PR move of the year The former public relations aide to Alan Bersin during his stormy tenure as superintendent of schools here made some headlines of her own up the road in Fresno in 2007. After leaving the school district following the buyout of Bersin's contract in 2005 by a newly reconstituted board of education, Peri Lynn Turnbull did PR and fund-raising duties at High Tech High, a favorite Bersin charter school, and the local Red Cross chapter, where she had been hired by then-executive director Ronne Froman, another onetime member of Bersin's crew. Then in August of this year Turnbull abruptly surfaced as the new "chief information officer" for the Fresno Unified School District.
But the sweet terms of her contract, signed by superintendent Michael Hanson prior to school board review, set off a row similar to those Turnbull frequently encountered as Bersin's loyal lieutenant. The deal pays $125,000 a year, plus a monthly allowance of $2075 for meals, travel, lodging, and related expenses. Yet another provision allows Turnbull to work two days a week from her San Diego residence. That drew the wrath of Fresno Bee columnist Bill McEwen, who wrote that the arrangement "violates the first tenet of the public-relations practitioner's handbook: Don't become part of the story." McEwen also complained about Turnbull's monthly expense account, noting it "is more than what some families in Fresno Unified live on. Teachers paying for class supplies out of their pockets rightfully are incensed about the district's giving an administrator two grand a month." The debate came to a head at a rowdy school board meeting in October during which members of the teachers' union hurled catcalls at Hanson and board members when they tried to speak. That drew the ire of Bee editorialists, who called the heckling "shameful," though they counseled Turnbull to "make a connection to the community and not worry about whether she can make an airplane connection from San Diego." The board finally approved the contract, 5-2.
Bad news bloggers Did 2007 finally mark the beginning of the end for KPBS, the public radio and television station pair owned and operated by San Diego State University? With public contributions flat and growing competition from streaming news sources on the Internet, some questioned the station's continuing viability. In August, honcho Doug Myrland abruptly axed Full Focus, KPBS's only regular public affairs television show, on which local policy wonks matched wits with host Gloria Penner. The station's strategy of timing the announcement in the dog days of summer to avoid negative attention backfired when Myrland commandeered a blog on the KPBS website and blasted away at critics of the cancellation. "KPBS has been in existence for 46 years, and NEVER has it been a collective, or even a participatory democracy. I make decisions in the same way every General Manager before me did," wrote Myrland, a state employee. "We aren't elected officials -- every budget line item and every personnel decision and every bit of information we collect is not everybody else's business. Just because you give a contribution or pay taxes doesn't give you the right to decide -- or even influence -- what goes on the air and what doesn't."
The tempest drew the attention of San Diego city attorney Mike Aguirre, who made a request to SDSU under the state's Public Records Act to turn over documents regarding cutbacks at the station and alleged untoward influence being brought there by the Union-Tribune. In October, Michael Marcotte, the station's news director, fired back at the quixotic city attorney, saying that finances played no role in the demise of Full Focus. It was, he said, "removed for failing to draw viewers, which amounts to a responsible programming decision, not a dereliction of duty." He added that the stations produced "more than 15 hours a week" of programming "to help our region better know itself."
As it turns out, Marcotte, a 12-year station veteran, will no longer be around to contribute to the betterment of self-knowledge. A month after his anti-Aguirre piece, he announced his own departure in a blog post headlined, "Happy Birthday Public Broadcasting (I Quit!)." Marcotte's blog entry said he was leaving on "good terms," though it didn't explain why. He has become a "public media consultant" in Santa Barbara.
Golden globe Old Globe impresario Jack O'Brien has sold his Mission Hills mansion, built a house in Connecticut, and is finally retiring after 26 years to spend more time directing Broadway hits and, most likely, collecting more Tonys. So he probably won't miss his relatively pedestrian Globe salary, including benefits, of $68,211. (That figure is as of 2005, the latest period for which an IRS return was available.) O'Brien's compensation was much less than the $254,258 paid his boss, Globe executive director Louis Spisto, who is set to become the Globe's chief executive officer and executive producer upon O'Brien's January departure. And resident artistic director Jerry Patch, who will share creative management duties with director Darko Tresnjak in the post-O'Brien era, got $93,079. Even flyman and stage carpenter Christian Thorsen received more than O'Brien, $79,630.