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An ex-Union-Tribune reporter who left the paper to become a top aide to GOP mayor Jerry Sanders is now working for the nonprofit group making plans for a megamillion-dollar corporate-sponsored 2015 celebration of Balboa Park's centennial.
Gerry Braun, who left the city at the end of the Sanders administration in December, is charged with coordinating "media outreach" for the Balboa Park Centennial Committee, according to Ben Clay, the retired lobbyist who along his wife Nikki co-chairs what is hoped to be a $40 to $50 million effort to stage a giant exposition here in 2015.
As a contract worker for the non-profit, Braun is being paid approximately $6,000 a month, Clay said in a phone interview this morning.
Braun's job is set to last through the wrap-up of the committee's work in 2016, Clay added.
Braun, a one-time U-T columnist, was director of special projects under Sanders. In that role, he served on the centennial celebration's steering committee and presented the memorandum of understanding with Balboa Park Celebration Inc. to the city council in October 2011, according to council agenda records.
He also conducted media relations work on behalf of the Republican mayor, in one case presenting a mayoral proclamation to a weekly newspaper.
According to a posting on the website of Collaborative Services, a consulting firm, Braun was closely involved in the now-abandoned Irwin Jacobs's Plaza de Panama traffic and parking makeover of the park.
Our team included the urban planning and landscape architecture firm Civitas, Inc; the historical preservation firm Heritage Architecture; Rick Engineering; MJE Marketing; Estrada Land Planning and many others. And throughout this process we worked closely with the city’s Director of Special Projects, Gerry Braun, and the office of Mayor Jerry Sanders, in what was truly a public-private partnership.
The centennial is now going by the name Edge2015. According to an online posting of a request for proposal regarding consultant services for Balboa Park Celebration, Inc.:
EDGE2015 is anticipated to begin December 31, 2014 and run through December 31, 2015. It is intended to raise the profile of San Diego as an innovative, cultural, and dynamic city. It will boost the short, medium, and long-term economy of the San Diego region and be a significant event in the life of the City.
According to Clay, the group anticipates raising at least $40 million from sponsors to fund its ambitious agenda; monthly overhead of the group is currently about $25,000 and rising, he said.
City funding for the project briefly became a contentious issue under new Democratic mayor Bob Filner, but Clay says the mayor's office has expressed underlying support for the project. $40,000 has been supplied by the county of San Diego.