotelier cabal.
Outside of the museums (who at least got a hearing and a token donation), the centennial committee became notorious for its indifference to community groups looking to participate in events.
Now that the group has collapsed, the finger pointing has begun. And, as I predicted (with any negative event occurring locally in the near future), the pinata known as former Mayor Bob Filner is taking the hits.
Via 10News, here’s the guy whose cronies were running the show:
Former San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, who is the current CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the recent political climate made it difficult for the group to find sponsors.
And here’s the former iMayor:
“We will have a yearlong celebration,” he said. “It will not be the $100 million dollar extravaganza that Bob Filner envisioned and did no fundraising for.”
Gloria said planning got out of control under Filner’s watch.
And here’s (GOP) City Councilman Scott Sherman:
Sherman also pointed the finger of blame to Filner.
“I think the whole Filner saga … everybody during that whole 10 months, everybody around here, quite frankly, was afraid to do anything,” he said.
The truth about what actually happened with the centennial lies in the files of Balboa Park Celebration, Inc. And it’s not likely we’ll be learning anything contrary to the “party line” anytime real soon. After all, it wouldn’t look good if it was revealed that the city’s “job creators” couldn’t get the job done.
According to Fox5:
The group dissolved it’s corporate status and intends to transfer records, intellectual property and financial assets to the city.
This means ultimately this information will be under the purview of…wait for it…. City Attorney Jan Goldsmith. I’d be willing to wager we’ll see the classified reports of the CIA on Osama bin Laden’s death long before the centennial documents get made public.
It’s That Time Again
The City Clerk’s office reports that Rafa Bautista, Blanca Lopez Brown and Tony Villafranca all took out papers yesterday to run against District 4 Councilwoman Myrtle Cole.
Sarah Boot and Lorie Zapf both filed nomination papers for District 2, hoping to replace termed-out/now-mayor Kevin Faulconer come November.
Zapf, who’s being moved out of her current seat on the city council due to redistricting, is telling voters she’s running for “re-election.” Boot issued a press release yesterday challenging out this claim, calling it a “Zapf Gaff.” Here we go…
A Very Confusing Reality in San Diego These Days
Yesterday Mayor Faulconer’s communications guy Matt Awbrey announced via Twitter that the proposed City policy requiring the destruction of emails more than one year old would be suspended pending further review.
Attorney Cory Briggs called it perfectly with this Tweet:
— Cory Briggs (@corybriggs) March 5, 2014
Also at City Hall, following negotiations with representatives of downtown business interests opposing a resumption of a linkage fee for new construction on large projects, the City Council unanimously voted to kill the idea. The monies collected under this plan would have added to the coffers of a fund used for creating affordable housing in San Diego.
A group headed by the Chamber of Commerce took to the streets with a (misleading at best) campaign collecting enough signatures to force an initiative overturning the fees. So it came to a motion by Councilwoman Myrtle Cole giving fee opponents three months to come back with alternatives.
Now everybody’s promising to engage in “further study” on mechanisms to increase the supply of affordable housing. A similar council “task force” back in 2011 came up with exactly: nothing. Industry counter-proposals made in the run up to this latest confrontation included tax increases, requiring super-majority voter approval. In other words: nothing.
Now I don’t care much for the (reduced) linkage fee-to-bureaucracy method currently in place for increasing affordable housing. But I very strongly disagree with the idea of doing nothing, which is all that’s really on the table.
I’d rather see energies going into increasing the minimum wage to something close to a living wage. And the same interests who blackmailed the council into dropping the linkage fee idea will fight this idea.
From UT-San Diego:
While joining her colleagues in the vote, Councilwoman Marti Emerald characterized business opponents as carrying on a “snow job” and lying about their intentions.
“Pardon me if I’m skeptical, if I’ve lost faith with the tired, hackneyed arguments you bring to the council chamber,” Emerald said. “I don’t believe you’ll be responsible.”
The House of Propaganda Comes to Town
In case you’ve missed it, Rep. Scott Peter’s congressional challenger Carl DeMaio has been running a guerrilla media campaign. Mostly it’s about getting his name in the news. After all, once you look past the slogans and the veneer of our own “New Republican,” there isn’t much he can do about his party’s baggage.
The Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity is running real ads on TV attacking Congressman Peters for supporting the Obama death squads (or something like that). DeMaio’s ads are mostly postings on social media.
More than a few eyebrows went up when the challenger decided to use imagery from the House of Cards series (on Netflix) to promote his campaign. After all, the character played by Kevin Spacey (Rep. Frank Underwood) is just about the the most amoral lead played on TV since James Gandolfini’s Tony Soprano.
So here’s DeMaio’s blurb:
The Democrats have responded with a full blown Tumblr site called House of Carl further exploring that thought.
On This Day: 1623 – The first alcohol temperance law in the colonies was enacted in Virginia. 1956 – The Supreme Court affirmed the ban on segregation in public schools. 1982 – Blues Brother John Belushi died of drug overdose in the Chateau Marmont Hotel in Los Angeles at the age of 33.
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