Tax dollars at play
Now that termed-out San Diego county supervisor Greg Cox has become president of the National Association of Counties, insiders are on the lookout for a flood of staff junketing. The first trip came in July, when Cox’s chief of staff Danny Melgoza went to Nashville for six days to celebrate the GOP supervisor’s new position at the association’s annual meeting. Melgoza’s lodging tab at the Gaylord Grand Ole Opry hotel, paid for by the association, was $1352.94, according to an August 28 disclosure statement he filed with the county. “With Supervisor Cox’s recent election to a top leadership post at the National Association of Counties, Danny serves as his liaison to this national organization, as well as to the California Association of Counties,” says the aide’s online profile. “Danny plays a critical role in developing Supervisor Cox’s strategic initiatives and major policy decisions within those organizations, positioning him as a leader at the local, statewide and national level.”
As a Legislative Assistant II in Cox’s office, Melgoza got total salary and benefits of $174,622 in 2017, per the website Transparent California. Last November, the supervisor named Melgoza his new chief of staff, replacing longtime aide Pam O’Neil who retired. On top of Melgoza’s time, ex-county chief administrative officer Walt Ekard is getting a thousand dollars a month as a special consultant helping Cox raise his national profile through his role with the association. Ekard has also been granted a total of $10,000 to attend two national conferences of the group, per a July 17 Union-Tribune account.
Off to the races
State senate leader Toni Atkins has been generating lots of money from the horse racing industry for her so-called ballot measure committee. Besides $15,000 given by the Thoroughbred Owners of California on August 27, the Democrat - who has long cultivated the gambling set - collected a total of $17,640 from the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, operator of the track here, during August and September. On September 20, the Sycuan casino tribe came up with $78,000. Earlier, Communities for California Cardrooms PAC gave $10,000, and the Pechanga Band, another casino operator, contributed $5200. “The new President Pro Tempore of the Senate is a longtime fan of racing,” said horse racing industry lobbyist Robyn Black in a May write-up about Atkins for California Thoroughbred magazine. “Senator Toni Atkins is a regular, studying the horses in the walking ring before each post at Del Mar.”
Recent contributions made by Atkins from her ballot fund included $5000 in September for the campaign to give San Diego State University control of the former Qualcomm Stadium site in Mission Valley, along with $100,000 to back Propositions 1 and 2 on November’s California ballot. Per the Sacramento Bee, Prop 1 would authorize “$4 billion in state bonds for a laundry list of housing programs, projects, grants, and loans.” San Diego’s Jennifer LeSar, who is married to Atkins, owns a lucrative housing consulting outfit.
Carl vs. Jerry
Ex-San Diego city councilman Carl DeMaio, battling Gov. Jerry Brown’s gasoline tax hike, has decided to fight fire with fire. “In early September, I warned you that the Sacramento politicians had intentionally changed the official ballot title of our Prop 6 Gas Tax Repeal Initiative to remove any reference to gas tax repeal and replace it with a grossly misleading and false title of ‘Prop 6: Repeals Road Repairs’,” says DeMaio in a recent email to supporters. “Our polling shows that false title causes us to lose the vote! But we can fix it — here’s how: This Friday we want to mail an ‘Election Ballot Correction Notice’ to 3 million Californians who are Absentee Voters. As you can see from the sample below, it looks like an official notice from the Registrar of Voters. Provocative and attention-grabbing — that’s what we need.” Concludes the radio talk show host, “Absentee ballots arrive next week so we absolutely must get this creative mailer into the hands of voters BEFORE they vote. Can you please help? Take a look at the piece below — I think you’ll agree it is highly effective!”...Having defeated a longtime nemesis in June, a campaign committee backed by big labor unions has changed its name from San Diegans opposed to Hypocrisy and Lori Saldaña for Supervisor 2018. The new name: San Diego Strong in Support of Nathan Fletcher for Supervisor 2018. Registrar of voter disclosure filings show that the newly-renamed committee has thus far received $10,000 each from two local union sources, Unite Here and San Diego Works, along with the same amount from the California Medical Association Independent Expenditure Committee of Sacramento. That doctors’ lobbying organization had kicked in $15,000 for the committee during its anti-Saldaña heyday in May. Democrat Fletcher, running against Republican ex-District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis in the Fourth District contest for county supervisor, is married to Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who during June’s primary funneled $370,000 to the San Diego Democratic Party through her re-election campaign kitty on Fletcher’s behalf.