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The bloody budget battle in Sacramento didn’t distract one local lawmaker from delivering for her establishment friends in San Diego. On February 11, Democrat Christine Kehoe quietly introduced a bill to effectively prohibit the local citizenry from having a say in the running of the tidelands around San Diego Bay. If passed, the legislation would ban local voters from conducting referendums and initiatives to change the master plan of the Unified Port of San Diego. Instead, any proposed measures would have to be circulated and voted on statewide, making the cost of gathering signatures and subsequent campaigning prohibitive. That would in effect leave sole control of the port’s destiny in the hands of its seven commissioners, three appointed by the San Diego City Council and one each by the other four cities surrounding the bay.

San Diego’s current representatives include ex–city councilman Scott Peters, a wealthy La Jollan who got the gig after his bid to become city attorney was soundly rejected by voters. Commission slots have long been regarded as plums to be awarded to campaign contributors.

The impetus for Kehoe’s legislation was Proposition B, last year’s defeated measure to build a stadium on the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal. Business and labor lobbies opposed the project, as did port commissioners, who are used to total control of the tidelands. After the election, they vowed to end the public’s right to use the initiative and referendum processes to intervene in port business. To do the job, they recruited Kehoe, who has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funding from both big labor and business. The port has also dispatched its contract lobbyist, Carpi and Clay, to lobby for the change, paying the firm a total of $19,372 during the last quarter of 2008.

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