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— When Richard Perle decided to step down last week as chairman of the Pentagon's influential Defense Policy Advisory Board, the move drew fresh attention to the shadowy organization. It turns out that two members of the unpaid commission have close ties to San Diego. Harold Brown, 74, a physicist, ex-Cal Tech president, and onetime defense secretary to President Jimmy Carter, lives in tony Rancho Santa Fe. He has been on the boards of some of America's biggest defense contractors, including La Jolla's General Atomics, maker of the CIA's Predator battlefield drone, as well as the executive committee of the notorious Trilateral Commission. Brown is currently a partner in Warbug Pincus, the investment banker, and on the board of Altria (formerly Phillip Morris), the tobacco giant. He also sits on the board of Evergreen Holdings, a large, privately held chemical trucking and recycling company. The other local member of the defense policy board is ex-governor Pete Wilson, 69, who got his start as a San Diego state assemblyman, and then mayor, back in the 1970s. Wilson, who did a stretch as a peacetime infantry officer in the U.S. Marines and served eight years as a U.S. senator before his gubernatorial gig, also occupies various corporate board seats, including one at NIC, Inc., an outfit providing online contracting services to government, and the Irvine Company, owned by his close pal, wealthy Republican donor Don Bren. Wilson's wife Gayle, heiress to a Phoenix bread-making fortune, is a Cal Tech trustee, member of the Jet Propulsion Lab committee, and on the board of drug maker Gilead Science. Perle abdicated as chairman of the policy board after it was revealed he lobbied the federal government on behalf of the now-bankrupt Global Crossing, which is seeking approval to be sold to a Hong Kong conglomerate ... North County Republican Darrell Issa, who stirred up a fuss last week after suggesting Qualcomm, not the Europeans, should get the deal to supply cell-phone technology in postwar Iraq, got $5500 in campaign contributions from the cellular giant in the last election cycle. But it was only his second-largest contribution. Intel was first with $6000.

Cafeteria style Back in the spring of 1999, one of the hottest controversies before the San Diego Unified School District board was whether to condemn a 20.56-acre parcel on Kearny Mesa to build a "food services" center. Lawyers for the owner of the property were from the same law firm as school-board candidate Julie Dubick, a favorite of district superintendent Alan Bersin, and suspicions were that a sweetheart deal was in the making. Over the objections of Dubick's rival Frances Zimmerman, the board voted 4-1 to take the property, at a cost of $18.8 million, plus $230,000 in brokerage fees. Now comes news that the district doesn't really need the land after all and has hired an appraiser to set a value for it. Then the district will move to lease out the property for private development. Meanwhile, bucking a statewide tide of outlawing soft drinks in school vending machines, the school board has approved an exclusive deal with Coke and Pepsi to sell their wares on campuses.

Shifting sands District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis is making changes. Veteran prosecutor Dave Stutz, who as an IRS investigator back in the Nixon Administration played a big part in the downfall of C. Arnholt Smith (once named "Mr. San Diego of the Century"), is assuming charge of the D.A.'s ethics and political reform efforts. Meanwhile, David Rubin is taking over the hate-crimes section. His predecessor Hector Jimenez is heading north to the D.A.'s Vista division ... For flag-waving San Diego, it was a bit of a difference. Tractor-trailer trucks dropping off construction goods this week at a downtown condo project being built by Nat Bosa, the developer from Vancouver, British Columbia, bore large signs reading "100 percent Canadian owned," flanked by two proudly waving Canadian maple leaf flags ... Larry Smarr, head of UCSD's Institute of Telecommunications and Information Technology, is also a member of NASA's advisory council. Last week he blasted the space agency for thinking too small in its proposal of a four-person space plane and expendable rocket to replace the aging Space Shuttle fleet. "It just seems like NASA is drifting into a very good life-extension program as an agency. We've got to get some vision back to this agency." ... Neon Systems, the troubled Texas software outfit, is having a rough time of it these days. Earlier this month Neon announced that it was laying off 26 percent of its work force. Company stock, which fallen city councilwoman Valerie Stallings once made a small killing on, thanks to an inside tip from Padres owner and Neon founder John Moores, is now down to $2 a share, from a high of about $60 back in the spring of 1999.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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