Scott Russo / Unwritten Law
Culminating its first year in operation, the San Diego Ethics Commission last month heard testimony on understanding the mind-body relationship from a gentleman calling himself the “Genius of the Next Renaissance.” He may be no genius, but Bob Filner is a master of timing.
On Sept. 12, the seven-member commission will convene for the first time since the South County congressman formally requested an investigation into alleged behind-the-scenes chicanery in choosing a highly-hyped shopping mall along the U.S-Mexico border as the site for a new library in San Ysidro, a working-class community that only recently surfaced on City Hall's radar.
Community activists in San Ysidro campaigned hard in support of state Prop. 14, the library bond measure that passed in 2000. Jean Romero, a 23-year resident of this evolving border town of roughly 20,000, sits on the San Ysidro School District board. She recalls the board voting in 1998 to donate land near its middle school on Otay Mesa Road for a new library.
“Unfortunately,” Romero says of the vote, “there's no record of it. I've gone through all the records, and it's been taken out. But we had several town-hall meetings, an agreement was made, the architect was hired and we were set to go. We were just waiting for Prop. 14.”
The bond measure's passage set the stage for a jurisdictional feeding frenzy for the $350 million in library-construction grants that will be doled out in chunks for the next three years-$150 million this first year.
If the Ethics Commission takes on this complicated tale, it will have to sleuth out what transpired next between shopping-mall-developer Sam Marasco and City Councilmember Ralph Inzunza, Jr., whose district includes San Ysidro.
Whatever bedfellows were made, the City Council in May approved an application seeking more than $9.5 million in state funds for a new San Ysidro library-but one located on the second floor of Marasco's Las Americas shopping mall.
In recent weeks, the San Ysidro application-as well as the city's $20 million request for a new central library near the downtown ballpark-have been rejected and subsequently reinstated for further consideration by the state grant handlers.
City Hall seemed to rejoice at the reinstatement, but Richard Hall, manager of the state bond act review process, had a hard time describing the move as anything more than “giving them the benefit of the doubt.”
He said city officials said they had misread a line in the requirements. “They said it was indented too far and required clarity. That was the first time we'd heard that, even from the lawyers here who look for that kind of ambiguity. But we'll clear it up now.”
Will the Ethics Commission be so lucky refereeing the Filner/Inzunza fracas? Could a return of the “Genius of the Next Renaissance” be far behind?