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— While Union-Tribune editorial page editor Robert Kittle is busy on KPBS radio and Cox Cable, boosting the downtown business establishment's candidates for San Diego school board and flaying their foes, reporters for the newspaper have been missing in action at a number of school-candidate forums. A common complaint comes from Jerome Orlando Torres, who notes that the paper dispatched yet another editorial opinion writer, rather than a rank-and-file journalist, to cover a big event last week. "This morning I find myself very disappointed and disheartened that the Union-Tribune did not publicize yesterday's school-board debate that was sponsored by the San Diego County Latino Coalition of Education. Other than the appearance of Robert Caldwell, I didn't see ANY U-T reporter at the event. I cannot believe the U-T would not find the issues raised and discussed as newsworthy." The bow-tied Kittle, whose newsroom fight with ex-U-T cartoonist Steve Kelly garnered national attention last year, owns -- with wife Luanne -- the Rhoades School, an expensive private elementary and middle school in Encinitas, catering to fat- cat Rancho Santa Fe parents. A year ago, Kittle and San Diego State University president Stephen Weber, who controls state-owned KPBS, showed up together at a lunch hosted at the posh downtown University Club by Malin Burnham, the real estate mogul and partner of beleaguered Padres owner and Rancho Santa Fe denizen John Moores -- all longtime allies of city-schools chief Alan Bersin. A story in the Union-Tribune dated October 21, 2001, which reported Kittle's and Weber's presence, suggested that one purpose of the meeting was to come up with ways to protect and expand the pro-establishment 3-2 school-board majority and pressure San Diego mayor Dick Murphy into endorsing board candidates favorable to the downtown real estate interests. Earlier this month, Murphy endorsed Clyde Fuller, one of the candidates backed by the group.

Murphy's lawyers The big downtown law firm of Luce, Forward, which successfully defended the San Diego City Council against a lawsuit over the Chargers' ticket guarantee, thus costing taxpayers millions of dollars, is getting another big bunch of cash from city hall, this time to defend the city's downtown real estate deal with Padres owner John Moores. According to a report to council by city attorney Casey Gwinn, Luce's original retainer fee of $60,000 has now grown to $750,000. Meanwhile, The Record, San Francisco's legal newspaper, reports that Luce's Charles Bird, who headed the pro-stadium legal battle, is busy on behalf of Annette Friskopp against erstwhile domestic partner Sharon Silverstein. Friskopp -- once a top executive at Sorrento Valley's Boatracs -- and Silverstein met at Harvard Business School. After they moved here, Silverstein agreed to have their children by artificial insemination, but the two later broke up, and Silverstein attempted to invalidate Friskopp's adoption of their child Joshua. An appeals court ruled that there was no legal basis for the adoption in the first place, setting up Bird's bid to the state Supreme Court to overturn the ruling. Advocates of Proposition 22, the initiative adopted by voters two years ago that outlaws gay marriages, have filed a brief in favor of biological mother Silverstein. "Our case is about access to the cumbersome and expensive process of second-parent adoption," Bird told the paper. "It has nothing to do with giving unmarried people any privileges that the Prop 22 people think should be available only to married couples."

Golden ruler Mayor Dick Murphy, said to already be thinking about higher office, has his aides handing out expensive-looking campaign-style bookmarks with the city seal and his top ten goals, five on each side. Color photographs illustrate each goal. And Murphy's questionnaire for those seeking his appointment to city boards and commissions includes the following: "Have you ever written any particularly controversial books or articles? If yes, please explain." ... The criminal case of Rancho Santa Fe bail bondsman Spencer Douglass up in Riverside County got more interesting last week with the latest no-contest plea of one of his employees, Michael Testi, reports the Riverside Press-Enterprise. Testi is the 8th of 13 defendants to cop a plea to charges relating to allegations that the bail-bonds company owned by Douglass paid gratuities to various inmates who drummed up business while behind bars. Douglass, the biggest principal charged in the felony case, is due back in court later this month, the paper says.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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