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Dr. Ken Anderson, the affable owner of Pacific Beach’s Anderson Medical Clinic, has his hands folded, fingers interlaced, on his desk. He’s remembering the date, September 26, 2010. That day, the temperature over 100 degrees court side in Del Cerro, the humidity an untypical 78 percent, he and his wife were playing another couple at the Lake Murray Tennis Club. The two pairs were the only players at the club. In the middle of the third set, Anderson tells me, he went down: “I wasn’t breathing and I wasn’t moving.” His heart had stopped.

Neither his wife nor their friends had any medical training, though his friend’s wife did notice an automated external defibrillator near the front desk. She ran for the device, put it beside Anderson’s motionless body, and unzipped the canvas top. The machine started speaking. It told them to apply the panels to his chest. Then, in robot voice, “Shock advised. Stand clear. Press the orange button. Shock delivered. Start CPR.”

A defibrillator saved Ken Anderson’s life after his heart stopped in the middle of his tennis match.

As a doctor, Anderson reminds me, he knows how perilous the moment was. “Had the defibrillator not been there I would not have made it.”

Such was Anderson’s great luck. But it wasn’t all luck. He was also saved by a coordinated effort (foresight, really) between the City of San Diego and a private donor. There was a reason that defibrillator was there, in the tennis club.

Twelve years ago, Bobbie Cohen and her husband Stuart were blissfully happy, attending their daughter’s wedding at a hotel in La Jolla. Stuart was dancing with the bride, telling her, “Life doesn’t get much better than this,” when his heart stopped and he collapsed. Someone called for a defibrillator. There was none — and he died before an ambulance arrived.

Maureen O’Connor (on left) of Project Heartbeat with defibrillator donor Bobbie Cohen


Demonstration of the use of the automated external defibrillator (AED)

Cohen made it her mission to get defibrillators into San Diego’s public places — hotels, gyms, schools, tourist venues, churches, and more. One of the first places she installed a donated defibrillator was the Lake Murray Tennis Club. The supplier is Cardiac Sciences, which has a contract with the city and discounts units to departments and venues where people congregate. To date, more than 8000 defibrillators have been deployed in the county, administered by the fire department and the City’s Project Heartbeat. All because of advocates like Cohen and others, many of whom lost husbands to cardiac arrest, 126 people have been saved.

Were it the case that every public-private partnership had this sterling life-saving record, there’d be no worry that the city is marketing its assets for new revenue and in-kind donations. In the process, the city has developed a dizzying array and number of relationships with private companies, becoming, if you will, corporate-friendly, getting goods and services that it may otherwise not afford.

A once-broke city seeks partners

In 1999, the program for municipal marketing was born by a unanimous vote in the city council. The simple definition the city, a not-for-profit entity, adopted reads like a Craigslist personal: San Diego seeks relationships “with the corporate community to enhance municipal service and facilities in the city.”

Natasha Collura

Though the idea is not new, municipal marketing didn’t ramp up — “skyrocket” is the term Natasha Collura, director of corporate partnerships and development, uses — until the 2008 recession forced government entities to look under every toadstool for new revenue. Collura worked for the San Diego Zoo for 12 years, overseeing corporate sponsorships and advertising, the top ad attractor, the Giant Panda program ($1 million a year from AT&T). Collura and her staff earned $7 million in “revenue and promotional in-kind value.”

Collura came to the city in 2011, where, by 2013, she was paddling upstream during mayor Bob Filner’s sewer-break. The city then “was under a bit of a cloud,” with potential clients “hesitant to get involved.” When he resigned, partners returned. At City Hall today, she tells me that in the past 15 years, the city has earned $25 million from partnership and sponsorship deals. Is this just a drop in the bucket of the city’s $2.8 billion annual budget? Collura sees it differently. “These are valuable programs that taxpayers don’t have to fund.”

For her office, there is Collura and a grant-writing assistant and the expectation to ink more partnerships every year. She writes in an e-mail, “We would like to have the problem of having too many sponsors and partners, but that is not the case.”

Navigating the language of partnerships — whose documents bristle with such business-speak as naming rights, branding, packaging, leveraging assets, and procurement — is not easy. Partnerships are “mutually beneficial business arrangements between the city and a company.” The company pays cash or in-kind services to create such arrangements.

Take the contract with life-saver Cardiac Science. Cash comes in from fees the company pays the city. The largest is the annual marketing fee of $145,000; other revenue includes finders’ fees, per-item sales stipends, and a promotional budget. The total over 11 years is $2.575 million, nearly 10 percent of Collura’s department’s intake. In exchange, the company gets to be the “Official AED Partner” (automated external defibrillator) of the city, its brand placed on promotional materials, its logo on three vehicles that administer the program, and a host of website links, ad rights, coverage at trade shows and health and safety events, and more.

It sounds like the city is making out on the deal. But if you look closely, some of this money goes to promote the defibrillators themselves on the city’s websites and materials. Some of the money pays the salaries of those in the city who oversee partnerships or promote the city’s interests. Collura notes the money does not all run “into the city’s revenue” stream. Cash from an agreement might be paid directly to the department that administers a program like fire and rescue.

The true value for Cardiac Science arises with its product exposure in those 8000 venues. It’s called in-kind value, and it’s tough to quantify. In an email, Collura writes that in-kind value is not calculated as cash. The “value of promotions is defined by the media value of radio, television or print; in-store exposure value; coupon redemptions as well as PR value.” Such pandemic access to San Diegans Cardiac Sciences could secure in no other way.

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