— In the aftermath of a student walkout sponsored by disgruntled parents last December at Johnson Elementary School, ex-San Diego Unified School District board member Shirley Weber has bagged a retroactive $10,000 "consulting" contract from the district. Grievances centered on the controversial educational reforms promoted by superintendent Alan Bersin. "In an effort to thwart the walkout, we worked through the weekend to identify and solicit support from key community members in helping us address these issues," according to a recent memo from district administrator Angela Bass. "Dr. Weber was one of the initial people we contacted to help us lead and support the community during this crisis." After the walkout, the memo says, a meeting was held and Weber, chairwoman of the African-American studies department at San Diego State, was informally retained to sooth the troubled parents. "Dr. Weber was in attendance on this night, and I considered Dr. Weber an ideal candidate to act as a third party to facilitate the entire process. Given the volatile nature of the situation, there was not sufficient time to follow the normal procedures for establishing a contract for Dr. Weber. Further, until we had conducted several meetings, we were unsure what Dr. Weber's scope of work would be. Now, after meeting with the Parent Task Force several times, we are better able to describe and delineate the duties of Dr. Weber and therefore have brought forward the contract for approval." ... Faced with a local low-income-housing crisis of mounting proportions, San Diego's top public housing executive, Betsy Morris, has hit the road. According to recently released records, Morris has traveled to a housing convention in Nashville ($2007.52); a "Women's Caucus" in Washington, D.C. ($2705.25); and a "Legislative Conference," also in D.C. ($2123.38), among other junkets. Other housing agency execs are listed as going to a "Process Improvement Workshop" in D.C. ($2296.26); a "Business Process Analysis" meeting in Los Angeles ($2574.96); a "Reinventing Affordable Housing" session in L.A. ($1409); and a "National Alliance to End Homelessness" convention in D.C. ($1817.14). The grand total cost of "Out of Town Travel and Training" for the fiscal year ending last June: $91,500.

McGrory's folly, part II? Word's out that ex-San Diego city manager Jack McGrory (on whose watch the Chargers' ticket guarantee and troubled Qualcomm Stadium expansion deal got done) may be trying to shut down city-owned Montgomery Field and build condos there, and it's getting a poor reception from aviators. As reported by the Daily Transcript, McGrory and his boss, developer and financier Sol Price, along with downtown real estate mogul Malin Burnham, partner of Padres owner John Moores, are meeting with chamber of commerce CEO Jessie Knight to explore ways to grab the public property for private development. That's not such a good idea, says John King, a respected dean of local fliers who runs King Schools, an aviation training outfit. "There would be huge economic and social loss to the community if they ever closed down that airport," says King. "Sure, they think there's a lot of money to be made by certain developers by trying to take over a public airport, and that's not at all uncommon for them to covet that land. But there is over $200 million worth of aircraft based there and many businesses located there. I understand why they covet it, but it's part of San Diego's vital transportation infrastructure, and in the end I don't think it's going to happen."

Horse's mouth There's a small story behind that horse named San Diego, a 14-year-old dark bay gelding that recently turned up safe and more or less sound in a Palm Beach County, Florida, stable after being allegedly kidnapped and abused by Cathy Crighton, 44, a troubled Chicago veterinarian. It turns out that San Diego's owner is Washington lobbyist Bob Manafort, whose hobby is raising horses in Virginia. Manafort, a close associate of late Republican mega-consultant Lee Atwater, was presidential nominee Bob Dole's manager at the GOP's San Diego convention in 1996 ... Democratic state assemblyman Juan Vargas has signed up with a group calling itself the "Democratic Moderate Caucus," which recently threw a $1500-a-head fundraiser at the home of David Townsend, political consultant and confidant to Governor Gray Davis. Other caucus members include Ron Calderon, Ed Chavez, Rebecca Cohn, and George Nakano ... After selling out in the nation's capital, the Federal Election Commission is encouraging those who want to attend one of its "compliance" seminars, popular in light of the new McCain-Feingold campaign law, to set their sights on the event in San Diego, set for October 28 and 29 at the Hyatt Regency Islandia.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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