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— Just before the San Diego City Council narrowly voted to raise water rates during a bitter debate in April, Larry Gardner, the city's water utilities director, suffered a heart attack. He's now convalescing at home and is expected to be back at his desk sometime next month ...While the hometown Union-Tribune plays up the wonders of the proposed water deal between San Diego and Imperial Valley farmers, the Sacramento Bee is editorializing against the arrangement. "The desert farmers of the Imperial Valley have a chance to resell some of the West's cheapest water to thirsty San Diego at a markup that is best described as obscene," opined the Bee last Sunday. One of the biggest victims of the transfer would be the Salton Sea, which the paper noted would starve for water. The Bee reported that when U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein attempted to intervene in the matter, Imperial Irrigation District director Bruce Kuhn responded thusly: "The federal government may make a grab for the water, but they're not going to do it without getting the crap sued out of them. I would expect nothing less from Feinstein, being the bureaucratic gasbag, pig-eyed sack of crap that she is...." The editorial concluded: "Until the farmers of the Imperial Valley accept the limited downsides to this incredible water deal, they are their own worst enemies."

Chargers math Listeners note that members of the Editors' Roundtable on KPBS, the public TV and radio operation owned and operated by San Diego State University, have been less than harsh with Alex Spanos and his plea for a new stadium as the prime condition for keeping the Chargers in town. Others note that the chairman of the university's "Campanile Foundation," which has funded a new official residence for SDSU president Stephen Weber, is chaired by none other than Ron Fowler, a big Spanos backer whose Liquid Investments owns the local Miller beer franchise and has a lucrative deal to sell booze at Chargers games ... Spanos and his son Dean handed out scholarships last week at a lavish dinner for their nonprofit Chargers Charities foundation. Keynote speaker was former vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp, and copies of that new glowingly ghostwritten Spanos autobiography were handed out to guests. How much did the $250-a-plate dinner actually raise? The figures won't be public until the foundation files its tax return next year. But according to the group's 2000 return, the most recent available through the state's department of charitable trusts, the 1999 "fundraising" dinner brought in $5500 and cost the foundation $16,700, for a loss of $11,204.

Excuses, excuses San Diego city councilman Jim Madaffer has posted an explanation on his website about his January run-in with a median sign near University Towne Centre. Instead of reporting the incident to cops, he waited 36 hours and called the city street division. Cops traced him by the license plate that had been knocked off his car during the encounter. According to the website: "Evidence of other vehicles impacting the same median is quite clear indicating this is not an isolated incident" and "Councilmember Scott Peters (the intersection is in his district) has referred the intersection to the City Manager for review and to correct the defects that presently exist with the intersection" and "Councilmember Madaffer has a perfect driving record with no accidents and no tickets of any kind." ... Meanwhile, ex-Charger Ernie Wright, a big Madaffer campaign-backer who had his own license lifted when he declined a breath test after a traffic stop, has been appointed to the city's library commission by Mayor Dick Murphy.

Of priests and patents Vanity Fair writer Maureen Orth, whose best-selling chronicle of gay killer Andrew Cunanan gave national exposure to Hillcrest lifestyles and Union-Tribune publisher David Copley, is reported to be working on a story about Paul Shanley, the accused pedophile priest who settled in Hillcrest and began working as a police volunteer, among other pursuits ... The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation of the University of Wisconsin is opening a "technology transfer" office in La Jolla to sell university patents to the local biotech business, reports the Capital Times of Madison. "We have an awful lot of very good technology, and we want to make sure we try every strategy to get that technology into the marketplace," WARF spokesman Andy Cohn told the paper.

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