Full spin ahead

— The Union-Tribune, apparently intent upon shoring up the eroding credibility of San Diego schools chief Alan Bersin, gave a hero's sendoff to Veronica "Ronne" Froman, who abruptly left her lucrative job as Bersin's chief financial advisor last week to head up the local Red Cross. In a Thursday news story bylined by two U-T reporters, the paper garlanded the retired rear admiral with nothing but the highest of praise, failing to even mention the ongoing controversies besetting Bersin's district budget. Then, on Saturday, the paper ran an editorial full of glowing praise for Froman, particularly what it called her "innovative business reforms." The paper hadn't even reported one of those controversial "reforms," awarding of exclusive beverage contracts to Coke and Pepsi, until the Froman sendoff piece. Conspicuously missing from both coverage and editorial were the myriad of critics of those outsourcing deals or any account of the upheaval in the district-finance department, which as a result of Froman's housecleaning has been left without a single licensed certified public accountant ... It appears clear who won't get the endorsement of San Diego City Attorney Casey Gwinn in the race to succeed him. Deputy Deborah Berger, who -- along with fellow city attorney staffer Lesley Devaney -- has declared for the job, has dispatched a fundraising mailer with an implied disparagement of the office's handling of the infamous Roque de la Fuente inverse condemnation suit. "The $100 million the City lost in the de la Fuente case," Berger said, "would have paid annual salaries for 1345 firefighters or 1205 police officers!" Gwinn and Devaney, his close confidante, are widely blamed for botching the case. Berger also alludes to Gwinn's coziness with professional sports team owners and their sweetheart deals with the city by promising she would "file lawsuits against anyone who attempts to take advantage of the City of San Diego or its citizens." Berger, a Democrat, has lined up ex-police chief Jerry Sanders and ex-state senator Lucy Killea as campaign co-chairs. Her website features a picture of her and ex-president Jimmy Carter together at a Padres game.

Ivory bubbles Local public university chiefs are now zero for two in their service on corporate boards. Last year, it was SDSU president Stephen Weber whose company, Florida-based Budget Group, Inc., the rent-a-car giant, slid down the tubes into Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Now it's UCSD chancellor Robert Dynes and La Jolla's Leap Wireless, which filed for Chapter 11 last week, most likely wiping out public shareholders. Dynes joined the Leap board back in 1999, shortly after his friend, Padres owner John Moores, also became a member. Moores, appointed a UC Regent by Democratic governor Gray Davis and Dynes's father-in-law, San Francisco financier Warren Hellman, had recently cemented an investment deal between themselves. Moores, who resigned his Leap board seat during the Valerie Stallings influence-buying scandal, subsequently quit the board of his own high-tech outfit, Peregrine Systems, after it went into bankruptcy and was faced with an ongoing federal fraud investigation.

Censorship 101 Private San Diegobased National University is causing a stir in public university circles by running a radio spot pointing out budget-caused weakness in government-run schools. "California's community colleges say budget cuts will deny access to nearly 146,000 students this fall, which equates to the total number of undergraduates within the UC system," say the spots, which are running throughout the state. "The tone of the advertisement seems as if they're trying to capitalize on the problems the community colleges face," Scott Lay of the California Community College League complained to the Sacramento Bee. "We're fighting like heck to keep the doors open, and we don't need people with ulterior motives mixing the message." Not so, National U marketing V.P. Patricia Potter told the paper. "There's no malicious intent here," Potter said. "Their only purpose is to create a forum where people talk about important issues facing education and along the way raise the visibility of our university." One station that has banned the messages: San Diego State University-owned KPBS, though the Sacramento public radio station deemed them educational and allowed them on the air as "underwriter" spots. "SDSU holds our license," KPBS spokeswoman Tammy Carpowich was quoted as saying, adding that the station was "sensitive" to anything having to do with the California State University system. "They don't have editorial control, but we share the same mission of education." Potter begged to disagree: "I felt very uncomfortable. My understanding is that stations are their own entity and that the campus should have no control over them."

Contributor: Matt Potter

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