<![CDATA[NBC 7 San Diego - San Diego Politics and Political News]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/politics http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/KNSD+RSS+Feed+logo+blue.png NBC 7 San Diego http://www.nbcsandiego.com en-us Wed, 01 Apr 2015 14:39:44 -0700 Wed, 01 Apr 2015 14:39:44 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Indiana Gov: We Intend to Fix "Perception" Problem of Law]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 11:55:30 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/pence-presser-468206814.jpg

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Tuesday said a bill he signed into law last week has been "grossly mischaracterized" and subjected to "shoddy reporting," but said he and legislators have been working around the clock to draft new legislation to clarify its intent.

"We've got a perception problem here ... and we intend to correct that," Pence told reporters during a morning press conference from Indianapolis.

The Republican reiterated earlier comments that the intent of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was not to discriminate but to protect religious freedom. The measure prohibits state laws that "substantially burden" a person's ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of "person" includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.

Gays and lesbians are not a protected class under Indiana’s civil rights laws, and critics of the law alleged it could provide some businesses the opportunity to refuse providing services or selling goods to some people based on religious grounds.

Pence said he found that claim "offensive," and called upon the state's General Assembly to address the issue.

"This law does not give businesses a right to deny services to anyone," he said. "The intent of the law was to give the courts in our state the highest level of scrutiny in cases where people feel that their religious liberty is being infringed upon by government action."

His comments Tuesday were a follow-up to an op-ed piece he penned for the Wall Street Journal that the law was not a "license to discriminate."

"I abhor discrimination," he wrote. "I believe in the Golden Rule that you should ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

The law sparked outrage from many in Indiana's business community and others with ties -- established and planned -- to the Hoosier state. The public-employee union known as AFSCME announced Monday it was canceling a planned women's conference in Indianapolis this year because of the law. The band Wilco said it was canceling a May performance. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued an open letter to Indiana corporations saying Virginia is a business-friendly state that does "not discriminate against our friends and neighbors," while Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel sent letters to more than a dozen Indiana businesses, urging them to relocate to a "welcoming place to people of all races, faiths and countries of origin."

In a separate editorial with a clear message, Indiana's largest newspaper, the Indianapolis Star, stressed urgency: "Fix this now."

Photo Credit: Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[WATCH: Indiana Gov. Addresses Law Controversy]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 07:56:48 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Mike-Pence-Indiana-Gov.jpg

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence said in a Tuesday op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that a controversial bill he signed into law last week is not a "license to discriminate."

"I abhor discrimination," he wrote. "I believe in the Golden Rule that you should ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ If I saw a restaurant owner refuse to serve a gay couple, I wouldn’t eat there anymore."

"As governor of Indiana, if I were presented a bill that legalized discrimination against any person or group, I would veto it," he continued.

His published remarks are an attempt to quell the firestorm that's brewed since he affixed his signature to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act last Thursday. The measure prohibits state laws that "substantially burden" a person's ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of "person" includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.

Gays and lesbians are not a protected class under Indiana’s civil rights laws, and critics of the law maintain it could allow some businesses to refuse providing service or selling goods to some people based on religious grounds.

That's sparked outrage from many in Indiana's business community and others with ties -- established and planned -- to the Hoosier state. The public-employee union known as AFSCME announced Monday it was canceling a planned women's conference in Indianapolis this year because of the law. The band Wilco said it was canceling a May performance. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued an open letter to Indiana corporations saying Virginia is a business-friendly state that does "not discriminate against our friends and neighbors," while Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel sent letters to more than a dozen Indiana businesses, urging them to relocate to a "welcoming place to people of all races, faiths and countries of origin."

Republican legislative leaders said they are working on adding language to the law to make it clear it does not allow discrimination against gays and lesbians.

In a separate editorial with a clear message, Indiana's largest newspaper, the Indianapolis Star, stressed urgency: "Fix this now."

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA["I'm Not Running": Warren Shuts Down 2016 Buzz Again]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 06:36:50 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP868875334282.jpg

Sorry, "Elizabeth Warren for President" holdouts.

The U.S. senator from Massachusetts on Tuesday dealt another blow to supporters — and rivals on the right — hoping she'll enter the 2016 race, repeating her intention to stay on the sidelines. 

"No, I am not running and I’m not going to run," she told NBC's Savannah Guthrie in an interview.

"I'm not running. I'm not running," she repeated when asked again whether there was any room to hedge.

Warren, who has gained a national profile as a vocal critic of Wall Street, has insisted for months that she does not plan to run against likely candidate and frontrunner Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary. On Tuesday, as she appeared on the "Today" show to promote her new memoir, she said serving in the U.S. Senate is the best platform for fighting for changes on financial regulation, student loans and more.

“I’m in Washington and I’ve got this really great job and a chance to try to make a difference on things that really matter," she said.

The senator's own words haven't stopped supporters on the left from continuing a draft-Warren effort to lay groundwork and generate support for a run. Republicans have also used the buzz surrounding a possible Warren bid to rally their base — citing the progressive Democrat in fundraising emails and other appeals for support.

Even as she rejected the speculation surrounding her own plans, Warren sidestepped a question about whether Clinton is the best messenger on issues embraced by the party's liberal wing.

“I think we need to give her a chance to decide if she’s going to run and declare and to lay out what she wants to run on," she said. "I think that's her opportunity to do that.”

Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Apple's Tim Cook: "Religious Objection" Laws Are "Very Dangerous"]]> Mon, 30 Mar 2015 10:22:16 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/tim-cook-apple-fortuna.jpg

Apple CEO Tim Cook slammed Indiana's new "religious objection" legislation over the weekend, penning a Washington Post piece warning that “there’s something very dangerous happening in America.”

The piece, which was posted late Sunday night, said the openly gay executive, who was raised in a Baptist home in the South, was "deeply disappointed" in the recently passed "Religious Freedom Restoration" law in Indiana that shields business owners who turn away customers for religious reasons.

"This isn’t a political issue," he wrote. "It isn’t a religious issue. This is about how we treat each other as human beings. Opposing discrimination takes courage. With the lives and dignity of so many people at stake, it’s time for all of us to be courageous."

Cook called this new wave of legislation "very dangerous," noting there are about 100 similar bills under consideration in two dozen states. And he added that they "go against the very principles our nation was founded on" and "have the potential to undo decades of progress toward greater equality."

“America's business community recognized a long time ago that discrimination, in all its forms, is bad for business,” he wrote. “At Apple, we are in business to empower and enrich our customers' lives. We strive to do business in a way that is just and fair. That's why, on behalf of Apple, I'm standing up to oppose this new wave of legislation — wherever it emerges. I'm writing in the hopes that many more will join this movement.”

Cook, who was baptized in a Baptist church and grew up in the South in the 1960s and 1970s.  He publicly disclosed that he is gay in October. Last week, Cook announced that he will give his fortune away.

Photo Credit: NBC NEWS]]>
<![CDATA[Iraq War Vet Tammy Duckworth Launches Senate Bid in Illinois]]> Mon, 30 Mar 2015 16:24:28 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Tammy-Duckworth3.jpg

In a video to supporters, Rep. Tammy Duckworth on Monday made official a 2016 challenge to Sen. Mark Kirk. 

"I’m running for the United States Senate in 2016 because it’s time for Washington to be held accountable and to put Illinois’ families and communities first," the Hoffman Estates Democrat said her video message.

Duckworth, an Iraqi war vet who lost her legs in a helicopter crash, recently had her first baby at the age of 46. 

Well known in her district, her message was a sort of introduction to a statewide audience. She said she was a Marine, a wife, a new mom and a combat veteran. She recalled the financial struggles she faced with her family while growing up and as she put herself through college.

"If you elect me as Illinois’s Senator, I will fight my heart out to represent you with honor and integrity," she said. 

Kirk, who suffered a stroke in 2012, plans to run for re-election.

Illinois Republicans quickly tied Duckworth to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is currently serving time in a Denver-area prison on a corruption conviction.

"Rod Blagojevich protégé Tammy Duckworth is not the kind of partisan politician Illinois families want to represent them in the United States Senate," said Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider. "Duckworth represents the extreme wing of the Democrat party — voting with Nancy Pelosi 92 percent of the time. I have no doubt that next November, Illinois voters will re-elect Mark Kirk who has been a strong & independent voice for our state in Washington."

Photo Credit: YouTube / Tammy Duckworth
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<![CDATA[Interlock Device for First-Time DUI Offenders?]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 12:07:44 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/DUI-Interlock-Device-KNSD.jpg

Those arrested for driving under the influence in California, even as a first-time offender, could be forced to install an “ignition interlock device” in their car under a new bill.

The devices, installed on vehicle dashboards, act like breathalyzers, allowing the car to start only after the mechanism receives a clean test. Senate Bill 61, approved by the Senate's public safety committee this week, now heads to the appropriations committee.

Proponents say the bill needs to become law because repeat DUI offenders account for one out of every three convictions.

“Families are devastated by this, and still we allow it. I don’t want to say we condone it, but the penalty is just not severe enough” said Jerry Hill, a state senator representing Calfornia’s 13th District who introduced the bill.

Roughly 15,000 people are arrested for DUI in San Diego County every year, but opponents don’t believe the bill will make a difference.

“SB 61 is a horrible idea that clearly is only designed to benefit the manufacturers and installers of ignition interlock devices, not traffic safety,” said DUI attorney Philip Gagnon.

Gagnon points to a DMV study this year analyzing the data from four counties, including Los Angeles, where pilot programs are underway as opponents say are proof SB 61 won’t work.

The study showed no evidence of general deterrence. Proponents say other studies have shown more positive effects, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control finding that the locks cut drunk driving recidivism offenses by 67 percent.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz Speaks in NH]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 13:22:38 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/cruz-AP938170470053.jpg

Just days after making his presidential candidacy official, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is in New Hampshire for a two-day swing.

Cruz was the first major candidate to announce a run for president. He made the announcement on Monday at Liberty University in Virginia.

On Friday, he attended a rally in Merrimack, New Hampshire, at 3 p.m.

He's also scheduled to speak later in the day at the "New England Freedom Conference" in Nashua, being held by the Young Americas Foundation. On Saturday, he is scheduled to speak at a brunch being hosted by the Rockingham County Republican Committee and the Seacoast Republican Women.

Cruz has made four previous visits to the Granite State with more than a dozen individual stops dating back to 2014. See those visits and more in NECN's New Hampshire Candidate Tracker. 

Photo Credit: FILE - AP Photo/Andrew Harnik]]>
<![CDATA[CA Attorney General Moves to End Anti-Gay Initiative]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 07:44:47 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/file-kamala-harris-ca-ag.jpg

California Attorney General Kamala Harris asked a state court on Wednesday for permission to reject a proposed ballot initiative stipulating that anyone who engages in gay sex be killed.

Harris issued a statement saying she was making the unusual request to stop the measure filed by a Southern California lawyer late last month. The initiative seeks to amend the California penal code to make sex with a person of the same gender an offense punishable by "bullets to the head or by any other convenient method." The distribution of gay "propaganda" would be punishable by a $1 million fine or banishment from the state.

"This proposal not only threatens public safety, it is patently unconstitutional, utterly reprehensible, and has no place in a civil society," Harris said.

Matthew McLaughlin, the Orange County lawyer who paid $200 to submit the initiative, did not respond to a telephone call seeking comment. A Democratic state senator, Ricardo Lara, has asked the California bar to investigate whether McLaughlin's actions make him unfit to practice law.

The measure puts Harris in a difficult position. Although the bill has no discernible momentum or likely chance of success, she said unless a judge rules otherwise, she will have no choice but to give McLaughlin the go-ahead to seek the nearly 366,000 votes needed to qualify the measure for the November 2016 ballot.

California is one of 21 states where citizens can petition to have laws put on the ballot through the gathering of voter signatures. Under California's initiative process, state officials do not have authority to refuse to administer initiatives they find objectionable, the California Supreme Court has ruled. Although few of the dozens submitted to the attorney general each year make it on the ballot, the ease with which a resident with a pet peeve can gain clearance to circulate their proposals while seeking signatures has prompted calls for reform.

University of California, Davis law professor Floyd Feeney, an expert on California's initiative process, said Harris alone cannot impede the proposed law. And despite the numerous legal problems with McLaughlin's proposal, Feeney said he was not convinced a court would agree to halt it at this stage.

"The courts, rightly or wrongly, treat the initiative as sort of the citizen right and they are reluctant to get involved in trying to get rid of it, at least in advance, by using the law to keep something from being presented to the electorate," he said.

On Wednesday, a Southern California real estate agent, Charlotte Laws, countered the so-called "Sodomite Suppression Act" with an initiative of her own. Titled the Intolerant Jackass Act, it would require anyone who proposes an initiative calling for the killing of gays and lesbians to attend sensitivity training and make a $5,000 donation to a pro-LGBT group.

Photo Credit: Getty Images for Variety]]>
<![CDATA[$120M Bond Issue Floated to Fix San Diego Facilities]]> Tue, 24 Mar 2015 20:13:52 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/232*120/Generic+Pothole+Generic+Road+Pothole+Pot+Hole.JPG

San Diego's deteriorating public facilities will soon get an infusion of long-awaited repair money, but it's just a small down payment on a huge backlog of badly needed fixes.

On Tuesday, after a year of legal delays, the San Diego City Council authorized a $120 million infrastructure bond measure that had been challenged in court on grounds that it required voter approval.

The case recently was dismissed, and while it's now on appeal, San Diego's bond lawyers gave the green light to let work begin.

Nearly $50 million from the borrowing measure will be spent on upgrading 100 miles of sub-standard streets.

San Diego's thoroughfares consistently have ranked among the worst of the nation's municipalities.

At one point years ago, when the region really got rain, the backlog of unfilled potholes reached 40,000.

Even as a four-year drought persists, storm drain system improvements will get an investment of $22 million; the area’s landscape has become so dry that the next major rainfall could produce severe flash runoff.

Meantime, $26 million is earmarked for five fire station projects -- three are due for rebuilding and expansion, with the rest of the allocation going for design work on two new stations.

Several library branches will share in $11 million worth of new funding.

But as Mark Kersey, chairman of the council's Infrastructure Committee points out, all this money is just a trickle compared to a fast-flowing citywide repair deficit of $1.7 billion dollars -- which the city will tackle with a follow-up "mega-bond" issue next year.

"I think we're going to be able to spend it wisely and reasonably quickly,” Kersey said in an interview Tuesday. “We're really trying to focus on streamlining the city's own bureaucracy, so that we’re not in the way of getting projects done.”

Kersey said the mega-bond will involve low-cost state loans and a special “infrastructure district” approach: "It's kind of like redevelopment, where you're utilizing the future increase in property tax growth -- so it's not a tax increase. But you're able to bond against that growth. And it does require a vote of the people, but it's not a two-thirds vote. So there's some things we're going to be able to do that are not tax increases, but definitely part of this equation."

The city's legal experts told the council that in the unexpected event of an adverse ruling in the courts, the bond investors would suffer the downside risk, not the taxpayers.

The annual interest payment on the borrowing measure comes to $7 million.

Photo Credit: NBC10]]>
<![CDATA[Calif. Gov.: Cruz Unfit for WH]]> Sun, 22 Mar 2015 12:02:06 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/brown-cruz.jpg

Calfiornia Gov. Jerry Brown tore into climate change skeptics on Sunday, saying one major presidential hopeful's position on climate change should disqualify him from the highest office in the nation.

Brown warned that climate change would be a major issue for America's next president in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," days after announcing a roughly $1 billion plan to combat California's drought.

"That man has rendered himself absolutely unfit to be running for office," Brown said, when asked about Texas Senator Ted Cruz's claim that there isn't a scientific consensus that climate change is caused by human activity.

Cruz made his remarks on "Late Night With Seth Meyers" this week, saying that "climate alarmists" have a problem because scientific data doesn't back up their claims.

"My view actually is simple. Debates on this should follow science and should follow data," Cruz said.

The Associated Press reported Sunday that Cruz was preparing to formally announce on Monday that he will run for president in 2016.

Brown, who has sought the White House three times, said more than 90 percent of climate scientists "are absolutely convinced" that human and industrial activity are leading to heat-trapping greenhouse gasses that caused both California's drought and severe cold and storms on the Eastern seaboard.

According to NASA, 97 percent of climate scientists agree that warming trends in the last 100 years are "very likely due to human activities."

When pressed by NBC's Chuck Todd, Brown didn't directly link his state's drought crisis to climate change, but said more droughts are inevitable in the coming decades. Two-thirds of California are in an extreme drought after more than three years of low water levels, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Brown also called the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) letter to convince states to block or ignore the EPA's proposed carbon pollution regulations "a disgrace."

"Here's the point, that the buildup of carbon coming from coal and petroleum and other sources, that this is going to create these droughts and much, much worse. And that's why to have the leader of the Senate, Mr. McConnell representing his coal constituents, are putting it at risk, the health and well being of America, is a disgrace," Brown said.

Calling the drought California's new normal, Brown wants a presidential campaign "almost at the level of a crusade" to make the public aware that man-made carbon dioxide emissions can have an affect on the climate. He implied that politicians who dismiss the scientific consensus on climate change are doing the bidding of profit-hungry constituents and corporate donors.

"The coal companies are not as important as the people of America and the people of the world," Brown said.

Climate change, balancing the country's budget and investing in science and technology are the three issues presidential candidates should be talking about, Brown said.

Asked if he would consider running if he was 10 years younger, the 76-year-old Brown said, "Yes, I would."

"If I could go back in a time machine and be 66, I might jump in. But that's a counterfactual, so you don't need to speculate on that," he added.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Lewinsky Talks Cyberbullying, Affair on TED Stage]]> Fri, 20 Mar 2015 10:39:01 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/TED2015_031915_2DD7163.jpg

Monica Lewinsky spoke bluntly about cyberbullying and her own experience in the public spotlight Thursday, as the she took the stage for one of her most prominent appearances since her affair with President Bill Clinton as a White House intern.

Lewinsky, now 41, said during a TED talk that her own scandal was “brought to you by the digital revolution," according to TED.com. When the news of the tryst broke online, she told the audience that she transformed from being a “completely private figure to a publicly humiliated one worldwide.”

“At the age of 22, I fell in love with my boss,” the website cited her saying. “At the age of 24, I learned the devastating consequences."

The Internet, she said, had created a culture where people enjoy viewing others' downfall online, a dynamic that made her situation worse at the time it was made public in the 1990s.

“It was one of the first time that the traditional news was usurped by the Internet, a click that reverberated around the whole world,” she added. “When this happened to me, 17 years ago, there was no name for it. Now we call it cyberbullying.”

She later referenced cyberbullying cases in recent years that have made national headlines, including that of an 18-year-old student at Rutgers University in New Jersey who jumped off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate secretly watched him having a sexual encounter with a man using a webcam and posted about it online. 

In her 18-minute talk, Lewinsky urged people to be more compassionate and mindful when communicating online.

"Showing empathy to others benefits us. Imagine walking a mile in someone else's headline," she said. 

Photo Credit: James Duncan Davidson/TED]]>
<![CDATA[Feds Probe Ex-Rep. Schock: AP]]> Fri, 20 Mar 2015 16:13:00 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP326057663792_RepSchock.jpg

Friday was the day things went from bad to worse for Congressman Aaron Schock.

The Congressman, already under fire for globe-trotting vacations, documented on Instagram and often billed at taxpayer or campaign expense, abruptly resigned on Tuesday. And on Friday, federal subpoenas began going out, in what would appear to be a wide-ranging investigation of the Peoria Republican’s finances.

NBC 5 Investigates has learned that even former Schock staffers began receiving subpoenas to appear before a Federal Grand Jury in Springfield in April. And separately, the Federal Election Commission confirms it has received a complaint, asking for an investigation of the congressman’s campaign accounts.

Schock’s resignation blunted a pending inquiry by the House Ethics Committee, but his upcoming departure does not quell a potential criminal investigation. And a spokesman for the F.E.C. confirmed that enforcement matters there can continue even if a candidate or officeholder is no longer active, since political committees often continue in existence long after an official has left office.

Neither the congressman’s spokesman or his attorneys returned calls seeking comment.

Investigators are reportedly focusing on Schock’s House office expenditures and expenses, his campaign, and personal investments. The FBI would not formally comment on the investsigation. But the agency’s Springfield chief made clear that a probe is underway.

“Public corruption is one of the FBI’s top criminal priorities,” said Special Agent in Charge Sean Cox. “When there are allegations of public corruption, it is our responsibility to look into those allegations.”

In resigning Tuesday, Schock cited a “heavy heart”, but that the constant questions about his spending and business dealings had become too much of a distraction. His departure was so sudden, the congressman did not even give the customary (and expected) notice to House leadership. Speaker John Boehner made no effort to rise to his defense.

“If somebody’s going to violate the rules, they’re going to violate the rules,” Boehner said. “And in almost every case, sooner or later, it catches up with you.”

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Trump Launches 2016 Exploratory Committee Ahead of NH Visit]]> Thu, 19 Mar 2015 09:29:28 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP333051909036.jpg

Business mogul Donald Trump is considering throwing his hat in the 2016 ring, announcing the formation of a presidential exploratory committee.

"We have lost the respect of the entire world," Trump said in a message from the committee. "Americans deserve better than what they get from their politicians, who are all talk and no action!"

Trump went on to tout his success as a businessman and added he will push to control the nation's borders, education system and military.

Trump will also head to New Hampshire Thursday night, bringing his total number of trips to the home of the nation's first primary to at least five since early 2014, according to NECN's 2016 New Hampshire Primary Candidate Tracker.

He is expected to address the media following a reception at the home of State Rep. Steve Stepanek. Trump was invited back in January when Stepanek was at the Iowa Freedom Summit.

"It sounds like he's serious," Stepanek said of Trump. "He's gonna get a taste for what it's like to campaign in New Hampshire. We're going to have him wade into the crowd, doing what you have to do to be a candidate in New Hampshire."

Stepanek, who said he's hosted similar events for Rudy Giuliani and others in the past, is expecting about 200 people on Thursday. It's the first in a series of house parties featuring GOP presidential candidates being hosted by the House Republican Caucus. Ted Cruz is expected to speak in April, and Ben Carson in May.

Trump recently wrapped up hosting the seventh season of reality show "Celebrity Apprentice," in which television personality Leeza Gibbons won $250,000 for a charity of her choice.

Trump, whose presidential aspirations have generated buzz for years, recently said he would not renew his contract for the show, according to the Associated Press, a sign that he could be more serious this time around. The show airs on NBC, which is owned by the same parent company as this site.

Photo Credit: File - AP]]>
<![CDATA[Ill. Rep. Aaron Schock Resigns]]> Tue, 17 Mar 2015 17:18:06 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Aaron-Schock-blurb1.jpg

Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock announced his resignation from Congress Tuesday following questions surrounding misuse of funds in his campaign and congressional spending accounts, including reports that he redecorated his office with lavish decor inspired by "Downton Abbey."

"Today, I am announcing my resignation as a Member of the United States House of Representatives effective March 31st," Schock said in a statement. "I do this with a heavy heart. Serving the people of the 18th District is the highest and greatest honor I have had in my life. I thank them for their faith in electing me and letting me represent their interests in Washington.

The Republican congressman said he has given the people of his Peoria-area district his all since his election in 2008, "but the constant questions over the last six weeks have proven a great distraction that has made it too difficult for me to serve the people of the 18th District with the high standards that they deserve and which I have set for myself."

The move, first reported by Politico, comes after numerous reports alleging questionable expenses by the congressman. Sen. Dick Durbin said the resignation "came as a surprise."

"With this decision, Rep. Schock has put the best interests of his constituents and the House first," U.S. House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement. "I appreciate Aaron's years of service, and I wish him well in the future." 

Last week, NBC5 Investigates reported that Schock had billed his office account and leadership PAC for over $16,000 in mileage for his personal car, last year alone. On Tuesday, POLITICO reported that Schock had billed various entities for over 170,000 miles over for years, for a personal car he sold with only about 80,000 miles on the odometer.

“It’s a sad day for the people of the 18th District,” said Kankakee Congressman Adam Kinzinger. “He was a friend of mine, and I just wish him luck in the future.”

In Chicago, the chief of the Illinois Republican Party seemed to put some distance between the party and a congressman.

“Honesty and integrity are of utmost importance when serving the public,” said Chairman Tim Schneider. “Today is an unfortunate day for the people of the 18th Congressional District, the State of Illinois, and the Illinois Republican Party.

A special election will be held to replace Schock, a four-term congressman who was the Congress’ youngest member when he was elected at age 27. The election must be held within 120 days of the seat becoming vacant.

Among those considered contenders for the job, State Senator Darin LaHood, whose father Ray LaHood preceded Schock, before leaving Congress to become Secretary of Transportation.

“It is clear to me Congressman Schock believes he is doing what is best for the people of the 18th District at this time,” LaHood said Tuesday. “I will be evaluating the full impact of this decision in the next few days.”

In a separate report Monday, the website Buzzfeed reported that Schock spent more than $5,000 from his House account for a portable podium that looks a lot like a presidential podium used by President Barack Obama. A public watchdog group has filed a federal ethics complaint against the lawmaker for using congressional money to redesign his office in the style of the TV show "Downton Abbey" and for billing taxpayers or his campaigns tens of thousands of dollars in private air travel on donor-owned planes.

“This is a sad day for the people of Illinois and the 18th District," Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner said in a statement.

<![CDATA[Photos of Rep. Aaron Schock's "Downton Abbey" Office]]> Tue, 17 Mar 2015 11:38:59 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/schock-th-462707536.jpg Photos of Rep. Aaron Schock's (R-IL) new office in the Rayburn Office Building, which was designed to resemble the dining room of the PBS show 'Downton Abbey,' on January 30, 2015 in Washington, DC. The interior decorator owns a company called Euro Trash LLC.

Photo Credit: The Washington Post/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Judge Rules in Favor of Escondido Developer]]> Fri, 13 Mar 2015 20:07:38 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/WEB_ESCONDIDO_GOLF_COURSE.png

A judge ruled Friday that the City of Escondido cannot zone the former Escondido Country Club property as "open space."

The property at 1800 W. Country Club Lane served as a golf course for nearly five decades when it closed down in 2013.

A legal battle began when Michael Schlesinger and his company Stuck in the Rough LLC purchased the property out of bankruptcy in 2012 and planned to build 600 residential homes on the property.

Homeowners who wanted to maintain their “golf course views” decided to fight the development.

In 2013, residents qualified for the Citizens Property Rights initiative to protect 100 acres of established open space in the Escondido Country Club area, and the Escondido City Council voted unanimously to uphold that designation.

But the developer sued the city, and on Friday, Judge Earl H. Maas ruled the city violated the law by designating the area as "open space."

Mike Slater with the Escondido Country Club & Community Homeowners Organization (ECCHO) said his organization was going to meet Friday afternoon to dissect the judge's ruling, but at first glance, he said it appeared to contradict earlier rulings in the case that supported the voter initiative.

"I'm hoping the city will appeal," Slater said. "I think it should be defending its citizens' rights for the initiative. We voted for it, we gathered all the signatures and they should defend the registered voters of the city."

Schlesinger released the following statement Friday:

"The court’s decision to restore the residential designation for the former Escondido Country Club site paves the way for the City, neighborhood homeowners, and ourselves as the property owner to resolve the future use of the site. To do so will require all parties to join us in what we’ve already done on more than one occasion -- to look beyond our original expectations to find a compromise that meets all of our needs.

"Thus far, the only true 'winners' in this case have been the lawyers on both sides who have collectively billed more than $2 million in legal fees. Since the city is now financially responsible for those fees, it is my hope the city will forego the additional costs of an appeal and instead work with us and the community to finalize a plan that substantially reduces the number of homes from earlier proposals. By working together, we can achieve a plan that is compatible with the surrounding neighborhoods while respecting the property owner’s right to develop the property within the allowable residential designation and zoning."

A spokesman for the company said Stuck in the Rough is now proposing 270 homes on 9,500 square-foot lots, leaving 26 percent of the land open space.

NBC 7 has reached out to attorneys for the City of Escondido to find out next steps.

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<![CDATA[Chargers Open to Mission Valley Stadium Site?]]> Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:25:50 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Stadium-Scramble-72535378.jpg

San Diego’s Citizens Stadium Advisory Group (CSAG) formally announced the recommendation of Mission Valley as a potential site for a stadium Thursday, saying the Chargers are also open to the idea.

This marks the first time the advisory group created by San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer has revealed its suggestions for a proposed stadium that would replace the aging Q.

Adam Day, chair of the Citizen’s Stadium Advisory Group, said the Mission Valley site where Qualcomm Stadium is currently located is a better choice for the Chargers than a downtown San Diego location.

“We made sure to ask the Chargers for their honest answer,” Day said. “They made it very clear to us on numerous occasions that they would be open to partnering in the construction of a new stadium in either downtown or Mission Valley.”

The CSAG said the team "described its position as agnostic" when it came to the location of the site.

Negotiations to build a multi-use sports arena in San Diego intensified last month when the city learned the team was considering building a stadium in the Los Angeles area to be shared with the Oakland Raiders.

According to Day, the CSAG spent several weeks meeting with dozens of groups including San Diego State University, the San Diego Chargers, the San Diego Convention Center, hotels, architects, College Bowl representatives, developers, labor groups, land planners and Chargers alums and fans.

In the end, they decided Mission Valley makes more sense as the site of a new stadium.

“No site is perfect and without issues. This location is the best choice for the creation of a multi-use stadium that will serve as an economic catalyst,” said Day. “Some have recently argued that downtown is cheaper, faster and easier. Our research suggests the exact opposite.”

Day said both downtown and Mission Valley would require entitlements including “environmental studies, community engagement, mitigation and legal review.”

However, Day said a stadium is not in a downtown community plan.

“Mission Valley is zoned for stadium uses and has operated as such for many years,” he explained. “The only site to be considered is right here in Mission Valley.”

Day said the proposed Mission Valley stadium could become a hub for San Diego sports fans, residents and visitors to gather, calling it a potential “village within a city.”

He also touted Mission Valley’s closeness to freeways and the trolley system as additional reasons why the site would work so well.

He said the CSAG has developed their plan quickly in an effort to keep the Chargers from leaving San Diego.

“If everyone unites, there is no reason for the Chargers to leave.”

Meanwhile, the Chargers have not been shy in sharing their preference of a downtown multi-use sports stadium.

When asked for a comment before the panel's news conference, team special counsel Mark Fabiani told NBC 7: "We've really tried to make our point of view clear on this issue repeatedly over the last couple of years and there isn't anything new to add today."

As of Thursday afternoon, the team had not made any comments on the proposed Mission Valley stadium location.

Former Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman spoke at Thursday’s media briefing.

"Today’s a great day to show that this can happen and should happen,” Merriman said. “We wouldn’t want to share a stadium with that other team.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Assemblyman Rocky Chávez Announces Bid for Senate]]> Thu, 05 Mar 2015 15:27:39 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/republicano-rocky-chavez-senado-california-washington.jpg

California State Assemblyman Rocky Chávez announced Thursday he will run for the U.S. Senate.

Chávez, a Republican who represents the 76th District in north San Diego County, will challenge Democrat Attorney General Kamala Harris -- and yet-to-be-announced candidates-- as they seek to replace outgoing U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer when she retires next year. Boxer has held the seat since 1993.

In a statement announcing his bid for 2016, retired Marine Col. Chávez said he wants to strengthen national security, focus on the state’s education and improve the economy.

"Our national security is a major concern, with ISIS growing bolder every day," Chávez said, "If things get worse overseas, who would Californians want representing them in the Senate? A lawyer from San Francisco or a Marine Colonel who knows how lives can be protected and understands the importance of keeping America and her allies safe and secure.”

Harris’ spokesman Brian Brokaw told The Sacramento Bee that the attorney general believes anyone who thinks they can best serve California should run for office and that she welcomes Chávez to the race.

Chávez started his career in the U.S. Marines after graduating from California State University – Chico. He spent nearly three decades in the military before retiring to serve as an Oceanside City Councilman and as acting secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs. Because of his work there, he said veterans issues are also critical to him.

The new Senate candidate has been serving in the state assembly since 2012.

"I believe absolutely that I am a uniquely qualified candidate," said Chávez. "I'm a fighter who brings bi-partisan support to issues and gets them solved. I don't think any other candidate has that experience."

But Chávez may have a hard battle ahead in his blue state, where Democrats hold every statewide office and have more 2.7 million more registered voters compared to Republicans. When asked if he can win with those odds, he told the Associated Press, “I know I can.”

Tom Del Beccaro and Duf Sundheim, both former California Republican Party chairmen, are also talking about making a run for the Senate.

<![CDATA[Best Political Mustaches]]> Wed, 04 Mar 2015 08:46:59 -0700 since he was age 14 and a sophomore at St. Rita High School.]]> since he was age 14 and a sophomore at St. Rita High School.]]> http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/215*120/tlmd-jesus-chuy-garcia.jpg Chicago mayoral candidate Jesus "Chuy" Garcia isn't the only politician sporting the 'stache. ]]> <![CDATA[TX Pol Backs Legal Pot, Citing God]]> Tue, 03 Mar 2015 14:15:23 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/marijuana-plants-generic.jpg

A state lawmaker from East Texas says God didn't create marijuana by mistake and is pushing to remove all offenses related to the plant from Texas statutes.

Texas State Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview) filed a bill Monday that would repeal the state's ban on growing, possessing and selling marijuana.

"I don't believe that when God made marijuana he made a mistake that government needs to fix," Simpson wrote in an editorial on Trib Talk. "Civil government should value everything God made and leave people alone unless they meddle with their neighbor."

Under Simpson's bill, the government would not regulate the drug and all penalties currently in place would be removed beginning Sept. 1.

In addition to religion, Simpson said the "well-intended" war on drugs has only created a culture of "no-knock warrants," "stop-and-frisk" and "billionaire drug lords" and that existing drug laws are as big a failure as prohibition.

"You would think that our country's history with alcohol prohibition — an era marked by bootlegging, organized crime, government corruption and a rise in crime in general — would have prevented us from making the same mistake again," Simpson wrote. "The time has come for a thoughtful discussion on the prudence of the prohibition approach to drug abuse."

Four states have legalized marijuana for recreational use, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington; 23 states and the District of Columbia have laws legalizing marijuana in some form, medical or otherwise.

Full House Bill No. 2165:

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News
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<![CDATA[NJ Officer Meets President Obama]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 11:39:24 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/216*120/Officer+Obama+Camden.jpg

Although cops are used to being called to important gatherings, a New Jersey officer was shocked to discover who she would be meeting at an upcoming event.

Officer Virginia Matias of the Camden County Police was told by Chief Scott Thompson that she would be meeting President Barack Obama.

“He called me and told me I would have the honor of meeting the president,” the 28-year-old said. “It was unreal, I thought ‘is this a joke?’”

Matias went to the White House and met Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in at the White House on Feb. 24 along with five other officers across the U.S. who were nominated by the heads of their respective departments.

“As soon as they opened the door to the Oval Office he was right there with a smile on his face,” Matias said. “He was very welcoming, I felt like I was at home.”

Obama met with the officers to thank them for their service and discuss how law enforcement can work with communities to ensure public safety.

“We’re a model of community policing, so he wanted to get our feedback on what’s working,” Matias said.

Matias was motivated by a tragic event in her teens to become an officer.

“When I was around 17, I had an uncle who was murdered in North Camden while he was operating his bodega in 2003,” Matias said. "At that moment, I knew I wanted to be a part of a change in my city."

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<![CDATA[Runoff for Rahm: Mayor Falls Short]]> Wed, 25 Feb 2015 05:22:19 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/rahm+and+chuy.jpg

Rahm Emanuel failed to clinch another term as Chicago's mayor on Tuesday, setting the stage for an unprecedented runoff election against challenger Jesus "Chuy" Garcia.

Results showed the incumbent mayor with about 46 percent of the vote, short of the 50 percent-plus-one support he needs to win another term outright. Garcia, a Cook County commissioner, came in second place with 34 percent. 

The results mean the two will face off April 7, a potentially embarrassing result for a high-profile politician who has already spent millions in his re-election bid. It is the first time since the city changed its election system in the 1990s that an incumbent mayor is forced into a runoff. 

"We have come a long way and we have a little bit farther to go," Emanuel told supporters. "This is the first step in a real important journey for our city. To those who voted for me in this election, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. For those who voted for someone else, I hope to earn your confidence and your support in the weeks to come." 

A boisterous Garcia celebrated the outcome as a win over moneyed interests and other powerful forces supporting the incumbent, saying the results show "the people have spoken."

"Nobody thought we’d be here tonight," Garcia said. "They wrote us off; they said we didn’t have a chance. They said we didn’t have any money while they spent millions attacking us. Well, we’re still standing! We’re still running! And we’re gonna win!" 

Emanuel, a former White House chief of staff, struggled to rise above 50 support throughout the campaign, even as he outpolled his four lesser-funded and known challengers. A late campaign blitz that blanketed the airwaves and a public appearance last week with President Barack Obama — a move seen as an effort to appeal to undecided African-American voters — couldn’t propel the 55-year-old mayor to victory.

The 55-year-old Democrat anchored his re-election bid on first-term efforts to better the lives of Chicagoans, highlighting pushes to expand access to early childhood education, raise the minimum wage and improve the city’s business climate and infrastructure. But he faced criticism for other major policies pursued during his first term, including his decision to close dozens of schools.

The school closures fueled a tumultuous relationship with the Chicago’s Teachers Union, which went on strike in 2012. The union, which also clashed with Emanuel over other changes to the city’s education system, endorsed Garcia after a brain cancer diagnosis sidelined its own president, Karen Lewis.

Political expert John P. Frendreis said while Garcia is “funny, he’s got a good speaking presence, he’s been around long enough, he’s got this colorful nickname so people kind of know him,” it was the support of the teachers that made the race competitive. 

“It’s really the school controversy, the closure of schools, the continued opening of charter schools and then the ... battle with the CTU and Rahm that has generated any kind of heat in this and has made him even remotely vulnerable,” the political science professor at Loyola University in Chicago, said ahead of Tuesday’s race.

Emanuel's “bare-knuckles” approach to running the city, despite yielding results in some areas, also hurt his standing with some voters, analysts say.

“He’s reasonably good at his job,” Freindreis said. “Now where he has stumbled is that he is a tough guy and he is a bully and sometimes he is just too smart for his own good and so he’s rubbed people the wrong way because he’s not nice.”

Emanuel’s challengers criticized him throughout the campaign for not doing enough to help bring jobs, safer streets and other opportunities to all Chicagoans. Garcia told NBC Chicago he would, to hire a thousand more police officers, reduce class sizes and standardized tests and “invest in neighborhoods to attract manufacturing or industrial-creation jobs.” In addition to the backing from the teachers, he also gained headlines for winning the endorsement of the liberal political group MoveOn.org. The group applauded Tuesday's results as a "huge win for progressives and working families across Chicago." 

Even if Emanuel succeeds in winning a second term in April, some observers say the education initiatives he pushed in his first four years could take a hit in Chicago and beyond.

“Over the next few years you could have mayors, some Democrats and some Republicans, in cities across the nation saying I’m going to pick the kids over the unions,” said Keith Koeneman, author of “First Son: The Biography of Richard M. Daly.”

Check back with NBCChicago.com for more on this developing story. For complete election night coverage, visit the Ward Room blog. 

<![CDATA[Belated Valentine to Bolts: City Professes Commitment]]> Tue, 24 Feb 2015 22:55:53 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/san+diego+city+council+generic+080114.JPG

NBC 7's Gene Cubbison has this analysis on the Chargers stadium dilemma: 

It's now official — the San Diego City Council really, really wants the Chargers to stay.

But with the Los Angeles market eager for an NFL team, time to keep the Bolts local may be running out.

On Thursday came a formal city council resolution of undying commitment to working toward a stadium solution with the Chargers.

But there was no mention in all the phrases beginning “whereas” and the “be it resolved” of how much and under what conditions they're ready to commit.

In this high-stakes scrimmage, will Mayor Kevin Faulconer's "read-and-react" game plan sway a team that's being lured toward Los Angeles?

"You can't do that on this issue — you're going to have to, at some point, stand behind an idea of what you want to happen,” said Voice of San Diego editor Scott Lewis.

“Even if that idea is 'Sayonara, have fun in L.A.' or the idea is 'Let's build a stadium in downtown or Mission Valley, and let's get this thing done.' I think he's just trying to have it both ways, and now he's paying from both sides."

And, as hard questions linger in San Diego about who pays what for a new stadium, those questions already are pretty much answered about the project St. Louis Rams Stan Kroenke and his investment partners are planning in Inglewood.

The city council approved the venture in a multibillion-dollar renewal effort called "City of Champions Revitalization Initiative.”

Meantime, downtown San Diego’s East Village target site carries a 5-to-7 year timeline to get rid of the Metro Transit System bus yard, according to an MTS memorandum.

That would appear to leave Mission Valley’s Qualcomm Stadium site as the faster track to redevelop — assuming a laundry list of issues can be resolved.

"I think what the Chargers have made clear in the past number of weeks is that they're fed up,” Councilman Todd Gloria said in an interview Tuesday. “I think fans are fed up and they're getting incredibly nervous and expecting some leadership."

At City Hall, following a pep talk by Faulconer, the Council voted 8-0 (with one absentee) on a resolution proclaiming the Chargers "a source of civic pride and inspiration", and declaring the city "fully committed" to keeping them.

Die-hard Bolts fans who attended the Council session can't imagine what the city would be like without the team.

"It would be like, even a death in the family — you really don't get over with it, but you learn to live with it,” Serra Mesa resident Butch Dye, sporting a Bolts #32 (Eric Weddle) jersey, told NBC 7. “I think that's what could happen. But it won’t happen because the Chargers are gonna stay."

Said Lemon Grove resident Don Holdren: “To me, with all the friends and fan base I know, we’ll no longer be Charger fans. It’s a terrible thing, but us sharing a stadium with the Raiders is like sleeping with the enemy. And I don’t see it happening.”

<![CDATA[San Diego City Council Approves One Paseo Project]]> Mon, 23 Feb 2015 23:16:03 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/one+paseo+city+council+meeting.JPG

In front of a packed house, the San Diego City Council approved a controversial mixed-use project in Carmel Valley after hours of public comments.

The One Paseo Project includes the construction of stores and eateries, the expansion of a movie theater and the addition of more than 600 family apartments and a parking structure in Carmel Valley.

The San Diego Planning Commission approved the proposal for the $750 million, 1.4 million square-foot, mixed-use village slated for the corner of Del Mar Heights Road and El Camino Real. The panel agreed to the plan on the condition that developer Kilroy Realty agreed to make 11 changes to the master plan.

On Monday night, the San Diego City Council approved the plan 7-2, though they did say Kilroy must add 60 affordable housing units and a sychronized traffic system. Council President Sherri Lightner and Council President Pro Tem Marti Emerald were the dissenting votes.

Hundreds showed up Monday to hear the debate at council chambers -- so many that Golden Hall had to be used as an overflow area. About 600 people signed up to speak on the issue, many wearing red shirts to show their opposition to One Paseo.

The Carmel Valley Planning Board voted against the current proposal but its members have said they support a smaller version of the plan.

Opponents say the project is too big and would create a traffic nightmare.

"This is really a terrible model for the city of San Diego," said Ken Farinsky with "What Price Main Street," a group organized to oppose the project.  "You're building high density shopping malls and calling them smart growth, and if this is the model for the city of villages, I think San Diego is in deep trouble."

Council President Lightner said the project is three times too big for its site.

"I am discouraged by today’s outcome, as I strongly oppose the One Paseo Project as proposed, or even with the minor modifications requested tonight," Lightner said in a statement. "The current project has too many significant impacts to the surrounding community, including traffic, parking, public safety, and community character."

However, supporters say the development would be a positive addition to the area, bringing 1,600 new jobs, 600 news homes and $630 million to the local economy.

The developer said there has been plenty of compromise. Plus, they plan to pay for $6 million in road improvements and projects that aim to improve travel times.

"It's basically a complete neighborhood, and it's a town center for Carmel Valley, something they don't have right now," said Rachel Laing, a Kilroy Realty spokeswoman. "They don't have anywhere to go and hang out, and we're offering all of those benefits."

Carmel Valley resident Jannette Littler said she thinks fear is a strong motivator, and many of her neighbors are afraid the community they love will be different.

"I cannot tell you how gratified I am this beautiful mixed use project is coming to my neighborhood," she said.

If all goes as planned, Kilroy Realty will break ground by the end of the year. Its completion date is set for 2018.

<![CDATA[Chargers to Carson? 3 Things to Consider]]> Fri, 20 Feb 2015 14:09:41 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Dean-Spanos-Chargers.jpg

Somewhere amidst the backstage maneuvering behind the alliance – unholy or otherwise -- between the Chargers and Raiders are countless elements that add up to a series of reality checks.

For example:

  • Exit Strategy Considerations

It would cost the Chargers $17.6 million to trigger its Qualcomm Stadium escape clause this year to meet their obligations to pay off the remaining principal debt on the bonds to renovate the stadium in 1997.

The team still has until April 30th to give “notice of termination” under that clause; the team has announced it will not do so this year.

However, the developments involving Carson could cast a pall on ticket sales for the 2015 NFL season.

If and/or when the team should exercise the escape clause, it would have to vacate Qualcomm Stadium by July 31st of that year, as well as the Chargers Park facility in Murphy Canyon, whose construction was bankrolled by the city.

The exit fee, in effect, scales downward to under $10 million by the year 2020.

The Chargers have been paying a bargain-basement $2.5 million in annual rent since 2004.

  • Legal Considerations

A move under the game plan now in play in Carson likely would invite lawsuits (against the teams and NFL) from the cities of San Diego and Oakland, with Los Angeles a potential “party in interest” (if not plaintiff as well) owing to AEG’s Farmers Stadium proposal targeted for downtown.

The legal cause(s) of action might rest on allegations of anti-trust, restraint-of-trade violations and/or other underlying business-related claims.

There’s a possibility that the city of Carson could be sued on grounds of “tortious interference with a contractual relationship”.

By way of background, litigation filed by San Diego challenging the Padres’ proposed sale to a grocery chain magnate and relocation to Washington D.C. in 1974 bought time for a proposal under which McDonalds tycoon Ray Kroc wound up acquiring the team instead.

  • Commercial Considerations

The Carson stadium financing plan envisioned by underwriter Goldman Sachs and the teams presumably would rely heavily on the sale of Personal Seat Licenses (PSL), a scheme that generated $550 million for the 49ers’ new Levi Stadium in Santa Clara.

PSLs are, essentially, the purchase of rights just to buy season tickets for certain seats in a stadium – along the lines of paying money for a wristband to wait in line for tickets to a rock concert.

Season ticket sales at Levi Stadium went well, but as the team’s record tended toward the mediocre, there were many empty seats and grumblings about hellacious traffic problems and the “dump” neighborhoods surrounding the facility.

With the 49ers having finished 8-8 and lost its head coach in the off-season, the size of the team’s fan base may undergo some shrinkage.

Will the Los Angeles “market” support PSL sales to the extent that fulfills the Goldman Sachs projections -- especially when appeals must be made to two separate fan bases (Chargers, Raiders) that would seem to have little overlap?

To what extent (if any) would the teams be on the hook for rent/maintenance/capital improvements – and game-day services provided by the city of Carson and/or other public agencies?

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Skinflint Salaries Turning Off Mayor, Council Prospects?]]> Fri, 13 Feb 2015 21:09:20 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/san+diego+city+council+generic+080114.JPG

If anybody's getting rich in public service, San Diego's mayor and council members hardly seem to fit that profile.

Next year, city voters may get the chance to set -- and raise -- their salaries.

The mayor's job here pays $100,000 -- less than half of what it does in Los Angeles, and less than in seven smaller California cities including Chula Vista.

A hundred grand for a chief executive who runs a $3 billion operation is pretty much unheard of.

"This is the 'C Suite' of San Diego politics,” said political strategist Laura Fink. “They're making decisions that affect a lot of San Diegans, and we need to make sure that they are paid appropriately. Now they're not going to get rich either -- but we need to make sure the salaries are commensurate with the experience of the folks that we want to attract."

And in the view of the 2014-15 San Diego County grand jury, that’s not happening

"If this continues as it's going, and not really working as it's intended,” said grand jury foreman J. Robert O’Connor, “you're going to have people running for office that are independently wealthy or have no experience whatsoever.”

Attorney Robert Ottilie, chairman of the city’s independent Salary Setting Commission, added: "Not to say that somebody with a lot of money or little experience wouldn't necessarily be a good council member, but our job is to create the largest pool of potential candidates so that the voters can decide who's best. But right now we've cut out about 95 percent of the pool. That's not good."

O’Connor and Ottilie fear there’s too little incentive for people who could command much higher wages to run for office — or stay in it.

San Diego council members get $75,000 a year.

Tony Young more than doubled his salary when he left his council presidency for the Red Cross two years ago.

The salary setting panel — appointed by the city’s Civil Service Commission -- has spent 12 years recommending raises, only to have them rejected by council members who see approving them as political suicide.

The commission has suggested linking elected officials' salaries to a percentage of what judges or lawmakers get, or the cost of living index.

The grand jury has just weighed in this month with its first report, urging a charter review aimed at going to the voters with a citywide ballot measure in 2016.

A big question is whether the electorate will endorse the idea of higher compensation, as well as taking the final say away from the council.

"I think it's all in how you package it, how you put it to voters and how do you place it?” Fink said during Friday’s recording session for Sunday’s edition of NBC 7’s “Politically Speaking” program. “Are we putting it on the June ballot? More likely, the November ballot. How do we package and sell it voters as one of the pieces of reform that we need to move forward in this larger charter review?"

Said Mark Leslie, president of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association: "We'll be removing something that continues to be a sword that each other can be stabbed by, depending on who's running for what office. Or what the public wants to say about someone running for office. I think it needs to be removed and that this compensation needs to be set aside and no longer be political."

The city has until early May to respond to the grand jury's report and explain any disagreements or refusals to take recommended actions.