U-T stylebook 101

— Our town's secretive "business leaders" are at it again, but just who in the dickens are those pesky devils, anyway? "San Diego business leaders are putting together their own proposal, but they have declined to discuss it in detail because they don't want to tip off the competition," the Union-Tribune reported last week, describing a confidential plan by some unidentified local titans of commerce to lure to the city the new headquarters of the state's stem-cell research project. Other places, such as Sacramento and L.A., are dishing up juicy public subsidies. Local taxpayers may also soon be anteing up, whether they want to or not, but as usual they'll probably be the last to know. U-T readers are familiar enough with the drill. In a post-election story about Prop F, the "strong mayor" measure, the paper said, "Mayor Dick Murphy began working in private with business leaders about nine months ago to craft the ballot measure." About Donna Frye: "Business leaders fear the dozens of nominations to boards and commissions that Mayor Frye would make." And: "San Diego business leaders are again contributing heavily in city school board elections." In U-T land, the opposite of a "business leader" is a "community activist," as in, "A meeting room packed with business leaders, community activists, and government officials." ... Last week's decision by the Bush administration not to appeal a court ruling against loosening federal restrictions against big media ownership of newspapers and TV stations in the same market reportedly came as a blow to the folks running David Copley's newspaper empire. For years it's been rumored that Chicago's Tribune Co., which owns the L.A. Times, has had its eye on the U-T. Tribune owns Channel 69, KSWB-TV here, and the prospective lifting of the joint-ownership ban, championed by outgoing FCC chair Michael Powell, fueled speculation that Copley would eventually receive an offer he wouldn't refuse. Tribune has vowed to mount its own appeal, but if the decision stands, any such deal for the U-T would go out the window.

Rolling stoned What's up with Ric Grenell? He's the ex-Susan Golding spokesman who left town in 2002 to become press secretary to the U.S. mission to the United Nations, only to schedule a return to the former San Diego mayor's fold last fall as a vice president of corporate communications for big La Jolla-based defense contractor Titan Corp. Golding sits on the company's board. "Ric will be a great asset to the Titan team," Gene Ray, Titan's CEO and a major GOP donor, said in an October 26 press release. "His experience over the last 12 years as the primary communications advisor for public officials at the local, state, federal, and international levels will be a valuable asset, as we provide National Security Solutions to our government customers." Titan could use a little friendly press, beset as it is with multiple alleged financial irregularities and Abu Ghraib ties. But while in New York, Grenell made headlines in the Village Voice for some allegedly rough treatment of UN media members: "Several sources in the UN press corps who spoke on condition of anonymity describe the U.S. spokesperson as 'rude,' 'arrogant,' and a 'bully,' neither popular nor a particularly good source." All was forgiven back in San Diego, where U-T columnist Diane Bell wrote, "After a lifetime career in the public sector, Grenell calls this private enterprise post, which he assumes in December, a great challenge -- and a welcome return to San Diego." Now it turns out that the former staffer to Republican congressman Newt Gingrich is no longer at Titan, having beaten a hasty retreat back to his old digs at the UN. Responding to an e-mail query last week about Grenell's status, Titan spokesman Wil Williams wrote, "Mr. Grenell has decided not to join Titan."

Wired State legislative primary races are still more than a year away, but incurable political wonks are already weighing in on Sacramento's AroundTheCapitol.com message boards with prognostications of things to come. One describes the prospects of GOP assemblywoman Shirley Horton and her campaign manager: "Of course, the Democrats will be after her again. The problem for the Donkey Punchers is that they cannot compete with her ground game. Duane Dichiara is too good and has south San Diego wired." In the safe Democratic 79th Assembly district, where Juan Vargas is departing, another says, "Nick Inzunza, Mayor of National City....is being courted to run for this seat by local leaders! Would be very formidable and tough to beat!" Over in the 75th, where George Plescia can run for a final term, a commentator by the name of "Chip Monk" says, "Plescia stays put. He knows [Mark] Wyland would crush him in a state senate primary." Looking ahead to 2008, "BJ" says "Maybe Lori Pfeiler from Escondido -- didn't she come in second last time? I agree [Brian] Maienschein could be considering...but he might be coveting the Mayorship in San Diego...." There's also speculation about whether GOP assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia will take on Democratic incumbent Denise Ducheny for the 40th District senate seat. "Bonnie Garcia would be lucky to break 43 percent in this district," insists "ddiebel." "The real opportunity, if one existed, was for the seat that Larry Stirling just lost. An anti-abortion rights social conservative like Garcia won't fly in this San Diego-based district. The decline-to-states lean left on social policy."

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