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— The San Diego City Council is getting ready to fire up its heavy-spending machine again. On March 15, the council is quietly planning to sell another $327.5 million worth of sewer bonds, on top of the $818.8 million already outstanding. That's a total of $1.14 billion in debt, and without a spending cap on the massive public works project, that number is set to rise still higher in future years. Fitch, the New York bond-rating firm that gave this latest debt offering an "A+" rating, reassures Wall Street that local ratepayers will cover the debt payments and "management has the ability to raise rates and has city council approval for a 5 percent increase in each of the next three years." In January, the council approved that hike, without mentioning that the money would be used for debt service, or that even more ratepayer cash would be needed down the road. The mounting pile of debt is causing observers to doubt the city council's promise not to proceed with one of its favorite sewer projects, the infamous toilet-to-tap project to convert excess sewer water into drinking water. The bonds can be issued without a vote of the people because the city relies on its so-called Public Facilities Finance Authority, a debt-raising loophole validated by the state supreme court in the landmark Dick Rider case ... Tom Liegler, ex-manager of the San Diego Convention Center who was run out of his job in 1991 after it was revealed he ran up more than $150,000 in questionable bills, including lavish family parties and excessive life insurance, has turned up as the new interim director of Ontario, California's convention center corporation. Liegler, now 70, will run the center until July, when it is set to be privatized, according to the Business Press/California.

Tax Dollars in Play

The Navy is about to conduct "Fleet Battle Experiment Echo," a series of war games off the San Diego coast to feature simulations of "terrorist jet-ski attacks" and "ultra-light aircraft laden with biological agents," says the Defense News ... Another aide to ex-governor Pete Wilson has come home to roost. Jeff Randle, one-time Wilson deputy chief of staff, will run the Sacramento office of Stoorza, Ziegaus & Metzger, the Republican-oriented San Diego public relations outfit. In addition to his Stoorza duties, Randle remains in charge of Citizens for California's Future, the political action committee set up by Wilson, who still yearns to be president ... Meantime, Todd Harris, who served briefly as chief press aide for Susan Golding and her ill-fated senatorial campaign, has taken over as spokesman for Rep. John Kasich's (R-Ohio) newly formed presidential exploratory committee.

School Daze

Public-school maven Anthony Alvarado might be controversial in San Diego, but he's desperately sought after in Hartford, Connecticut. Brought in last year from New York City by San Diego Unified superintendent Alan Bersin, Alvarado became an issue when people found out he lived in a ritzy Coronado condominium and commuted home to Manhattan on the weekends. His plan to instill "biliteracy" in students is also stirring doubts here. But Puerto Ricans in Hartford still love him and are protesting that the school board there won't offer him the superintendent's job. "He has a great track record. We need someone like him to clean up the Hartford school board," Maria Perez Colon, president of the United Puerto Rican Organization, told the Hartford Courant ...The bête noir of San Diego's establishment, Peter Navarro, is in the news again. This time, the University of California, Irvine economics professor, who ran for San Diego mayor and just about every other local office except dogcatcher, is going to bat for "cyberlearning." Navarro gave his 61 beginning macroeconomics students a choice: see his lectures live or on CD-ROM. The results, as he told the San Francisco Examiner: "In general, there was no significant difference in academic outcomes when cyberlearners were compared with traditional learners." Ironically, Navarro's test is being cited by supporters of the so-called California Virtual University, a plan to award college degrees to students who study and take their tests online. It was a pet project of Pete Wilson.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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