San Diego Borderline business Word that San Diego mayor-elect Jerry Sanders and Tijuana mayor Jorge Hank Rhon are getting together to promote the cross-border economy has resurrected not-so-distant memories of ex-mayor Susan Golding and her onetime husband, Richard T. Silberman, the financier who went to prison in 1990 after being caught up in an FBI money-laundering sting. Hank has a long history, a lot of it unsavory, according to his critics, including Jesús Blancornelas, whose Tijuana newspaper Zeta runs a weekly ad with the line, "Jorge Hank Rhon: Why did your bodyguard Antonio Vera Palestina kill me? -- Héctor 'Gato' Félix Miranda." That refers to the 1988 murder of fellow journalist Félix, for which two of Hank's employees went to prison; Hank denied any involvement. In 1997, Blancornelas barely survived after assailants unknown fired more than 200 bullets into his car as he was being driven to work. Blancornelas was hit four times; the driver died.
Sanders and Hank will appear at "A binational salute to the San Diego/Tijuana manufacturing community," to be held tomorrow at Tijuana's Hotel Pueblo Amigo, according to an invitation on the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce website. Awards will be given, the invitation says, to "Companies That Recognize the Economic Importance of Facilities in Both Tijuana and San Diego and Have Improved the Lives of Our Citizens by Outstanding Service to the World's Greatest International Region. There are more than 100 companies that have facilities on both sides of the border!"
Last week the Union-Tribune reported that Hank's personal envoy to the Sanders administration would be Alfonso Bustamante Anchondo, identified by the paper as "a Tijuana businessman and an ex-government official." He's the son of Alfonso Bustamante Labastida, 90, the Tijuana cooking-gas magnate, for generations one of Tijuana's wealthiest and most powerful men. Another son, Carlos Bustamante Anchondo, president of Grupo Bustamante, was a longtime associate of Silberman's. At the time of Silberman's legal travails, it was widely reported that he was prepared to implicate Carlos in unspecified wrongdoing in exchange for leniency from the Feds, but nothing ever came of it.
FBI notes of wiretaps conducted as part of the government's case against Silberman revealed that he talked to Carlos about a deal to build a factory in Tijuana involving Kyocera, a Japanese electronics company. On February 13, 1989, according to the FBI notes, Silberman, then married to Golding -- at the time a county supervisor -- was picked up talking to Carlos: "Bustamante told R.S. about his deals, and in two weeks 'Inamuri' [presumably Kazuo Inamori, the founder of Kyocera] is coming to town. Inamuri is pushing the idea of a twin plant so he can bring his buddies in." On February 16, the notes said, a caller identified as Bustamante told Silberman, "I turn over the factory on the last day of the month. It's about $400,000 plus the contract." Later that day, a Kyocera executive phoned Silberman to talk about a reception for border VIPs held by Golding and the board of supervisors. The Kyocera vice president said he "feels honored of recognition." Silberman then reportedly said he "needs the resources of Inamuri." Shortly after that, Silberman called Golding's executive secretary "re: reception plans. They discuss inviting some prominent Japanese businessmen from Sony [and] Panasonic" to the party. "Carlos Bustamante for Dick," says a later entry, dated March 31, 1989. "In lobby waiting for Dick. Carlos is coming up to office for meeting with Dick."
Landed gentry Departing San Diego city manager Lamont Ewell, like many a smart property buyer, has made a pile on downtown residential real estate. On July 11, he sold his seventh-floor unit in the ritzy Renaissance condo complex, located in the city's redevelopment-project area, for $1,035,500. He purchased it new on October 1, 2002, for $620,900. So maybe he can't be faulted for being a big redevelopment fan. In May, Ewell dashed off a memo to the city council arguing against a move by Councilwoman Donna Frye to force the City's redevelopment agency to repay the $246 million debt it owes the City's general fund. A big chunk of the money was used to subsidize condo buildings downtown. "Early repayments of City advances could jeopardize the integrity of the redevelopment bonds that have been sold for long term investments," wrote Ewell. "Ultimately, this would impact the effectiveness of future financing of redevelopment areas with the City of San Diego based on a perceived lack of long term commitment of the City by bond investors." It's probably not a surprise that having made a killing, Ewell has invested again. On October 10 of this year, Ewell and wife Mary paid $446,000 for a second-floor condo on Fifth Avenue near Laurel Street. He also owns a vacation home in Lake Arrowhead, which he bought on August 15, 2003, for $277,500. Ewell has been named the new city manager of Santa Monica.
Out of the past Former newscaster and San Diego mayoral candidate Dick Carlson has turned up on a list of fat cat donors to the legal defense fund of Scooter Libby, embattled aide to Vice President Dick Cheney. In 1984, Carlson, who had married a wealthy heiress to the Swanson frozen food fortune, ran for mayor against Roger Hedgecock, then enmeshed in a J. David-related political money-laundering scandal. Though endorsed by the Union-Tribune and backed by his wife's extensive fortune, Carlson lost badly, in part because Hedgecock backers made fun of his corpulent physique with a bumper sticker saying, "No Fat Mayors." He later moved to New York, where son Tucker now appears on the cable network MSNBC.