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— How much does it cost state taxpayers to lure administrators to UCSD's La Jolla hilltop campus by the sea? Plenty. Latest example is Edward W. Holmes, new vice-chancellor of health sciences and dean of the UCSD School of Medicine, who is getting a "base" salary of $300,000, according to a university news release. Holmes is also "eligible to earn an extra $135,000 as a member of the health sciences compensation plan, for total compensation of $435,000." But that's not all. "Holmes will also be eligible to earn additional non-base building incentive pay of up to 20 percent of annual base salary to be awarded annually based on meeting performance objectives." And there's more. He's also "authorized a $75,000 relocation allowance to help offset the housing deferential and other costs associated with relocating from Duke University" to La Jolla. Mark H. Thiemans, dean of UCSD's division of physical sciences, didn't fare quite as well. He only gets $196,800. And Clifford Graves, an ex-San Diegan whose tenure as the county's chief administrative officer a decade ago was marked by controversy that cost him his job, is picking up $174,000 as UC's vice chancellor for physical planning at the system's new Merced campus.

Sharp downgrade

A hospital chain here is facing a serious financial crunch. Last week Standard & Poor's downgraded its rating of $112 million worth of so-called "certificates of participation" -- essentially revenue bonds -- issued through the county by Sharp Healthcare. The debt rating plunged from A to BBB-plus, due, said S&P, to "poor liquidity, a weak balance sheet, and increased business risks associated with all hospital operations in California." The rating service reported that "financial operations were negative," according to S&P analyst Terry Goode. The rating downgrade couldn't come at a worse time for Sharp, which soon expects to sell $80 million in debt to raise cash for expansion of Sharp Memorial, the chain's flagship hospital and largest facility. Sharp runs seven hospitals, three medical groups, and a health plan. A Sharp spokesman said, "We're disappointed, but we're also optimistic that we'll be upgraded. We have a very capable management team, and we're right in the middle of a five-year capital campaign. This is a growing area, and demand for our services is going to increase."

Just plain Joe

Democratic V.P. pick Senator Joseph Lieberman has at least one high-flying San Diego friend. None other than Padres owner John Moores is one of the biggest donors to the Lieberman-run, tax-exempt Democratic Leadership Council, which last year raised about $4 million from big corporations and wealthy executives, some of whom have borne the brunt of criticism from Lieberman's running mate, Al Gore. In addition to Moores, tobacco giants R.J. Reynolds and Phillip Morris have kicked in ... JMI Equity Fund, the venture capital operation run by Moores, has invested in yet another computer venture. This time it's an outfit called Qiave Technology Corp., based in Massachusetts. "We needed to find a partner that had more than just money; we needed smart money," a company press release reported.

Care and feeding of Steve Peace

State Senator Steve Peace, the architect of legislation that cut loose San Diego power rates this summer, has lately been bashing big utilities. Last year, though, he accepted hundreds of dollars in gifts from the state's utility lobby. Peace was a regular at the table of Sempra Energy, parent of SDG&E. At least once a month, and usually twice, he consumed food and beverages worth between $30.84 (in April) and $59.64 (in September). According to his financial report, Peace reimbursed the giant utility for the tabs "after 30 days." Pacific Gas and Electric, another big California utility, paid $66.83 for Peace's food and drink on June 23. In all, PG&E shelled out $116.14, of which $16.25 was reimbursed "after 30 days," according to the report. Peace also saw action on the golf course, thanks to the utilities. San Diego's NRG Energy contributed $195 in "golf fees" on August 9, and Southern California Edison kicked in $110 in May. Peace's report says he reimbursed Edison for the golf treat "after 30 days."

Contributor: Matt Potter

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