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Civitas, Inc., the consulting firm being used by Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs to design his controversial Balboa Park makeover, has paid $40,000 to San Diego lobbying firm MJE Marketing Services to promote the plan at city hall.

Accordng to MJE's January 5 lobbyist disclosure filing for the final three months of 2011, MJE's Lauren Bogart and Kristen Byrne huddled with mayoral staffers Rachel Laing and Gerald Braun, as well as Park and Recreation's Stacey Lomedico, to map lobbying strategy, the goal being "approval of the Plaza de Panama Project."

Mayor Jerry Sanders, a longtime beneficiary of Jacobs political largesse, has been a stalwart backer of the billionaire's projects, including the park redesign and Qualcomm's "Snapdragon Stadium" promotional gambit, which was held to be illegal by City Attorney Jan Goldsmith.

Jacobs unveiled his park plan, including a massive parking garage south of the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, at an invitation-only event in August 2010. According to an account of the meeting in the Union-Tribune, representatives of Denver-based Civitas were in attendance.

The La Jolla billionaire did not say how much money he was prepared to give the project, which is officially being promoted by a non-profit foundation set up by Jacobs, the story added.

The tax-exempt group, named the Plaza de Panama Committee, has an address at the downtown B Street offices of the law and lobbying firm of Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek.

In addition to Civitas, MJE reported that other lobbying clients included the Otay Mesa Property Owners Association, which paid the company $4,000, and Verizon Wireless, which paid $18,000.

Byrne, vice president of MJE and daughter of Mike McDade, one-time mayoral aide to Roger Hedgecock and an influential lobbyist in his own right, contributed $150 each to the re-election campaigns of Democratic city council members Sherri Lightner and Marti Emerald on December 1, and $250 to Todd Gloria, also a Democrat, on the same date.

Founded by ex-Union-Tribune staffer Marlee Ehrenfeld, who is the firm's president, MJE has done work for Qualcomm, the Airport Authority, and in the last quarter of 2011 was paid $1193 by San Diego's storm water department to work on the city's Think Blue program, according to MJE's disclosure.

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InOmbra Feb. 9, 2012 @ 11:46 a.m.

Wow. I can think of quite a few people who would have loved to huddle with LoMedico, Laing, and Braun and advocate for another approach. And they'd have done it for free.

A city run by lobbyists, and a city where city staffers routinely become lobbyists after working from the inside.

Paradise plundered - 2005-2012 is Sanders' legacy.


Erik Feb. 10, 2012 @ 9:02 p.m.

And if you want to know why you will never read this story in the UT, note this tweet:

lrnbogart Lauren Bogart Thanks @PRSAsandiego for a great breakfast this morning with Jeff Light... gained valuable insight on @sdut's recent changes! 31 Jan


Twister Feb. 10, 2012 @ 10:21 p.m.

It's a feint, as usual.

The reality is that deliveries still have to be made and the handicapped will be slapped--among other details ignored.

The way the park is designed/built and the constraints of the site mean that "solutions" in search of a real problem are in the mind of the conceivers and believers.

Nothing will work without an intra-park transportation system that is robust enough for people to actually use. Hell, even the 1915 system, bad as it was, was better than the nothing we have now.

Still chaos ain't all bad.

Beats hell out of laundering more public money we don't have into the pockets of the gob&g system.


AlexSachs Feb. 11, 2012 @ 9:20 p.m.

This article is a bit of much ado about nothing. I've known Kristen Byrne for a long time, and she is an above the board community relations professional. No surprise that she's met with Mayoral staff. Nor is it any surprise that she contributes to and supports progressive Democrats on our City Council. Again, much ado about nothing.

Make no mistake, I oppose the Jacobs bypass plan, and fear it will fundamentally alter Balboa Park, a national historic landmark. But I have confidence that, if we are going to work out a compromise or solution to this issue, Kristen Byrne can and will play an mportant role in it. thanks.


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