San Diego Last year, as the invasion of Iraq wound down and President George W. Bush and his party flew into Coronado for his well-remembered "Mission Accomplished" speech aboard the carrier Abraham Lincoln, county politicos rushed to tie a giant yellow ribbon and bow around the central tower of the county administration building on Harbor Drive. "We want this to be the first thing that they see," county supervisor Dianne Jacob told reporters. "We're sending a very strong message that we love you, we appreciate you, and thank you for your service to our country." Her colleague Greg Cox added that he had told the president about the ribbon, paid for by a $15,000 donation from the Sycuan Casino, during a brief conversation after his arrival at North Island. "He said he thought it was a great effort," Cox was quoted as saying. "He appreciated that." In order to get a crane in time for Bush's arrival, contractor Tom Flynn told the Union-Tribune, a little pressure had to be applied. "It was something along the lines of, 'Oh, no problem. We'll just call the White House and have them tell the president we can't get the bow up in time, and he'll be disappointed.' They said, 'Okay, okay.' " Ever since, the ribbon has remained tied to the building, but more passersby are complaining that it needs to be cleaned up or replaced. "It's extremely dirty and weather-worn," observes one county worker who looks up at the decoration every day on the way to work. "It's not really yellow anymore. More like dirty gray or sickening green or black-streaked something else. Not a very patriotic way to honor our troops." Calls to various county offices regarding the ribbon's derelict condition went unreturned as of press time.
Black's mark San Diego's city library commission has been hit by some political fallout from the mayor's race. Laurie Black, an active Democrat who is a Kerry delegate at this summer's national convention in Boston, has reportedly received word she won't be reappointed by Mayor Dick Murphy to another four-year term. City- hall insiders say it has something to do with the Murphy camp's pique over Black's endorsement of retired banker Peter Q. Davis over Murphy during March's mayoral primary campaign. The fate of another Davis supporter, Mary Ann Pintar, an ex-aide to former mayor Susan Golding, is also hanging in the balance ... San Diego's ethics commission wants to stop using the legal services of the city attorney's office and instead hire outside counsel. Skeptics note that the move coincides with the impending departure of city attorney Casey Gwinn and the possible election of Michael Aguirre, viewed as not so friendly to the downtown establishment, as his successor. Three years ago, when civic watchdog Mel Shapiro urged that an independent attorney be hired, the powers that be were opposed. "Gwinn's Public Integrity Section has not done its job -- that's why we need an ethics commission." Responded Gwinn in an e-mail to Shapiro: "The fact that we did not file charges against a councilmember should not cause you to attack the character of my staff members." Meanwhile, city officials say they will soon begin requiring electronic filing of campaign finance disclosure information.
Shrinkage Look for another round of fireworks at next week's San Diego school district board meeting as superintendent Alan Bersin attempts to shutter more of the district's schools. "Historic and forecasted enrollment decline, particularly at the elementary level, has led to a situation where there is a potential to close a number of small elementary schools," says a Bersin briefing for the June 8 meeting. "Concurrently the district is experiencing a shortfall in its unrestricted budget. Closure of small schools would allow the redirection of unrestricted funding to other district needs." Downsides of the move, according to the report, include $60,000 per school in teacher relocation costs and the accelerated flight of students from the district's remaining schools. That would happen "if families from closed schools choose charter, private, or out-of-district schools rather than transfer to their new neighborhood school." The memo attributes the enrollment fall-off -- almost 6000 kindergarten through fifth-grade students in this school year alone -- to a "decline in births" since the "early-mid 1990s" and "more recently [to] significant increases in the area housing costs." In choosing the schools to close, the report says, such criteria as "enrollment trends" and "site characteristics" -- including whether the school is close to freeways, "high-pressure underground gas lines" or "known fault lines or former landfills" -- were used. "Initial closure recommendations" for the school year beginning in 2005 include Rolando Park Elementary, Crown Point Elementary, and Barnard Elementary in Point Loma. If Rolando Park is closed, the report concludes, families may "choose to enroll in the nearby Rolando Elementary School in the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District rather than continue in a district school located farther away (Carver, Clay) or with lower achievement levels (Darnall charter)." Each school closed saves the district $360,000 a year, the report concludes, and money might even be made by turning the sites over to local real estate developers for commercial uses.
-- Matt Potter