A new piece in the San Diego Reader, "Isolate, Expose, Avoid," draws attention to more questionable SWC administrator practices, both ethical and financial.
In the article, author Susan Luzzaro reveals that the college has entered into an agreement, signed by SWC vice president of financial affairs Nick Alioto, with a San Diego marketing firm for public relations services related to Prop R construction. The price? $100,000.
Prop R, voter-approved in 2008, grants $389 million to the college for new construction and improvements. Needless to say, that amount of money has developers frothing at the mouth and eager to quash any public dissent that could distract from their endeavors.
Focuscom Inc. to the rescue. According to documents unearthed by Luzzaro, Focuscom promises to "Maintain momentum that led to approval [of Prop R]; isolate and expose extremists; identify, cultivate and engage diverse supports; manage the media." For more details that will enrage any thinking member of "the public," please read the entire article.
There are several points not covered in the article (though some mentioned in comments) that bear consideration:
- Dan Hom, President of Focuscom, Inc., is either a current (if you follow the comments) or former (if you check Hom's online bio and/or the very scant records on SWC's public web site) officer of the SWC Foundation. In other words, someone who is or used to be responsible for bringing money into the college is now cashing out.
- SWC already has a well-paid employee to manage public communication: Chris Bender. Providing information to the community is his job, yet apparently he needs $100K worth of help when it comes to Prop R.
- Developers who focus on public monies are highly organized. These are not blue-collar guys in hardhats defending themselves.
- One popular organization, CASH (no, we're not making this up!) hosts regular conferences and workshops. The Seville Group (winner of big Prop R bids) is a member, as is just about every taxpayer-funded contractor and consulting firm in the state. For a recent example, see their list of sponsors for a 2008 conference. Really, scroll through, and keep scrolling. You'll get a taste of the competition for taxpayer money.
- CASH ostensibly stands for (California's) Coalition for Affordable Student Housing. But their newsletter is called the CASH Register. Pretty transparent, no?
But we can still make noise. We can still push on so-called "public" interests that should be paying attention. . . .
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever does” -- Margaret Mead