This here is CityBeat's first-ever guide to the people in San Diego who are doing it to it. These are the folks who we'll be keeping a sharply focused eye on in 2003-so they'd better not screw up...
Mark Fabiani Special Counsel, San Diego Chargers
As the Chargers' hired gun on the intense negotiations that will be forthcoming with the city, Mark Fabiani will be one of the most closely watched people in San Diego in 2003. Fabiani has the unenviable job of dealing with a City Council whose majority is fed up with the Chargers' act. And they're not terribly impressed with him, either. This week he is scheduled to make a presentation to the mayor's ad hoc Chargers task force that is supposed to detail why Qualcomm Stadium is no longer good enough and how the city should facilitate a new development in Mission Valley that includes a new stadium for the team. Certain to be part of the proposal is a future ballot measure that allocates some amount of public money toward the effort. Fabiani's job is to convince a skeptical public that all this is a good idea-in crappy economic times. Anyone want to be in his shoes?
Carol Lam U.S. Attorney
A highly respected prosecutor and Superior Court judge who has taken on organized crime, health-care fraud and white-collar crime with equal parts tenacity and aplomb, Lam now faces numerous challenges as she heads the U.S. Attorney's office for San Diego and Imperial counties. Formally confirmed two months ago, Lam takes the reins during a particularly challenging time, with searches for potential terrorists heaped upon an already massive volume of cases in one of the country's most hectic courts. She has also found the footing slippery on the issue of medical marijuana, backed by California voters but still harshly opposed by the Bush administration. The mother of four, the 43-year-old Stanford Law School grad is said to be down to earth and modest. That alone puts her miles ahead of her boss, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft. She is also the first woman and Asian American to run the local U.S. Attorney's office.
Dave Brown Owner, Holiday Matinee and Better Looking Records
To the casual observer, Dave Brown looks like your typical indie rock geek. And he is-but he also happens to have turned his passion for all things DIY into an underground, mini-cottage industry of hype and publicity, excitement and artistry. As the founder of a (very) small company, the downtown-based Holiday Matinee, and a growing indie label, Better Looking Records, Brown has done through street-team guerilla marketing and niche-market knowledge what the bigger entertainment conglomerates have failed to achieve despite their legions of “cool hunters.” He's turned on much of the MTV-shunning, slacker-friendly masses to his vision of what should be popular, which trends the kids should follow. Last year, Brown backed a collector's edition single for the chart-topping Jimmy Eat World, promoted indie hero Bright Eyes and masterminded a tour mixing bands like No Knife and Ilya with alternative plastic and visual artists such as Josh Krause (the unfortunately named, surprisingly popular “Can You Hear Me Now Tour”). In 2003, look for Brown to take his cool quotient to higher levels: he'll be touring Japan with the band he manages (Ilya), backing another ready-for-prime time band's new album (the Jealous Sound) and organizing yet another multi-genre tour.
Norma Chavez Community Revitalization Director, Metropolitan Area Advisory Committee
Norma Chavez is a beloved leader in San Diego's small, yet tireless cadre of 20-something activists. She's a founding member of DURO (Developing Unity through Resident Organizing), a local grassroots organization that encourages folks in Barrio Logan, Sherman Heights and Logan Heights to fight against skyrocketing rent and home prices that have plagued the area, forcing long-time families out. Her day job is as program manager at the MAAC Project (Metropolitan Area Advisory Committee), an organization that provides a wide range of social services to San Diego's low-income families, and there she's found time to organize an ambitious after-school journalism program for seventh and eighth graders. Chavez, who has a daughter of her own, maintains a mind-boggling schedule of community activism. If there's an issue affecting the Barrio Logan/Logan Heights area, Chavez is trying to solve it.
Charles Lewis San Diego City Councilmember
Charles Lewis' City Council seat hadn't even warmed up when he was thrust into the role of anti-crime preacher and the mayor's partner in fighting graffiti. We're certain that Lewis had bigger and better plans in mind, such as spearheading an effort to revitalize the economy in his City Council District 4, a largely low-income area in southeast San Diego. But now gang violence is in the daily headlines thanks to a recent rash of shootings and stabbings, and Lewis, as representative of the area, has been forced to assume the position of high-profile, “crime is bad” speechifier. Even when the gang violence dies down, Lewis will face a tough challenge in energizing the economy in his district, which, unlike most other districts, does not enjoy the presence of a commercial center from which to initiate a revitalization campaign. Politics watchers will also be interested in where Lewis lands on other issues, such as the Chargers, union issues and budget priorities. They got a hint when Lewis voted in favor of extending the pilot needle-exchange program, which might indicate where he'll go on the upcoming medical-marijuana-guidelines vote.
Michael Robertson CEO of Lindows.com
“Our goal is to bring choice back to computers in spite of Microsoft's bullying tactics,” is Michael Robertson's mantra. So far, the CEO of San Diego-based Lindows.com, a company whose software enables rival Linux operating software to interface with Microsoft's Windows monopoly, seems to be doing just that. Compared to the water-downed results of the federal attempt at loosening Microsoft's stranglehold on PC technology, Robertson and his like-sounding company are practically Robin Hood and his merry men. Founder and former leader of the revolutionary MP3.com (also a San Diego corporation), Robertson won a ruling from a Federal District Court judge last May in Seattle, where plaintiff Microsoft has so far unsuccessfully sued to block the Lindows name and operating system. Experts say things don't look too bright for Microsoft's case-at least from a legal standpoint: Lindows.com has already submitted a list of 351 non-Microsoft products using “windows,” or something similar, in their product names. Add to this battle the fact that Robertson recently announced he personally fronted the prize money for a contest that offers $200,000 to anyone who can hack into Microsoft-bred gaming console XBox, and you've got a fight between Robertson and Bill Gates of biblical, David-v.-Goliath proportions.
Garrett Michaels Program director, 94.9FM
Having three alternative radio stations in San Diego is like having three sharks fighting in a Dixie cup: someone's going belly up. But since hitting the airwaves last Nov. 11, 94.9FM has proved itself to be fit for the fight. The 22,000-watt station made a significant move by hiring Michael Halloran, who had nobly given 91X a run for its North County money with the measly 580 watt station, 92/1FM. And while Halloran will play a large role in the station's success as assistant program director, the gauntlet falls on program director Garrett Michaels. Having served in radio since 1981 at age 16, Michaels was responsible for putting alternative radio on the air in Philadelphia (WPLY) and Detroit (The Planet). With 94.9, Garrett and Co. have taken an aggressive anti-Clear Channel stance, running what equates to a smear campaign against what many see as a corporate entity that needs one (Clear Channel controls 14 stations locally). For the future, Garrett says 94/9 will introduce a local music show to air on Sundays “before 10 p.m.” and “special boutique programming that hasn't been done in San Diego before, but should've been.” Keep an eye on the fishbowl.
Katherine Nakamura Trustee, San Diego Unified School District
A nasty school district race was followed by even worse news-that San Diego City Schools' $1.2 billion annual budget potentially faces a $40 million mid-year cut. New District C Trustee Katherine Nakamura might be wondering what she got herself in to. Past school board meetings were often punctuated by bickering that was both entertaining and frustrating. Though there's been only one meeting with the new board, word has it that Nakamura's presence has already had a calming influence on the dais. With only one meeting under her belt, she's already made the bold move of nominating John de Beck, an ardent critic of Superintendent Alan Bersin, for board vice president. During her campaign, Nakamura promised to be the board's independent voice. In the coming year, we hope that not only will Nakamura do her homework on heavy-hitting issues facing the district, but that she'll prove wrong the critics who labeled her merely another Bersin lackey.
Sherehe Yamaisha Roze Writer and poet
Writer and spoken word artist Sherehe Yamaisha Roze, 21, has made a name for herself in local poetry venues, addressing the collective struggles of Black women in America. Her recent book, Heart Love: Messages of the Soul is collection of Pan African poems for Black women, dealing with issues of self-acceptance and self-love, faith and empowerment. During her performances, Roze also draws upon various aspects of African and Latin dance and colors her poetry with passages in Spanish, Amharic and Tigrean. She recently read several pieces from Heart Love opening up for poet Maya Angelou at her San Diego Cox Arena appearance. Roze also performs regularly at local elementary and high schools, and she has developed a bilingual arts curriculum for grades K-6, and a creative arts curriculum for girls ages 10 to 14. Her works can be heard at the Malcolm X Library's “Expression's Unlimited” poetry series, as well as 501 Art Gallery.
Mel Shapiro Government Watchdog
When a group of so-called dissidents met late last year at attorney Mike Aguirre's house, folks were asked to fill out an information form. Under a heading for interests, Mel Shapiro wrote down “political assassinations.” Now, some might take offense to such a strong statement, particularly in these paranoid times of war-mongering politicians and terrorist color codes. But Shapiro, at 76, merely laughs at the spoof. Perhaps the most well-regarded-and for politicians, most feared-local gadfly in city history, Shapiro uses his keen financial mind and nose for the details to unearth all sorts of political shenanigans. During the dissident meeting, he was awarded a green aquarium fishnet for his efforts in bringing down the reign of termed-out Councilman Byron Wear, who instead of moving to a high-paying slot on the new Regional Airport Authority is now rumored to be dabbling in the land-use consulting field. The retired accountant and stock broker-he even worked a stint at a New Jersey brassiere factory-often will be found at meetings of obscure public agencies, including his current favorite target, the San Diego Housing Commission. Ask him whom he's going after these days, and Shapiro will say only, “Public officials, beware!”
Rachel Ortiz Executive Director, Barrio Station
Every marginalized community has their Rachel-the outspoken leader who won't let the higher-ups in city government get away with anything. As chairperson of the Barrio Logan Project Area Committee (a local group that advises the City Council on redevelopment issues affecting that community), Ortiz has been tireless in her efforts to make sure Barrio Logan gets its share of the redevelopment pie. The PAC was recently successful in getting the city to set up parking-permit areas for Barrio Logan residents whose on-street parking was being taken up by employees from waterfront businesses. Ortiz's next fight is for something much bigger-to make sure the city doesn't pick Barrio Logan as the site for a proposed I-5 freeway junction that would cut right through a residential area. When she's not in the face of city official, Ortiz runs Barrio Station, a multi-purpose, highly respected social-services agency serving the Latino community and focusing mainly on keeping kids out of trouble.
Jason Mraz Singer-songwriter
In 1999, self-made millionaire promoter and band manager Bill Silva found himself in a Las Vegas hotel room with new friends. One of them was a guitar-toting, musical-theater dropout from Mechanicsville, Va. named Jason Mraz. Mraz could play just enough guitar to get by, but Silva heard his voice-a soaring alto with near perfect pitch-and took him under his wing. A year later, Mraz was San Diego's coffeehouse king, selling out a weekly showcase at former Ocean Beach acoustic joint, Java Joes. Local radio station 92/1FM picked up his Dawson's Creek-worthy song, “You and I Both” and Elektra Records signed the fledgling performer. Though his major label debut glossed over Mraz' main charm-imperfect affability-the playful lyrics and perfect voice put him with other fresh faced singer-songwriters like John Mayer and Howie Day. Now, he's toured with Dave Matthews Band and been featured in magazines like Seventeen and CMJ. Though he lost some rootsier fans with the thickly produced debut, Mraz should score San Diego's next gold record (500,000 copies). And U.S. sorority girls will giggle and swoon for his androgynous, slacker charm.
Joe Martinez Urban planner and members of the Chargers task force
When representatives of the San Diego Chargers make their pitch for a new stadium development to the mayor's Task Force on Chargers Issues early in 2003, the presentation will be filtered largely through the work of one of the task force members, urban planner Joe Martinez. It was Martinez who has provided the task force with a handful of studies that will collectively serve as baseline data for reviewing whatever proposal the Chargers bring forward. In Martinez' view, the answer lies in a phased, long-term development plan that not only makes a new home for the Chargers, but also provides a healthy mix of housing and commercial enterprises and-if it's built on the current stadium site in Mission Valley-is also carefully integrated with the San Diego River (Martinez was among those impressed with a presentation by the San Diego River Conservancy). But before you go and put Martinez squarely the damn-the-torpedoes-build-a-new-stadium camp, know that he doesn't believe any of it will work unless the Chargers kink in upwards of $300 million for the development. In any case, expect Martinez to be one of the most intriguing voices in the debate.
Tim Mays Nightclub owner and entrepreneur
Tim Mays is one of the prime wizards behind San Diego's musical Oz. His club, the Casbah, has become what many call “the CBGB of the West,” a mecca where the nation's best in fringe alternative music holds court. It's the spot where the next Nirvana will undoubtedly play (both the White Stripes and the Strokes played intimate gigs there before making it huge). In terms of local club owners, Mays' knowledge of trends and nose for new talent are unsurpassed. Yet Mays is more than a club owner; he's also an entrepreneur who is expanding the city's alternative underground, as shown with his co-ownership and vision in the Turf Club, a self-serve barbecue joint that's become a hipster hangout. He's also looking into expanding the area around the Turf Club with a café, which will undoubtedly become another meeting spot for young, creative urbanites. Watching Mays will not only point you to the “next big thing” in music, but also the city's epicenters of cool.
Michael Zucchet San Diego City Councilmember
Yes, the newly elected councilman is an obvious choice, but for us we'd like to think ahead to a year of council meetings that are filled more with laughter and camaraderie than sniping and animosity. And if our crystal ball is correct, Zucchet will be leading the way. We also do not mean to say don't watch other members of council-the fire Toni Atkins showed over affordable housing at the close of last year's council sessions showed a spirit that will be vital in that fight. And Donna Frye is already an institution at City Hall. No, they're all important, but Zucchet has an opportunity to spearhead a coalition-building movement not seen in this city in decades. No pressure, councilman. Oh, and with Mayor Dick Murphy handing you Goal No. 9-“Pursue Energy Independence”-more power to you! As a former economist with the U.S. Department of Energy, Zucchet will bring legitimate credentials to the table. He's certain to butt heads with greedy SDG&E on the matter, which can't be regarded as a bad thing.
San Diego Regional Airport Authority
This band of nine has a hefty plate for the coming year. Asked to accomplish what no one has come close to doing in 50 years, the newly formed agency will be running cozy Lindbergh Field while also searching out a new location for San Diego's regional commercial airport. In addition to battling the Port District over various power trips, the Airport Authority also will be hindered by numerous NIMBYs as they scour the county for an appropriate airport site. On top of that, three board members-Chairman Joseph Craver, Rancho Santa Fe businessman Bill Lynch and labor rep Xema Jacobson-will be paid a whopping $139,500 a year (although Lynch says he'll donate his salary to charity), an unusual amount for such agencies in other major cities. Failure by this board would likely lead to an expansion of Lindbergh, pitting city officials against politically potent opposition in Point Loma and probably torpedoing the political future of Mayor Murphy, who proposed the new agency.
Kevin Towers General Manager, San Diego Padres
Like never before, Padres General Manager Kevin Towers in 2003 will be under pressure to build a team that can compete with the Arizona Diamondbacks, San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers in baseball's National League West. The reason? The brand-spankin' new stadium that's set to open in 2004. You don't want a fourth- or fifth-place team smellin' up the sparkly new park, now do ya? In spring, summer and fall of 2003, Towers and manager Bruce Bochy will continue to nurture such young pitchers as Adam Eaton, Brian Lawrence, Jake Peavy and Oliver Perez. The question will be whether Towers will build around that talented nucleus-and hitters Ryan Klesko and Phil Nevin-by opening up the wallet next winter. After playing one more year in Atlanta, future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux will be available, but he'll be pricey. How much would it be worth for Towers to have Maddux on the mound on opening day of the Padres' new stadium? Another hitter wouldn't hurt, either.
Len Paul Owner, Soma San Diego
The all-ages music venue Soma was a legendary force in building San Diego's vibrant indie-bred rock scene in the 1990s. The original incarnation, founded and nurtured by the ever-present Len Paul, catered to a then-burgeoning underground, not to mention mainstream rock fans who flocked to the scene to catch then-nascent acts like blink-182, Green Day and Smashing Pumpkins. Last year, Paul's operation resurfaced after a five-year absence-and his sights are set higher than ever. He promises to overcome both a historically anti-all-ages police force and backbiting scenesterism with two words: “community showcase.” Paul says not only will he be featuring some unprecedented, community and charity-based events at the new venue, but he's also going to introduce grassroots talent to the very people who can sell it-labels and reps from L.A. will get to see upcoming bands in their element, playing to the kids they play for and come from-and in a world-class environment. He's taken an abandoned theater-plex in the shadow of the Sports Arena and turned it into a paradise for both touring and local acts. In 2003, we'll see if he can do the same for an already revitalized local all-ages music scene.
Bonnie Dumanis San Diego County District Attorney
Just 3,522 votes-a sliver of a victory-gave San Diego County its first female district attorney and the nation its first openly gay DA. The latter, however, was not an issue in the election, save for one local radio blabbermouth who wouldn't let it go. And so an enlightened San Diego ventures into a new era in law enforcement with Dumanis, a former judge who has built her career in San Diego County's Drug Court, pledging to smooth ruffled feathers that plagued the office under her predecessor, Paul Pfingst. We look forward to seeing if the affable Dumanis can maintain Pfingst's tough-on-crime record, start going after white-collar crime, streamline the budget as she's promised to do right off and promote a tolerant and happy workplace for all.