Saturday, August 28, 2010

Community group responds to revelations of fishy dealings between SWC and PR firm

In a
previous post, we referenced Susan Luzzaro's piece in the San Diego Reader, "Isolate, Expose, Avoid."
That article described SWC's $100,000 agreement with San Diego marketing firm Focuscom, Inc. for public relations services related to Prop R construction. Many of these "services" are designed to keep the public in line and quell debate.

Now, you can read the full agreement and plan, signed by SWC Vice President of Business and Financial Affairs Nicholas Alioto.

Community group Crossroads II did, and they are understandably shocked
. President Peter Watry sent the email below to group supporters:

From: Crossroads II>
Subject: Feel Dizzy? If Not, You Soon Will...
Date: Tuesday, August 24, 2010, 11:02 PM

...because you are about to be spun. We learned from an article recently published in the San Diego Reader ( ) that in March Southwestern College approved a $100,000 contract with Focuscom Inc., for a "Proposition R Public Affairs Plan." The actual Plan approved by the College administration is now available on the Reader website, and we have attached it to this message. The key objectives of the Public Affairs Plan are to: Maintain momentum that led to approval of Prop R; Isolate and expose extremists; Identify, cultivate and engage supporters; and Manage the media. After reading this Plan, we are stunned. We are stunned to read that "All public affairs tactics will be geared toward driving target audiences to information sources controlled by the College." We are stunned to read that "Names culled from supporters lists will be used to draft and submit letters to the Editors and blog entries that support the land use efforts of the College." We are stunned to read that Crossroads II is a key target of this initiative. And we were most stunned to learn that Southwestern College is using our own money to spin us.

So exactly who is Focuscom Inc? According to the Focuscom website, " Our highly experienced team implements customized decisive planning in order to influence the media and impact the right audiences." Turns out that the President of Focuscom is Dan Hom. A former Chula Vista City Planning Commissioner, Dan Hom was a consultant for the Yes on Prop R campaign as well as the former Vice President of the Southwestern College Foundation. Talk about insider dealing....

SWC is expected to more than double in enrollment by 2020, up to 50,000 students, according to the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office. In 2008 the voters in the district served by Southwestern College voted to increase their own property taxes to the tune of $389 million to help the college accommodate this new growth. And now Southwestern College is using $100,000 of our property tax money to spin us about the projects our money is financing. A few questions: Was this expenditure approved by the Prop R Citizens Bond Oversight Committee? According to the Bylaws of the Citizens Bond Oversight Committee, one of its duties is to inform the public and the Board concerning the District's expenditure of bond proceeds. The Committee met last month, after the contract with Focuscom was approved. Was the Oversight Committee informed about the contract? Was the Board of Governors informed? How was Focuscom chosen for this contract? Were other firms considered? Was there a competitive bidding process? Exactly who are the "extremists" that the Public Affairs Plan will cause to be isolated and exposed? Shouldn't the Southwestern College Board demand that this contract be rescinded?

If you wish to express your views on this issue you can reach members of the Southwestern College Board as follows:

Yolanda Salcido, Board President

Terri Valladolid

Jean Roesch

Jorge Dominguez

Nick Aguilar

Thanks for caring about our community,
Peter Watry, Acting President,
Crossroads II, and
Professor Emeritus, Southwestern College

By the way, the next regularly scheduled meeting of the SWC Governing Board is Wednesday, Sept. 8, at 7:00 pm on the main campus, Board Room 214. See you there--it should be a good one!


  1. So all arrows point to Alioto (see pdf agreement document), including consultant John Wilson, former SWC employee and current boyfriend of SWC Governing Board incumbent Yolanda Salcido. This just keeps getting better!

  2. Wow. See you all at the board meeting... we should rally, make our voices be heard. Once again, free speech is under fire at SWC.