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— With the city's finances in tatters, the Union-Tribune has lately been talking up the idea of raising taxes. In a lengthy front-page story a week ago Sunday, headlined "America's cheapest city," the newspaper set forth its case. "Despite their repugnance for higher taxes, residents and city leaders have long had a passion for pricey programs," the story declared, citing the "new downtown ballpark" as an example. "And with each new program, there has been no new revenue source to pay for it," the story pointed out. "The bottom line: San Diegans can blame themselves, in part, for today's financial chaos."

But maybe the U-T shouldn't be hard on its readers, since for years the paper has told them that the huge ballpark subsidy paid to megamillionaire Padres owner John Moores wouldn't require new taxes. One example is an editorial dated February 5, 2001, in which the U-T , long a cheerleader for public spending to benefit the Padres and Chargers, wrote: "Some council members have questioned whether the city can afford its $225 million contribution to the ballpark's construction. The short answer is, of course it can." The editorial went on to repeat what for it was a familiar mantra: that the ballpark would be a great economic engine, financed not by locals but by hotel taxes paid by tourists, as well as real estate taxes on new Moores developments surrounding the park. "Annual financing costs on the ballpark bonds are estimated at about $25 million, and they may be even less because of looming cuts in interest rates. What's more, redevelopment taxes in the ballpark district are running higher than anticipated and can help close any gap in hotel tax revenues." Critics of the subsidy, like ex-councilman Bruce Henderson , were routinely derided by the U-T as "obstructionists." Moores later gave the paper inside dibs on two multimillion-dollar condominium suites in the top stories of the ballpark's Omni Hotel, developed with the aid of city taxpayers, a fact also omitted from last week's tax-raising story.

Unplugged The longtime head of the City of San Diego's cable television operation and founding manager of its cable TV channel has left his job over unspecified "personnel issues." Reached at home by phone, ex-city cable administrator Mark Jaffee , an "at will" employee who served at the pleasure of city manager Lamont Ewell , confirmed that he had been relieved of his duties without cause and given no reason for his dismissal. Some city hall insiders suggest that Jaffee's departure may have been related to watchdog Mel Shapiro 's call for the city-operated cable channel to televise a series of debates between mayoral candidates Jerry Sanders and Donna Frye. According to that theory, Jaffee was in favor of the debates, but city hall higher-ups like Ewell nixed the idea and got rid of Jaffee in the bargain. Others point to an earlier contretemps about whether city attorney Mike Aguirre should get coverage on the city channel; that idea was also vetoed. In addition to running the cable channel, Jaffee processed citizens' complaints and handled other cable regulatory matters. He says he is currently mulling employment options. His supporters say it's possible that whoever is elected mayor in November will rehire him. City officials declined comment.

Cartoonish Two former San Diego political cartoonists now living in the region devastated by Hurricane Katrina had radically different takes on the disaster last week. J.D. Crowe , who drew for the Evening Tribune and then the Reader before taking a job at the daily Mobile Register in Alabama, offered a caricature of a befuddled George Bush standing under a line reading, "He's relaxed, well-rested, and almost four days late. He's our national disaster president," with Bush saying, "I got here the minute I found out...my vacation was over." On the other hand, Steve Kelly, fired by the Union-Tribune after a spat with editorial chief Bob Kittle following a spate of bad ink about Kelly's fathering an out-of-wedlock child with the widow of Hotel del Coronado mogul M. Larry Lawrence, was less than sympathetic to the locals. Now working for the New Orleans Times-Picayune -- which managed to publish via the Web during the peak of the disaster -- Kelly pictured a wife reading a newspaper to her husband about post-Katrina unrest in the Big Easy. She tells him, "They're shooting each other in New Orleans." He replies, "So things are getting back to normal..." Another Kelly cartoon featured an alligator swimming down a New Orleans street, telling a nearby snake, "The looters scare me."... The executive board of the San Diego city Firefighters Union, Local 145, has voted to boycott the Union-Tribune "and encourage its members and Fire Department fire stations to discontinue subscriptions to the newspaper," according to a recent posting on the union's website. "Citing the numerous articles and editorials over the past year that contained misinformation, a distortion of facts and subjective reporting and editorializing, members of the L145 executive board have called for an end to patronage of the daily paper."

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