Serena Blanks was put up in the Houston’s luxury four-star Hotel ZaZa thanks to the generosity of city computer services vendor BMC Software.
  • Serena Blanks was put up in the Houston’s luxury four-star Hotel ZaZa thanks to the generosity of city computer services vendor BMC Software.
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Decadent dungeon

Serena Blanks, a data center manager for the city of San Diego, was off on a mid-May overnight excursion to Houston, Texas, where she was put up in the city’s luxury four-star Hotel ZaZa, all thanks to the generosity of city computer services vendor BMC Software. According to a disclosure report filed May 30, BMC picked up transportation expenses of $720, a room tab of $218, and food worth $48.71, for a total of $986.71.

“There is a sculpture of a woman crouching in a Lucite cage hanging mid lobby,” writes New York Times hotel reviewer Fred Bernstein regarding the ZaZa. “Fashion photographs — some of them risqué — cover the walls. I wouldn’t want some of these items in my house, but, like everything at ZaZa, they make for a memorable stay.” Adds Bernstein, “The décor, which featured chocolate-brown walls, a lot of lacquered furniture and silver-painted lamps, stopped just short of being gaudy. A 40-inch plasma TV, the largest I’ve ever seen in a hotel, was mounted on a mirrored wall across from the claw-footed bed. The minibar offered snacks and a surprisingly large variety of liquor.” Concludes the review, “On the surface, ZaZa is all about decadence. But don’t let that fool you; it is also a very good hotel.”

High-end fantasy suites are a specialty of the house, adds Forbes Travel Guide. “Each of the themed suites — Rock Star Suite, Black Label, Tycoon, For Your Eyes Only, Fatal Charms, Bella Vita, and It Happened One Night — is outfitted to fulfill your wildest fantasies.” But the hotel’s hottest suite, a “goth dungeon closet,” is also the hardest to find, per the Houston Chronicle. “The first thing that struck me was lack of carpet; I thought it was unfinished,” said a Reddit poster quoted by the paper. “Looking around it got a little more weird; there’s a skull and pictures of these large-eyed, long-necked characters.” ZaZa PR director Kyra Coots told the Chron: “This particular room, 322, also known as ‘Hard Times,’ is compact in size but well-equipped, and a playful spin on a jail experience.”

City auditor Kyle Elser uncovered racial  pay gaps.

City auditor Kyle Elser uncovered racial pay gaps.

Racially informed

San Diego is the most Race-Informed city in the nation, per a recent edition of Governing Magazine. How’s that again? “San Diego city leaders prioritize community race relations,” says Governing. “For example, as a show of collaboration with Tijuana, the city’s neighbor to the south, San Diego leaders recently supported a cross-border airport terminal and several infrastructure upgrades. They also engage in quarterly meetings with Tijuana’s city department directors.” Besides maintaining racial harmony with Mexico, adds Governing, “city leaders created a committee focused on equity that cuts across departments and uses data disaggregated by race to inform policy decisions.”

The glowing account, which ranks San Diego top performer overall for its positive ratings in a host of categories — including Dynamically Planned, Resident-Involved, and Employee-Engaged — makes no mention of the hefty racial pay disparities unearthed by acting city auditor Kyle Elser in an April report. White male city workers get an average of $98,026, with Black women receiving just $59,816, the study found. “Earnings gaps also exist across racial groups, with non-white City employees earning 80 percent of what white City employees earned in 2017,” noted mayoral chief operating officer Kris Michell in her downbeat response to the dismal results on behalf of Kevin Faulconer. “This distinct disparity is also unacceptable.”

Jack McGrory co-sponsored  Lawson-Remer  fundraiser.

Jack McGrory co-sponsored Lawson-Remer fundraiser.

Team Terra

Ex-San Diego city manager Jack McGrory, the power behind San Diego State University’s putative takeover of the old Qualcomm stadium property from the city, showed up as co-sponsor of a May 18 fundraiser for Terra Lawson-Remer, a Democrat out to beat incumbent GOP county supervisor Kristin Gaspar next year. Other backers included Lawson-Remer’s mother Shari Lawson and California state Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins.

Newspaper type hype

No new journalism jobs are on the horizon, and advertising and circulation continue to shrink, but the Union-Tribune, owned by billionaire Los Angeles physician Patrick Soon-Shiong, is in search of some high-powered PR talent to boost the paper’s sagging fortunes. “The Public Relations and Community Engagement Manager is responsible for strengthening the Union-Tribune’s image in the community by developing and implementing strategies and tactics that increase the public’s awareness of the U-T’s journalistic mission and its importance in the civic and cultural life of the community,” says a job notice. “This individual maintains frequent contact with key community leaders and organizations, and local media outlets and carries out the overall vision of the company.” Among other chores, the new hire will be expected to keep “an inventory of Union-Tribune recognition on other media channels; for-profit and nonprofit internal newsletters,” as well as to come up with “community-facing messages that promote the Union-Tribune as a trusted news source and good corporate citizen.”

Keep an eye out for even more U-T reporters pontificating about current events on San Diego State University-owned KPBS TV’s weekly Roundtable. The PR gig calls for promoting “Union-Tribune personnel on other media channels — including social — as experts in their respective fields."

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AlexClarke June 13, 2019 @ 6:46 a.m.

Serena Blanks should be suspended and investigated. Typical overpaid bureaucrat. There is no reason she should be of any interest to BMC unless she is working in their best interest and not of her employer, the taxpayers of San Diego.


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