Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Shelia Jackson brouhaha makes me ask: Which newspaper is better, the San Diego Union-Tribune or the Voice of San Diego?

UPDATE: July 29, 2011
Here are my latest comments on the Jackson story in Voice of San Diego:

You guys are doing something wrong. I don't think your decisions are motivated by race, but the unbalanced racial makeup of the people you choose to attack exposes a problem. I'm not talking about the top elected officials. I am talking about how VOSD chooses which of the other 3 million people in San Diego to attack, protect, or discuss. There's something wrong with your methodology when so many of the people attacked are black women. There is something arbitrary and inequitable about your methods. The law of probability indicates that you are somehow pulling some of the cards out of the deck before the game begins.

You are exposing your methods unintentionally. The same thing happens with people who cheat on their taxes. The IRS spots them by looking for certain numbers that tend to pop up more frequently in the tax filings of people who are cheating. They use statistics to spot the fraud, without even looking at the reasons given for deductions.

VOSD has stepped gingerly around some stories, and stepped heavily into other stories.

The people that get the gentler treatment from VOSD tend to be white, not because VOSD is racist, but because, I suspect, the people whom Buzz Woolley and the rest of the top dogs at VOSD want to protect happen to be white. People high up on the food chain in San Diego schools are treated gently (and the superintendent there is a black man), while people who rank lower take the heat. Also, people down at SEDC get harsh handling.

Obviously, commenter "bigfan" doesn't like Shelia Jackson, and doesn't want to question VOSD's motives for choosing to attack Jackson while staying silent on more important issues in schools.

My point is that I think VOSD chooses stories for the wrong reasons, but not necessarily for racial reasons. But one must suspect that something is wrong when there is such a surfeit of black women being attacked. The laws of probability are being violated. The choices seem arbitrary. It appears that people are attacked if they are not on the protected list.

Let's look at the facts. When Regina Petty at SEDC wouldn't turn over public records, VOSD went after her with a vengeance. We were treated to 13 "Petty Watch" posts. It took two months of "almost constant hounding" to get SEDC to release public records.

But VOSD reported that when it asked for records from the County Office of Education "that would show if the trips were given to the agency rather than the employee, it didn't provide any." VOSD didn't begin an aggressive "Crosier Watch." No constant hounding. The difference in treatment was not due to the fact that the SEDC lawyer was black and Diane Crosier, the lawyer in charge of keeping public records out of public view at the County Office of Education, was white. It's because Petty had no friends at VOSD, and Crosier apparently does. I call it friendship when you meekly accept a "no" answer to a public records request instead of doing all you can to shame Diane Crosier into turning over the records.

I'm not saying VOSD shouldn't cover the Jackson story. I'm saying that we can clearly see that there is a problem when racial patterns emerge so clearly in VOSD stories. I'm saying VOSD needs to start telling the whole truth about schools in San Diego. And it should start with a "Crosier Watch."


My opinion of the San Diego Union-Tribune has been on the rise since it covered the Dan Puplava story about financial company kickbacks to an employee of San Diego County Office of Education.

On the other hand, the SDUT has kept the secrets of lots of powerful people in San Diego Schools.

For this reason, I never expected the SDUT to cover the story when school attorneys managed to get Judge Judith Hayes to issue an injunction saying I couldn't mention them on my website--or even speak their name. I wasn't surprised that no one from the SDUT was there on July 11, 2011 when USD law professor Shaun Martin spoke on my behalf before the California Court of Appeal in San Diego. He did a great job. On the other hand, when the presiding justice asked the opposing attorney if he had any case law to support his position, he said he couldn't find any cases. "I tried! Believe me, I tried!" he whined.

While I had no expectations of the SDUT, I was surprised and disappointed that Voice of San Diego would keep this story quiet. My only explanation is that Buzz Woolley, the chief financial supporter of VOSD, is very much a supporter of school administrators, and this support apparently extends to their attorneys. VOSD apparently wants to protect the secrets of those attorneys even when (or especially when) they obtain unconstitutional injunctions that violate the right to free speech. It also seems to want to protect them when they help schools keep secrets from voters.

Just a few weeks ago I complained to editor Andrew Donohue and CEO Scott Lewis that VOSD had repeatedly protected powerful white men while going after less-powerful black women in the same organization. In each case, the more powerful person knew or should have known what was going on, but VOSD didn't hound them with public records requests. It went after Regina Petty at SEDC with a vengeance, but never took such a stance with Diane Crosier at SDCOE. Instead of an aggressive campaign like the "Petty Watch" against SEDC attorney Regina Petty, VOSD meekly reported, "But when VOSD asked for records that would show if the trips were given to the agency rather than the employee, it didn't provide any. Instead, the County Office argued that in the past, it just wasn't required to report gifts given to the agency. Despite repeated questions, the agency gave no further explanation of why it wouldn't have to report those gifts."

SEDC Chairman of the board Chip Owen had to notice that huge amounts of money were being saved because employees left without being replaced. How did he explain that the agency kept coming in barely under budget? Why is it only his subordinate Carolyn Smith (and her finance director Dante Daycap) who are facing criminal charges? Owen was in charge, for heaven's sake! He was responsible for oversight! Everyone says he's sharp and effective. If that's true, he knew.

The case was similar to the problems in another redevelopment agency across town, where Nancy Graham (a white woman) took all the heat, and her boss, Fred Maas, resigning discreetly about a year after the excitement had passed

VOSD has also been very polite in its public records requests to SDCOE. In addition, it has found no reason to write about Dan Puplava and Diane Crosier's legal issues, and has gone silent on the story of Diane Crosier's odd relationship with the attorney to whom she gives millions of dollars worth of work. Meanwhile, VOSD triggered a state investigation of a lower-level SDCOE employee who recommended that a tiny fraction of the legal work be given to her husband's firm. You guessed it,Crosier is white, the other employee is a black woman.

When I complained, VOSD assured me that it was just a matter of chance that it so aggressively attacked black women. But black women are just 5% of the population. How does VOSD manage to find so many of them to pursue?

Still, I was willing to believe that VOSD wasn't racist. I figured it was simply protecting the powerful, and, of course, the powerful tend to be white and male.

Then I learned that VOSD has been following Shelia Jackson around. Now I'm really wondering what is going on over there on Historic Decatur Road. Did I mention that the law firm that obtained the injunction against me is the next-door neighbor of VOSD? Is there something in the water in Liberty Station?

[I should also mention that NBC reporter Rory Devine, mentioned prominently in the VOSD story below, also decided to keep mum about the school attorneys who got Judge Hayes to protect their secrets from exposure.]

Five Possible Problems on Jackson's Residency
July 27, 2011
by Emily Alpert

We teamed with NBC7 San Diego to do a television version of our story about questions swirling over where San Diego Unified school board member Shelia Jackson lives. Here it is:

Reporter Rory Devine did a good job breaking down this complicated story. She explained that there are three possible problems here:

• Whether or not Jackson lives in the area of the school district she was elected to represent.

We saw Jackson coming to a Kearny Mesa apartment complex late at night or leaving in the morning four times in a week, raising questions about whether she lives there. Jackson says she does not. The apartment belongs to her daughter and Jackson says she stays there a few nights a week. The schools trustee, however, also used that address as hers when registering a business in August last year.

• Whether it is appropriate for her to accept free rent from a San Diego Unified employee.

Jackson says she lives rent-free in her district at a home owned by Gwendolyn Kirkland. Jackson voted with the rest of the board to approve choosing Kirkland as an interim principal last year.

Jackson and Kirkland both argue that she was not swayed by the free rent; Jackson also said she had no role in the selection process that led up to Kirkland being presented to the school board...

Remarks on this subject:
Frances O'Neill Zimmerman

Well, thank goodness the voice, in its zeal to uncover the truth about School Board member Shelia Jackson's legal domicile, mentioned that back in the day it was deemed perfectly okay for School Board President Ron Ottinger to live outside his District D at Coronado Quays and to send his youngest child to Coronado High School.

But Ottinger was rich and Anglo and could maintain a condo in the Gaslamp to keep up the fiction that he was a resident of District D. Ottinger also was the linchpin on the School Board threesome that kept Alan Bersin in business, so there was no way he was going to be sacrificed to some legal nicety that people are supposed to live where they are elected from. That residency rule was proved by Ottinger to be highly flexible.

In contrast, Shelia Jackson is African-American and working-class...

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