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Roundtable: Filner, Goldsmith, Chalk, Yoga


Mark Sauer


David Rolland, Editor, San Diego CityBeat

Dorian Hargrove, San Diego Reader

Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times


Photo credit: KPBS

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith (L) and San Diego Mayor Bob Filner

Mayor Filner's Own Sunroad Controversy

It's a complicated story.

In April, San Diego City Council Member Lorie Zapf brought a request to the council's Land Use and Housing Committee for easements related to a project in Kearny Mesa, in her district.

The development project by Sunroad Enterprises was to have a park, and Sunroad wanted nine-foot easements on two sides of the park. The City Council waived its own policies to give Sunroad the easements.

When the easement agreement landed on the mayor's desk, he vetoed it because, he said, it bypassed the city’s Development Services Department and gave away city land with nothing in return.

With encouragement from Council Member Marti Emerald, Sunroad offered the city a donation through the mayor's office of $100,000 for a cycling event and a veterans plaza in Ocean Beach with the understanding that the mayor wouldn't fight the council's attempt to override his veto.

Filner accepted the donation. Then he gave it back because, he said, there was a quid pro quo.

10 News and U-T San Diego obtained a voicemail from Sunroad’s Tom Story to Council member Kevin Faulconer reporting the money was delivered and the mayor would support the veto override.

Investigations are ensuing and questions abound, including whether the mayor engaged in a pay-to-play scheme and whether the whole thing was a set-up.

Goldsmith's Brown Act Controversy

Also a complicated story.

Last month, Mayor Filner had police remove Deputy City Attorney Andrew Jones for disrupting a closed-session meeting and accused him of leaking information.

Two days later, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith released redacted notes from the meeting in response to a public records request (CPRA) from the press, an unusually rapid city response.

Now, Goldsmith is refusing to release the entire transcript, which is a problem, both for the press, who would like to know exactly what happened and what was said by all parties, including members of the San Diego City Council, and for Goldsmith.

Goldsmith's problem is attorney Cory Briggs. He says that under the Brown Act, Goldsmith’s office can’t release a transcript of a closed session to unauthorized persons. without a vote of the city council. Todd Gloria has stated there was no such vote. Therefore, Goldsmith was not allowed to release the redacted portions to the press, either.

Briggs filed suit against the City Attorney's office on Wednesday for violating the Brown Act. Goldsmith has announced he will suspend closed-session meetings until Filner stops throwing his people out of meetings.

Chalkgate and Yoga Controversies

The City Attorney’s prosecution of Jeff Olson on 13 counts of vandalism for writing in water-soluble chalk on a Bank of America sidewalk and parking lot has been washed away.

The jury acquitted Olson on all counts in spite of Judge Howard Shore's refusal to allow a first amendment defense. After it lost the case, the City Attorney’s office blamed Olson for going to trial instead of accepting the pre-trial offer.

The offer included 32-hours of community service, attending an 8-hour seminar by the "Corrective Behavior Institute," paying Bank of America $6,299 for having to wash off the chalk, waiving all Fourth Amendment rights against search and seizure and surrendering his driver's license for a three-year period.

Olson’s attorney, Tom Tosdal, said on KPBS Midday Edition that Goldsmith’s office prosecuted the misdemeanor because Goldsmith was doing the bidding of Bank of America. Goldsmith's office said chalk drawing was graffiti and graffiti is vandalism, even if it washes off.

The failed prosecution also fanned the flames of the feud between Mayor Filner, who derided the prosecution as a waste of time and money, and the city attorney.

Finally, Judge John S. Meyer ruled this week that, while yoga itself is based on religion, the yoga classes currently taught in Encinitas elementary schools have been stripped of religious meaning and language and are therefore compliant with the First Amendment.

Dean Broyles of the Christian National Center for Law and Policy had sued the school district on First Amendment grounds, saying yoga is religious expression. He says he will appeal.

Producer's Note: Time ran out, so the panel did not get to the yoga story.


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Roundtable is a lively discussion of the week's top stories. Local journalists join host Mark Sauer to provide insight into how these stories affect residents of the San Diego region.

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