Gift horse and a golden fleecing

— Members of the San Diego Unified school board are looking forward to a big week of freebies. "Jack Webb at the Union-Tribune would like to invite you and a guest to the Maya Angelou performance at 7:00 p.m. Friday, April 26, at Cox Arena," says a recent memo from boardmember Sue Braun to her fellows. "[Webb] has reserved some good seats, near SDSU President Stephen L. Weber, trustees of the Copley Foundation, and others. Maya Angelou has a well-known reputation as one of the nation's most well-known authors, although I have heard some controversy about the content of her performances." Then, on May 2, district taxpayers will be forking over $1500 for sponsorship and a table for ten at the San Diego County Taxpayers Association's seventh annual "Golden Watchdog and Golden Fleece Awards," where prizes are handed out for wasteful government spending. Other sponsors of the event include Chevron, Duke Energy, Sempra Energy, and political consultant Tom Shepard ... A full-page ad by an outfit called Innovative Cell Technologies in the program for this week's Del Mar National Horse Show spells out the next big biotech breakthrough: "Storing the necessary DNA for future cloning of your horse. We wish to offer our expertise in growing and preserving living cells to caring horse owners that believe there is a possibility in the future of horse cloning." But, they hasten to add, they can't vouch for the practice. "We are not in the business of cloning or in any way affiliated with any company that is in the business of cloning any organism. We are neutral on this issue. However, if a horse owner believes in the future possibilities of cloning and wants to preserve his/her horses' DNA [cells] for this purpose, we can help."

Murder, he said Qualcomm Stadium general manager Bill Wilson has become a key witness in the state's murder case against a man accused of killing racing legend Mickey Thompson and his wife in March 1988, reports the Orange County Register. Michael Goodwin, a former motocross promoter, is charged with slaying the couple after he and Thompson had a falling out over a failed business partnership. At his preliminary hearing in Orange County Superior Court last week, Wilson, reportedly an acquaintance of both men, testified that Goodwin voiced a desire to take revenge on his erstwhile partner two months before the murders. "I'm going to take him out,'' Wilson quoted Goodwin as saying ... Officials in Las Vegas are complaining that an organization led by San Diego monsignor "Father Joe" Carroll failed to maintain a homeless shelter the group recently decided to abandon there. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a report to the Vegas city council found that "improper maintenance is the cause of some of the deterioration of the building" that was formerly the home of Carroll's "MASH Village." Fixing plumbing, electrical, and other problems could cost up to $250,000, the paper says ... About 300 farmworkers in the Central Valley are finally getting paid for picking they did three years ago for a now-defunct farming operation run by La Jolla's William Barkett, reports the Modesto Bee. Barkett had obtained 10,000 acres of valley land in 1997 with an $85 million loan. A foreclosure lawsuit followed in 1999, and though it was later resolved, the workers, employed by a contractor, remained unpaid until a settlement freed up $114,000 to make the payroll. Because most were migrants, many of the workers can't be contacted to pick up their checks, the paper says.

Expense-account city San Diego is number 11 on the list of "Top U.S. City Per Diems, Ranked by Total Daily Cost for Hotels, Car, and Food," according to The Controller's Report. Total daily expenses here for the business traveler are $295.56, compared with New York, at the top of the list with $397.46. San Diego meals are particularly costly, averaging $75.49 a day, compared to top-ranking Los Angeles at $82.02 and New York's $81.51 ... Two locals have been named by Veterans Affairs secretary Tony Principi to the VA's 12-person Cemetery Advisory Committee: Robert L. Cardenas, of San Diego, a retired Air Force brigadier general and test pilot; and Roland F. Cinciarelli of Oceanside, a retired Marine brigadier general and Vietnam veteran.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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