— It didn't take long for the San Diego City Council to take political advantage of the campaign "friend-raising" opportunities provided by the council's exclusive luxury suite at the new taxpayer-financed baseball stadium. Under a deal worked out behind closed doors and never taken up at a public meeting, each councilmember gets two tickets to each game; the mayor gets four. If the councilmembers don't use them personally, they are apparently free to hand them out to anyone they want. In a letter dated April 6, La Jolla's Scott Peters tells supporters and would-be backers -- whom he calls "community leaders" in the letter -- "I'd like to invite you and a guest to come to downtown and enjoy a Padres game during their inaugural season at PETCO park. Enclosed is a copy of this year's home-game schedule. There are two tickets available for each game. Tickets will be given out on a first-come, first-served basis. Due to the likely demand for these tickets, please understand that we may run out of tickets without satisfying everyone's request. Please include a first, second, and third choice selection for the games you wish to attend. We will try to accommodate one of your requests." Peters goes on to say, "The tickets are free; however a food and beverage service is provided at a cost of $15 per person. If you do not wish to partake of the buffet, you are free to purchase food from concession stands. I am grateful for your hard work as a community leader. Please accept this offer as a token of appreciation for all your hard work. Thanks again, and Go Padres!" According to sign-in sheets for the box (kept by the city and obtained under the state's public records act), Peters hosted at least 12 guests from opening day through April 18. The "leaders" included Stan and Barbara Siegel, who showed up on April 15. Back in July, Siegel wrote a letter to the Union-Tribune defending Peters against a recall effort: "This latest drive of a few disgruntled souls to start a recall campaign, this one directed at City Councilman Scott Peters, would result in a terrible waste of taxpayer money." (Contacted this week, Siegel said he did not wish to comment and hung up the phone.) On April 16, the sign-in sheet listed Angela Pierce, a lawyer with the juiced-in firm of Sullivan, Wertz, McDade and Wallace, which brags on its website that "Angela is adept at advancing the interests of property owners before local government agencies and the Coastal Commission." Senior partners of the firm are registered city lobbyists and have contributed heavily to Peters. (Pierce did not return phone calls seeking to confirm her presence in the box.) Major James Panknin, the "community relations representative" for the Marines at Miramar, and his daughter were also present. Chris Cameron, staffer to the council's Land Use and Housing Committee, which Peters chairs, checked in for a free game, as did Peters aide Rich Geisler. Other staffers took advantage of the free seats and discount food, provided by stadium vendor Delaware North. They included Brian Maienschein aide Angela Yager (her previous job, says the city website, "was with STAR 100.7's Jeff & Jer Showgram") and Colin Rice, a top political honcho for state senator Juan Vargas, who got a free ticket in the box from Vargas protégé Ralph Inzunza.

Just following orders The Union-Tribune has never been known for the fairness of its editorial policies; the paper frequently runs one-sided opinions on its op-ed page without giving folks on the other side of the issue a chance to respond. So it was again last week when the paper offered a lengthy op-ed piece by school-board member Katherine Nakamura personally attacking fellow members John De Beck and Frances O'Neill Zimmerman for favoring Einstein Academy, a small German-language immersion charter school, over High Tech High in a battle for use of the vacant Cleveland Elementary School site in San Carlos. High Tech High is a pet project of the wealthy Jacobs family, heirs to the Qualcomm fortune and major financial backers of Alan Bersin and his U-T-favored 3-2 majority on the school board. Neither De Beck nor Zimmerman, who often vote against Bersin's policies, was offered a chance to reply. And at least one frustrated parent voiced her opinion: "Nakamura wrote (and I don't think she wrote it alone) an editorial in Wednesday's U-T praising High Tech and denigrating Einstein as too poor and weak. The article was cleverly inaccurate and simply fawned over High Tech." Another view the U-T failed to share with its readers was provided by Zimmerman. In a letter that as of press time remained unpublished by the paper, she wrote: "Nakamura understandably would like a High Tech charter high school in her San Carlos neighborhood, so that she could end the onerous cross-town drive to La Jolla High School that she makes twice daily to transport her ninth-grade teenager. All busy parents would agree that is neither a cute or cuddly experience." She went on to note, "Until last month School Board member Edward Lopez served on High Tech High charter schools' board of directors... Although the School District legal office opined that Lopez had no conflict of interest, and he was exhorted to vote on the matter by Board members Ottinger and Nakamura, it is to Lopez's credit that he recused himself from that decision. The result was a 2-2 deadlock and the matter died."

-- Matt Potter

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