Roundtable: Forgotten Transparency Law; Issa And Hunter; More Fat Leonard; Illegal Hotel Rooms
Friday, March 17, 2017
Aired 3/17/17 on KPBS Midday Edition.
Brad Racino, senior reporter, inewsource
Joshua Stewart, politics & county government reporter, The San Diego Union-Tribune
Greg Moran, Watchdog reporter, The San Diego Union-Tribune
Lori Weisberg, tourism & hospitality reporter, The San Diego Union-Tribune
Section 225 of the San Diego City Charter, a vaguely worded law passed by voters in 1992, has never been implemented.
The section requires every person or entity doing business with the city to disclose the name and identity of all persons involved and the “precise nature” of their involvement.
But the measure, passed with 86 percent of the vote (after the city was afraid it had nearly done business with a member of the Mafia), was not specific.
What level of identification was required? What types of interest had to be identified?
More than 1,000 companies do business with the city — buying, selling and leasing land, and negotiating franchise rights and contracts — worth billions. Yet today, 25 years after the passage of Section 225, the city has little idea who is involved in much of this business.
Various city attorneys — John Witt, Mike Aguirre, Jan Goldsmith — have offered the San Diego City Council ways to clear up the ambiguities, to no avail.
In 2016, Goldsmith even drafted an ordinance for the Rules Committee to consider. No dice. Crickets.
inewsource first reported on this state of affairs last August.
But a recent follow-up produced an acknowledgement by the mayor’s office that they were “working through it,” as well as information that the issue would be docketed by the City Council Rules Committee in June.
Facing the voters
After some delay, both men finally decided to schedule town hall meetings with their constituents last weekend. Protesters appeared to outnumber supporters at both events.
The meetings, centered mostly on health care, were raucous and jammed.
But only one congressman seems in danger of losing his seat. Issa, R-Vista, won in 2016 against Doug Applegate, D-Solana Beach, by less than one percentage point, while Hunter, R-El Cajon, was easily re-elected in conservative East County.
Issa tried to convince his Oceanside audience that Congress would improve the current version of the GOP health care bill so that millions would not become suddenly uninsured. Hunter expressed approval of the bill as it is.
The topic of Russian interference in the U.S. election came up at both forums, with Issa supporting an independent investigation and Hunter sticking with probes planned by Congress.
Issa now has two challengers for 2018, Doug Applegate, who has some campaign accounting problems, and Orange County environmental attorney and director of governmental affairs for Fuel Cell Energy Mike Levin.
Ditto for Hunter. As of now, he will face Gloria Chadwick, a member of the Grossmont Hospital Board, and Patrick Malloy, who ran in 2016.
More indictments in 'Fat Leonard' scandal
The scandal, named after a heavy-set businessman who bribed his way into U.S. Navy procurements, has claimed nine more Navy officers, including another admiral.
Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless was indicted this week, along with Navy captains David Newland, Donald Hornbeck, James Dolan and David Lansman.
The long-running scandal includes charges of bribery, conspiracy and obstruction of justice, all federal crimes.
Fat Leonard is Leonard Glenn Francis, owner of Glenn Marine Defense Asia, a ship-servicing company, who bribed the officers with lavish gifts (expensive meals, hotel stays, cigars, liquor and prostitutes) to steer lucrative contracts to his via classified information.
Francis subsequently overbilled the Navy for those services. The scandal has sucked in 25 people so far, including 20 Navy officers.
Airbnb invades downtown
Violating rental agreements, tenants at several newer luxury apartment buildings in the downtown area have listed them for rent by the night on vacation rental platforms like Airbnb and VRBO.
Most apartment leases forbid subletting. These types of rentals represent a relatively new wrinkle in the short-term vacation rental market, which mostly consists of homes and duplexes.
Many of the apartments rent for $2,000 or more a month, with a one-night stay costing around 10 percent of that.
High-end apartment construction has mushroomed in the downtown area, and landlords are filing suit against Airbnb to attempt to stem the tide of short-term rentals.
But some apartment owners and managers are beginning to reconsider what has been an automatic stance against vacation rentals. Vacationers see luxury rentals as a cheaper alternative to a five-star hotel.
According to San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott, San Diego's municipal code does not allow residences to be turned into short-term rentals. The city is currently considering new rules in this area.
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