San Diego Air war With San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders's privatization and pension-reform measures barreling through the city council, November 2006 is shaping up as one of the busiest ballot seasons in memory. Adding to the lucre for Sanders political guru Tom Shepard and the usual consultants, spinmeisters, and opposition researchers will be the campaign for the regional airport authority's proposition to move the airport from Lindbergh Field.
Already, well-heeled pressure groups are meeting to plot their strategy and tactics. Number one among them is an outfit called ASAP21, whose president, John Chalker, is a downtown financier with close ties to the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, which insiders say desperately wants to see the airport moved to Miramar despite Pentagon opposition. The group, it is said, hopes to raise more than a million dollars from developers like the McMillin Companies and contractors such as Doug Barnhart to wage an aggressive autumn campaign in favor of the relocation and possible joint civilian use of Miramar. In that scenario, once the airport is moved, its current site -- adjacent to McMillin's Liberty Station -- could be redeveloped as pricey condos, hotels, and office towers.
According to minutes from an ASAP21 board meeting held in late October, attended by chamber head Jessie Knight and Regional Economic Development Corporation honcho Julie Meier Wright, the group is ramping up an ambitious lobbying agenda. "Board members discussed that ASAP21 does not have any credibility with the military. Therefore, we should identify people who are influential to reach out to them (e.g. Malin Burnham; Congressman Darrell Issa)," the document says. "It was suggested to start a web site search on remarks elected officials have made about airport issues, then target their political supporters. There were mixed feelings as to whether we should pursue this. Defense contractors will remain non-committal because of their clientele." A "future actions" list included lining up " 'thought leaders' who are important to elected officials" and having "a private conversation with the Airport Authority regarding the Joint Use issue ('shared infrastructure' may be a better terminology in the ballot language than 'joint use').... MJE Marketing will prepare a proposal for conducting the above mentioned research since this is beyond the capabilities of our volunteers due to the time and effort involved in collecting the information." MJE is run by Marlee Ehrenfeld, who also has a juicy marketing contract with the airport authority.
Revolving doors As Jerry Sanders settles into his big chair on the 11th floor at city hall, he's rapidly adding to his staff. Newcomers include press-office assistant Kevin H. Klein and business-office director Rickie Reynolds, who worked for Sanders honcho Ronne Froman when she was an aide to then-city schools chief Alan Bersin. The latest arrival: policy advisor Lisa Briggs, who left her position as head of the pro-business San Diego County Taxpayers Association last September to take a job as a government affairs manager for SDG&E. ... Yet another round of legal bills was paid this month by San Diego taxpayers as a result of the Cheetahs strippergate scandal. The firm of McKenna Long & Aldridge billed the City $2546 for counseling Inzunza deputy chief of staff Jamie Fox Rice as she prepared for grand jury testimony in June 2003. (Fox is moving over to the staff of new GOP councilman Kevin Faulconer.) Inzunza aide Patrick Schott, who was picked up on wiretaps gabbing with convicted Cheetahs lobbyist Lance Malone, ran up a $2940 bill. Unlike recently released city council legal bills, the staff invoices were unredacted and included hourly charges for such activities as talking to federal prosecutors and grand jury schedulers. ... After the arrest last month of city Water Department employee Jacqueline Annette Lawrence for stealing personal information about customers and using it to finance Internet shopping sprees, Jerry Sanders sprung into action and hired a consultant to "assess training and customer service needs in response to identity theft issue, and support disclosure effort." For an estimated $6500, the San Diego-based Identity Theft Resource Center agreed to "edit mail-out letter" and "edit customer service representatives' script," as well as to provide training for a total of 50 water workers and "review website for content."
Spreading the wealth Here are just a few of the latest reported freebies to California legislators, regulators, and staffers courtesy of Sempra Energy: on December 28, Democratic senator Alan Lowenthal played a few rounds at Carlsbad's Aviara Golf Club ($205); in October, GOP assemblyman George Plescia went to a Chargers game ($58); also in October, California Energy Commissioner John Geesman got a free lunch at the Prado in Balboa Park ($33.33); and in December, Juan Torres, chief of staff to Assemblyman Hector De La Torre, chowed down at a Lakers game at the Staples Center in L.A. ($138). ... Indicted Democratic political guru Larry Remer managed to see some action during November's election. Filings with the California secretary of state show that his PG Printing and Graphics picked up $73,528 from the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council's Committee on Political Education. His Primacy Group earned another $130,731 for TV spots and phone banking. Meanwhile, Cornerstone Strategies, the political and lobbying outfit run by ex-Steve Peace aide Art Castanares, got $34,021 from COPE for creating TV spots and direct-mail letters.