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Balboa Park Centennial Planning Group Disbands

Evening Edition

Aired 3/5/14 on KPBS Midday Edition.

Gerry Braun, media outreach coordinator for the now disbanded Balboa Park Celebration Inc., and transition director for the event

Bruce Coons, Executive Director, Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO) (TV ONLY)


Balboa Park's 2015 Centennial Celebration board of directors voted Tuesday to disband and transfer all organizing authority to the city of San Diego.

"This decision was the result of long and careful consideration of the obligations spelled out in the BPCI Memorandum of Understanding with the City of San Diego and, most importantly, our responsibility to the people of San Diego," organizers stated on the Balboa Park Celebration, Inc. web site.

The original vision of the event was a "year-long celebration of global significance that would boost the regional economy and generate hundreds of thousands of room nights in local hotels," according to the web site.

But the group determined it would cost tens of millions of dollars, and donations and funding fell short.

The announcement comes on the heels of a U-T San Diego report that organizers missed deadlines, pushed aside groups that wanted to be involved and exaggerated over funding and partnerships.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer said he will work with Council President Todd Gloria, whose district includes Balboa Park, on a more realistic celebration that recognizes the character and history of the park.

"This new celebration would focus on the existing cultural institutions within the park," said Faulconer in a released statement.

Gloria also offered support for bringing the 2015 Centennial planning back to the city.

"The board’s move today demonstrates its desire to do what is best for Balboa Park, and the city of San Diego will use BPCI’s efforts as a base of what may be possible to commemorate the 2015 centennial of the Panama-California Exposition,” said Gloria.

Faulconer and Gloria said they plan to provide more details on their plans in the coming weeks.

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Avatar for user 'Mmikey'

Mmikey | March 5, 2014 at 7:31 a.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

I think most of us felt this was a good o'l boy boondoggle from the start

who's buddies connected to the local politicians got the jobs that took the money and ran>

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | March 5, 2014 at 9:16 a.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

This is a missed opportunity.


That means once in 100 years.

If we can't do something of significance once in a hundred years, then we are not a real global city, we are that "Cowtown south of LA".

Shame on all who have ruined this, you have done a great deal of damage to the city and its reputation.

My thoughts are that it should now be cancelled, and ALL funding and efforts be put on getting the Olympics here.

We should absolutely NOT put on a half-arsed show like tweedle dee and dweedle dopey are suggesting (Gloria and Faulconner).

What they are proposing is basically hanging some lights from the trees and letting existing museums stay open later.

That's not a centennial celebration, that's a joke.

Call it off now.

If there is not the time, money, and MOST IMPORTATNLY the LEADERSHIP to go big, then go home.

I'm sure LA will be doing something fabulous in 2015 anyway, and it's easier for international visitors to get to LA so maybe San Diego should just accept the fact we are a CowTown and not a real city.

It's truly sad that we aren't the city we were in 1915 and cannot pull off something we were able to 100 years ago. That's what 100 years of inept, corrupt, appauling leadership can do to a city.

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Avatar for user 'aztec69'

aztec69 | March 5, 2014 at 10:24 a.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

I hate to say I told you so, but I did.

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Avatar for user 'jasperridge'

jasperridge | March 5, 2014 at 12:10 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

WHAT?! They formed the committee in 2011 and only now are saying "Whoops, we can't do it"? Somethings not right.

Here's a link to the board members and advisors:

The BPCI Team
Board Members

Ben Clay (co-chair)
Nikki Clay (co-chair)
Patti Roscoe (secretary), Founder, PRA Event Planning, Retired
Denise Carabet (treasurer), Business & Finance Journalist & Manager, Retired
Frank Urtasun, Regional Vice President, External Relations, SDG&E
Andy Fichthorn, President, SeaWorld San Diego, Retired
Mick Hager, President & CEO, San Diego Natural History Museum
Don Ings, President, Solar Turbines, Retired
Patricia McQuater, Legal Counsel, Solar Turbines, Retired
Stephen Russell, Associate Designer, Platt/Whitelaw Architects, and President of the Board, City Heights Community Development Corporation
Nancy Chase, Founder & Principal, The Chase Group, Public Policy Partners
Bill Walton, NBA player, retired, and NBA Sportscaster
Kris Michell, President & CEO, San Diego Downtown Partnership
Jorge D'Garay, President, D'Garay Public Relations
Grant Holm, CFO, Waxie Sanitary Supply
Stacy Rosenburg
Yehudi Gaffen, CEO, Gafcon, Inc.
Board Advisors

Stephen Hill, Senior Policy Advisor, Council District 3 Council President Todd Gloria
Deanna Spehn, Policy Director, State Assemblymember Toni Atkins
John Weil, Chief of Staff, Supervisor Dave Roberts
Carolyn Wormser, Director, Office of Special Events, City of San Diego
Peter Comiskey, Executive Director, Balboa Park Cultural Partnership

Julie Dubick, Chief Executive Officer
Victor Avina, Marketing and Communications Manager

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Avatar for user 'Melovechocolate'

Melovechocolate | March 5, 2014 at 12:51 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

Wow. Just listened to Maureen interviewing Gerry Braun, the guy in charge of the balboa centennial--what a bunch of baloney comes out of that man's mouth. I wasn't even following the whole centennial celebration-planning, but just hearing him, is outrageous. Some points: "salaries [15,000/mo and his around $7-$8000/month!!!] match skill sets"---MATCH *SKILL SETS* !!!!? These bozos took the money and ran after achieving NOTHING!! "Skill sets" of what??! Snake salesmanship? And then Maureen nailed him with a clear, concise, direct question after his excuse about companies not wanting to invest/participate in his pathetic marketing/sponsorship of the celebration--if you see it wasn't working, WHY did you ask for $3 million dollars MORE??? The guy didn't know how to answer such a clear question and probably didn't have an excuse available, so he bought time by saying "I don't understand the question"..What are you, stupid? Is that your skill, Mr. Braun? Then he comes up with the "salaries". I hope these guys are investigated. Smells rotten to me. I've never trusted anyone who uses "UM, UM' in most of his sentences to answer questions in a formal environment. How would anyone make an about face in such a huge project instead of looking for creative alternatives? This guy made thousands of dollars and decides to walk away after agreeing to take charge of this huge project. Unprofessional, unreliable, pompous, and takes a LOAD of money to boot. Now we have to start from scratch and put together another several million dollars. I hope the selection process is more judicious and meticulously screens the group that will take his place. Whose pal was this guy? He scored. We lost. Are San Diegans that trusting and gullible? It seems to happen too often in this city.

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Avatar for user 'dialyn'

dialyn | March 5, 2014 at 2:17 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

Gerry Braun used to work for the UT and then went to work for Jerry Sanders. If you have Jerry Sanders as a pal in this town, you really don't need any other credentials. What is odd is that, given all of Sanders's connections, they still couldn't get a commitment of funds. I wonder if that's because the downtown Republican base that largely controls the money in this town just couldn't risk allowing a non-Republican mayor to take credit if the centennial was a success. Once the election was over, none of Sanders's pals were going to lift a paw to help out Filner, and, as it happens, Filner solved that problem for them, but by the time of his exit, it would have been too late to salvage the project so it was easier to abandon ship and let someone else take over. That's just speculation on my part, of course. Wonder how those plans to bid on the Olympics are going? We're not looking really competent to run big projects at this point.

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Avatar for user 'Frankie'

Frankie | March 5, 2014 at 11:17 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

If doubletalk has been Gerry Braun's business since he left the U-T and became Mayor Sanders' flack-in-chief, then his interview today with Maureen Cavanaugh, as the "transition director" of the "non-profit"centennial Balboa Park Celebration Inc., is the zenith of his career.

The organization's directors were put in place by Mayor Sanders in 2011 but only in 2014 were their extraordinary monthly salaries revealed in the U-T. Now Braun is dismantling the failed organization and handing it over to new Mayor Kevin Faulconer and City Council President Todd Gloria, hoping they "will turn this around" in time for the centennial next year.

Maureen forgot to ask, but I assume Braun is still getting paid at least $8000/month to wind things down. His pal Julie Dubick, Mayor Sanders' chief of staff -- who scored $15,000/month as the group's executive director -- has moved on to for-profit corporate pastures. Remember, we're talking monthly salaries from 2011 to 2014.

Braun defended this wholesale rip-off of public money -- for accomplishing less-than-zero -- when Maureen mentioned "outrage over these salaries." Braun paused and actually said, "Salaries are based on skill-sets, not outcomes."

When Maureen asked point-blank how much of the $2.8 million is left, Braun dodged, saying that he was gathering financial reports, disclosures, copies of checks. He said, "All information will be made public as soon as we pull it together." One wonders how long that will take,.

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Avatar for user 'slippe'

slippe | March 6, 2014 at 7:10 a.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

U/T Watchdog, March 6th: "Braun to Stay On As Park Group Dissolves"

Gerry Braun "ha$ been hired by nonprofit a$ tran$ition, director to over$ee clo$ure of the group." The fox continues to mind the hen house. Is there no end to this madness? Neighborhood community associations are obliged to account for every penny; otherwise, it is illegal and unethical. What a slap in the face to volunteers in the neighborhoods of San Diego! Braun'$ $alary is being negotiated. It is almost laughable, if it didn't hurt so much. Who made this decision and under what authority?
Mr. Mayor and Mr. Former Interim Mayor and the City Attorney must step in to stop this madness. Where does the City Council weigh in on this decision? Not a peep from them. We peasants are mad as hell and we're not going to take it. And don't let them tell you the butler (Filner) did it.

Sandy Lippe, University City

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | March 6, 2014 at 3 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

Whoa, what's going on here guys? Everyone is all worked up about something.

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