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3:58 p.m., Feb. 19
The future of San Diego's restrictions on billboards could be determined by cash pouring into the current race for mayor, judging by campaign disclosures filed by two top contenders.
On September 19, Christopher Tavarides of Washington, D.C. based Capitol Outdoor, gave $1000 to Democratic city councilman David Alvarez, according to a disclosure filing.
The same day, John and Stephanie Polis of Washington, D.C. came up with $2000 for Republican city councilman Kevin Faulconer. Polis is also with Capitol Outdoor, according to the disclosure.
As reported here last year, Capitol Outdoor has retained Republican lobbyist Paul Robinson to influence decisions at city hall regarding "the inclusion of San Diego billboard properties in proposed San Diego Arts and Entertainment District (billboard addresses not yet available)."
The company's website says it is "in an aggressive growth stage, with an ever-expanding list of outdoor advertising markets. We now cover top-30 markets across the country and we're adding more premium real estate locations every day."
Another billboard proponent is
Though a Republican, the animosity of Sanders towards Manchester is widely known, and as mayor he did not always go out of his way to help the flamboyant developer.
Manchester is currently backing Faulconer in the mayor's race after the publisher's favored candidate Carl DeMaio decided to take a pass and remain in his congressional battle with freshman Democrat Scott Peters.
In February of last year, Manchester executive John Lynch lobbied Faulconer in an end-run around Sanders to get the huge sign approved.
Kevin...Attached, please find a design of the news crawl and iconic LED video screen.
John Hadaya and Mariana Buenrostro of San Diego's Ultrasigns will co-ordinate with your office to secure a quick approval. Please let me know if you need anything else in order to secure approval. Newspapers in general and the U-T specifically, truly need to expand to multi-media platforms if they are to survive.
Papa Doug [Manchester] and I are excited regarding the potential of the U-T.
As long time San Diegans we care about our City and want to retain significant employment and a vibrant business at the U-T. This signage is an essential part of our strategy. We appreciate your assistance in leading the way for approval. Thanks again, Kevin...John
Besides the new permanent installation, Lynch also sought to get the city to sign off on an illegal temporary banner that Manchester had already hung around the newspaper building without benefit of a permit.
Faulconer's office was welcoming. In a March 13 response to Lynch, Faulconer aide Katie Hansen wrote:
"Councilmember Faulconer asked me to follow up with you regarding the proposed news crawl and LED video screen for the UT.
"As the Councilmember's Chief of Staff, I will be handling this issue personally and am working directly with the Mayor's office to schedule a meeting to discuss the City approval process.
"I have spoken to your assistant and she is holding two dates and times on your calendar. As soon as the meeting is confirmed I will follow up with her.
"I have copied the Councilmember on this email so you can have his personal email address."
"Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions on my personal cell phone..."
Then, after conferring with mayoral and city staffers, Hansen emailed Lynch again:
Code Compliance has received several complaints from the public about the banner on the UT building. A warning letter has been issued asking for the banner to be removed within a 10 day-time period. After the 10 day-time period expires, a citation letter will be issued with a fine if the banner is not removed.
The City does not have a variance process in the sign ordinance that would allow the UT to display the banner while exploring the digital sign process. I would recommend removing the banner to avoid a fine being issued by Code Compliance.
Councilmember Faulconer is out of town at the moment. He would like to set up a time to discuss the next steps for your digital electronic sign when he returns. Would you prefer to schedule an in person meeting or a phone call?
Lynch responded with a not-so-veiled threat of future expose:
Katie, I have instructed that the banner to be taken down.
If it weren't for the digital sign pending approval, I would instruct our folks to run a piece on how this is so reflective of this city being anti-business. We are fighting to keep this business vital and if it were ever to go away, there would be 700 San Diego jobs that go with it...John.
Capitol Outdoor's contract lobbyist Robinson also works for Manchester and his fellow developer, Irwin Molasky of Las Vegas, a friend and associate of late mobster Moe Dalitz. Both Molasky and Robinson have made major cash contributions to Faulconer.