Bombs away from USC against San Diego insiders

L.A. report calls San Diego establishment an “exclusionary enterprise.”

Call it the University of Southern California's revenge.

The wealthy and politically powerful school to the north has lately been hitting some setbacks to its advance on San Diego.

The most prominent of which, the luring of Alzheimer’s researcher Paul Aisen and his computer database away from UCSD has been snagged by a superior court judge in a downtown courthouse famous for rulings favoring local powerbrokers.

UCSD has also checkmated its Los Angeles rival by cutting a $36 million, 12-year deal with the nonprofit La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, "mostly to help it recruit and retain top faculty members," the San Diego Union-Tribune reported last week.

UCSD's move reportedly came after it found out about USC's attempted courtship of the nonprofit and offered its principals lots of cash and adjunct professorships, the paper said.

Unmentioned were the big salaries already collected by the institute's employees, including president Mitchell Kronenberg, who in 2013 pulled down annual compensation of $478,550, according to the nonprofit’s federal financial disclosure filing.

Center head and professor Alessandro Sette received $371,683; division head and professor Anjana Rao got $358,064, according to the disclosure.

Buzz Woolley

Buzz Woolley

The sweetheart deal was said to have been advanced by controversial ex-UCSD chancellor and former University of California president Robert Dynes. He is married to Ann Parode, one-time UCSD campus lawyer and ex-wife of Buzz Woolley, a wealthy UCSD booster from La Jolla and cofounder of the Voice of San Diego news and opinion operation. As previously reported here, Voice has a promotional deal with UCSD Extension.

Among his other post-retirement activities, Dynes is on the allergy institute's board.

But if USC is having trouble breaking the ice with San Diego's well-moneyed network of tightly-knit insiders, the university isn't afraid to unleash some rarely aired opinions about how the local establishment is running the city into the ground.

"The population that represents the region’s future is increasingly at risk of being left behind," says a July 29 report regarding San Diego shortcomings by USC's Dornsife Program for Environmental and Regional Equality.

"The economy is developing in a way that will generate further income inequality, with higher-paying jobs out of reach for the growing segments of the population, while the tourism and service sectors that are within reach for these workers pay low wages."

Adds the report, "Current ties with Tijuana still remain relatively unequal and businesses continue to exploit the lower labor costs in Mexico. Attempts to address these issues are often stymied by short-sighted politics.”

In addition, “The Mayor’s veto of an $11.50 living wage ordinance, followed by City Council’s override and business leaders’ subsequent move to put the ordinance on the ballot, exemplifies the political and economic divisions that threaten to keep economic growth an exclusionary enterprise."

Police were called after Brent Beltrán (left, holding his son) interrupted a pro-industry press conference that included former mayor Jerry Sanders.

Police were called after Brent Beltrán (left, holding his son) interrupted a pro-industry press conference that included former mayor Jerry Sanders.

A key target of the document is last year's referendum against the Barrio Logan community plan, led by Republican mayor Kevin Faulconer, with the assistance of ex-GOP mayor Jerry Sanders, currently head of the local chamber of commerce, and big financial backing from military contracting behemoths General Dynamics and BAE.

"The plan, in part, sought to alleviate many of the environmental issues afflicting the largely Latino neighborhood by establishing a buffer between residential and heavy industrial uses," says the report.

"In response, the local-shipping industry led a citywide referendum that resulted in two propositions failing in a citywide vote — and marking the first time a community plan was subject to such a vote,” the document notes.

"One explanation for the link between inequity and environmental degradation is that polluting industries and land uses are placed on marginalized groups with the least voice in the policy-making process thus ensuring that the problem receives less policy attention."

The report also attacks San Diego rental costs. "Communities of color, particularly renters, are more likely to pay too much for housing. In order to cover household costs and pay rent for an average two-bedroom apartment, San Diego renters would need to earn $55,820 or $26 an hour."

The analysis by Manuel Pastor, Alejandro Sanchez-Lopez, and Jennifer Ito was funded by the Ford Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, and The San Diego Foundation Malin Burnham Center for Civic Engagement – Climate Initiative, the document says.

Burnham's attempt to take over the U-T from La Jolla real estate magnate Douglas Manchester with a locally-based nonprofit came to naught earlier this year when Manchester sold the paper to Chicago-based Tribune Publishing. The firm quickly shut down the San Diego presses and moved its printing operations to the Los Angeles Times, also owned by the company.

In all, 178 San Diego jobs were lost in the downsize.

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So, bottom line- is there any point to this article? Is it about USC or renters or the U-T or General Dynamics or what ?

The appearance of this report is not coincidental. USC's attempt to hijack a long-running research project is rebuffed in court, and a few days later this "scholarly" and undoubtedly "unbiased" report is revealed. As far as a research university is concerned, USC is late to the party. It may be, as Matt says, wealthy and politically powerful, but its influence is great only in LA/OC. As we've seen, it doesn't have that much clout in San Diego County.

As I read the quotes from the report, one thing keeps repeating itself, and that almost everything negative in the report would apply to Los Angeles, too. And the same things could be said of all the major population centers in the state. So, there's nothing particularly unique about the findings. Perhaps USC needs to turn its guns back on itself and its host city, and get things in order there before slamming some other city. In other words, that report is "the pot calling the kettle black."

USC languished academically and professionally from the 1930's through the 1970's, being known more as a football power than anything else. But it was still the college of the LA establishment, and was warmly regarded by the upper income classes in Orange County, too. Only about thirty years ago did the place decide to make an attempt to really compete academically with the larger UC's, Stanford, and the Claremont colleges. Now, in an attempt to become a power in research, it elbows its way toward the head of the line, using money to buy membership in the club of major universities. Take the report with a major dose of skepticism, please.

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