Out of the past

— If Pete Wilson is coming back to be mayor of San Diego again, can his old pal Dick Silberman be far behind? So it seemed last week, a day after KPBS talking head Gloria Penner floated the idea of Wilson's taking over from beleaguered fellow Republican Dick Murphy. Wilson, who has been living like a prince in a tony Los Angeles neighborhood ever since being termed out as governor in 1998, was mayor here from 1971 until he beat then-governor Jerry Brown for the U.S. Senate in 1982. Erstwhile "managed growth" backer Wilson presided over massive upzoning of formerly empty spaces like North City West (now prosaically known as Carmel Valley) on behalf of big builders like Weyerhaeuser's Pardee, which just happened to be helping bankroll his campaigns. The traffic and sprawl that resulted are well known; Wilson's role is largely forgotten. Democrat Silberman, later convicted and sent to federal prison for masterminding a drug money-laundering scheme, was once a Wilson intimate, chairing the boards of the city's transit authority and its downtown redevelopment arm. Silberman, a major political moneyman for the ambitious mayor, was said to be a particular favorite of the late Otto Bos, a beefy former Union-Tribune city hall reporter who ran Wilson's tough-guy political operation. That ended when Silberman jumped ship to become Jerry Brown's secretary for business and commerce, as well as chief fundraiser for Democrat Brown's increasingly eccentric presidential bids. After those failed, Silberman married ex-San Diego city councilwoman Susan Golding, a Republican, and financed her successful 1984 race against Democrat Lynn Schenk, herself an ex-Silberman intimate. In between, the nattily dressing former Jack-in-the-Box wonder boy briefly wooed the late U-T publisher Helen Copley, said to be devastated by their subsequent breakup. After San Diego mayor-to-be Golding divorced him and he got out of the slammer, Silberman moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, married an attractive younger woman, and sired a child. Then last week, just as Penner and others were talking up the possibility of Wilson's return to power here, a notably robust-looking Silberman, now 75 and attired in his customary three-piece pinstriped banker's suit and polished wingtips, was also back in San Diego, happily holding forth over martinis with friends and business associates at happy hour in the lobby bar of downtown's Wyndham Emerald Plaza hotel.

Daze of school All was sweetness and light last Tuesday night as the San Diego Unified school board voted 5-0 to turn Gompers Middle School and three other troubled poverty-area institutions into so-called independent charter schools. Part of the big sell included widely publicized promises from UCSD to operate Gompers along the lines of the richly endowed Preuss School, a charter high school the university runs at its La Jolla campus that caters to brainy students from poor parts of town. "We would like to move from a culture of survival to a culture of learning," Preuss founder and UCSD provost Cecil Lytle was quoted by the Union-Tribune as saying. The paper, which strongly backed the charters in its editorial columns, then offered, "Under Gompers' charter petition, the middle school will partner with the University of California San Diego and model its academic program after the successful Preuss School." The story added that "UCSD students will serve as tutors and mentors for Gompers students." But if a February 22 letter from UCSD acting vice chancellor David R. Miller to board president Luis Acle is any indication, the charter may expect tough sledding. "Please understand that UCSD is not planning to assume any direct financial, management or administrative role in a Gompers Charter," the letter said. Miller went on to say that "funding may be subject to serious budget cuts, and we are not able to guarantee the extent of our commitment of tutors, parent education, teacher professional development, etc."

La Jolla bust-out Foes of San Diego city councilman Scott Peters are rallying to deny the wealthy La Jolla Democrat another term on the state coastal commission. A recent e-mail from Kathryn Burton, who ran against Peters last year, urges opponents to write assembly speaker Fabian Nuñez, who has appointment power over the seat. "A coastal district as large as the San Diego Coast District should have broader representation on the Commission than currently exists with two commissioners from La Jolla," writes Burton. "In January 2005, Mr. Peters led the Coastal Commission vote to reduce public access on public trust lands at La Jolla Shores Beach...to the benefit of the property owners and patrons of the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club. La Jolla Shores is one of the most heavily used beaches in all San Diego and can ill afford to have designated public swimming areas buoyed off for private benefit." ... Ex-state assembly speaker and former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown has become a $10,000-a-month lobbyist for the La Quinta-based Salton Sea Authority, a group that is trying to wrest the sea's developmental destiny from state control. Their top target: Democratic state senator Denise Ducheny of San Diego, whom they are pressing to write a bill to give the authority power over $300 million earmarked for rehabbing the brackish sea.

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