Showing their hand

— The Union-Tribune's Bob Kittle fired the first volley last week in what is widely expected to be the paper's rough treatment of city attorney candidate Michael Aguirre. Kittle used his position as perennial member of the SDSU-run KPBS's Editor's Roundtable to blast Democrat Aguirre -- who represented plaintiffs in an unsuccessful legal battle against the U-T-favored Chargers ticket guarantee -- as a "loose cannon." Some say the paper will endorse one of Aguirre's two female opponents, both of whom work for Republican incumbent Casey Gwinn, until recently a big Chargers backer and still a U-T intimate. Watch for tough coverage of Aguirre's history, lighter fare about Aguirre's foes and Gwinn, courtesy of U-T political writers and the KPBS newsroom. Meanwhile, noted Del Mar literary agent and KPBS-TV viewer Sandra Dijkstra is upset that a series featuring liberal Bill Moyers was moved into the wee hours of the morning and replaced by shows such as one with CNBC financial tout Suze Orman. Dijkstra wrote the station: "Why is it that of 10 airings of Now, only [two are] scheduled at a reasonable viewing hour? This is simply UNACCEPTABLE, and nothing short of CENSORSHIP!... Your civic duty as a public broadcasting station is to raise awareness and elevate political discourse, not just replay infomercials by Suze Orman." Replied KPBS's Keith York: "Now with Bill Moyers has been pre-empted for three Friday nights while we solicit contributions from San Diego-area viewers. This is not censorship; it is an editorial decision I have made to assist our fundraising staff in reaching their difficult financial goals." Rebutted Dijkstra: "Suspend Suze Orman whose show and values are NOT those of KPBS, and reinstate Bill Moyers, your jewel in the crown, if you're serious about fund raising!!!"... Inside word has it that city councilwoman Donna Frye encouraged activist and Torrey Hills Community Planning board chair Kathryn Burton to get into the race against wealthy incumbent La Jolla councilman Scott Peters, making it a three-way contest with Phil Thalheimer, a well-heeled Rancho Bernardan who is expected to put plenty of his own money into the campaign. Frye aide Mike Simonsen says she did "not directly" encourage Burton's candidacy. "She did not discourage it, and she would not discourage anyone from running for office." Consultant T. J. Zane is out as a Thalheimer advisor. Scott Barnettis still on the campaign, says Zane ... Look for that controversial plan to rehab downtown's dilapidated Balboa theater to surface as an issue in the San Diego mayor's race. Kent Trimble was connected with an aborted attempt to use public money to fix up the place. Trimble is the son-in-law of county supervisor Ron Roberts, who's running against mayoral incumbent Dick Murphy.

White man's burdens Escrow is reportedly about to close on the deal between Bob White, the ex-San Diego wonderboy who is now a close advisor to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the son of a Sacramento real estate kingpin for White's lavish suburban Sacramento home. The Sacramento Bee says the mansion is reportedly haunted as the result of an infamous 1950s murder-suicide attempt.

Rich man's lobby The past couple of months haven't been the easiest for Michael Powell, son of Secretary of State Colin Powell. The younger Powell, head of the Federal Communications Commission, suffered some embarrassment when congressional forces, led by Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, went on the warpath against his plan to expand the nation's big media monopolies. But Powell had his day in the sun this week when he rolled into La Jolla for a speech before local corporate fat cats, sponsored by the San Diego Telecom Council and UCSD. The topic was "Charting the Future of the Telecom Industry," with Powell set to have a "conversation" with UCSD engineering gurus Larry Smarr and Harry Gruber. But members of the taxpaying public seeking a ticket were out of luck: "The event is by invitation only, but the public is invited to watch a live webcast," said the UCSD website ... L.A. Times sports columnist T.J. Simers aimed his big guns at San Diego's daily newspaper and Chargers owner Alex Spanos last week: "The Times broke the story that the Spanos Goofs, who own the Slugs, had filed a lawsuit against the city two days before Thanksgiving. Reporters for the San Diego U-T were upset at the Slugs, claiming the team leaked the story to the Times because the Times has a more favorable relationship with the Slugs. I'm not sure anyone has quite the same relationship with the Goofs that I have, but I wouldn't necessarily describe it as favorable." ... The Times also beat the U-T last week on a scandal involving La Jolla's bankrupt Advanced Tissue Sciences, reporting that onetime company consultant Stephen I. Katz, an official at the National Institutes of Health, drew big fees while the NIH was providing the firm with millions of dollars in grants.

-- Matt Potter

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