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Roundtable: UT Ad Discounts, Marten's Record, Drones in San Diego, Planning Controversies

Cindy Marten API
Roundtable: UT Ad Discounts, Marten's Record, Drones in San Diego, Planning Controversies
GUESTSAmita Sharma, KPBS News Will Carless, Voice of San Diego Davd Wagner, KPBS News Andy Keatts, Voice of San Diego

UT Political Ad Discounts: A KPBS-inewsource investigation has found that U-T San Diego offered discounted rates for full-page political ads to conservative candidates and causes during the November 2012 election in apparent violation of both federal and state election laws.

In the mayor's race, the U-T apparently charged less for ads benefiting conservative candidate Carl DeMaio than it charged those for his opponent, Bob Filner, the eventual winner. The same was true in the race for the 52nd Congressional District, where Republican Brian Bilbray was offered rates much lower than those offered his opponent, Scott Peters. Peters won the seat.

California election law allows discounted ad rates to candidates, but they must be disclosed as contributions. The investigation found no such disclosures.


Federal election law allows no such discounts at all in federal races. All federal candidates must pay the "arm's length" ad rates offered to the general public.

Measuring Cindy Marten's Performance: Voice of San Diego reporter Will Carless looked at the academic performance scores of Central Elementary School in City Heights where Cindy Marten served as principal from 2008 until she was named San Diego Unified School District superintendent this year.

He found that the Academic Performance Index scores of Central had indeed improved since Marten became principal but were just fair when compared to other schools with similar demographics. Both Cesar Chavez and Garfield Elementary schools showed far more dramatic improvement in API scores over that period.

But in many other areas — most not so easy to measure — Marten shone: confidence of students, involvement of parents, organizational ability, dedication, and passion, to name a few.

So the questions remain: how much do API scores really mean and what do they actually measure?


Marten, who has definite ideas about public education, has said she will push for a new tool for measuring school performance.

Drones in San Diego: The San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation wants Southern California to be host to a swarm of drones buzzing around overhead.

The corporation and some local defense industry advocates want the area from Edwards AFB west to the ocean, south to the Mexican border and east to Arizona to be the drone capital of the world, with manufacturers and a new testing site.

This idea doesn't sit well with some privacy and civil rights defenders such as the American Civil Liberties Union. And Congressman Duncan Hunter, Jr. has said that Congress needs to define the legal limits of drone use.

The Federal Aviation Agency has received more than 50 proposals for the future test site from other states since February. The SDREDC thinks San Diego will prevail, however, as the area already has 7,000 local jobs dedicated to drones.

What Does A Community Plan Mean?: There are 52 communities in the City of San Diego, which means there are 52 community plans crafted by 52 community planning boards. Each is supposed to be updated every five to 10 years, but it happens more like every 30 years.

The community planning group for Uptown (Hillcrest, Mission Hills, etc.) has recently focused on density (whether to have more or less). And the Carmel Valley Planning Group is wrestling with whether to give a nod to a mega-development.

Andy Keatts recently hosted a forum on community plan updates in which these ideas were floated:

1) The city should adopt and collect a fee to pay for plan updates.

2) Zoning leads to endless arguments. Instead, decide what types of building you want.

3) Acting on traffic measurements alone can lead to un-walkable environments.

4) Rely on city development bonds for infrastructure, not developers.

Corrected: December 10, 2023 at 9:46 AM PST
Editor's note: a previous version of this story said the U-T charged candidate DeMaio less for ads; in fact, the discounts went to anti-Filner PAC's. KPBS regrets the error.