By Doug Porter
Board members with the failed Balboa Park Celebration, Inc.(BPCI) have taken their case to KPBS, blaming ex-mayor Bob Filner, the failure of Plaza de Panama parking plan and the competing agendas of park organizations for their group’s lack of accomplishments.
Details revealed in the first of a two part series, including comments from co-chair Nikki Clay, Stephen Russell and Patti Roscoe, by reporter Angela Carone paint a sad picture of the planning and preparations for a year long centennial celebration.
The release on Friday of a Transition Agreement empowering BPCI staffer Gerry Braun to handle shutdown of the organization (and collect another $39,000 while doing so) has just added to outrage felt by those in the community already upset with the group.
How Many Times Can You Say OMG?
The KPBS story starts out with an apology:
Nikki Clay, co-chair with her husband, Ben, of the centennial committee, said the couple “especially want to apologize.”
“We could not feel worse about having this not work,” she said. “We kept thinking one more phone call, one more meeting, would turn that tide.”
Clay and two other board members agreed to talk about their experiences and to respond to a firestorm of criticism from members of the public, museum directors and other stakeholders who say they were left out of the planning process.
And the excuses start.
- The committee spent too much time outsourcing a vision
- Ideas from outside groups were ignored, sidetracked due to lack of vision
- Brainstorming meetings held with assorted movers and shakers were followed up with a thank you note and nothing else
- A proposal from the Timken Museum of Art asking committee approval for a visitor center was rejected on the basis that it might compete with BPCI fundraising efforts. They weren’t asking for money, just approval.
- Fundraising didn’t start until Labor Day 2013, but the “well was poisoned” by a court decision that derailed plans for a parking garage.
- The story quotes one person who said BPCI’s approach was essentially “you owe San Diego” rather than “how can we work together?”
Just read the KPBS transcript. There are plenty of people who wanted to help out, volunteer or otherwise contribute. Instead, increasingly large amounts of cash were doled out to consultants. (See David Lundin’s story about the money here.)
Gerry Braun’s Golden Parachute
If you really want to assess just how “bad” the BPCI board feels about their failure, read the “Agreement for Professional Services between Balboa Park Celebration, Inc and Gerry Braun & Associates.”
This exchange between Braun and civic activist / blogger Pat Flannery via Twitter pretty well sums up my feelings:
Gerry Braun @GerryBraun Mar 21
Gerry Braun & Associates is proud to announce its new contract with BPCI (http://www.balboapark.org/
Pat Flannery @patflannery Mar 21
@GerryBraun $39,000 just for clearing out your desk Gerry?
In fact there IS more to the deal. And the more activist David Lundlin read, the angrier he got. He’s sent lots of emails to the media, the mayor and the city council pointing out:
- Braun’s compensation is more than any member of the City Council or the Mayor of San Diego.
- The contract says Braun must sign a “Confidentiality Agreement.” Why ? To protect the confidential and-oh-so valuable “trade secrets” of BPCI’s great plans for the Centennial ?
- Given that the group that failed to solicit volunteers throughout the course of its efforts, doesn’t anybody find it ironic that Braun is now “tasked” to: “Develop and execute an outreach plan for BPCI committee members, prospective BPCI volunteers, prospective BPCI partners, and Balboa Park and community organizations.”
- There is no way the city can or should let BCPI off the hook for any damages incurred. The language from Braun’s March 4, 2014 Memorandum to Carolyn Wormser, Director of Special Events for the City of San Diego states:”BPCI hopes the City of San Diego will be willing to dissolve the Memorandum of Understanding by mutual agreement and, furthermore, that both parties be willing to hold each other harmless.”
- That same memo to Ms Wormser does not say BPCI will transfer all written records, but seems to essentially say BPCI will transfer specified records.
- That Memo is silent on electronic records–E Mails and TEXT messages in particular, and Lundlin is demanding that employee and independent contractors and consultants transfer ALL electronic records, computers, storage devices, memory devices , etc., intact and unaltered in any way to the City, as well as all BPCI-related [in the broadest sense] text messages and E Mails sent to or from personal mobile devices, home computers, tablets, etc.
Lundin doesn’t have much faith that the City of San Diego (and especially its City Attorney) will be responding to his pleas, so he’s taking his case to California Attorney General Kamala Harris this morning.
SDPD- Yay! Here Comes the Justice Department
I’m sure that everybody’s expected to feel much better following the announcement over the weekend that the Justice Department will be conducting an audit of the San Diego Police Department.
From UT-San Diego:
An independent audit of the San Diego Police Department requested last month by then-Chief William Lansdowne to review policies, training and discipline will be conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Friday night.
The audit will be discussed at a news conference Monday with police, federal and city officials, the office said in a statement.
No details were released, but the office said the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, known as COPS, would conduct a “thorough, fair, independent and transparent assessment.”
Arevalos’ former attorney Gretchen von Helms said during the review, the DOJ will conduct personal interviews with SDPD personnel and review technical aspects such as pay, staffing and vehicle locator records to answer the big question: Have a few bad apples caused the scandals, or is this endemic to the SDPD culture?
“San Diegans want to know what the heck is wrong,” said von Helms. “Why is our city having all these sexual misconduct cases from police officers? And we gotta figure that out and using just our own resources — i.e. police department — itself hasn’t worked.”
Wait? Was that the attorney for the bad cop talking to NBC? But of course!
Was the attorney for the woman suing the bad cop and the city interviewed? Nope.
There’s a crucial difference between an “audit” and a “monitor.” Here’s the short version: an audit is a voluntary situation, a monitor has subpoena power. The Justice Departments’ Community Oriented Police Services (COPS) will hire an outside consulting firm.
As I said back on February 27th:
In Las Vegas COPS worked with the CNA (“Not an acromym,” according to their website) Corporation, a non-profit research and analysis organization located in Alexandria, VA that serves as a contractor for a variety of government agencies…
…Companies like CNA depend on voluntary cooperation by law enforcement agencies. Their conclusions can be ignored or simply implemented in name only.
And if you’d like to learn about just how (in)effective the LVMPD effort was, read the columns of Norm Jahn, a former police lieutenant with 25 years of experience in the Las Vegas Tribune.
Opening Day at Seaworld, Circa 1964
The Atlantic has a informative article posted about the birth of San Diego’s Seaworld. It includes much detail about the original vision for the water park, which included the female master of ceremonies riding around while standing “like a circus bareback rider” on a 20 foot pilot whale directing a “troupe of delightful penguins” in military style drills.
Things didn’t work out quite so well. The local AFL-CIO picketed the grand opening, raising what’s been an ongoing concern about wage scales at the park.
From the article:
On opening day, there was a lagoon show, but there were no penguins riding whales—Pacific dolphins were the stars. There was no Great Barrier Reef exhibit, and no Javanese guide named Tina, but there were “Sea Maids”—young San Diego women hired to dive down behind giant picture windows to point out aquatic life. The Theater of the Sea, an underwater amphitheater, had been built, but featured simpler behaviors than initially envisioned. The saltwater aquarium made it into the finished park too. And there were other attractions, conceived after the proposal was submitted. Patrons ate and drank in the Hawaiian Punch Village, where they watched color travel films of the South Pacific. Another sponsor, the Murata Pearl Company of Tokyo, spent a million dollars building a traditional Japanese village, and sent Japanese women to dive into a deep pool at its center, harvesting oysters in a traditional fashion and selling pearls to any takers.
By some measures, launch day was a disaster. A skiff ferrying Barry Goldwater to the opening ceremony nearly sank. The toilets overflowed. Water clarity problems, spurred by a red tide and an overwhelmed water filtration system, made the theater show difficult to see. But relief came early the next morning with the San Diego Union.
The newspaper’s verdict:
San Diego’s wonderful world of spectator attractions has been expanded tremendously by the addition of SeaWorld, the multimillion dollar extravaganza in Mission Bay Park. SeaWorld is a Wonderland as fascinating as that visited by the fictional Alice. We can make statements such as that without feeling they are tinged by San Diego partisanship. Newsmen from all sections of the state who attended a preview of SeaWorld’s wonders said, in effect, “greatest show about the sea on earth.”
No boosterism there. Nah-uh. See, things haven’t changed so much in the local media scene, have they?
To Strike or Not to Strike
Several readers forwarded me emails sent out this morning by the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council urging solidarity with members of AFSCME at UC Medical Centers this week.
There’s only one problem: AFSCME reached a tentative settlement, this weekend, according to this flyer. So they won’t be going out on strike.
In other healthcare labor news, registered nurses who work in the large Veterans Administration hospital in San Diego have announced their request for an election to join the nation’s largest organization of nurses, National Nurses United. California’s largest RN union, the California Nurses Association, is affiliated with NNU.
The RNs petitioned the San Francisco regional office of the Federal Labor Relations Authority, which oversees collective bargaining for federal employees, to schedule and conduct a secret ballot election for the San Diego VA nurses. NNU will meet with FLRA officials to set the terms and date for a vote.
The election would cover some 500 RNs at VA San Diego Hospital which is located adjacent to the Thornton campus of the University of California San Diego Medical Center. UC San Diego RNs are already represented by CNA, which represents more than 85,000 California RNs, including nearly 6,000 in San Diego County.
On This Day:1947 – The U.S. Congress proposed the limitation of the presidency to two terms. 1955 – Tennessee Williams’ play “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” debuted on Broadway. 1989 – The Exxon Valdez spilled 240,000 barrels (11 million gallons) of oil in Alaska’s Prince William Sound after it ran aground.
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: email@example.com
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@
“The release on Friday of a Transition Agreement empowering BPCI staffer Gerry Braun to handle shutdown of the organization (and collect another $39,000 while doing so) has just added to outrage felt by those in the community already upset with the group.”
Seriously!? What a joke!! This Gerry Braun dude will be making $80+ a hour to clean up his cluster-f…and thats if he actually puts in a honest 40 hour work week. Whoever is signing his paycheck needs a swift kick in the nuts/ovaries. But it looks like SD tax payers will be the ones to take the blow….
John Kroll says
How can Gerry Braun look at himself in the mirror? As a reporter, he presumably tried to ferret out the truth. (I may have too noble a view of journalists.) Now that he’s gone to the dark side, he tries to avoid revealing the facts and in so doing protect the well-connected hands who are feeding him.
bob dorn says
Unfortunately, journalists can turn to cynicism as a protection against the very difficult work of exposing scamsters. As in, “you have to pick the fights you can win.” It’s easy to take one or two more steps in that same direction to reach the point of, “What’s in it for me?”
John Lawrence says
There should be an investigation of this whole sorry fiasco. Why weren’t city employees in the course of their jobs tasked with planning this whole thing? As it turns out, that’s basically what’s going to happen now. Instead they paid all this money to these prominent, well-connected a-holes. That money could have gone to providing a permanent homeless shelter, but instead, when this situation comes up, there is never enough money, but there was plenty of money for this. Where did it come from?
Judith Wesling says
Why was this “committee” given so much money and ultimately produced nothing for us taxpayers? Not even an idea have we heard. I like the suggestion I heard somewhere that there be art from the 1915 era displayed. Why not food as well. And let’s use the beautiful Plaza de Panama for outdoor dancing at night, with live music. All sorts of musical groups could be scheduled – a lot of them would play for free, for the publicity. We could have swing and jive and dixieland, it could be themed by the decade from 1915 to now so young people who want rock and roll etc. could celebrate on specific nights. Live music, outdoors, is so delicious. And our summer nights are delicious too! let’s collect ideas from the public. Take a look at what was appearing in the 1915 exposition and get ideas from that. Just brainstorm!
John Lawrence says
The whole purpose of this committee was to bring in hordes of tourists from all over the world to benefit San Diego hoteliers and restaurateurs making it virtually impossible for San Diego citizens to enjoy the park at all. The emphasis should be on the enjoyment of locals not on bringing in scads of tourists.
Doug Porter says
Mayor Kevin Faulconer was on KPBS yesterday and said the City Attorney was interested in investigating any malfeasance. As sad as this whole saga is, I don’t think there’ll be any criminal proceedings out of it.
A lot of things (I’ve just finished perusing all their contracts) that occurred are very suspicious, but there is a vast gulf between suspicious and provable to a jury. And cronyism is (mostly) not against the law.
Given that the primary participants in the BCPI mess are all well connected downtown, I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or more of them actually rewarded with another civic “opportunity” in the not-so-distant future.
After all, every thing bad that happened was Bob Filner’s fault. Or that icky judge person who ruled that the city violated the law in rushing the plaza de panama plans through.
Judith Wesling says
I heard Faulconer also. If he says “we need to move forward” one more time, I’m going to throw the radio across the room. It’s his standard answer for everything.
James Scott says
If there is no legal recourse. We as taxpayers must never let San Diego forget. When anyone of these pilferer’s land another political appointment, they should be reported and held accountable.
This calls for a full Federal Investigation. An opportunity which could have brought millions to the region and empowered small businesses, binational relations, and had wide-spread impact, was thrown away over the mismanagement of money and resources. An apology is not enough, the $3M in tax-payers money needs to be accounted for and returned. We all know that money was used to pay the inflated salaries of incompetent people who are not walking away with just an apology to the City! This is so shameful that even people in L.A., San Francisco and Sacramento know about what’s happened- and some are taking their business away from San Diego.