If you want streets repaired, it looks like you can forget it

Sadly for San Diego, corporate mendicants appear back in the saddle

A news release came out last night from Mayor Bob Filner's office. The headline: "Mayor Bob Filner Welcomes Comic-Con to San Diego and Backs Convention Center Expansion!!!" (The mayor's office has a grotesque habit of putting exclamation marks in its headlines, but three may be a record.) This announcement, unfortunately, may tell it all. The corporate welfarists appear back in control, even though they lost the election. The $1 billion infrastructure deficit will probably remain and perhaps expand. Don't be surprised if there is a billion-dollar football stadium going up downtown, 80% financed by San Diego taxpayers. (And much of the 20% so-called private financing will be naming and advertising rights that ought to go to the City, not the team.) The governor is wisely getting rid of redevelopment, and tax increment financing appears dead, but the downtown boosters who seem to be back in power will find ways to pick taxpayer pockets.

There is no rational reason for the convention center expansion. Convention centers are vastly overbuilt in the U.S. and abroad; convention centers everywhere are cutting prices and losing money as supply zooms and demand shrinks, but cities keep building and expanding the white elephants. Expanding for just one event, Comic-Con, is the height of poor planning. San Diego's center is using phony statistics to claim it is successful. Neither a convention center expansion nor a subsidized football stadium will provide significant numbers of jobs to San Diegans. The incremental few that might arise will be extremely low-paying.

Bob Filner will probably remain as mayor for awhile unless there is a recall. But unfortunately, it now appears that it doesn't matter who is mayor. The puissance will remain with the power brokers who for decades have steered most of the money downtown for projects that should have been financed with private capital. Voters elected Filner because they wanted money to go to decaying neighborhoods and rundown infrastructure. But it looks like it's not to be.

Two local journalists, Scott Lewis and Tony Perry, have pointed out that Walt Ekard, the former County official who is now the City's chief operating officer, has assumed power over contracts, as well as staff and personnel decisions. Lewis pointed out that Kris Michell, chief executive of the Downtown Business Partnership, told her board members, "It would be great to send Walt an email thanking him for agreeing to take on these responsibilities." That, and the news release on Filner backing the convention center, are all you need to know.

Mike Aguirre, former city attorney who was smeared by the Union-Tribune and the establishment when he tried to pare back corporate welfare, could have told Filner that any official "not an establishment tool has to be letter perfect." But Filner never consulted Aguirre. Goodbye, water reclamation and the rebuilding of streets and roads. Hello taxpayer-financed projects that line the pockets of people who live in Rancho Santa Fe. Best, Don Bauder

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Comments

From where I sit, the Convention Center plans lack the sheer insanity of the Crack Central Stadium proposal, the new building might be better than the old, rather than worse, and capacity will be expanded. I don't support the expansion, but honest people might;

Anyone who thought last years election victory meant more than the beginning of a knock down battle didn't know this town. We've had a couple of bad weeks, some favorite leaders have disappointed us, but progressives are better off than we were last year. We haven't won, we're not winning, but we're fighting effectively now.

Psycholizard. Progressives are fighting effectively -- against each other. Best, Don Bauder

Disagree. "Progressives" want Filner to resign. Liberals know that Filner is one of them and want him to hang in. He will not give away the civic store for an unnecessary addition to the Convention Center.

monaghan: He has already come out with a statement saying he approves the convention center expansion which, as you point out, is unnecessary. Actually, it's far worse than that: it is the height of fiscal folly. Best, Don Bauder

'Twas ever so. Every thinker has their own ideas, But we should note that the national Republican Party won't hide their bigotry, they march without thought in lockstep and that destroys them locally. I like the trend. Plenty of teams that brawl in the locker room win championships.

Psycholizard: Maybe this is just a microcosm of the national scene. My political science professors used to tell me that you could always tell a Republican ward or regional office from a Democratic one. The Republicans would be quiet and efficient. The Democrats would be shouting and battling amidst flying scraps of paper. In San Diego's current case, the Republicans are so ruthlessly efficient they can sit on the sidelines and claim (only somewhat disingenuously) that they are only observers. The Democrats are split 24-24 -- each side wanting to assassinate the other. Best, Don Bauder

Well, the local GOP wasn't SO efficient that it won the mayoral race or held onto a seat in Congress that went to a very moderate Democrat who openly criticizes President Obama and recently called for Mayor Filner's resignation, along with other faint-hearted fellow-travellers.

The debilitated GOP turned its back on a classic San Diego Republican candidate, the handsome bland tabula rasa Nathan Fletcher, who's now a wolf in Dem's clothing.

Fletcher fits perfectly within the new San Diego County Democratic Party which now panders to big-money interests, via Christine Forester and Bill Lerach, and fosters a big gay constituency. That's a pretty conservative demographic. These people have never been never liberals.They are Democrats in Name Only -- DINOs.

No question the GOP has been on the sidelines letting Dems rip each other up over the Filner controversy, but that doesn't mean the GOP is strong. Democratic leadership met last night and commendably voted not to throw Filner under the official Party bus.

monaghan: The vote of Democratic leaders was 24-24. The two sides are shredding each other while the Republicans howl in glee -- with the Republican newspaper, the U-T, doing whatever the party tells it to do to fire the flames, pretending to be behind the scenes. Best, Don Bauder

San Diego's future will be for told by what happens in North Park at the Jack in the Box construction site where instead of remodeling the existing building as directed by the Planning commission, Jack's builders scraped it and installed a new foundation, thumbing their nose at the City.

Now Mayor Filner and a host of other local activists have cried foul.

If Jack gets away with this developmental fast one, then San Diego is doomed to whatever Big Money interests want, because it now seems that they can do what ever they want while the City just looks the other way!

In $an Diego rules are for the little people to obey because they don't seem to apply to the Wealthy who are free to enjoy themselves doing what they wish with little to no interference from anyone in City Hall!

Founder: Real estate developers have been running San Diego for decades. Filner WAS dedicated to reversing that. But is he STILL dedicated to doing so? I don't think so. The unproved sex charges apparently caused him cede power to the corporate welfarists as a desperate gambit to survive. This is a real shame. I still believe he deserves due process. I also think the controversy is losing steam as no one steps forward. Best, Don Bauder

Cities by the score in default, sucked dry by "deals," and nobody of any consequence going to jail . . . the steady implosion of the USA.

Twister: There are many who share that view. Best, Don Bauder

We should compare Filner to DeMaio, Sanders, and the Council. When the Council overrides his veto, he loses ability to influence outcomes. He needs to assemble a working majority, and that may require bargaining. The downtown interests are a force to be reckoned with, electing one man won't reverse decades of dominance in a few weeks. Bob Filner is the best we have right now, If there's someone better, don't keep it a secret.

Psycholizard: Filner is our current hope. Maybe he can cozy up to the corporate welfarists, then later desert them. I would not bet on that. Best, Don Bauder

Right ON, Psy! Instead of outing Filner, out his enemies. And while y'all are out there, out them all!

Filner is making the same mistakes Aguirre made. I tried to warn the latter, and he dissed me big time while I was trying to help him. We need attack dogs, not lap-dogs, and I'm still usually in Aguirre's corner despite his spite, but this is business, not a love affair. They both need to learn that bad publicity, while in the show-biz lexicon there's no such thing as, when not balanced with an occasional good performance, will eventually erode your fan-base. I'm just like them, I must admit--to hell with a fan-base; it sucks up time and energy that could go toward better things. But the REAL world, "as it is, not as we would like it to be," must be dealt with. BUT (once more), one doesn't need sugar to prevail, just not quite so much vinegar and bile. EGOCENTRISM is humanity's most fundamental flaw. Unfortunately, our attack dogs are stewed by the witches and warlocks of narcissism.

Twister: As I have said, Filner should have consulted Aguirre, who could have told him that he would be a target from his first day on the job, and he had to watch out not to give the assassins openings to fire. Best, Don Bauder

Once the unions switched sides to get construction jobs the expansion was a done deal.

stingray: That deal smelled to high heaven -- no question about that. Did the expansion have to be a "done deal?" -- not sure. Best, Don Bauder

Twister: There are lawsuits, the Coastal Commission. There is also economic intelligence: somebody in authority could realize that convention centers are vastly overbuilt nationally and internationally. It is a matter of public record that the San Diego Convention Center has been cooking the books to make its performance look much better than it actually is. But there is a cancerous problem with corporate welfare: the business community fights to rake in public subsidies because it is not their money. It's the taxpayers' money that they are profiting from. Best, Don Bauder

Back to having streets repaired. Taxes have to be earmarked and not subject to shifting; that's what gas taxes are supposed to do.

But one of the elephants in the room is the fact that the streets used to be properly maintained, but not only no longer are, they are allowed to deteriorate much faster than they used to be (useful life has been shortened). For example, cracks used to be filled before winter rains and weeds not allowed to grow in the cracks. When this practice is reduced or neglected, water gets in, the base is eroded, weeds grow and expand, and traffic chips away at the edges. I was, I must say, however, gratified to see some crack filling taking place only yesterday, so some gutsy person in Streets is acting responsibly.

Lacking this kind of maintenance (prompt attention to small defects while they are cheap to fix), streets reach a point where all the king's maintenance and all the king's crack-filling cannot put the street back together again, and viola! you have a juicy, expensive plum on your hands to be handed out as a resurfacing contract! Resurfacing is often like closing the barn door after the horses are out (without replacing the base, reflection cracks will come through the largely cosmetic resurfacing) and it's not long before yet another contract is required. Now, yet another contract (an even bigger one) is required to rebuild the street from the base. Then, as that street's maintenance is neglected, the process starts all over again.

Do y'all hear that Giant Sucking Sound!

Twister: Good analysis. Infrastructure erodes and the public, like the frog in the slowly-boiling water, doesn't seem to get alarmed. In past years, governments knew that their major function was infrastructure and maintenance. Then, slowly, public money began to go into subsidizing billionaire owners of sports teams, along with owners of hotels, shopping centers, theater complexes, auto dealers. This is not only true with local governments. The nation's infrastructure is in very bad shape for the same reasons. Corporations are getting fat subsidies and huge tax breaks, and stashing funds overseas, but the public seems oblivious, partly because of accounting complexity, partly because they have politicians in their pockets. And there are many other reasons. Best, Don Bauder

If the money was falling from the sky, the Convention Center expansion would be worth a look at the plans. If the money from the Port Authority and designated taxes can't be spent on real needs, we can do worse. Spending public money on projects isn't bad if the public wants to pay for it, after basic needs are met. But attracting tourists with expensive projects while closing public restrooms for lack of money, literally stinks. Regardless of what happens, Filner has started an honest discussion of City priorities, and focused attention on our failing infrastructure. Some people would prefer to talk about something else.

Psycholizard: And those who want something else -- the lining of their own and their friends' pockets with taxpayer money -- have retaken City Hall even though voters want help for the rotting infrastructure and decayed neighborhoods. Best, Don Bauder

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