Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Nancy Reagan, where art thou?

Picture a totem pole.  Now visualize our regional law enforcers -- the city attorney, police chief, sheriff, and district attorney -- stacked head-to-foot up the length of the pole.  Atop them all you'll find the U.S. Attorney.

The name of San Diego's U.S. Attorney is Laura Duffy.  Laura who?  As the U.S. Attorney for the San Diego region, Laura Duffy has the job of investigating and prosecuting violations of federal criminal law, such as political corruption, tax evasion, drug trafficking, human trafficking, organized crime, and so on.   

U.S. Attorneys are instructed to steer clear of partisan politics -- local, state, or national.  It's the law.

But last week, San Diego's U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy engaged in a series of activities that directly affected and advanced the political aspirations of mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio, who boasted:

I'm supported by Mayor Jerry Sanders. I’m supported by the leading Democrat donor, Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs.  Laura Duffy, the U.S. Attorney, donated to my campaign and today commented about her displeasure with the congressman’s (i.e., Bob Filner's) temperament.
Why would U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy violate the ethical, moral, and even legal rules inherent in her prestigious Department of Justice appointment?  Why would she meddle in San Diego's mayoral politics, leaning her finger on the scales to try to manipulate the outcome of the Filner-DeMaio mayor's race?  For a fuller description of the story, click here.

While it's true that San Diego's long history of Ponzi schemers and income tax evaders, of racketeers and fast-talking land developers can seem like a quaint and colorful folktale, the fact is that San Diego's underside continues to be very dark and sinister.

Did you know that the FBI identifies San Diego as one of the nation's top sex-trafficking hubs?  Or that our reputation as the methamphetamine capital of America is still up and running?  Illicit drugs continue to snake like a river around our city, filtering into our schools, local bars, and neighborhood party houses.

So let's ask the question again: why would Laura Duffy go out on a limb to violate… meddle… manipulate… curry favor with Carl Demaio and the Republican Party when there's plenty of bona fide work in our town to keep any U.S. Attorney busy?

Frankly, I'm stymied by this one
.  Here is a list of 8 observations (in no special order) – maybe you can figure it out:

  1. We've got a Midwestern, lesbian, Republican* Democratic U.S. Attorney -- risking her career to align herself with Carl DeMaio.
  2. We've got Carl DeMaio, a shrink government Midwestern, gay, Republican candidate for mayor -- congenitally unable to distinguish truth from fiction.
  3. We've got a politically conservative, anti-gay, Catholic, control freak-multi-millionaire hotel and land developer, Doug Manchester -- beating the bushes and breathing fire down the necks of fellow-millionaires and developers to support the campaign of Carl DeMaio for mayor.  
  4. We've got John Lynch, Doug Manchester's mirror image partner-in-ownership at the San Diego U-T -- using their daily newspaper as a lethal weapon to mow down any and all opposition to Carl DeMaio for mayor.
  5. We've got a rabid leadership team at the Republican Party of San Diego -- exerting inordinate pressure, intimidation, and duress on San Diego's political and business establishment to bludgeon them into falling in line behind Carl DeMaio.
  6. We've got a totem pole (I'd call it a shame pole) of ambitious Republican law enforcers – swallowing their integrity and self respect to endorse Carl DeMaio, a person for whom they have expressed great contempt in the past (to her credit, Bonnie Dumanis remains a holdout).  
  7.  We've got Johnathan Hale, full-time live-in partner of the man who would be San Diego's first gay mayor -- a bullying, gay newspaper/ media/ events and parties maven, a mystery man who blew into town laden with a checkered past, tussles with the law, restraining orders, multiple name changes, porn-style online ventures, and a knack for throwing magic dust into the eyes of the person with whom he plans on sharing the mayor's office. 
  8. We've got the full faith and credit of the historically powerful, politically conservative San Diego establishment -- salivating at the thought of putting a zealous proponent of privatized government into the mayor's office.  Even the U.S. Attorney is willing to risk her career to jump on his bandwagon.  The promised rewards from San Diego's very own Candyman must be very great, indeed! 
Remember Nancy Reagan? Just say no!

* Duffy is registered as a Democrat -- which just goes to show you that succumbing to pressure from one's peers can linger long after graduating from high school.    

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Lies? We don’t need no stinkin’ lies

Here's the 5th (maybe the last -- we'll wait and see) installment in the we don't need no stinkin' series.  This one is about lies.

Like fingerprints, no two lies are identical.  Same goes for liars.  
A)  Some liars lie for self-protection.  Consider political cover-ups.
B)  Some liars lie to whitewash things they say (or write) whenever they get loaded.  Consider the congenital lushes you've known.
C)  Some liars lie because of a pathological affliction that compels them to create false/ fabricated/ fallacious responses to just about everything.  Consider the manchurian (I have a friend who calls him manchesturian) candidate Carl DeMaio.   
Let's explore this more closely. 

A) Self-protection category: Five years ago I wrote about Mayor Sanders lying on the beach in Hawaii, in total denial of having participated in the scandalous Sunroad land-abuse episode (a high-rise development project across from Montgomery Field airport in Kearny Mesa that exceeded FAA height restrictions).  The scandal precipitated the departures of the mayor's respected COO Ronne Froman, the city’s respected city auditor John Torrell, and the deputy COO for land use and economic development Jim Waring.  

The Sunroad project was eventually scaled back and the mayor survived.  But the public lost big, in legal fees and bad publicity.  There are many more stories where that one came from but for now we'll let bygones be bygones and move on to more recent events. 

B) Loaded category: By now, everyone knows who Doug Manchester is.  But how familiar are you with his pal and partner at the U-T, John Lynch?  

John Lynch -- former CEO of the Broadcast Company of the Americas (BCA) and former president of Catholic Radio Network -- is unabashedly as unrepentant and pugnacious in his (ab)use of the U-T newspaper to promote his political and personal agendas as he was in his (ab)use of the public airwaves.  

“Over the course of his career,” touts a blurb from the San Diego Harvard Business School Club, “Lynch has raised hundreds of millions of equity and debt to build several companies.”  The blurb fails to address a long list of legal actions against Lynch for breach of contract, financial misappropriation, mortgage default, property foreclosure, reneging on debts, and other unsavory business practices.  Two years ago he was fired from BCA, the firm he founded.  Then he went into partnership with Doug Manchester.

Lynch's erratic behavior made the news again the other day with some threatening emails he admits writing… no he didn’t… okay maybe he did… no, someone else used his computer to write it… fine! so what if he did write it... Lynch stands by his threat to use his newspaper to destroy the Port of San Diego (and anything else that gets in his way, I might add).   Click here to see what a loaded lie sounds like when Lynch, the perpetrator, has to cover his tracks because he doesn’t quite remember…

C) Pathological category: Click here to watch a mechanized mayoral candidate answer your questions -- it's an experience you won't forget.  It's what pathology looks like in real time.

Then scan the following list and take your pick -- lies come in all sizes.  
  • Carl DeMaio falsely announced that Democratic former-congresswoman Lyn Schenk endorsed him for mayor -- hardly his first spurious claim of support by people who didn't support him.
  • DeMaio claimed responsibility for numerous cost-saving reforms in the city budget.  You can click here to see Mayor Sanders laying into him for misrepresenting the facts with “political calculations” to distort and falsify the truth (the pot calling the kettle black? maybe not in this case).  
  • Then there were DeMaio's assertions of innocent ignorance about the midnight water-gun shooting spree in Balboa Park, coupled with his duplicitous defense of his boyfriend Johnathan Hale, who played a role in promoting the destructive, unlawful party.
  • Not content with his own practice of manipulating the truth, DeMaio gave City Auditor Eduardo Luna clear instructions this past summer on how to falsify an audit report: "I’d rather have you come back and say, ‘Your know, we looked at this department and they did a really good job...’ "  Lies are preferable to the truth.
  • What about DeMaio’s insistence that he supported the families of police officers killed in the line of duty when he actually voted against their continued benefits?  
  • Throw in DeMaio’s bald-faced public statements that he opposes Doug Manchester’s land-grab proposal on Port property at the 10th Avenue Marine Terminal when the opposite is true.  
  • Or that he opposes plans for a bypass bridge and paid parking lot in Balboa Park – only to vote in favor of the plan.  
  • Or his smooth talk about government 'transparency' – and his vote for hefty fees for citizens when they request public documents.  
  • Or his trumpeted contempt for greedy downtown "insiders" and his welcoming  embrace of the same people as bosom buddies and partners.
  • Or that whopper that he had NO meetings or correspondence with his protectors and patrons Doug Manchester and John Lynch, despite published proof that he did? 
Finally, if you have the stomach for more, click here to see a KPBS synopsis of the scheming exploits of San Diego's three musketeers, DeMaio, Manchester, and Lynch.

Now consider these three final questions:

Does anyone out there disagree with syndicated columnist Amy Goodman when she says:
Journalism is the only profession explicitly protected by the U.S. Constitution, because journalists are supposed to be the check and balance on government.  We’re supposed to be holding those in power accountable.  We’re not supposed to be their megaphone.  That’s what the corporate media have become.
Does anyone find fault with the words of Joan Konner, former dean at Columbia University School of Journalism, when she says:
There is a civil war in our society today, a conflict between two American cultures, each holding very different values.  The adversaries are private profits versus public responsibility; personal ambition versus the community good; quantitative measures versus qualitative concerns.
Then ask yourselves, is this what we want for our city -- a future where the people in charge are self-enriching, pathological manipulators with no compunctions about selling the city to the highest bidders?

Your answers will be soon sealed at the ballot box.  Vote wisely.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Civility? we don’t need no stinkin’ civility

Remember when One Book, One San Diego was touted as a way to create community and pull all San Diegans together?  Now there’s a new communal project being broadcast over the airwaves, via editorial essays, and at public forums. The latest rage is called CIVILITY.

In San Diego we all know what civility means: play nice, be polite, don’t get hot under the collar about political issues, no matter how important.  Have strong feelings about the world around you?  Keep them to a whisper.  Better still, just keep your mouth shut.

At the risk of sounding uncivil, I’m going to come right out and tell you this: Mayor Jerry Sanders has betrayed the public.  How? by refusing to separate the communal public agenda from the private financial agendas of the people who brought him to power – the heavy-hitting fraternity of property developers, hoteliers, bankers, sports team owners, and financiers who took up residence in the mayor’s office 7 years ago and should have been evicted.  He never showed them the door. 

At the risk of sounding doubly uncivil I’ll tell you this: by climbing into bed with Carl DeMaio's campaign and supporters, our avuncular Mayor Sanders revealed one of  his least endearing charms – the broken ethical/moral compass he uses to justify a long history of political ineptitude, questionable judgment, and cover-ups.

Before we pursue this subject further, let’s take two steps backwards for some pertinent information about our city and mayor.

Before Jerry Sanders took office as the 30th (give or take) mayor of San Diego, our city was governed by a 9-member city council -- 8 council members plus the mayor.  Under that system the mayor was the leading member of the council but had only a single vote.  (Remember these former mayors? Dick Murphy, Susan Golding, Maureen O’Connor, Roger Hedgecock, Pete Wilson, Frank Curran – they all served as mayor under the previous ‘city manager’ system.)

 Under the old ‘city manager’ system a professional City Manager was appointed by the mayor and council to run day-to-day operations, oversee city departments, develop an annual budget, and be the city's all-around factotum.  During those days the city often scored high points in the category of efficiency and good management.

 In 2005 the city of San Diego switched to a ‘strong mayor’ system.   Under our new system the mayor is the city’s chief executive.  He no longer interfaces with the public at weekly meetings of the city council.  He no longer votes openly on city matters, but he does have a powerful veto (which can be overridden only with a ⅔ vote of the city council).  Under the new system the 'strong mayor' is the titular head of city departments, controls the flow of city information, and puts together the city budget.

Jerry Sanders is the first mayor to operate under the new 'strong mayor' form of government.  The way the fable is told, the buck stops at the ‘strong mayor' door.  But it hasn’t worked that way.  During his past 7 years in office, Mayor Sanders conducted the public's business through private deals behind the closed door of his city hall office – well out of reach of constituents who come down to city hall to air their concerns... well out of reach of ordinary residents whose points of view have been -- uncivilly -- ignored.

In an equally destructive abuse of mayoral power, Sanders also ignored his responsibility to ensure honest and effective management of city business.  Instead, he surrounded himself with political operatives and flushed good city management down our faulty city drains by:

  • not knowing or caring enough to get a competent, professional city manager to oversee the city’s complex inner workings
  • looking the other way as the city’s day-to-day operations and city services fell into disarray from inadequate oversight of city departments, contracts, personnel, projects, and performance standards
  • deceiving the public with spurious budgets and fiscal forecasts to whitewash San Diego’s invasive financial and structural problems and keep downtown developers in business

So why did Jerry Sanders endorse Carl DeMaio? Is it because:
a) the mayor likes the councilman’s personality?
b) he believes DeMaio would do a better job as mayor than Bob Filner?
c) he approves of the dubious personal baggage DeMaio will lug into city hall?
d) he depends on DeMaio’s mastery of the art of falsification, prevarication, deception, and amoral glibness to protect his own failures during two terms as mayor?

Yes, you’re right.  It's d.

In exchange for the mayor’s endorsement of DeMaio, DeMaio will protect the mayor’s reputation by hiding the fact that Sanders is leaving the city in abysmal shape, worse than when he first took the oath of office.  DeMaio will guarantee safe passage for self-serving downtown power players and provide them with exclusive rights to occupy city hall.  Was this pact made in heaven or made with the devil? -- you decide. 

Back to civility.  If civility means a sweet smile while you repeatedly lie to the public… if civility means an amiable grin while you’re bullying your compatriots… if civility means fabricating facts to win at any cost... if civility looks like the calculating stage mask pasted on Carl DeMaio’s public face – you can count me out.

But when civility means saying what you mean and meaning what you say… respect for the public process and for tried and true good government principles… promoting public agendas over private agendas… electing a BETTER mayor to replace Jerry Sanders, not the incalculably worse one he cynically endorsed -- you know can count me in.