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— That strange deal locking the Union-Tribune and San Diego State University together in creating a "forum for civic engagement and journalism" is raising eyebrows among longtime observers of the city's political scene. As described by the newspaper's Richard Louv in a column last April, the idea was cooked up by ex-city planner Mike Stepner. "He sees it as a coalition of public agencies, faith-based institutions, service clubs, business leaders, and individual members," wrote Louv. "He hopes to jump-start Envision San Diego with a public forum about the region's future, and invite leaders from other cities who have created their own citizens' leagues." Actually, Louv himself first surfaced the idea in a March column, calling it "an immodest proposal" and going on to describe examples of what he had in mind: "In at least a dozen states, powerful state or regional common-cause citizens' leagues offer guidance and counterweight to corporate-financed public officials. These public groups exist between politics and profit, beyond government or business." But as finally realized by SDSU and the U-T, the Envision steering committee is jam-packed with government and corporate insiders including San Diego chamber head Jessie Knight; Convention and Visitors bureau honcho Reint Reinders; Economic Development Corporation president Julie Meier Wright (Stepner's boss); North County Times editor Kent Davy; San Diego magazine editor Tom Blair; Sempra Energy flack Molly Cartmill; SBC V.P. John Hull; Qualcomm's Daniel Sullivan; Community College district chancellor Augie Gallego; and the U-T's Louv himself. Co-chairs include the City of San Diego's chief lobbyist Andrew Poat, along with SDSU dean Joyce Gattas and KPBS general manager Doug Myrland. "Ex-officio" members include Jeffrey Wergeles, KPBS's "director of gifts and grants." Conspicuously absent are delegates from the likes of the Sierra Club, anti-tax groups, urban-planning committees, or any of the city's other pesky establishment critics. But whatever Envision's shortcomings, they most likely won't be reported in the U-T, which has promised a barrage of favorable coverage of the group's broadcasts and forums. The paper's Neil Morgan has already launched a Stephen Weber lovefest, calling the SDSU president "the founding father" of Envision and "a wise philosopher who has been steadfast in urging this region to aim higher." He added, "San Diegans will readily become involved in civic decisions through neighborhood discussions if the issues are brought to them fairly by neutral sources."

Bankable influence National City mayor Nick Inzunza, brother of indicted San Diego city councilman Ralph Inzunza, has amended his statement of economic interest to reveal a raft of low-income multifamily units he and wife Olga own within his brother's council district in the city of San Diego. The real estate is over the line from adjacent National City. Apparently reacting to a quiet investigation launched by the district attorney in response to a citizen's complaint, Inzunza also reported he owned as much as $100,000 worth of newly formed Chula Vista-based Seacoast Commerce Bank, where he is on the board along with his old mentor, county supervisor Greg Cox, and Filippi's restaurant chain owner Robert De Phillipis. Inzunza's prior disclosure form listed no reportable assets.

Not so lone rangers Now that the Supreme Court has upheld the law against soft money from corporations and unions, individual hard-money donors, limited to $2000 each, are in big demand. To the dismay of Democrats, most of them seem to be Republican. And that has made places like La Jolla some of the GOP's top hunting grounds. Three of President George Bush's 100 campaign "Rangers"-- those who have reportedly raised at least $200,000 in $2000 contributions -- have San Diego ties: La Jolla developer Ken Satterlee, Bush's fellow Yalie Buzz duPont, and Chargers owner Alex Spanos, who lives in Stockton. Many more La Jollans are down for the $2000 maximum, including Alex's son Dean Spanos and wife as well as their sons Alex II and John. But not all La Jollans favor the GOP. Democratic senator John Kerry got the max from Susan Anson, wife of intellectual-property guru Weston Anson. Del Mar Fair board member Lisa Barkett gave $2000 to both Congressman Dick Gephardt and Kerry, as did her husband William, a financier and a longtime backer of former governor Gray Davis. Attorney Roy Bell, husband of U-T gossip columnist Diane Bell, sent a check to Florida's Bob Graham. Attorney Diane Blumenthal backed Senator John Edwards. San Diego sports establishment icon Bob Breitbard -- Hoover High Class of '37 -- kicked in for Senator Joe Lieberman. Reached at his La Jolla home last week, Republican Breitbard, a close friend and backer of ex-GOP governor Pete Wilson, explained, "They had their campaign event down at the Hall of Champions, and they asked me to write them a check, so I did." Former L.A. Times writer Barbara Bry, ex-wife of Democratic coastal commissioner Patrick Kruer, maxed out to ex-general Wesley Clark. Current frontrunner Howard Dean has so far reported no maximum contributions from La Jolla.

-- Matt Potter

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