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City councilman Juan Vargas is pulling out the stops in his effort to get elected to the state assembly seat now held by soon-to-be-termed-out Denise Ducheny. To raise funds for the effort, Vargas is putting the squeeze on the familiar bunch of city-hall moneybags with whom he's worked through the years. According to campaign finance statements filed last week, Bahia Sternwheelers, whose president Grace Cherashore is a member of the powerful Evans family, who owns the Bahia Hotel that sits on land leased from the city, anted up $4750. Vargas is a longtime ally of the Evans family and their hotel operations, voting on their behalf during controversies over the Bahia's expansion plans. Arrow Market on Imperial Avenue in Logan Heights, which records show is owned by George and Hermiz Halbo, gave $5000. The Halbo family received a large sum from the city when they sold the site of their old market earlier this year for use as part of a new police station complex. Unlike downtown property owners threatened with condemnation to make way for the new Padres baseball stadium, the Halbos were allowed by the city council to negotiate the terms of the sale. Other big-money donors to Vargas included the Black Mountain Ranch Limited Partnership ($5000), which is developing houses in the so-called Future Urbanizing Area; Stanley Foster, wealthy father-in-law of San Diego Unified school superintendent Alan Bersin and owner of large real estate holdings downtown and on Otay Mesa ($1000); Michael Freedman, community development manager of Casa Familiar, a San Ysidro charity that's been lobbying hard for construction of Sam Marasco's controversial Border Gateway project ($500); Otay Project, L.P., owner of huge tracts of land in Otay ($5000); Padres co-owner Larry Lucchino ($1000); and car dealers Norm Erb ($500), Greg Adams ($500), and John Hine ($500), as well as car-dealer lobbyist Janay Kruger ($500). In July, Vargas voted in favor of an enormous sign to be built by the Mission Valley car dealers. Although planners said the 1500-square-foot structure would violate state and city billboard laws, Vargas announced, "This is a sign we can be proud of."

Escaping the Zoo

The director of a troubled zoo in Washington state has quit to take a new job as manager of the biosystems division at San Diego's Science Applications International. Tom Otten, director of Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma, told the Tacoma News-Tribune that persistent criticism of his management style had nothing to do with his leaving and that he will be making a "bit more" at SAIC than his current $80,000 salary. Otten told the paper his new job involves working with "zoos and aquariums to improve educational programs through technology."... The San Diego Roman Catholic Diocese has contributed $35,072 to a proposed statewide ballot measure that would ban gay marriages, according to the San Francisco Examiner. The initiative, sponsored by Republican state senator William J. "Pete" , has picked up a total of $310,000 from 8 of the state's 12 Catholic dioceses, the paper reports, along with more than $3.8 million from members of the Mormon church.

Copley's Tour

A former professor of art at San Diego State University has been busted in New Mexico for alleged child molesting. Forty-eight-year-old Mark Rendleman, who has a house in Santa Fe, is charged with taking nude photos and videos of three children, and cops claim they found guns and a collection of "sexually oriented art" in a maze of tunnels in the mountain behind his home, reports the Santa Fe New Mexican ... The Copley Press, owner of the Union-Tribune, was one of seven bidders for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette in Massachusetts, and agents for the company recently toured the paper's plant, reports the Boston Globe. The winning bidder was the New York Times, which last week paid close to $300 million ... A misdemeanor bench warrant for ex-San Diego city councilman and perennial candidate Mike Schaeffer, now running for district attorney in San Francisco, has been issued by a judge in Las Vegas, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Schaeffer is charged with harassing a 70-year-old tenant of one of his condominiums.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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