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— Hope, it seems, springs eternal in the minds of Oscar Goodman, the attorney-to-the-mob turned mayor of Las Vegas, and Padres owner John Moores. Goodman told the Las Vegas Review-Journal last Friday that he and Moores were looking to move the Houston Rockets basketball team to Vegas after Houston voters rejected a new taxpayer-financed arena last week. Moores "is certainly going to be calling [NBA chief] David Stern and the owner of the Rockets," Goodman told the paper. Another team that Goodman and Moores were eyeing, the San Antonio Spurs, is reportedly staying put after voters in that city said yes to paying for a big new domed stadium for the team. During the election campaign, Spurs owners threatened to move the team to San Diego or Baltimore if they didn't get their way with the electorate. -- M.P.

In the Lobby

High-tech outfits Science Applications International Corp. and General Atomics, both in La Jolla, have hired Collins & Company, a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm, to "lobby with regard to legislation affecting the development and procurement of weapons systems," reports Political Finance & Lobby Reporter. Another San Diego lobbying client: The San Diego Unified Port District, which hired Thelen Reid & Priest "to lobby with regard to acquisition of former Naval properties." -- M.P.

Unappreciated News

Bad news for Karin Winner and her editorial team over at the San Diego Union-Tribune. In a ranking of 118 U.S. newspapers published in the latest issue of the Columbia Journalism Review, the U-T was a no-show. The local daily not only failed to make the prestigious list of the country's top 21 papers, it didn't attract a single vote from any of the more than 100 editors participating in the ballot. As a result, the U-T even failed to make the roster of 97 also-rans, a list that included the Brazosport Facts (Clute, Texas) and the Manhattan Mercury (Manhattan, Kansas). The CJR snub was a personal blow to Winner, who for four years now has been promising to "take the paper to the next level" and improve its reputation in the industry. A few days after the CJR ranking was published, the Audit Bureau of Circulation, the top authority on newspaper readership, delivered a second blow to Winner & Co., releasing figures that showed the U-T's circulation fell during the latest six-month reporting period, despite the paper's effort to boost it. While the ABC said the U-T's Sunday circulation inched up 142 copies from the same period last year to 450,788, weekday sales actually fell 1508 copies to 376,604 -- a net loss of 1366 readers. Six months ago, the U-T rolled out a campaign to increase circulation to 400,000 on weekdays and 500,000 on Sundays. -- J.B.K.

Tax and Spend

State senator Steve Peace, who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, and Assemblywoman Denise Ducheny, who has the same role on the Assembly side, are busy bringing home the pork, reports the San Francisco Examiner. According to an analysis by the newspaper, the powerful pair of Democrats managed to scrape together a total of $17.9 million of special pork-barrel spending projects for their San Diego districts, including: El Cajon skateboard park ($150,000); La Mesa playground ($183,000); Lemon Grove Park ($152,000); Spring Valley street park ($500,000); Sweetwater Reservoir fishing access ($750,000); Valhalla High School library ($2 million); San Diego water-recycling project ($1.75 million); San Diego athletic field ($100,000); Tijuana River Valley ballpark ($70,000); children's dental-health program ($2 million); and San Diego maritime museum ($500,000) ... A female skydiving instructor from San Diego was busted by local police in Antioch near San Francisco after she jumped from a 500,000-volt transmission tower and her chute got tangled in power lines, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. It took several hours to rescue Bonnie Dutile as she dangled about 100 feet from the ground. -- M.P.

Contributors: James B. Kelleher, Matt Potter

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