The Mercado lives!
The sign on the plot of land between Cesar Chavez Parkway and the Coronado Bridge still thanks former Mayor Dick Murphy for his help in planning the new, beautiful mercado shopping complex planned for the spot some six years ago. Years after 23 businesses were razed to make way for a shining new hub for the community, there is nothing but flat dirt, scrub and yards of wire fencing.
The redevelopment area was established in 1991, and the community is getting tired of waiting. Several dozen Barrio Logan denizens gathered in Chicano Park on Saturday to express their frustration at the blight.
"It's been 15 years-where's the community center we were promised?" said Tommie Camarillo, chair of the Chicano Park Steering Committee.
In addition to the public pressure, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is making noises about wanting some return on the 1994 grant it made of $7.2 million. If foundations aren't sunk soon, the government is going to ask for its money back.
Fortunately, the engines of urban development are sparking again. The City Council took the land back from developer Sam Marasco in May, authorizing in the process a lawsuit to recoup some of the $13 million the city has spent preparing the land. In June, the mayor's office issued a request for qualifications to develop the land and received 16 responses. The Redevelopment Agency has narrowed the list down to five companies.
The City Council member representing Barrio Logan, Ben Hueso, didn't attend the protest (he told CityBeat he never received the e-mail) but said he'd reviewed a few of the proposals, and he was pleased.
Aguirre v. U-T
Even casual followers of city politics must be aware of the hostility between City Attorney Mike Aguirre and the San Diego Union-Tribune. Though the U-T endorsed Aguirre for his job in 2004, the relationship took a rocky turn when the U-T went after Aguirre's divorce papers. The last swing came in the form of a 2,700-word, front-page-above-the-fold piece describing the high personnel turnover in Aguirre's office published on Aug. 13 and written by reporter Alex Roth.
There's no doubt that Roth did his research-no one has come forward to contradict the premise that there's a revolving door in the city attorney's office. The piece detailed Aguirre hiring, firing, re-hiring and then firing again the same attorneys, and it describes a stressful work atmosphere. But the story leads the reader to believe Aguirre never responded to Roth's questions.
"Aguirre, 56, a former plaintiffs lawyer," the piece reads, "declined several requests to comment for this article."
Except that's not entirely true. Aguirre did respond, in a written statement e-mailed to Roth on Aug. 4, more than a week before the story ran. "A written statement, to me that's a response," said a San Diego State professor of journalism, Tim Wulfemeyer.
In an e-mail to CityBeat, Roth said he felt he'd done his duty by Aguirre implicitly. "The contents of his statement are essentially summarized at various points in the story," Roth wrote.
Wulfemeyer teaches his students differently. "We try to teach transparency; they should show the reader where the information comes from," he said. "This article might make a reader upset, as he reads it, thinking "Hey, Aguirre's a public official, he should make himself available.'"
Aguirre's statement to the U-T, which was not particularly insightful, was published in a new blog on the city attorney's website.