George Mitrovich and Malin Burnham push for strong mayor in San Diego

Union-Tribune calls in to Del Mar Fair to reserve 87 spots

— With the downtown baseball stadium all tied up in knots, what's the next big municipal controversy to hit San Diego? Insiders say its charter reform. According to several reports, a group of self-appointed civic leaders, including Padres backer George Mitrovich and real estate mogul Malin Burnham, have been meeting with local bigwigs in an attempt to drum up support for a change to a strong-mayor form of government ... Governor Gray Davis has been taking his knocks for failure to fill important appointive jobs in state government. Now Rick Simpson, who Davis named legislative director in January, has handed in his resignation. Simpson, an education expert who guided Davis's education bills to legislative passage this spring, reportedly chafed under the governor's "hands-on" management style, according to last week's Sacramento Bee. His replacement? None other than former San Diego city councilman and assembly member Mike Gotch, the Bee reports. After two terms in the assembly, Gotch stayed in Sacramento to open a lobbying business with his wife ... Besides Gotch, another San Diego transplant to the state's capital is set for a makeover. The owners of the former City of San Diego, a decrepit ferry that used to ply the waters between downtown and Coronado in the days before the bridge, have asked the Sacramento City Council to let them convert the boat into a 500-seat restaurant near Old Sacramento. Renamed the City of Sacramento, the vessel was last owned by the City of Antioch, which auctioned it off after a waterfront redevelopment plan fizzled.

Cutting Edge

Gun lover Charlton Heston would probably like the latest statistics coming out of the San Diego Unified School District: back in fiscal year 1996, 12 firearms were "recovered" from students. In fiscal 1997, it dropped to 7, went back up to 12 in fiscal '98, and so far this fiscal year, which ends in two weeks, hovers at just 7. "Other Weapons Recovered," however, have been growing apace, with 108 seized in 1997, 154 in 1998, and, so far this fiscal year, 184 ... When House Minority Whip David Bonoir toured Tijuana in April of last year to highlight the shortcomings of NAFTA, it was national news. Now Bonoir is making news again: his recent financial-disclosure statement shows that the Tijuana trip was paid for by an outfit called Citizens Trade Campaign, sponsored by big labor.

It's Not Payola, Really it's Not

It's time again for the Del Mar Fair and the usual round of hyper-publicity that greets the annual state-owned extravaganza. Before the fair gets underway each year, local media types partake in a lavish party that sources say is meant to ensure their goodwill during the run of the event. This year was no exception, with 1500 invites going out to the staffs of virtually every local media outlet in the county, from Airwatch America to the Microsoft Sidewalk website to the Valley Center Roadrunner. According to a list of RSVPs furnished by the fair, the free party was particularly popular at KFMB-TV, channel 8, where the number of party passes requested by employees who phoned to say they'd be attending totalled 96. At channel 10, KGTV, the number was 51; at NBC affiliate channel 39, KNSD, it was 40; at independents KUSI, channel 51, and KSWB, channel 69, it was 34 and 11, respectively. Places were held for 8 representatives of public station KPBS. Print media also took advantage of the fair's offer of good cheer, with staffers at the Union-Tribune calling in to reserve 87 spots, representatives from the North County Times booking 28 admissions, and employees of the Daily Californian calling for 14. Reservation recipients at each of the papers ranged from editors to reporters to photographers, according to the list supplied by the fair, which says that it doesn't know whether all who called in actually went to the party. "We also did not keep a headcount. Because of the prior night's rain and day's cold and windy weather, attendance was down somewhat from past years," wrote fair information officer Mike Walker. "My estimate is that attendance was in the 650-700 range over the course of the evening." He added that the fair "is self-supporting and does not receive any taxpayer revenues to support its activities," including the party.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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