“The very existence of flame throwers proves that some time, somewhere, someone said to themselves, ‘You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I'm just not close enough to get the job done.'”—the late grrreat George CarlinFlippity-flopping presidential candidates. Stock-market cliff-drops rivaling those of the Great Depression. The pretty-much-fake end to cell-phone use while driving in California.
Yes, George Carlin would be in his element right now, delighting in the chasm between spin and reality during what's shaping up to be one of this country's all-time funkiest of economic funks juxtaposed with the mother of all presidential elections.
If you're younger than 40, you may not appreciate the full loss of a towering icon like Carlin, whose heroic heart gave out for the last time last week. The uninitiated can peruse YouTube for classic samples of his bottomless biting wit and sensibility. You won't look at this country the same way again.
In a Carlin-esque spirit, Spin Cycle thought it appropriate to contemplate (read: take a flamethrower to) the state of our city and its sometimes very ungritty movers and shakers who seem to have San Diego pretty much dangling on a hat rack, public-benefit-wise.
Spin Cycle proposes that—until further notice—a word be stricken from the vocabulary of the folks to whom it pertains. Let he who protests kiss my biweekly derriere.
The word is “public.”
Unless you want to play by the rules, Papa Doug Manchester, don't let this word emanate from your lips when coupled with the words “official” or “input,” OK? (In the name of all who loved their fathers, Spin would also approve of dropping that incessant “Papa” nickname, as well.)
As a newly appointed member of California's Tourism and Travel Commission, Manchester had to file a statement of economic interest with that commission. He did so in March, even though state law insists that public officials get those so-called Form 700s filed within 30 days of appointment, which was announced by fellow Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in mid-October.
So, what's the big deal missing a filing deadline by four months? That ultimately would be up to the state Fair Political Practices Commission, which oversees all things political, from filing deadlines to campaign-contribution activities. The FPPC is not a chatty bunch, and its employees get real squeamish when asked to weigh in on an issue that hasn't been formally brought before it.
But what's intriguing is what isn't said within the pages of the litigious titan developer's Form 700. Spin Cycle would plead “no contest” to being nosy about plugged-in private citizens slopping around in the public trough, so it would be an understatement to suggest that peeking into the convoluted financial world of Papa Doug was an anticipated delight.
Unfortunately, a peek is all that is afforded in Manchester's Form 700 filing. Oh, his hotel-heavy, real-estate development concern Manchester Financial Group LLP is mentioned (valued at “over” $1 million, which, thanks to the antiquated reporting requirements—there is no fair-market-value category higher than that on Form 700—is probably the understatement of the millennium). And his Landmark Construction Co. gets a nod (another “over” $1 million business). And M Resorts Ltd. (“over” $1 million) and Landmark Hospitality Services Inc. (“over” $1 million).
But that fuzzy financial portrait pales in comparison with Manchester's listing of his other investments, which he simply reported as “various stock & bond investments.” No breakdown. No specifics. Just a vague phrase that creates intrigue regarding “over” $1 million in investments within the Manchester Family Trust and “over” $100,000 in “dividend/interest income.”
Again, a big deal? Maybe, maybe not. But a while back, Spin Cycle was talking to former state Sen. Steve Peace, who mentioned that he had seen an article in a magazine that mentioned that Manchester had become a principal investor in Spectrum Aeronautical, a Carlsbad-based manufacturer of so-called very-light jets that are considered the future of luxury travel.
If true, state law would require Manchester to spell out this investment (being travel-related), including how much and when the investment was made.
Now, Peace keeps a lot of facts and figures in his head, so forgive him that he could not recall what magazine he had seen, only that he saw it at Gillespie Field. No problem, Spin Cycle thought, let's just get confirmation from Papa Doug himself.
Unfortunately, easier said than done. After a whirlwind of e-mails back and forth from Manchester's spokesperson and the public-relations agency handling Spectrum, it was determined that Spectrum, being a private company, does not divulge the names of its investors.
Beth Binger, whose Downtown agency flaks for Spectrum, confirmed this thusly: “Yes, Spectrum is not going to confirm investors. John, I wish I could be more help. Should you be writing a feature on Spectrum Aeronautical, I'm sure I could find a few investors willing to comment on their commitment to Spectrum.”
Curiously, that was the response after Manchester spokesperson Holly Lienert had told Spin Cycle oh so politely, “May I please refer you to Spectrum Aeronautical who can confirm that for you. Thank you.”
Can confirm? Is that an indirect confirmation? Unfortunately, Lienert deferred to Spectrum's Binger, writing, “I'm sure that if you are planning a feature on Spectrum Aeronautical, she will be in contact with the investors to see if they wish to comment, so will await Beth's advice. Thanks.”
Why might the public be interested in an answer to the simple question, “Has Doug Manchester invested in Spectrum?” Well, in Spin Cycle's cavernous Realm of Grand Conspiracies, there's that never-answered question of how the heck Manchester nabbed from the Navy the prized waterfront job that is now referred to as the Navy Broadway Complex.
Well, it turns out Spectrum Aeronautical was founded by Linden Blue, a giant in the aviation industry who is also vice chairman of well-connected defense contractor General Atomics. General Atomics is also where former city Chief Operating Officer Ronne Froman landed as a senior vice president after her surprising resignation from that city post after only 18 months on the job.
Froman and Blue have been mentioned together in numerous society columns. Froman, a retired rear admiral once known as San Diego's “Navy mayor,” and Mayor Jerry Sanders were freakishly quiet during most of the contentious debate over the planning of the controversial Navy Broadway Complex, which a federal judge ruled last week did not provide adequate public review of its 2006 environmental assessment.
Without better financial-interest reporting, how can the public know if Manchester used his checkbook with Blue to gain favor with Froman? Since none of the players in this little drama is talking, the public will remain in the dark until either Manchester comes out from behind his PR people or the FPPC takes a look.
As the dear departed Carlin once said, “Honesty may be the best policy, but it's important to remember that apparently, by elimination, dishonesty is the second-best policy.” Got a political gripe? Fly it on over to firstname.lastname@example.org.