<![CDATA[NBC 7 San Diego - San Diego Politics and Political News]]> Copyright 2014 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 Fri, 18 Apr 2014 04:43:11 -0700 Fri, 18 Apr 2014 04:43:11 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Southwestern College Completion Rate Drops]]> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 12:56:16 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/college+campus+generic.jpg

Completion rates at Southwestern College, a community college in Chula Vista, have dropped below the statewide average, and its rates fell well-below other community colleges in the region, according to data released by the Student Success Scorecard.

The accountability report released Tuesday measures the percentage of students who earn a degree or transfer to a four-year university within six years, according to The Sacramento Bee.

That completion rate at Southwestern College decreased to 43.5 percent last year, up slightly from the year before, but below the statewide average of 48.1 percent, and below the institution's 2011 score of 48 percent.

"It doesn't really surprise me," said Dr. Melinda Nish, the school's superintendent. "It's incredibly worrisome, but we've known the rate is lower than it should be and we've been working diligently to correct that." 

The results for California Community Colleges have fallen steadily over the past four years across the state's 112 community colleges, a trend experts attribute to the recession and budget cuts at the state level.

In Chula Vista, Nish cited economics as well, pointing out that more than three-quarters of the South Bay students are working part-time or full-time while attending school.

"We have some of the most at-jeopardy students in the region in terms of socio-economic status. Our service area includes some of the poorest neighborhoods in the county," she said.  "With all those factors, we still think we can improve."

Results at other community colleges in San Diego County have steadily ticked downward, but remain above the statewide average.

At Mira Costa College, the percentage of students who either transferred to a four-year college or earned some type of degree was 55.9 percent. At San Diego Miramar College, that rate was 53.6 percent. At San Diego City College it was 63.7 percent, and at Palomar Community College District the rate was 50.6 percent.

District spokeswoman Lillian Leopold cautioned that the numbers may not show the complete picture.

The figure includes students who may be taking one or two classes to improve job skills and those who have no intention of obtaining an additional degree or transferring, she said.

In 2012, the college implemented a three-point plan to target completion rates. That plan includes an online student education plan, which will help capture students' goals, including those who only intend to improve workable skills, Leopold said. 

The college is also reviewing completion rates by program, and working with the nearby high school district to ensure students begin their college careers with appropriate math skills. 

Last year, district officials placed a goal for the college to reach a 58 percent rate by 2016.

"I don't think it's unachievable. It may take a few more years than we originally planned," Nish said. "But I think we can do it."


Read more here: http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2014/04/completion-rates-at-the-california.html#storylink=c

Read more here: http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2014/04/completion-rates-at-the-california.html#storylink=cpy


<![CDATA[New Lawsuit Implicates Filner's Bodyguards]]> Wed, 16 Apr 2014 09:54:54 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Filner19Accuser_0828.jpg

The latest civil lawsuit to hit San Diego over the Bob Filner scandal also points fingers at his security detail.

Marilyn McGaughy is suing Filner and the city after she claims she was sexually battered and violated during an event in May of 2013 at Johnson Elementary School in Emerald Hills.

“He was playing around with breast by playing with her tag. She had a name tag on her shirt, and he was kind of messing with it too long” said her attorney Dan Gilleon. “He did kiss her on the forehead and asked her out and that whole thing, the whole series. We’ve seen that before.”

The lawsuit claims, “Filner’s body guards, employed by the city, were present and witnessed Filner’s wrongful conduct, however failed to stop Filner or protect McGaughy” and “Filner’s body guards would look the other way when he would engage in inappropriate or wrongful conduct, a violation of the city’s zero tolerance policy."

No one from the security detail team is named in the lawsuit and Gilleon says they won’t be in the future, but he does believe this makes the city more culpable.

“They just simply looked away and said ‘our duty of loyalty is solely with Mr. Filner.' There’s no other way to explain what they were doing," Gilleon said.

The San Diego City Attorney’s office tells NBC 7 this is the third pending civil case of its kind and they will defend the city.

Last August, when first presented with details of this case, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said the city wouldn’t just start handing out money to accusers.

“I don’t want to be insensitive to people that had inappropriate conduct directed to them, but not every time there’s inappropriate conduct do you get to recover $250,000,” Goldsmith said in previous interview with NBC 7.

Goldsmith said last August that the city will handle each claim concerning Filner on its own merits, first determining whether or not the city is liable by looking to see if the accuser is a city employee, volunteer or contractor.

“We’re responsible for sexual harassment on employees, should it be proven,” he said.

<![CDATA[San Diego Mayor Unveils $3B Budget Plan]]> Mon, 14 Apr 2014 20:14:04 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Mayor-Kevin-Faulconer-0303.jpg

After years of city budgets that were "hold-the-line" or downright "starvation" in their approach, San Diegans are looking at a 6 percent hike in municipal spending in Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s $3 billion proposal for the budget year that begins July 1.

"We've been through a lot together over the last several years,” Faulconer said during a noon-hour news briefing Monday at City Hall. “And to be in this opportunity now where we continue to work together to restore neighborhoods -- is where we all wanted to be."

Local economic forecasts are getting brighter, projecting somewhat higher tax revenues to flow into the city treasury.

Said Sean Karafin, Interim President of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association: "There's no doubt that the economy is doing better. And this budget rests on the increased tax base that comes from that bettering economy. But the projections look reasonable. Again, this is a first glance."

More than half of the new money will be poured into fixing San Diego’s neighborhoods – potholes, cracking and crumbling streets, sidewalks and other public infrastructure that’s been neglected for too long.

"These problems that we're facing in infrastructure did not happen overnight, and we're not going to solve them overnight,” said Councilman Mark Kersey, who chairs the Council’s Infrastructure Committee. “But with continued investment like what is reflected in this budget, we will be able to rebuild San Diego for future generations."

The Police Department will be in a hiring mode, for both uniformed and civilian staff, to backfill the slots of retiring veterans.

The short-handed Fire-Rescue Department, subject to mandatory overtime, will finally be getting reinforcements.

Hours at libraries and recreation centers will be increased, as will other neighborhood services.

There's even a healthy reserve fund to hedge against further downsides.

"I remember when I was first elected to the Council -- and our reserves were at 3 percent, I think, as we were teetering on going over the edge of the cliff,” Faulconer recalled. “And now, with everybody working together, we're at 14 percent."

The mayor also is allocating nearly a million dollars to underwrite community plan updates -- key blueprints for land use and economic development that in many cases have gone decades without reviews and revisions.

Faulconer's budget plan also directs spending on homeless issues to organizations that get the best results and establishes the position of "Open Data Officer" to help preserve and improve access to city records and information.

But City Hall observers caution that there's no predicting how long this upswing will last.

"The economy is really a huge driver in how these things look,” said Liam Dillon, who covers politics, government and civic issues for Voice of San Diego. “The economy's turning better; that makes things good. Whether we turn the corner or not depends as much on what happens in the broader economy than what happens at City Hall."

There's also uncertainty about how much infrastructure money can be borrowed on Wall Street and how soon.

Pending legal challenges claim voters have to approve the bond measures.

City lawyers argue otherwise.

The Council’s first in a series of budget hearing is set for May 5.

Councilman David Alvarez, who lost to Faulconer in the Feb. 11 special mayoral runoff election, gave notice in a written statement that he'll be pushing for at least one new park to be built in an "underserved" neighborhood.

Alvarez also said he believes there's still "inefficiency and waste" in the budget proposal – and will be looking to “identify areas that we can streamline and use those tax dollars to support increase community and neighborhood priorities.”

<![CDATA[Councilmember Ed Harris on Politically Speaking]]> Sun, 13 Apr 2014 10:29:19 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Ed-Harris-Councilmember-San.jpg We turn to San Diego's City Hall where career lifeguard Ed Harris has become 'caretaker' for the eight months left in Mayor Kevin Faulconer's 2nd District term.]]> <![CDATA[Politics of College Culture]]> Fri, 11 Apr 2014 12:35:23 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/PS-Weber-Solomon.jpg Assemblymember Shirley Weber who is spearheading the effort for change on campus and Stacia Solomon Director of UC San Diego's Black Resource Center discuss the issue with NBC 7's Marianne Kushi. ]]> <![CDATA[Politics of Campaign Cash]]> Fri, 11 Apr 2014 12:29:10 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/PS-Fink-Cox.jpg Joining NBC 7's Gene Cubbison to sift through issues of campaign cash, political influence, where all that leads, and to what extent it will ever end are John Cox, a government reform advocate who's promoting a possible remedy he wants on the November ballot and, political consultant Laura Fink.]]> <![CDATA[Equal Pay Advocate: Women Should Arm Themselves with Info]]> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 03:57:27 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/equal-pay-fair-salary-gende.jpg

The U.S. Labor Department says women make $.81 for every dollar men make.

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama pushed equal pay for equal work Tuesday. Republicans pushed back, saying many young moms choose to work at lower pay for more flexibility.

Here in San Diego, the Lawyers Club held its second annual Equal Pay Day Leadership Luncheon downtown.

Speakers addressed gender wage disparity and its impact on women in the workforce and their families.

The keynote by U.S. Labor Department Women's Bureau Program analyst Kelly Jenkins-Pultz says there are things women can do to bridge the wage gap.

"Women need to arm themselves with information, they need to be able to talk freely about their salary, they need to be able to network, and understand how what they're earning compares in the marketplace," she said.

Jenkins-Pultz says the gap is caused by many complex factors including differences in education, work experience and hours worked.

But she says there's a portion that makes no sense except for a worker's gender.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Ban on "Cars for Sale" on City Streets?]]> Tue, 08 Apr 2014 08:18:11 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/cars-for-sale-street-corner.jpg

The San Diego City Council will meet this afternoon to consider a ban on cars parked for sale on streets.

If this ordinance is passed, it could bring the change to University Avenue, between 38th Street and Marlborough Avenue in City Heights and Southeast San Diego on Marmil Way between Marmil Avenue and Towanda Drive.

This makes City Heights residents and businesses more than happy, considering they’ve been pushing for the ban for years. It also means more parking on their streets.

On Monday alone, there were five cars for sale on University Avenue taking up an entire block of parking. But this isn’t the only thing car owners are doing now.

“They even go as far as washing them while they’re there,” Crystal Jackson, of Video Electronics on University Avenue, told NBC 7.

“It deters customers from coming because if they have to park five to six blocks away because they don’t have any parking. It affects our business extremely negatively,” Jackson said.

The store has contacted the owners of the “for sale” cars, but they only move the cars temporarily.

Different parts of the county already have no parking signs for people selling their cars.

Some City Heights residents who spoke to NBC 7 said they are more than eager for the ban.

“It prevents people from parking on University and also it’s an eye sore to see,” Steve Jones, a City Heights resident, said. “It looks like a car sales lot if you have four or five cars on the street. I don’t think it’s great for the neighborhood at all.”

The city says they have the funding to pay for the no parking signs which cost about $900.

<![CDATA[Filner's Punishment Light: Accuser Attorney]]> Tue, 08 Apr 2014 07:02:14 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/11PM_PKG_FILNER_RETIREM_KNSD3Q2F_1200x675_219802691939.jpg Accuser's attorney called former mayor Bob Filner's punishment light and disagreed with the decision to allow him to receive a pension from the city for his time as councilmember and part of his time as mayor. ]]> <![CDATA[Poway Superintendent's Business Expenses Top Other Superintendents']]> Wed, 02 Apr 2014 12:04:43 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/PUSD1.jpg


The superintendent of the Poway Unified School District, up for a $62,735 pay hike, is permitted to spend thousands of dollars a year on meals, travel and other business expenses on a district-issued debit card, per his contract and district policies.
Superintendent John Collins, one of the top paid superintendents in the county, will likely receive an increase to his base pay to $297,735 from $235,000 in April, according to contract documents being discussed by the school board.
According to his negotiated contract, Collins is to be reimbursed for all business expenses. However, instead of paying out-of-pocket and being reimbursed, the school district uses a purchase card program, like many other governmental agencies throughout the county and state. 
In 2012, NBC7 Investigates found Collins spent at least $15,610.32 on meals, travel and other expenses and his administrative assistant spent another $9,984.37 on his behalf on a district-issued debit card.  In 2013, from January through September, the most updated data available; Collins spent $9297.44 on business expenses. For example, he dined out at establishments like Downtown Johnny Brown’s, flew to Sacramento for conferences, as well as stayed in hotels like the Marriot, Sheraton and Portola Hotel and Spa in Monterey.
“Dr. Collins serves on a number of local, statewide and national boards, consortiums and associations,” stated a written response to NBC7’s questions about the district’s debit card usage. “PUSD serves as a model for many K-12 educational entities and therefore our Superintendent does travel throughout the year.”
The district also stated that many of the charges on Collins’ debit card included travel expenses of other employees and board members. The district added that all purchases are in-line with the department’s policies and budgets. 
NBC7 Investigates asked Superintendent Collins for months to participate in an on-camera interview about the district’s debit card spending practices, which total $1.4 million a year for the business expenses of 171 employees. Instead, the district issued a 21-page response to our written questions and provided a user’s manual for Poway’s purchasing card program.
Collins’ contract, which is up for board discussion, includes a section on “reimbursement for expenses” that specifically names membership dues in the Association of California School Administrators. That’s one of the most expensive charges on Collins’ debit card in 2013 at $2,215.40.
District officials confirm that all of Collins' reimbursable items are debited from the card rather than any additional stipends or purchase order reimbursements.  
NBC7 Investigates compared Collins' business expenses with top administrators and superintendents in districts across the county.
In Escondido, then-Superintendent Jennifer Walters spent $880.93 on business expenses and travel in 2012. In San Marcos, Superintendent Kevin Holt spent $6,353 on entertainment, retail, services and travel on his taxpayer-funded credit card. In San Diego Unified, a district three times larger than Poway, NBC7 Investigates combined the business expenses for former Superintendent Bill Kowba, who resigned in Feb. 2013, and current Superintendent Cynthia Marten for fiscal year 2012-2013. The pair spent a combined total of $13,151 on travel, meals and conference registrations.
One of the largest districts in the county, the Poway school district has a $250 million annual budget and more than 35,000 students.


<![CDATA[April Fools Prank in Race for District Attorney]]> Wed, 02 Apr 2014 09:13:58 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/DA-Race-Brewer-Bonnie-Wyatt.jpg

An April Fools prank crossed into the San Diego District Attorney race Tuesday and not everyone is laughing.

A fake press release was released from an account operated by @DDAs4Dumanis announcing a news conference with Bob Brewer, who is trying to unseat incumbent and current DA Bonnie Dumanis.

“We’re not in middle school. What’s next are they going to toilet paper his house?” said Alex Roth, communications director for Brewer’s campaign. Brewer’s team followed up on the unflattering fake release with a real news release.

“It was a dirty trick, plain and simple, and it has not place in any campaign” said Brewer adding “Bonnie Dumanis should take responsibility for the conduct of what appears to be a handful of her sworn deputy district attorneys”.

Dumanis campaign spokesperson Jennifer Tierney said her team had nothing to do with the release and saw it online just like everyone else.

<![CDATA[CA State Senator Arrested]]> Fri, 28 Mar 2014 16:15:19 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/03-26-2014-leland-yee-leaves-court.jpg

California state Sen. Leland Yee is facing a slew of corruption charges as part of a massive FBI sting operation that surfaced allegations of firearms trafficking, money laundering, murder-for-hire and drug distribution.

A federal complaint unsealed Wednesday accuses the San Francisco Democrat of engaging in a conspiracy to traffic firearms and accepting campaign donations in exchange for official acts. In one instance, Yee, who has been a strong advocate for gun control during his decade in the state Legislature, warning that such business dealings are "not for the faint of heart," according to the complaint.

He was charged with conspiracy to traffic in firearms without a license, and to illegally import firearms as well as a scheme to defraud citizens of honest services.

Yee and Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, leader of the Chee Kung Tong Free Masons in San Francisco, were among 26 defendants charged in the federal criminal complaint Wednesday, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag of the Northern District of California said. 

The federal criminal complaint, filed on March 24, charges the defendants with firearms trafficking, money laundering, murder-for-hire, drug distribution, trafficking in contraband cigarettes and honest services fraud, the FBI announced. According to the affidavit

If convicted on all charges, Yee could face more than 100 years in prison. His bail was set at $500,000, unsecured, with the provision that he not leave the state. He was released from custody late Wednesday afternoon.

Yee is due back in court on Monday.

Chow's charges include money laundering and conspiracy to traffic contraband cigarettes.

One of the places the FBI searched Wednesday was at the San Francisco Chinatown office of the Chee Kung Tong at 36 Spofford Street, where Chow, a notorious former Chinatown gangster, conducts business. Chow was arrested during the raid.

Firefighters were seen going inside with a circular saw and later said they had cracked a safe.

According to the complaint, a pattern of alleged racketeering activity emerged as FBI undercover agents infiltrated the CKT through introductions made by Chow and others.

Over the course of the undercover agent's relationship with Chow and other defendants, the complaint shows, the undercover agent informed the group that he was interested in generating income from illegal schemes. He was then inducted into CKT as a "consultant," and allegedly introduced to a number of the defendants in order to launder money, traffic narcotics, firearms and purpotedly stolen cigarettes and liquor and engage in murder-for-hire schemes over the course of multiple undercover operations.

The FBI also arrested Keith Jackson, a well-known political consultant who owns San Francisco-based political consulting firm Jackson Consultancy.

Leland Yee leaves the federal building in San Francisco, Wednesday, March 26, 2014.

State Senator Yee leaves the federal building in San Francisco, Wednesday, March 26, 2014.

Chow also introduced Jackson -- a "consultant" to the CKT -- to the undercover agent. Jackson and his son Brandon Jackson allegedly responded to the undercover agent's request for weapons, selling him various types of firearms and two ballistic vests.

Jackson, Brandon Jackson and another defendant allegedly conspired on a murder for hire scheme at the undercover agent's request.

The complaint also says that Jackson is a close associate of Lee and has been involved in raising campaign funds for him from at least through May 2011 to the present.

Yee, who has served in the state Legislature for more than a decade, was elected to the State Senate in November 2006 and represents District 8, which includes San Francisco and San Mateo County. The former San Francisco supervisor and 2011 mayoral candidate is currently running for secretary of state.

The complaint alleges that starting in 2012 and continuing until now, Yee and Keith Jackson allegedly raised money and campaign funds for Yee's secretary of state campaign by soliciting donations from undercover FBI agents in exchange for multiple official acts.

The compaint also alleges that Yee and Jackson were involved in a conspiracy to traffic firearms.

The complaint details how, starting in May 2011 and continuing for several months, Jackson allegedly asked an undercover FBI agent to make contributions to Yee's San Francisco mayoral campaign. The agent declined to make contributions but introduced Jackson and Yee to a business associate, who was another undercover agent. When Jackson and Yee asked the agent for campaign contributions, it resulted in at least one personal $5,000 donation.

The complaint claims that Yee tried to get rid of a $70,000 debt after losing the November 2011 election by making a call to the California Department of Public Health in support of a contract with the second undercover agent's purported client and writing an official letter of support in exchange for a $10,000 campaign donation.

Yee allegedly made the call on Oct. 18, 2012, and provided the letter around Jan. 13, 2013. Jackson accepted the $10,000 on Nov. 19, 2012.

Yee is known for his efforts to strengthen open records, government transparency and whistleblower protection laws.On his website, Yee promises that if elected as secretary of state, he will be "committed to fair elections and expanding access to our democracy."

He was honored last week by the Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional journalists for his efforts to uphold the California Public Records Act.

Chow, who ran a Chinese criminal organization and was convicted of gun charges, was released in 2003 after spending 11 years in prison. He has since been praised for his involvement in the community and for trying to turn his life around.

On what appears to be Raymond Chow's Facebook page, Chow displayed a picture of a certificate of honor presented to him by Lee that honored him "for his tenacity and willingness to give back to the community and working 'in the trenches' as a change agent."

Chow also appears to have been tweeting from the Twitter handle @RaymondChow10, using hashtags that included "sunoftheunderworld," "mafia." and "chinatown." His last tweet was on Nov. 17, which shows him at his sister's birthday, enjoying a glass of red wine.

Chow has also posted pictures of him with other notable public figures and local business owners, including former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, and a picture of another certificate of recognition from state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano.

Yee's arrest shocked the Chinese-American community, many of whom view him as an important figure in San Francisco politics.

Officers from the California Highway Patrol and Sergeant at Arms were stationed outside Yee's state Capitol office in Sacramento Wednesday morning, where the FBI agents conducted a raid, taking computers and other documents, according to KCRA-TV.

The FBI confirmed to KCRA-TV that it had raided homes and businesses in the Bay Area and Sacramento Wednesday morning, issuing multiple search warrants and making arrests.

State Senator Yee was arrested Wednesday morning on public corruption charges. (Photo: Diane Dwyer)

Yee’s press secretary, Dan Lieberman, declined to comment when contacted by NBC Bay Area. An official statement would be released sometime Wednesday afternoon, he said.

Yee's arrest would make him the third Democratic state senator fighting charges this year.

His arrest comes just one month after prosecutors announced federal bribery and corruption charges filed against state Sen. Ron Calderon.

Prosecutors say the Los Angeles-area Democrat accepted about $100,000 in cash bribes and other perks in exchange for his supporting or opposing bills. Calderon has pleaded not guilty.

Earlier in the year, Democratic Sen. Rod Wright was found guilty of multiple charges that stemmed from accusations he did not actually live in the Southern California district he represents. Wright is appealing the conviction.

Both Wright and Calderon have taken a leave of absence from the state Senate.

Democrat Derek Cressman, who is one of several candidates also running for secretary of state, called Yee's arrest a "wake-up call."

"We are clearly beyond the point of looking at one bad apple and instead looking at a corrupt institution in the California senate," Cressman said in a statement. "The constant begging for campaign cash clearly has a corrosive effect on a person's soul and the only solution is to get big money out of our politics once and for all."

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said that he was shocked and disappointed by the news.

"Leland Yee has been a part of public service for a long time, sorry to see that tainted by these allegations," Lee said.

A man was charged last year for threatening Yee over legislation that he proposed to limit rapid reloading of assault weapons.

Yee is the first Chinese American ever elected to the California State Senate. He emigrated to San Francisco from China at age 3. Yee graduated from the University of California at Berkeley and receieved a master's degree from San Francisco State University. Yee and his wife Maxine have four children.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[San Diego Mayor Releases Staff List]]> Thu, 20 Mar 2014 13:20:14 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Mayor-Kevin-Faulconer-030351.jpg

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer released a list of his new staff members Thursday.

Chief of Staff
Stephen Puetz

Deputy Chief of Staff & Chief of Policy
Jaymie Bradford

Deputy Chief of Staff & Chief of Community Engagement
Felipe Monroig

Deputy Chief of Staff & Chief of Communications
Matt Awbrey

Director of Protocol
Don Giaquinto

Director of Government Affairs
Almis Udrys

Senior Policy Advisor & Deputy Director of Government Affairs
Katherine Johnston

Director of Land Use and Environmental Policy
Mike Hansen

Senior Policy Advisor
Monica Montgomery

Director of Council Affairs
Brian Pepin

Director of Boards and Commissions & Community Rep for Council District 1
Francis Barraza

Deputy Director of Binational Affairs & Senior Community Rep for Council District 2
Ian Clampett

Community Representative for Council Districts 3 and 9
Rich Reyes

Community Representative for Council District 4
Darnisha Hunter

Director of Outreach & Community Representative for Council Districts 5 and 6
John Ly

Community Representative for Council District 7
Anthony George

Community Representative for Council District 8
Andrea Cardenas

Press Secretary & Director of Media Relations
Craig Gustafson

Press Secretary & Senior Advisor
Charles Chamberlayne

Director of Scheduling
Michelle Porras

Executive Assistant to the Mayor
Tanya Lundy

Confidential Assistant to the Chief of Staff
Cheri Hoy

Director of Administration
Sara Cavataio

Administrative Assistant
Shalonda Vinegar

Administrative Assistant
Caroline Ledesma

Director of Binational Affairs

<![CDATA[Coastal Land Proposal Pits Golf vs Soccer ]]> Wed, 19 Mar 2014 10:25:44 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Center-City-Golf-Course-Osi.jpg

Oceanside city officials will consider the future of a parcel of prime coastal land used by golfers but coveted by soccer players.

Center City Golf Course is 76 acres just north of Oceanside Boulevard and only two miles from the beach.

The owner of the Real Salt Lake soccer team in Salt Lake City, Utah has proposed building an $8 million complex that would include six private soccer fields.

A smaller nine-hole golf course would take over the rest of the space.

Over a longer-term lease, the project could be expanded to add an 8,000-seat soccer stadium for a minor league soccer team and two hotels.

In 2012, the city solicited ideas for alternative uses for the course, because of lagging profits.

Up until now, the city had been in negotiations with golf-attire mogul John Ashworth for an improved course.

On Wednesday, the council is expected to decide if they're moving forward with the team or looking at other options.

At 4 p.m. Wednesday, residents will have the opportunity to voice their opinions.

Some neighbors and golfers we spoke with fear the city council has already made up its mind because of the economic potential here.

“It's just sad you know,” said golfer Tyler Dingvell. “People have called this their home for 40 years. It's been here since 1952. It's the oldest golf course in North County. People have a lot of history and heritage here. People love this place.”

In a statement, Dell Loy Hansen discussed the proposal in this way.

"At the end of the day, it's about giving the kids - many of whom won't be able to go to college without academy development - a chance to aspire and achieve. Through the excitement of soccer, hard work, determination and teamwork, the Oceanside complex will be a pillar of this community and a beacon of hope for our youth."

Oceanside City officials didn't respond to messages from NBC 7 Wednesday.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 ]]>
<![CDATA[Restroom Overhaul Project No Relief to Eyes, Noses]]> Wed, 19 Mar 2014 03:56:31 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/City-Hall-Potties.jpg

It's a sight that's become quite an eyesore in downtown San Diego.

With smells that are wrinkling people's noses.

The unwelcome offender?

A long row of Porta-Potties across the street from City Hall.

They've been on the sidewalk north of the C Street Trolley line, on the east side of Third Avenue, since late February.

They serve mainly the homeless, since the public restrooms next to the Civic Theater’s loading zone were closed to make way for an accessibility project under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

"It’s just been a mess and it's a disgrace to the heart of the city, quite frankly,” says Paul Dobson, owner of a popular downtown restaurant bearing his name.

“A lot of times it smells so bad I have to go around the other way," Dobson added, in a streetside interview Tuesday. "The homeless hang here, too. I feel sorry, but it's a blemish to the city."

The infrastructure work has disrupted both foot and vehicle traffic in the heart of San Diego's downtown, high-rise financial district.

It’s taking place just steps away from a trolley line in the shadow of luxury hotels whose guests may be tempted – to the dismay of tourism boosters -- to send Twitter-pics of the Porta-Potties to followers world-wide.

While the work that's put them on the high-visibility sidewalk can't be avoided, civic and business leaders say City Hall is way overdue for demolition -- and that the restroom overhaul project once again raises larger questions as to when, and how, a new city hall gets built.

"This building has got to come down,” says Tom Wornham, a past chairman of San Diego’s regional Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Corp.

“If you were a business and you were anybody but the city, you couldn't occupy this,” Wornham observed, on his way into City Hall late Tuesday morning for a meeting with Mayor Faulconer.

”It is rotten with asbestos. It has problems with fire sprinklers and even the structural integrity … but if that's what it takes to get everyone focused on that building needing to be replaced -- it's time folks!”

Why haven’t city leaders been able to overcome inertia, the financial and logistical problems involved?

“It’s that lack of political will,” Wornham replied. “It’s more political ‘won’t’.”

The estimated pricetag for the last new City Hall proposal was upwards of half a billion dollars.

Meantime, public works officials say the project to bring the public restrooms into full ADA compliance will come in at under $200,000.

But – hold your noses for a while longer, pedestrians – it’s expected take another month to finish.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[Lawsuit Opposes Destruction of Old City Emails]]> Tue, 18 Mar 2014 15:48:40 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/computer2.jpg

As an advocacy group filed a lawsuit against a proposed policy that includes the deleting of all city emails that are more than a year old, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer officially rescinded the policy, citing a new era of open, transparent government for the City of San Diego.

The non-profit group, San Diegans for Open Government (SDOG), filed the lawsuit under the California Public Records Act.

On Feb. 27, 2014, interim Mayor Todd Gloria announced the adoption of a policy, known as “AR 90.67,” that would authorize the destruction of city emails that are more than one year old. According to the lawsuit filed by SDOG, the policy – which SDOG says is illegal – had been adopted internally by the city two weeks before this information was made public.

“Had someone not leaked the interim mayor’s announcement to the press, the public would not have found out about AR 90.67 until long after the email communications had been destroyed,” the lawsuit filed by attorney Cory Briggs, states.

When San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer took office earlier this month, the city announced Faulconer was placing the proposed policy on hold pending further review. Per the policy, the process of deleting vast amounts of city emails would have started on Mar. 28, lasting through Apr. 30.

On Tuesday, Faulconer announced he was officially rescinding the proposed email purge at city hall in an effort to keep transparency in city government.

"My mission is to increase openness and transparency at City Hall, and this is just one of the first steps," Faulconer said. "I reviewed the policy and believe the public's right to have access to City documents is worth the additional financial cost that will come with retaining these emails. In today's modern age, I believe San Diego can be a leader in using technology to increase transparency."

According to Faulconer, the City of San Diego switched to a new email system in January 2013 that allows the retention of City emails for an unlimited amount of time. However, the hurdle faced by the City has been how to store and maintain the information contained in two older email systems, including one with a significant amount of corrupted data.

Faulconer said his administration is now working with the City’s IT staff and leaders in the local tech community to find the most cost-effective way to store this older data in perpetuity.

“New cost estimates to store the old emails are being reviewed by City staff, with a majority of the expenses expected to be one-time,” stated a release from Faulconer’s office.

NECN]]> <![CDATA[Scott Brown Readies N.H. Senate Run]]> Fri, 14 Mar 2014 15:15:09 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP19064830984.jpg

Former Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts officially announced Friday he has formed an exploratory committee for a bid in New Hampshire's U.S. Senate race this year.

However, the Republican did not officially say he will run against the state's Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, NECN reported.

Brown blasted Obamacare Friday, and also talked about what his party needs to be doing to move forward.

Brown said he is looking forward to meeting people in New Hampshire as he starts traveling around the state starting Saturday.

"Obviously I have to do some listening and learning and find out from everybody what their concerns are and make sure I have a full understanding of the challenges, and then I'll make a further decision down the road," Brown told reporters after the speech.

There are already other Republicans in the U.S. Senate race, but analysts agree that Brown would immediately be the frontrunner if he officially ran against Shaheen.

Democrats in the Granite State have been preparing for months now for Brown's announcement.

Earlier Friday, Fox News cut its ties with Brown when he notified them of his intentions.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[CA Bill: Hit-and-Run Driver Should Lose License]]> Tue, 11 Mar 2014 14:40:11 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Police+Tape+Hit+and+Run+Generic+Police.jpg

A bill proposing hit-and-run drivers lose their licenses as punishment cleared committee Tuesday.

Assemblymember Mike Gatto (D) sponsors the bill AB 1532 that suggests the punishment for a hit-and-run driver who doesn’t stop after striking a pedestrian should be automatic suspension of the driver’s license.

The law would apply even if the victim’s injuries were minor.

The Assembly Public Safety Committee approved the proposed legislation 7-0.

The California Public Defenders Association argued against the proposal. The group says that under existing law, charges have been appropriate when there has been any injury, not matter how minor.

According to a San Diego criminal defense attorney, current law requires fines of about $1000-$1,200, 8 to 12 hours of Level II traffic school, and two points on a driver's record for a misdemeanor hit-and-run crash. There would likely be no immediate impact to your drivers license.


<![CDATA[Feds: DC Mayor Got Illegal Funds]]> Wed, 12 Mar 2014 12:45:57 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/20140310+Jeffrey+Thompson.jpg

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray knew that his 2010 campaign received money donated illegally by a businessman with multimillion-dollar city contracts, and even asked personally for the funds, federal prosecutors alleged in court Monday.

Businessman Jeffrey Thompson, 58, pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to violate D.C. and federal campaign finance laws by funneling more than $3.3 million in unreported donations to at least 28 local and national candidates and their campaigns beginning in 2006.

The candidates who benefitted from the illegal donations are not named in the court filings. However, in court, prosecutors confirmed that Gray was the person called "Mayoral Candidate A" who met with Thompson to discuss the fundraising, presented Thompson with a $425,000 "one-page budget" -- and agreed to keep the fundraising secret by referring to Thompson with the code name "Uncle Earl."

Gray also asked Thompson to pay $40,000 for improvements to a friend's home, prosecutors said. In court, Thompson acknowledged giving $40,000 to a close friend of Gray and $10,000 to a relative of Gray.

In total, Thompson -- whose company had a contract worth $300 million a year with the city -- funneled $668,800 to "a political candidate for Mayor," the charging documents say. Those documents also claim that the unreported donation was made "in coordination with" the candidate.

Gray refuted the claims in an interview and said he was innocent. “I maintain these are lies,” Gray told News4’s Tom Sherwood Monday afternoon. “These are absolute lies.”

Gray attended a mayoral forum Monday evening, just hours after the allegations surfaced. His supporters were in full force, chanting, 'Four more years!' Gray again told News4 the allegations are untrue. 

U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen said in a press conference late Monday that more charges may be forthcoming as Thompson continues to help investigators. Many other candidates were implicated in Thompson's plea agreement, including a candidate for mayor in 2006, a candidate for D.C. Council At Large in 2008 and a candidate for Ward 4 council in 2007.

Also connected: candidates for Congress and a candidate for president in 2008, prosecutors said in court filings. The presidential candidate is believed to be Hillary Clinton, who has said she did not know of the fundraising and has cooperated with the investigation.

“Election after election, Jeff Thompson huddled behind closed doors with corrupt candidates, political operatives, and businessmen, devising schemes to funnel millions of dollars of corporate money into local and federal elections,” Machen said. “Today's guilty plea pulls back the curtain on years of widespread corruption. With Mr. Thompson's cooperation, we have the opportunity to hold many wrongdoers accountable and to usher in a new era of honesty, integrity, and transparency in D.C. politics.”

Gray is running for re-election campaign in D.C.'s April 1 Democratic primary for mayor; early voting starts next week. 


Thompson was charged with two felony counts of conspiracy in a criminal information filed Monday morning. He appeared in court Monday afternoon, where a judge said he faces two years in prison. If he complies fully with the terms of the plea deal, one count carrying an 18-month sentence could be dropped and he could serve a total of six months on the second count.

The sentence also could be reduced to home confinement.

Court documents allege Thompson solicited relatives, friends, employees and others to make donations to candidates and assured them he would reimburse them for these "conduit contributions" -- which he did with personal money and money from his company. On his company's books, the payments were listed as "advances" and "bonuses," prosecutors said.

Thompson's company also paid for in-kind gifts to candidates, which prosecutors called "shadow campaigns" in a detailed statement of the case against him. That included $653,000 in money for "Mayoral Campaign A" and $608,750 to the candidate for president.

The document also allege "Candidate A" met with Thompson in June 2010, when the candidate promised to use the code name, "Uncle Earl."

Gray told News4 he agreed to that because Thompson was worried then Mayor Adrian Fenty would find out Thompson was supporting Gray and interfere with Thompson's companies' contracts with the city.

“Initially he said no, that he wouldn’t raise money for the campaign,” Gray said. “He was fearful of what would happen to him because of the Fenty administration.”

“With respect to him raising money for my campaign, I thought that was being done in a perfectly legitimate fashion,” Gray said. “I’ve said that from day one and I maintain that, to my knowledge anyway, it was a perfectly legitimate experience.”


A big player in both local and federal politics, Thompson owned multiple million-dollar companies with large contracts from the city. That included the most lucrative contract the city gives out, worth more than $300 million each year for Thompson's company D.C. Chartered Health Plan, to provide health care services to the city's poorest residents.

Thompson stepped down from D.C. Chartered Health Plan in April 2012, after FBI and IRS agents raided his home and office. He then left his accounting firm, Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio & Associates, in July 2012.

The investigation that led to his guilty pleas began in spring 2011, after Gray was elected. U.S. Attorney Machen began looking into whether Gray or his campaign aides secretly gave cash and checks to Sulaimon Brown, a minor candidate for mayor, in return for Brown's aggressive attacks on then-Mayor Adrian Fenty.

Brown contended the campaign did pay him and also rewarded him with a $110,000-a-year city job, from which he was later fired for inappropriate conduct.

Since those allegations caught Machen's attention, nine people with ties either to Thompson or to Gray's 2010 campaign -- including Thompson himself -- have pleaded guilty to various charges over the course of the investigation.

Two Gray campaign supporters, Howard Brooks and Thomas Gore, pleaded guilty to covering up the payments to Brown.

In July 2012, Jeanne Clark Harris, a long-time supporter of Gray and business partner of Thompson, pleaded guilty to funneling more than $650,000 from Thompson to a shadow campaign for Gray. "The 2010 mayoral election was corrupted by a massive infusion of cash that was illegally concealed from the voters in the District," Machen said at that time.

Not long after, three business associates of Thompson's -- Troy White, Lee Calhoun and Stanley L. Straughter -- pleaded guilty to helping Thompson illegally fund national campaigns, including Clinton's.

Last August, Vernon Hawkins, a longtime associate of both Thompson and Gray, pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about the shadow campaign. During Hawkins' plea hearing, Gray's name was mentioned for the first time as the beneficiary of the shadow campaign.

In addition, former D.C. Councilmember Michael A. Brown has admitted to taking money from Thompson. Brown has admitted to taking about $120,000 in secret, illegal campaign donations in 2007 and 2008 in conjunction with Harris and a businessman only identified as "Co-Conspirator 1." Media reports have identified "Co-Conspirator 1" as Thompson.

Though the investigation has continued for three years, Gray remains a front-runner in the race for mayor. A poll for NBC4, WAMU, the Washington Informer and Marist released in February shows Gray leading the race.



<![CDATA[Port of Entry Expansion in Obama's Budget]]> Thu, 06 Mar 2014 12:09:43 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Border-Tijuana-San-Ysidro-M.jpg

An expansion described as the single most important construction project in our region was included in President Barack Obama’s budget this week.

On Wednesday, the budget for fiscal year 2015 included $216 million to fund Phase II of the San Ysidro Port of Entry expansion.

Now, the money is in the hands of Congress whose members must approve the request through the appropriations process.

Members of the San Diego Congressional delegation – Rep. Scott Peters, Rep. Susan Davis and Rep. Juan Vargas - along with Sen. Barbara Boxer and Sen. Dianne Feinstein have pledged to work with others on Capitol Hill to get the funding approved.

An estimated 50,000 cars move northbound through the port of entry from Tijuana into San Ysidro every day. The project involving construction on both the U.S. and Mexico sides of the border crossing will help ease traffic between San Diego
County and Tijuana.

Mexico completed its side of the border project in 2012.

<![CDATA[Mayor "Will Look Into" Return of Balboa Park Funds]]> Thu, 06 Mar 2014 11:13:01 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/b1885cf34efe4bffb6d43850ceaa9806.jpg

Faced with the dissolution of the Balboa Park Centennial planning group, San Diego’s mayor said he will look into getting back the millions of dollars already spent.

Newly-elected Mayor Kevin Faulconer said the celebration in 2015 will be one that is “fit for San Diego” but did not provide any other details now that the group that was originally tasked with planning the event has disbanded.

Balboa Park Celebration, Inc. (BPCI) was given almost $3 million of public money to plan an extensive, year-long celebration of Balboa Park.

As of last Friday, the group told NBC 7 the funds had dwindled to just $600,000.

On Tuesday, BCPI Chair Ben Clay told NBC 7 the group voted to disband amid complications.

BPCI spent a good portion designing a year-long event they hoped would draw corporate donations of about $30 million.

But that didn't happen, according to the organization's spokesperson Gerry Braun.

Braun said for whatever reason, corporations in San Diego didn't see the event as a good investment for their dollars.

"I don't think it's appropriate to blame anyone. Some people say it's a perfect storm of over-expectations by the city, a mayor who gave us direction and wasn't able to execute his part of it, I think a lack of support from the community and from corporations," Braun said.

Mayor Faulconer had criticized the non-profit for refusing to disclose detailed financial information. On Wednesday, the newly-elected mayor assured San Diegans he would look into where the money was spent. 

"We need to make sure that we have a celebration that the community gets behind, that works for Balboa Park, that is open, that is transparent and has both the park and community support that we need," Faulconer said.

City Council President Todd Gloria assured San Diegans the upcoming celebration of Balboa Park would be “fantastic” and include “blockbuster attractions.”

“It’s my hope that some of those dollars are going to be able to form what we’re going to do going forward. It’s not all lost. We will make sure every dollar is accounted for and those are represented clearly to the public," Gloria said.

People visiting Balboa Park Wednesday were puzzled that organizers didn't better forecast issues.

"These kinds of problems should have been thought out before hand," said resident Nancy McCall. "Now that we have a new mayor things may shape up somehow."

Barbara Clark, President of the San Diego Floral Association, said her group's members were disappointed the event will be smaller.

"The plans sounded very gigantic and large and pretty overwhelming in my mind, but I had high hopes," Clark said.

BPCI said the decision to disband “culminates months of conversation between BPCI and city leaders, during which BPCI presented scaled-down goals and program plans to reflect its projected funding.”

Clay gave NBC 7 a look at some of the numbers and promised the group would post certified financial documents in the next week.

Braun reiterated Clay's promise saying that BPCI would release all financial information in the coming weeks so the public can see for themselves how the money was spent.

<![CDATA[Balboa Park Centennial Group Disbands]]> Tue, 04 Mar 2014 20:56:09 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Balboa-Park-Generic-Garske.jpg

The group put together to plan the celebrations surrounding Balboa Park’s 2015 centennial is disbanding, handing the hefty project back to the City of San Diego, a co-chairman confirmed Tuesday.

Ben Clay, Chairman of the Balboa Park Celebration, Inc. (BPCI), told NBC 7 the group voted to disband amid complications. He said the group is now working with the City of San Diego and the Mayor’s office on the next steps in the process.

Just last Friday Clay discussed the current finances of the BPCI and its plan for the upcoming centennial celebration in an exclusive interview with NBC 7.

The group was given almost $3 million of public money to plan the extensive, year-long celebration of Balboa Park. However, last week, Clay said the non-profit group was downsizing its ambitious plan.

Instead of a $50 million, year-long gala, Clay said the group was planning smaller events costing much less cash. Clay also said the group’s bank account had dwindled to just $600,000 with little to show for it.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer criticized the non-profit for refusing to disclose detailed financial information. Clay gave NBC 7 a look at some of the numbers and promised the group would post certified financial documents in the next week.

The BPCI released an explanation on its decision to disband Tuesday evening, citing that the Balboa Park centennial would get a “fresh start” under the authority of the City of San Diego, new Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Council President Todd Gloria.

“Based upon that direction and with community input, BPCI developed plans for such an event, determined that it would cost tens of millions of dollars to accomplish, and sought corporate sponsors and private donations sufficient to do the job. We are grateful for the sponsors and donors who have made financial commitments, but there is not adequate private funding needed to carry out that program as envisioned,” BPCI co-chairs Ben and Nikki Clay said in a statement released Tuesday evening.

The BPCI said this decision “culminates months of conversation between BPCI and City leaders, during which BPCI presented scaled-down goals and program plans to reflect its projected funding.”

The BPCI said the transition of the project to the City of San Diego will include supporting Mayor Faulconer and his team “to ensure that the Centennial Celebration is an event worthy of San Diego."

Mayor Faulconer and Gloria each released statements Tuesday night regarding the end of the BPCI.

Faulconer's statement read:

“I’d like to thank the members of Balboa Park Celebration, Inc. for the time and effort they dedicated to this project. I know each and every one of them wanted nothing more than to honor San Diego’s crown jewel in the best way possible. I plan to work with Council President Todd Gloria, whose district includes Balboa Park, to move forward with a more practical and realistic celebration that recognizes the character and history of Balboa Park. This new celebration would focus on the existing cultural institutions within the park.”

Meanwhile, Gloria also offered support for bringing the centennial celebration planning back to the hands of the City:

“I am grateful for the work of Balboa Park Celebration, Inc. 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. I look forward to working with Mayor Faulconer, City staff, the Park’s cultural institutions, and private sector partners to ensure Balboa Park serves our City and honors our history for another 100 years.”

Faulconer and Gloria said they expect to provide more details on the new celebration plans in the coming weeks.

Photo Credit: Monica Garske]]>
<![CDATA[Surprises, Runoffs Likely in Texas Primary]]> Tue, 04 Mar 2014 10:08:07 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Vote+Generic+Vote+Tuesday+Voting+Sign.jpg

Gov. Rick Perry isn't on the ballot, but a new member of the Bush dynasty is. Wendy Davis can clinch a feat no woman has achieved in Texas since Ann Richards. Heavyweight Republicans are trying to survive, and a new voter ID law gets a major test.

Throw in a March blast of winter weather that could dampen turnout, and Texas' primary elections Tuesday figure to be anything but ordinary.

The results will begin the biggest reshuffling of state power in a decade. Although most of the competitive primary races are on the Republican side, Davis' bid for governor headlines a roster of underdog Democrats girding instead for the Nov. 4.

That's the only day that matters to Davis and Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott in the year's marquee showdown. Neither has a competitive primary, leaving Davis poised to become the first female gubernatorial nominee in Texas since Richards in 1994, and Abbott the first new GOP nominee after 14 years of Perry.

But a frigid forecast could leave voters with a dangerous -- or at least dreary -- drive to the polls. Meteorologist say freezing rain overnight Tuesday could sock Central Texas, the Houston area should be wary of elevated roads and a biting cold will be felt most everywhere.

"It doesn't take much when you're not used to winter weather," National Weather Service meteorologist Dennis Cavanaugh said.

Unlike Davis and Abbott, few other Texas candidates have the luxury of uneventful primaries.

The conservative star power of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has GOP candidates -- from local races to statewide offices -- jostling farther right and wooing voters with vows to emulate Cruz's no-compromise style. Even U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, two of the state's most powerful Republicans, have spent money campaigning against longshot challengers who say the incumbents have grown moderate in Washington.

But changes are far more likely in Austin. Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who lost to Cruz for the Senate seat in 2012, appears headed for his first runoff in 11 years on the job.

Millions of dollars have been spent between Dewhurst and three prominent challengers: state Sen. Dan Patrick, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples. The race has been the nastiest and most competitive this primary season, with the four all taking aim at President Barack Obama in television ads when they're not sniping at each other.

Primary runoffs are set for May 27. Settling GOP nominations for attorney general, comptroller and agriculture commissioner may also have to wait until then.

"When there's a fair amount of negative out there it makes the electorate very unpredictable," Patterson said Monday. "You couldn't accurately poll it -- or you could and that poll would be good for probably about four hours."

Noticeably absent this primary season has been Perry, who announced last summer he wouldn't seek re-election but continues mulling a 2016 run for president. The longest-serving governor in Texas history hasn't endorsed in major races or even heard his name mentioned much in campaigns by his fellow Republicans.

They've instead talked about the future of the Texas GOP, which is expected to include George P. Bush in a prominent role. The 37-year-old nephew of former President George W. Bush, and son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, is running for land commissioner.

"Help is on the way," Bush told supporters in El Paso on Monday. "After this primary season, we will go out there and fight the good fight."

For Democrats, who haven't won a statewide election in 20 years, the primary serves little but an early test of voter strength. A team of Obama campaign veterans launched the group Battleground Texas last year to give Democrats a chance and will watch turnout Tuesday to gauge their efforts so far.

Another race being closely watched Tuesday night involves U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall, who at age 90 is the oldest member of Congress. Five GOP challengers are vying against him in an effort to deny him an 18th term.

Election administrators say the primary will be the first real test of the state's new voter ID law, which the Republican-controlled Legislature passed in 2011 but wasn't enacted until last summer amid legal challenges. No major problems or controversies flared when the law debuted in November during a low-turnout, off-year election.

Associated Press Writers Will Weissert in Austin and Juan Carlos Llorca in El Paso contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Mayor Kevin Faulconer Speaks at Swearing In]]> Mon, 03 Mar 2014 14:56:10 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Mayor-Kevin-Faulconer-030351.jpg Part one of the speech made by San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer after he took the oath of office on March 3, 2014. Watch Part II here ]]> <![CDATA[Faulconer Sworn in as Mayor of San Diego]]> Mon, 03 Mar 2014 13:48:25 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Mayorraw0303_1200x675_180400707696.jpg Video of San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer's oath of office on Monday, March 3, 2014. ]]> <![CDATA[Kevin Faulconer Sworn in as San Diego Mayor]]> Mon, 03 Mar 2014 18:45:30 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Faulconer-Swearing-In-03032.jpg

Kevin Faulconer took the oath of office Monday, becoming the mayor of San Diego months after a sex scandal forced the mid-term resignation of former U.S. Congressman Bob Filner.

"We are one city. San Diego is not at its best until every community is at its best," Faulconer said to the standing-room only crowd in reference to the  different neighborhoods and cultures living within the city's boundaries.

"I will work tirelessly so every neighborhood has quality parks, libraries and community centers," he said.

He pledged to prioritize street repairs and promised to pave 500 miles of roads and invest $900 million over the next five years.

Faulconer also discussed his choice for police chief, Assistant Chief Shelley Zimmerman, saying she is the right candidate at the right time to replace outgoing Chief William Lansdowne.

He identified his administration's need to address the scandals happening inside the department as one of his highest priorities.

He also pledged to increase diversity in the force.  "It's part of a greater quest, to bring equal representation and fairness to neighborhood services," the new mayor said.

Mayor Faulconer, San Diego’s fourth Republican mayor since 1992, is ticketed to serve until December, 2016, when the remainder of Filner’s term is up.

After the San Diego City Council appoints someone to fill Faulconer's 2nd District seat, the new mayor may face a Democratic super majority through the end of the year. 

After his 9-point margin victory over fellow City Councilmember David Alvarez in February's Special Election, Faulconer told NBC 7's Politically Speaking host Gene Cubbison that he is intent on delivering just what he promised during his campaign – straightforward, reform-minded governance, a solid financial footing, and outreach across the partisan aisle on the City Council.

Beginning in July 2013, a number of different women levied allegations against then-mayor Bob Filner accusing him of inappropriate touching and sexual harassment.

In October, 2013, Filner pleaded guilty to felony false imprisonment and two misdemeanor charges of battery.

He is currently serving a 90-day house arrest sentence that began Jan. 1. Per his sentencing, Filner will also serve three years probation and will still have to check in with his probation officer and be subject to unannounced searches and visits.

<![CDATA[Chief Out, Mayor In: Changes for SD]]> Mon, 03 Mar 2014 08:40:59 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/San-Diego-Skyline-133071239.jpg Big changes coming to San Diego this week. Kevin Faulconer takes over as mayor while Police Chief William Lansdowne retires. NBC 7's Matt Rascon gives us a closer look at what it will mean for the city.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[ID of Campaign Finance Scandal Informant Revealed ]]> Fri, 28 Feb 2014 18:40:59 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Coronado-Campaign-Finance-5.jpg

NBC7 Investigates has confirmed that a former fundraiser for both ex-San Diego Mayor Bob Filner and San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis is the second of two confidential informants who cooperated with federal investigators in a criminal probe into illegal foreign campaign contributions.

Kelli Medina Maruccia, who runs the Democratic fund-raising firm of KM Strategies, is described in a federal complaint filed last month as “Confidential Informant #2,” according to two law enforcement sources and two other people with direct knowledge of the case. The sources, who had direct, specific knowledge of Maruccia’s role in the investigation, could not be identified because of the confidential nature of the ongoing campaign corruption scandal.

According to her profile on Linked In, Maruccia, graduated University of California Los Angeles in 2001 with a political science degree. She has also served a finance assistant to Tim Johnson, a Democratic U.S. senator from South Dakota. Her KM Strategies firm performed fund-raising for Filner during the General of his 2012 mayoral bid. Maruccia was the fundraiser for Dumanis’ original 2002 race for District Attorney and her 2012 mayoral bid during the primary, records show.

Maruccia has not responded to multiple requests for comment made over a period of several weeks to her cell phone and those left on the voice-mail of her KM Strategies firm.

A federal complaint against four defendants revolves around an issue with $500,000 in contributions from Mexican millionaire businessman Jose Susumo Azano Matsura, which federal prosecutors allege was funneled into San Diego campaigns in 2012 and 2013. It is illegal for a foreign national without U.S. citizenship to contribute to political campaigns.

Prosecutors have charged national political consultant Raveneet Singh, former San Diego Police Department vice detective Ernesto Encinas, lobbyist Marco Polo Cortes, and Mexican millionaire Jose Susumo Azano Matsura with conspiracy to hide the source of the money, calling it one of the biggest campaign finance schemes in the city’s history.

Subsequent news reports have confirmed the identity of three candidates who received the foreign campaign money as: San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis; U.S. Congressman Juan Vargas (D-51); and former Mayor Bob Filner. Those politicians said they returned the tainted funds, in the days and weeks after the criminal complaint was filed.

The complaint filed Jan. 21 outlines Maruccia’s role in the investigation. The complaint states that on Sept. 18, 2013, Maruccia met with a former San Diego Police Department detective, Ernesto Encinas, who asked to meet her in a coffee shop. During the meeting, which was video and audio recorded by the FBI, Maruccia informed Encinas that the foreign national, Azano, could no longer contribute to Dumanis’ campaign because he did not have a green card, according to the complaint and several news reports.

Upon direction of a special agent with the FBI, Maruccia asked if Encinas could think of another way that Azano could contribute to Dumanis’ campaign in a way that was “not sort of traceable,” according to the complaint. Encinas then verified that Azano could funnel money through a straw donor, the complaint states.

No campaign funds from Azano or the straw donor were received by any campaign committees related to Dumanis after that meeting, local campaign finance forms show. However, the complaint states that Encinas and Azano created an independent expenditure committee prior to the meeting in May 2012. That IE spent approximately $114,000 in support of Dumanis during her 2012 campaign for mayor.

Dumanis has stressed that the nature of independent expenditure committees is that they are not allowed to coordinate or speak with the candidate’s campaigns.

“There are two kinds of committees. There is one that you do for your campaign and then there is one that is totally independent and, in fact, the law requires you to stay independent,” Dumanis said in a recent appearance on NBC7’s “Politically Speaking.” “It is allegations about the people who did something in the ‘Independent,’ which I couldn't control, nor should I control, by law.”

She added: “I am shocked and outraged that these people would do this, especially because I am the DA; and they should be held accountable, if what they did is true.”

In response to this development on the identity of the confidential informant, Dumanis said: “If true, that’s exactly what we would expect a member of our team to do – work with law enforcement to catch the bad guys.”

The UT Watchdog reported earlier this month that another confidential informant in the criminal probe was Filner’s former campaign manager Ed Clancy.

A spokesman for the FBI released the following statement in response to a request for comment on this story: “In accordance with federal law and U.S. Department of Justice guidelines, the FBI does not disclose the identity of a witness to the media.”

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office said her office also had “no comment.”


Photo Credit: NBC 7 News/susumoazano.net]]>
<![CDATA[Jerry Brown to Seek Fourth Term as California Governor]]> Thu, 27 Feb 2014 15:00:06 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/02-27-2014-jerry-brown.jpg

Gov. Jerry Brown made it official Thursday and announced plans to seek re-election.

Brown filed paperwork in Alameda County in search of a fourth term as California's governor. The 75-year-old Democrat tweeted a picture of the filing with a link to the announcement.

In a statement posted on a campaign web site, Brown said: "Four years ago, I asked that you support my candidacy for governor based on my bringing an 'insider’s knowledge but an outsider’s mind' to fix the budget breakdown and overcome Sacramento’s poisonous partisanship. Now, four years later, a $27 billion deficit has become a surplus and our credit rating and public confidence are rising. State budgets are not only balanced but they are on time and free of the rancor of past years."

The announcement, which comes ahead of the June primary, has long been expected as Brown has been fundraising for another run. He faces no opposition in the June 3 primary.

His Republican opponents for governor include former U.S. Treasury Department official Neel Kashkari, Southern California Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, and Laguna Hills Mayor Andrew Blount.

Brown has made progress easing the state's long-running budget problems, but California is facing a potentially devastating drought, aging freeways strangled with traffic and multibillion-dollar unfunded pension bills.

Photo Credit: @JerryBrownGov via Twitter]]>
<![CDATA[Council Approves New Regulations for Pot Shops]]> Wed, 26 Feb 2014 10:02:19 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/medical+marijuana+0924.jpg

Dispensaries will soon be able to sell medicinal marijuana legally in San Diego.

With a vote of 8-1, the San Diego City Council approved an ordinance Tuesday that will regulate the city’s medical marijuana dispensaries.

The ordinance will limit pot dispensaries to industrial and commercial areas. In addition, the shops will have to be at least 1,000 feet from places like schools, parks, churches, nursing homes and other marijuana dispensaries.

There can also be no more than four pot shops in each council district.

“This ordinance provides clear and fair rules which will result in access to medical marijuana for legitimate San Diego patients and safeguard neighborhoods from negative impacts associated with dispensaries,” Interim Mayor Todd Gloria said in a statement.

Eugene Davidovich with "The Alliance for Medicinal Access" says this ordinance allows dispensaries to prove they can be good neighbors.

"There is a procedure and a established guidelines to do so and what we're going to see if folks coming into compliance with that process," Davidovich said.

However, not all San Diegans are in favor.

Scott Chipman with "San Diegans for Safe Neighborhoods" argues the decision will create more problems for the city.

"This is not going to reduce teen access. It's not going to reduce negative messages teens are getting that marijuana shouldn't be use and there's no evidence the city is ready to regulate these," Chipman said.

His organization plans to meet Wednesday with the city's planning director.

He says the group's members are determined to hold the city officials responsible if serious compliance issues arise.

“I see that there’s no reason to have confidence in this city to establish a scheme that would work. That is the biggest problem,” he said.

The ordinance now must get approval from the California Coastal Commission, which is expected within 90 days.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Medical Marijuana Regulations Mulled in San Diego]]> Tue, 25 Feb 2014 11:09:47 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/medical+marijuana.jpg The San Diego City Council takes another stab at establishing regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries Tuesday. NBC 7's Sherene Tagharobi reports. ]]> <![CDATA[CA State Sen. Surrenders]]> Tue, 25 Feb 2014 06:40:13 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/california-senator-ron-calderon.jpg

Embattled California State Sen. Ron Calderon pleaded not guilty Monday after he was charged last week with a long list of federal bribery and corruption allegations.

The 56-year-old Montebello Democrat was traveling when the 24-count indictment was announced on Friday, and FBI officials said he agreed to surrender when he returned.

Prosecutors said Calderon accepted about $100,000 in cash bribes, chartered plane trips, high-end golf trips and gourmet meals. Calderon allegedly accepted these bribes in exchange for supporting or opposing legislation.

Wearing handcuffs and shackles, Calderon pleaded not guilty during his arraignment Monday and was set to be released upon releasing his passport and his wife signing a $50,000 surety bond. A trial date was set for April 22.

Tom Calderon, the state lawmaker’s brother, also faces charges in connection with the alleged scheme.

“The charges allege that the defendants traded influence for cash, and used kickbacks and other tactics to keep the system working in their favor,” said Bill Lewis, FBI assistant director in charge.

The indictment charges Ron Calderon with mail fraud, wire fraud, honest services fraud, bribery, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and money laundering and aiding in the filing of false tax returns.

Ron Calderon is also accused of paying his daughter $39,000 for a bogus office job and paying around $30,000 for his son’s schooling.

Tom Calderon faces a charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering and seven counts of money laundering for allegedly funneling bribe money through a non-profit group and consulting company he operates, prosecutors said.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges Friday afternoon.

Prosecutors said Ron Calderon accepted $28,000 in bribes from Michael D. Drobot, former owner of the now-closed Pacific Hospital of Long Beach, in exchange for supporting legislation that “delay or limit changes in California’s workers’ compensation laws relating to the amount of medical care providers are reimbursed for performing spinal surgeries.”

Drobot has agreed to plead guilty regarding a major health care fraud scheme in another case announced by the U.S. Attorney’s office Friday.

The charges against the hospital executive involve tens of millions of dollars in illegal kickbacks in exchange for a huge number of patient referrals who received spinal surgeries. The referrals led to more than $500 million in bills, which were fraudulently submitted and, in large part, paid by the California worker’s compensation system, prosecutors said.

Law-enforcement sources described the allegations as what could be one of the largest health care fraud cases in state history.

Drobot is suspected of having had a heavy hand for some 15 years in the alleged kick-back scheme, which exploited the spinal pass-through law, which Ron Calderon allegedly kept on the books after receiving bribes from Drobot, authorities said.

Drobot was not indicted in the Calderons’ corruption case, but admitted to paying bribes to the senator, the FBI said. He is scheduled to be arraigned March 31.

As part of a plea agreement, Drobot has agreed to cooperate with the government’s ongoing investigation of the health care fraud scheme, as well as the government’s prosecution of the Calderon brothers.

In addition to accepting bribes from Drobot, Ron Calderon allegedly also accepted $60,000 from an undercover FBI agent posing as a film studio head, authorities said.

The lawmaker’s attorney, Mark Geragos, called the allegations in the affidavit “false and defamatory,” and Ron Calderon alleged that his office was raided in 2013 after he refused to “secretly record conversations with Senator [Darrell] Steinberg and Senator [Kevin] de Leon.”

If convicted, Ron Calderon faces up to 396 years in prison. Tom Calderon faces up to 160 years behind bars. 

NBC News' Andrew Blankstein and NBC4's Sean Fitz-Gerald contributed to this report.


Photo Credit: AP Photo/Rich Pedroncell]]>