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In western lore, an hombre named the Wizard of Wichita would ride into a town, stride into a saloon, take one quick look around, and unerringly identify every no-good son of a bitch in the joint. And so it is with Roger Lowenstein, author of the new hot-selling book While America Aged: How Pension Debts Ruined General Motors, Stopped the NYC Subways, Bankrupted San Diego, and Loom as the Next Financial Crisis (Penguin Press). In researching the book, Lowenstein came to San Diego and sized up the stultifying and sticky-fingered establishment, corrupt political structure, greedy unions, and standpat mainstream media which produced the pension crisis that could send the City into bankruptcy court.

Some San Diegans may argue with his interpretations, but they shouldn’t criticize his adept weaving of facts into a compelling narrative. This book will open the eyes of even those who have followed the pension crisis for years. Lowenstein galloped into town, talked with the right people, read the right documents, and fingered the right rascals.

He quickly figured out the culture. “San Diego was a close-knit town — a big city in which local officials functioned like a cozy board of directors,” writes Lowenstein. “Businessmen seeking tax breaks had open entrée to City Hall, and political back-scratching was a way of life.… In effect, [San Diego officials] tapped the pension fund for every purpose that might appeal to politicians — park maintenance, policemen’s wages, new fire trucks, subsidies for sports teams.”

He is at his best in describing alleged dignitaries. Former mayor Susan Golding had an ambitious agenda. “She was intemperate with doubters and seemed to regard the financing of her schemes as little more than a detail,” writes Lowenstein. “Golding ordered [former city manager] Jack McGrory to figure out how to pay for it all…no one quite understood how he did it, and that was his secret.… Council members complained they didn’t understand his machinations…but the truth is they were happier not knowing what McGrory was up to.”

When McGrory ran out of accounting gimmicks, he would beg the council for a tax increase, but “the business establishment, invariably led by the Union-Tribune, almost always thwarted him.” Business-licensing fees and the hotel tax were very low by comparison with other California cities. “Overall, the revenue collected by the City amounted to only 2 percent of household income — the lowest ratio of any big city in the state.” No matter. “If the residents of this deeply conservative enclave mistrusted government, they simply despised taxes.”

Golding flew home from a Super Bowl with Chargers’ owner Alex Spanos. It was an “apparently aphrodisiacal experience,” writes Lowenstein. She decided the stadium had to be upgraded to attract Super Bowls. Thus was born the 60,000-seat guarantee that would turn into an embarrassing disaster. Golding and McGrory plotted how to tap the pension fund, partly to finance the 1996 Republican convention, designed to put Golding in the U.S. Senate. One board member of the fund “rightly object[ed] that the pension fund did not exist for the purpose of bailing out the city, much less its football team,” writes Lowenstein. But the plan went forward. Weak-kneed lawyers and actuaries, as well as ignorant councilmembers, let it happen. The City appeased its workers by boosting monetary promises to them; the unions engaged in “patent blackmail.” The deficit expanded wildly, and city government and mainstream media looked the other way. Mayor Murphy appointed a commission to look into the City’s finances. One member knew it was a time bomb. He was talked out of sounding a loud warning and later was filled with remorse for capitulating.

By 2002, it was obvious the pension system was in deep trouble. The council and pension board prepared to consider Manager’s Proposal 2 (MP-2). “To cure its ailing retirement system, San Diego was going to further strain it by hiking benefits!” writes an incredulous Lowenstein, who seldom uses exclamation points. Diann Shipione, a member of the pension board, challenged MP-2 strongly in front of her colleagues. “Her tone was relentless and unsparing,” leading them to mock her. The board passed it overwhelmingly. When the actuary challenged the folly, Bruce Herring, deputy city manager, shouted, “You’re an actuary on the edge!” (Herring is now retired at $144,000 a year.) Shipione’s husband, Pat Shea, called his friend Mike Aguirre, then a private lawyer, and told him about the City’s suicidal plan. Aguirre threatened to sue if the city council went ahead. The council pulled a typical San Diego stunt: it put MP-2 on the so-called consent agenda, which is for noncontroversial items. But Shipione showed up and argued strenuously against the conflicts of interest and fiscal stupidity. She called the proposal “almost corrupt.” Councilmember Donna Frye saw that Shipione was right. But the council voted 8 to 1 to try to alleviate its pension problem by grossly worsening it. As is often the case, Frye was the only one to vote against idiocy. The Union-Tribune didn’t even report the story.

Shipione, Shea, and Aguirre, with assistance from Frye, realized that the City had been fraudulently failing to report its huge pension deficits in its bond prospectuses. This is against securities laws. An outside legal firm agreed. In early 2004, in an obfuscated filing with an obscure quasi-governmental repository, the City admitted that as a consequence of its massive pension liabilities, it would have to slash spending or increase revenue. The New York Times called San Diego “Enron-by-the-Sea.”

By 2005, San Diego knew it was in really deep financial doo-doo. In that year’s mayoral election, candidate Donna Frye “refused to rule out tax hikes,” writes Lowenstein. “What little chance remained to Frye was buried by the Union-Tribune, which relentlessly savaged her as a would-be taxer.… This was blatantly demagogic; indeed, it mirrored the attitude of politicians who, in refusing to pay the bills for benefits they had enacted, had brought San Diego to its current pass. Taxpayers would have to pony up. The only question was whether it would be today’s taxpayers or tomorrow’s.” Lowenstein, citing figures calculated by the Center on Policy Initiatives, says that if San Diego would raise taxes to the average level of California’s other big cities, it could pay the pension bill. (However, the author doesn’t note that San Diegans have lower incomes and a higher cost of living than residents of most of those other cities; the taxes would take a bigger bite from the economy.)

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Don Bauder May 22, 2008 @ 7:05 a.m.

Response to post #4: San Diego has always had great weather. But great political, business and labor leadership? I don't think so. The perception of San Diego's greatness was implanted by Pete Wilson; it was always a PR myth. Best, Don Bauder


JohnnyVegas May 22, 2008 @ 7:48 a.m.

I think Fred's post pretty much covers all the bases.


JustWondering May 21, 2008 @ 9:41 p.m.

Don if I read this right, there seems to be enough guilt or ownership for all the parties. Whether it's city management, political leaders, labor or taxpayers everyone has a part of this mess. With that said, I believe our elected leaders and so-called professional managers hold the highest level of responsibility. Yet for some reason, Golding, McGrory and especially Herring seemed to somehow insulate themselves from criminal prosecution. It's also my opinion most, no not all, city workers had no knowledge, no not even inkling that their union representatives and elected leaders and managers were is some sort of collusionary relationship. Seems to me, someday San Diegans will look back on this era as a time filled with incredible amounts of personal greed... a behavior which has deeply penetrated the soul of our entire culture. Sadly if we don’t do something drastic to cure these ills, our children may see the demise of a nation, not just the collapse of a formerly great American City.


Don Bauder May 22, 2008 @ 7:06 a.m.

Response to post #5: Good idea. I will take it up with the brass. Best, Don Bauder


JustWondering May 22, 2008 @ 7:54 a.m.

BTW the software already allows "editing" before you finally post. The "Preview" button is just that. But, of course, will only work IF you take the time to carefully read your comments before you actually "POST" them...


paul May 22, 2008 @ 12:31 a.m.

"formerly great American City."

When was San Diego ever great? All I can find our references to politicians loudly proclaiming its greatness to either deflect attention away from some criminal activity, or to sell the idea of some giveaway/improvement we don't need (e.g. "A great city like San Diego must have a new football stadium")

So, can anybody come up with a time that San Diego was ever truly great? I'll be generous and set the bar nice and low, to be a time when the city was arguably only mildly corrupt, and the city mattered nationally for some reason other than pretty beaches and being a playground for the rich.


Fred Williams May 22, 2008 @ 7:30 a.m.

Correction, three long posts. Had to split them up due to size limitations. Time to Change San Diego. If you agree, please see www.changesandiego.org


JohnnyVegas May 21, 2008 @ 12:23 p.m.

"....Shipione went through the files as if she were possessed — tipping over cartons, spilling papers on the floor.” . . “Not yet in office a month, Aguirre was at war with the pension system, the city manager’s office, the council, and the local police.” =================================================

These statements brought a tear to my eye!!!!

I loved this story! (I also love ! marks).

Validates everything you, me and others have been saying.

Grrrrrr.......That is me taking a bite out of Col. KFC Sanders butt......lol!

Don, did you personally speak with Roger Lowenstein when he was researching the book???

Have you spoken to him recently about the book or San Diego's problems???


Don Bauder May 21, 2008 @ 1:50 p.m.

Response to post #1: The entire book is good; e.g. the opening chapters on General Motors and other private sector firms are excellent. The 66 pages devoted to San Diego are superb. Lowenstein has San Diego pegged perfectly. Yes, I did talk with him, but very briefly. My interview was not cited in the footnotes and he only picked up one of my Reader stories. When I did a blog on this before I had read it, I mentioned that I had talked with the author. But we decided we didn't have to mention it a second time, particularly since the talk was so brief. Best, Don Bauder


paul May 22, 2008 @ 12:59 a.m.


You ought to have your IT guys look into allowing edits to comments. Many forums allow editing an entry for up to five minutes or so, before locking it in. It would make many posters (such as myself) seem a lot less dense if we could quickly change the types of obvious typos that always seem to creep into my posts as I am editing them down (such as "our" instead of "are" in the post above, which was left over from a partially omitted sentence and then not changed. Aaargh!)


Fred Williams May 22, 2008 @ 6:48 a.m.

Paul, I'd say that San Diego in the late eighties and early nineties was pretty great. We were talking about building libraries, had a fine dual-use stadium, the roads were good and traffic not too bad yet.

I was deployed with a Miramar F-14 squadron when they filmed Top Gun, and seeing the city on the big screen made me proud.

I think the down-turn happened with the election of Susan Golding. The "establishment" knew she was bent before the election, and downplayed her knowledge of her husband's criminal dealings. In fact, according to a former Golding staffer, she practiced endlessly in 1992 to ensure that when Navarro finally brought the issue up in the last days of the mayoral race, she'd get the tears just right. It won her the election.

After that, things quickly went sideways.

The establishment saw the Golding win as a blank check. Since Navarro ran as a limited growth candidate, the developers decided it was time to build, build, build. If the projects made no economic sense, a few contributions and secret meetings downtown meant the city paid for any shortfalls.

The old city manager was eased out, and his young deputy Jack McGrory was put in place.

McGrory had been talking up a downtown sports stadium since at least 1991.

The conversion of the dual-use Murphy stadium, an arrangement that made perfect sense and served the city well for decades, into a football only stadium started the most egregious of the rip-offs.

Along with Mike Aguirre, former councilman Bruce Henderson stood up and denounced this as a very bad deal.

The UT, egged on by the football team, smeared Henderson. He received death threats. There were even bumper stickers demanding that he leave town.



Don Bauder May 22, 2008 @ 7:15 a.m.

Response to post #6: Yes, the era of insatiable greed intensified with Golding. She opened up the treasury to greedy developers wanting handouts. She made sure that in any decision between business and the environment, the former won. Today's Development Services Department, a house of prostitution for the real estate industry, once actually rode herd on environmental considerations in any development. The people who cared about preservation of San Diego's livability and environment were shoved aside in favor of those who wanted to plaster it over with ticky-tack homes and concrete. The mayors who followed Golding, such as Murphy and Sanders, were as bad as she was. Earlier, Pete Wilson talked a good game, but when he sought higher office (Senate, governor) he capitulated to the builders. Best, Don Bauder


Fred Williams May 22, 2008 @ 7:24 a.m.


This is where it got really expensive. To pay this hush money AND build the billionaire's ballpark, the city simply didn't fund the pensions they promised. Union leaders went along with this, knowing full well they would not be personally affected. They sold their members a raw deal, but rewarded themselves handsomely.

So far, not one single person has been held accountable for this massive fraud. The only ones who have been punished are Henderson and Aguirre. The establishment continues to smear them for daring to open their mouths in opposition. Ignorant sports obsessed fans to this day vilify them both.

Now, in 2008, we're electing four new members to the council. Will they do anything to remedy these frauds?

San Diego's future rests on this. If the new council majority doesn't take action to repudiate these deals and get our money back, then it's game over.

That's why I'm back in San Diego now, to try to get some honest people elected to the council. This is our last chance.

Sorry for writing two long posts like this, but it's important that we all know what we face. We must Change San Diego now, or forever live with the consequences.


Fred Williams


Don Bauder May 22, 2008 @ 7:02 a.m.

Response to post #3: Yes, the people responsible for the pension mess -- Golding, McGrory, Herring, Maienschein, Peters, the list is long -- have escaped prosecution. The Securities and Exchange Commission, while blasting the city itself, has not fingered individuals who knowingly made sure that bond investors and the public did not learn of the pension debt. This is typical of San Diego, but it is also typical of these agencies: the little person gets nailed while the big person in control does not. Best, Don Bauder


Fred Williams May 22, 2008 @ 7:23 a.m.


The Golding administration continued the dirty tricks. When they faced the prospect of a forced vote on the football stadium, they bulldozed the eastern end at midnight on new year's eve. This fait accompli ended any chance of saving the situation.

Henderson and Aguirre persisted, but when cost overruns threatened another vote, the Golding administration got Qualcomm to pony up $18 million. This is why it's now called Qualcomm Stadium.

With the stadium permanently converted to football only, the Padres whined "we can't play here." They threatened to leave town if the city didn't build them a baseball only stadium. Consultants suggested that they call it "ballpark" instead of stadium, and made the torturous connection to redevelopment, declaring downtown "blighted".

The Padres wisely packed their team with meth-snorting steroid-popping ringers. They duly went to the world series, and weeks later (after spending more than $2.5 million on the campaign) won the voter's nod for a new ballpark to be paid by hotel taxes.

Of course the union leadership knew this was a carefully conceived fraud the city could ill-afford. The union bosses demanded fat pensions or they would blow the whistle.

It worked. Union bosses got such juicy deals they are the envy of mobsters everywhere. A few, again, stood up in opposition. Again, they were vilified, ignored, taunted, and ridiculed for telling the truth. Scott "Million Gallon Man" Peters, called Shipione crazy. The local media, again, went along with the lies.



JustWondering May 22, 2008 @ 7:49 a.m.

I would argue San Diego's greatness is now and into the future.

Let's consider the following: Fact, San Diego has been poorly managed poorly over the last 40 years. Did “we” know about it? No, it was carefully, intentionally and illegally hidden from us. It started with Mayor Wilson and went all the way through Mayor Murphy, where politicians facilitated by “managers” cooked the books when mayors needed, wanted or just decided their egos were more important than the public good.

The result, the City's financial house of cards came crashing down when a whistle blower stood up and said, “this is wrong”. She was right and deserves our thanks. Nevertheless, 40 years of mismanagement also left the taxpayers with one heck of a problem. All of it driven by the invasive nature of greed, the lust for power and absence of integrity.

During the last few years the light of truth has shown brightly on the problems accumulating over the previous 40. We learned people had agendas, many of them rarely for the public good. And we also learned those we “expected” to discover these wrongs (the media) failed their responsibility as watchdogs. In fact, they may have been enablers, and thus a perfect financial storm, wrecked havoc on a city.

But San Diego’s greatness is its best asset, its people, the ones with integrity. Over the last four years, that’s 10% of the time it took to create this mess, Mayor Sanders has set us on a path to bring San Diego back from the brink. Does he and his management team have all the right answers. I don't think so. This was evident in the recent impasse declaration with City employees and his 12th hour change. Are we out of the financial woods? Absolutely not! In my mind there are still too many unanswered questions, and to much smoke and mirrors in the budget. Are we going in a direction that makes more sense? You bet! Oh, there will be bumps and potential detours along the way. But if WE keep an eye, no both eyes, on the mayor, and especially his "spokespersons/handlers", who believe integrity is a matter of convenience, when it should be a behavior that is never questioned.

Remember it took 40 years, and, as the illustration for this article indicated a lot of people placed their collected heads DEEPLY into the sands.


Don Bauder May 23, 2008 @ 8:09 a.m.

Response to post #27: Obviously, Sanders should jettison Fred Sainz and Kris Michell, the political propagandists who are leftovers from the Golding administration. But Sanders has lost some of his key people, including Ronne Froman and John Torell, the former auditor. Torell got tired of battling the Sanders administration. The Sanders team was all about political posturing and not about substantive progress. I can't believe that mentality resulted from Sainz and Michell alone. I have to believe that Sanders set the tone. Best, Don Bauder


Fred Williams May 22, 2008 @ 9:19 a.m.

Hi Just Wondering,

I do hope you're correct that our greatness is before us...but not with Sanders in office.

A little known but documented fact is that Jack McGrory personally hand selected Sanders for the job of police chief. Sanders himself said so on a televised interview when he left the job to go to the United Way.

In other words, the architect of our current woes, disgraced former city manager Jack McGrory, will NEVER be investigated so long as Sanders is protecting him. Neither with fellow Republicans Golding and Murphy ever face up to their misdeeds that have nearly bankrupted us.

As for Sanders deserving credit for "setting us on the right path", I just don't buy it. Instead of repudiating the corrupt deals of the past, he has set them in stone.

Aguirre may be the world's biggest jerk, but at least he's been trying to do something about the corruption. He's been blocked at every step by the Mayor and his henchment, including the liar-for-hire Fred Sainz.

John Moores continues to buy current and former politicians and use them to advance his agenda. Now Steve Peace is on his payroll, taking dirty money looted from the city and Peregrine investors. The Chargers whine they need yet another bailout from the city, in spite of the fact that the Spanos family is one of the richest in the nation and they ALREADY got more than a hundred million from us, in addition to the notorious McGrory crafted ticket-guarantee.

So, while I admire your optimism, I think it's misguided. Nothing has changed.

If you'd like to write more about your point of view, though, please add to www.changesandiego.org.




JustWondering May 22, 2008 @ 10:48 a.m.

Guess I just see it as we're turning the corner, moving forward with much better days ahead, rather than the sky is still falling.

I don't believe Sanders has set anything in stone. The City, before Sanders, ended up in litigation over its labor compensation practices and lost or settled those cases in court. Had they not settled the cases, the outcome would have been worse. (Ventura County vs. Ventura County Sheriffs)

Since then, Sanders has eliminated the DROP and the Purchase of Service Credits program for new hires. For existing employees made it actuarially cost neutral and finally filed for a Declaratory Relief to have a third party FINALLY give us a ruling on the legality of the disputed pension benefits. He’ll either get a new get a new pension plan from the Union/Council or he’ll go to the voters, where he have no problem getting them impose a new system.

In other words, he's working "within the law" not outside of it as so many before him did the past. And he’s doing it without making wild allegation of about corruption or that process is wrong etc. etc.

Are there some City shenanigan still going on? I believe there are. Can we force more transparency in local government? I think we should! Will the new council work towards those ends. Only time will tell, IF we have our RELIABLE watchdogs in place.


Don Bauder May 22, 2008 @ 10:55 a.m.

Response to post #11: The deal with a new stadium for the Padres had been set up long before the Qualcomm stadium dustup occurred. In fact, I was in a meeting in 1993 when the plan was briefly mentioned. Of course, I was never in on the planning process, but back then I knew this was coming. So the establishment was just playing the public for fools, pretending that it was "studying" what to do about the Padres. Meanwhile, McGrory was telling the council that the Padres would be there for many more years. He knew it was not in the plans. The bureaucrats were told to juggle the numbers to make it appear that the Padres ballpark would be revenue-neutral. That is one reason they had a stranglehold on the council when MP-1 and MP-2 -- which were to ruin the city -- went through. Yes, remind everybody that Peters called Shipione crazy. She had analyzed the situation perfectly, but Peters was too dense to know what was going on, and too dishonest to admit he had been wrong later. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder May 22, 2008 @ 11:04 a.m.

Response to post #12: All three of your posts are excellent analyses. The council and administration plotted to tap the pension fund. The unions were bought off with promises of future benefits. Most councilmembers and administrators were probably not intelligent enough to realize the fiscal trouble that would result. Those who did figured they would be out of office before the feces hit the fan. It's just a pathetic story, and very well told in the book, "While America Aged," by Roger Lowenstein. Sanders came in and said he would fix things. He has done nothing. Read the first letter in the U-T letters this a.m. San Diegans may have been completely duped. Oh yes: it wasn't just Henderson and Aguirre who got punished. Diann Shipione was drenched in contumely. Reason? She had brilliantly analyzed the accounting trickery and political deceit in the establishment's plan. Best, Don Bauder


JustWondering May 22, 2008 @ 12:54 p.m.

Don your statement in POST #20 about Sanders; "He has done nothing." is simply not true. I stated some of the facts in posts #15 and 18. DROP and PSC no longer is accessible for new employees. The pension program will be revised within the next year by agreement or by the voters. The City’s credit rating, albeit not the best, has been restored from Wall Street’s suspension. Budgeted phantom city positions have been eliminated. Proposition B was passed to stop the yearly tinkering of the pension by meddling elected official and union bosses. Prop A began the process to look at managed competition and Sanders is getting ready to phase in a test bed for refuse collection. Although he’s been opposed in many way he is working within the boundaries of the law. Something those before him believed they were above.

As I mentioned, this mess has been in the making for 40 years. MANY of those years YOU were a daily columnist and financial editor at the Pulitzer Price winning "S DUT". Where was your voice then? Guess Ms. Shipione had more guts than you to stand up and shout out loud and long THIS IS WRONG. Even stood there taking the punishment. Why not you? Might it have been you wanted to keep “your job”, you wanted to keep “the pension you were earning” from the S DUT, and going against the powerful Copley Family would not have been in your best interests. It very easy to sit back in Colorado now… with the retirement you’ve earn and criticize the slowness of change. But the facts are the City has a surplus, albeit a slim one and we are moving in the right direction!


Don Bauder May 23, 2008 @ 8:12 a.m.

Response to post #28: The U-T remains the biggest booster of corporate welfare, and not just for pro sports teams. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder May 22, 2008 @ 6:03 p.m.

Response to post #21: You are correct that I did not in my 30 years with Copley expose the pension problems or other financial woes of San Diego, other than attacking the 60,000 seat guarantee, the ballpark scam, and the infrastructure problems. I did not get into public sector matters because it was not my beat. I covered the private sector. If you ever looked at my work at the U-T, I think you would have to admit that no one in San Diego did more to find and investigate private sector scams than I did. It did not make me popular with U-T brass. I did learn of the pension woes in late 2002 and tried to get others on the staff to tackle the story. I didn't think I should do it because it was a front page story, and I was a columnist writing inside (with a few exceptions). Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder May 22, 2008 @ 6:42 p.m.

Response to post#15: If you believe Sanders has set San Diego on the road to recovery, go ahead and say that. I'm sure it gives you much comfort. But Sanders has done cosmetic things. He hasn't faced down the unions and he hasn't trimmed corporate welfare. In fact, the experiment with competitive outsourcing may balloon corporate welfare. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder May 22, 2008 @ 6:43 p.m.

Response to post #16: Noted. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder May 22, 2008 @ 6:48 p.m.

Response to post #17: It is hardly surprising that Sanders was picked by McGrory. Birds of a feather..... Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder May 22, 2008 @ 6:54 p.m.

Response to post no. 18: Jettisoning DROP and purchase of service credits for new hires was a no brainer. But how about getting rid of the excessive salary, overtime, pensions, etc. of current city employees? Sanders seems opposed to that, probably because it will take some work, devotion and willingness to take political hits. Look what Aguirre has had to endure because he is trying to keep the city out of bankruptcy. Sanders doesn't have the intestinal fortitude to do the right thing. Best, Don Bauder


JustWondering May 22, 2008 @ 6:55 p.m.

Don, I read your SDUT column for years it was usually fair and well written. But lately, your pieces have been in the OP/Ed vein guess I'm used to getting facts from your writing and poppycock responses from BBH. I appreciate your honest response today. Sadly, it wasn't there 20 years ago we could have really used it. But I suppose that's water under the bridge.

My issue in post #20 is about fairness. I’m NOT a big Sanders supporter, I didn’t vote for the guy last time around. But facts are facts, he has made progress. He has shown leadership, in the face of major resistance from many contrasting interest groups.

I, for one, hope he jettisons those he's chosen to represent him because they have little integrity and even fewer ethics. I believe he's learning there was a lot more wrong with the City even though he was part of in the late 90's. And now that he has some experience under his ample belt he should take the ground and truly bring integrity to his ENTIRE office. I also believe if he is re-elected the pension WILL be changed to some sort of hybrid where the employee takes on more responsibility.

His discussion today on the radio about the "Blackwater" site permits is an example. Although he says he trusts his DSD manager, it more like Reagan trusting the Russians in the 80’s… trust but verify. That tells me he won't make the same mistake twice. He learned from the Sunroad fiasco.


JohnnyVegas May 22, 2008 @ 11:31 p.m.

Actually Don was out front and center on the corporate welfare scams with the Chargers and the Padres-and he was by far the most vocal in the media, using his column as a bully pullpit.

I would love to read Don's columns back then because I agreed with him 100%, the City should never subsidize billionaire pro sports team owners-which the UT editorial staff pushed for as hard as Don pushed against it.

So you cannot say Don was not out there fighting corruption. And everything he said about thee deals being wrong has come true.


JustWondering May 23, 2008 @ 9:33 a.m.

AHHH Froman and Torell, what we wouldn't give to have been a fly on the wall. Someday I hope the true facts, no matter how embarassing, behind their departures will be told.


Don Bauder May 23, 2008 @ 10:24 a.m.

Response to post #31: Torell gives his side in my column in last week's Reader. It is on this site, below the most recent column. Froman has kept her mouth shut. Best, Don Bauder


JohnnyVegas May 23, 2008 @ 4:32 p.m.

The City of Vallejo pulled the trigger-filed BK this afternoon in Federal Court.

SAN FRANCISCO – The city of Vallejo filed for bankruptcy protection Friday to deal with a ballooning budget deficit caused by soaring employee costs and declining tax revenue.


Don Bauder May 23, 2008 @ 9 p.m.

Response to post #33: Yes, Vallejo, whose council had earlier voted to go into bankruptcy, officially filed today (Friday, May 23). It's an object lesson for San Diego. Best, Don Bauder


Murtaza May 24, 2008 @ 12:32 p.m.

Thanks for bringing attention to the analysis by the Center on Policy Initiatives. The bottom line is that we do not raise the level of revenue to support the services our residents need. As a proportion of income, the city raises the lowest to city services compared to any other city in California. Don inquiries whether this factors in the lower incomes and higher cost of living in San Diego. Both of these factors worsen the ability of San Diegans to solve our structural problems.

Incomes increase when public policy aims to keep the money circulating locally and raising the standard of living. Not when taxpayers are helping consultants and corporations in Texas or Dubai. Incomes also increase when we invest in good paying jobs that serve our communities - our teachers, firefighters, librarians, etc.

Higher cost of living hurts low-wage workers the most since housing, food and gas consumes a greater portion of their income. At the same time, the city's cost of providing services also increases. For example, when the price of gas increases, cops do not have the option of driving around less. If the city has less money to spend and the cost of living is higher, it will translate into reduced quality. You get what you pay for.


Don Bauder May 24, 2008 @ 5:58 p.m.

Response to post #35: Yes, your study was quoted in the book, and also in my review of it. You made the point in that study that if San Diego taxes were as high as taxes in other California cities, the pension crisis could be solved. I noted that San Diego's incomes are low and cost of living very high, although some taxes, such as the transient occupancy tax, will have to go up if the city is going to stave off bankruptcy. But taxes alone won't do it: the excessive wages and fringes of city workers have to be tamed. Mike Aguirre has had contumely heaped upon him for trying to accomplish it. Best, Don Bauder


Fred Williams May 25, 2008 @ 6:44 a.m.

Another way to avoid bankruptcy is to sue John Moores and the Spanos family for our money back.

Jack McGrory, Susan Golding, and Casey Gwinn should be convinced to testify on our behalf...or face jail.

Moores and Spanos could both EASILY return the $500 million in ill-gotten gains. They stole this money from us. We know it. They know it. Added up, that's a billion we could apply to our city's financial hole.

Time to get our money back.


Don Bauder May 25, 2008 @ 11:47 a.m.

Response to post #37: You make an excellent point, but San Diego would have to undergo a 100 percent flip-flop for the council to go along with such suits and judges to give them a fair hearing. Best, Don Bauder


Fred Williams May 26, 2008 @ 2:01 p.m.

I was in Balboa Park yesterday. I ran into Steve Francis who was walking on the Prado with his supporters.

I explained why I think we should get our money back from Moores. He made supportive noises (not a firm yes, but supportive).

Then his friends took up the call. They began telling Steve, yes, this is something a lot of people in the city are angry about. Look at how we've been duped. The voters know the sports teams have sucked us dry.

By the time we parted, he was firmer, saying that he's not beholden to John Moores or afraid of his money.

Unlike Jerry Sanders, who was hand-picked by Jack McGrory to be police chief, Francis says he doesn't owe favors to the downtown establishment.

Then, today in Kensington, I got the chance to talk with Stephen Whitburn about this. He doesn't want the city employees, the rank and file, to be punished for the misdeeds of the bosses and staffers who cooked up this bad deal. I explained to him that money we get back from John Moores and the Spanos family is money that can go to fund the pensions.

He nodded and agreed that it makes more sense than gutting employee benefits.

He's endorsed by Donna Frye.

So there is movement, Don. We just have to keep the pressure up on the candidates. There will be a whole new council majority and hopefully a new mayor next year. I hope that they will file a lawsuit within three months of taking over.

We've got to Change San Diego.


Fred Williams


Don Bauder May 26, 2008 @ 2:25 p.m.

Response to post #39: Your recruitment efforts are already bearing fruit, it seems. Good luck. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder May 27, 2008 @ 6:49 a.m.

Response to post #41: Francis and Morrow should make an issue of pro-Sanders banners flying at construction sites. They poignantly tell the story of who owns Sanders. Best, Don Bauder


jcsuperstar May 27, 2008 @ 1:34 a.m.

For those who want to defend Sanders' "recovery", consider just how important Sanders is to San Diego developers. They sure are making no secret about it. Look around at any and every development site of any note. They all have those Sanders reelection banners fully displayed like flags of patriotism on the jobsites' temporary fencing. One would not even have to look at the books or examine the public record. The friends you keep and who keep you speaks volumes.

Unfortunately, the average San Diego voter is easily wooed into aligning with the perceived most popular candidate and will assess such by these in-your-face banner assaults. On the bright side possibly, turn out for June elections may exclude many of the more casual and petty voters.

And Don, loved your metaphor for Development Services in response #10: spot on and concise.


JohnnyVegas June 2, 2008 @ 11:47 a.m.

The Fire Department bureaucracy, inefficiency, and waste are simply outrageous.

-Salaries, benefits, and pensions are just too high. -Pensions should be replaced by 401k’s. -There are too many Firefighters (much too much downtime especially on the engines). -There are too many chiefs (too many are glorified paper pushers). -There are too many fire engines for the amount of actual fires (5% of calls) and structure fires (2% of the calls). They don’t need an engine in virtually every station at around $500,000 per engine. -There is no incentive to save money or cut costs; after all, the taxpayers are footing the bill.

Occupation----------Median Salary (San Francisco) http://jobs.aol.com/salaries

Vallejo FF----------over $150,000 (1.5 years of community college) Computer Scientist---------$104,571 (PhD – 8 years of college) Optometrist----------102,218 (MD – 8 years of college) Attorney----------93,342 (JD – 7 years of college) Veterinarian----------83,277 (MD – 8 years of college) Physicist----------82,524 (PhD – 8 years of college) Medical Scientist----------76,883 (MD – 8 years of college) Psychologist, Clinical------$73,603 (PhD – 8 years of college) Chiropractor----------72,704 (MD – 8 years of college) Medicinal chemist----------71,619 PhD – 8 years of college)


Don Bauder June 2, 2008 @ 1:54 p.m.

Response to post #43: I am interested in how many hours a month firefighters are on duty. And how many have second jobs? Best, Don Bauder


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