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— City hall's panic over the state Supreme Court's decision to hear the case for San Diego's right to vote up or down on that $300 million convention center addition continues unabated. Sources say officials are desperate to craft some kind of end-run around the court, including the possibility of putting together a so-called advisory election, in which voters would be asked to approve the concept of the expansion without a specific price tag. George Gorton, ex-boyfriend and current political guru to Mayor Susan Golding, is said to be playing a role in the strategy talks, as is fellow Golding handler Tom Shepard, attached to the downtown lobbying and public relations outfit of Stoorza, Ziegaus & Metzger, which coincidentally has a big contract to handle PR for the city's multibillion-dollar sewer expansion project. One big reason Golding is reportedly so anxious to avoid waiting for the supreme court: a big chunk of expansion money is set to pay for a $1.57 million telephone switching system purchased from AT&T after it was originally installed as a "temporary" improvement for last year's Republican convention. The controversial system was opposed by several members of the convention center's own board but approved by the Golding-led council only a month after AT&T put up $50,000 for a gala convention reception honoring Golding and her political mentor, Governor Pete Wilson. Other GOP conventionPrelated costs hidden in the expansion budget: an enlarged kitchen and banks of bleacher seats, also paid for by "loans" from city general fund coffers, to be repaid from expansion funds, now held up in court.

Toxic politics

Southwest College law professor Richard Dittbenner has harsh words for lawyer-lobbyist Mike McDade and the other members of San Diego's controversial port commission. In a recent letter to McDade, Dittbenner says that opponents of the port's methyl bromide fumigation plant in Barrio Logan were "met with derisive treatment and sarcastic comment" when they appeared before the commission. "Such churlish behavior by public officials is repugnant to the right of every citizen to be treated fairly and courteously." Adds Dittbenner, "This was in sharp contrast to the hospitality accorded over several months to representatives of politically potent Embarcadero interests who expressed reservations" about developments in that neighborhood. Last year's dust-up over whether to allow more high-rise hotels at the Embarcadero near the convention center was opposed by wealthy neighbors in the area and later scaled back after vigorous lobbying. McDade's daughter has lived in a condo he owns in the luxurious Watermark project, a source of much opposition to the new, view-blocking hotels.

Tap dancing

First the KPBS "Store of Knowledge" at Horton Plaza. Now the official KPBS Visa Gold card, featuring a 4.9 percent introductory rate and provided through the San Diego State teachers' credit union. Still, however, no local political or urban affairs coverage on the state university-owned and controlled channel that during pledge week tells would-be donors they can become "members" if they send in cash. The station's financial link to Union-Tribune chief David Copley, who has given millions, is said to guarantee that the station will never pursue controversial local issues, such as a taxpayer-funded baseball-only stadium, regarded as a U-T sacred cow ... Congressman Brian Bilbray has started his own monthly cable TV show, produced in tax-funded studios in the U.S. Capitol. The show's title, Right Here, Right Now, mimics the slogan long used by KFMB's news department ... Look out, Mission Bay, here comes the "International Jazz and Heritage Festival," a three-day musical extravaganza set for this coming October at South Shores Park, the Sunrunner parking area, and Fiesta Island. Promoters will pay the city a $30,000 minimum or 4 percent of the gross, whichever is greater, and give the Mission Bay Park endowment fund another $7500. But officials don't seem overly optimistic. "This is a new, untested promoter, and the potential for failure is possible," says an internal city document.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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