Blog: Spirit of Money, Financial Fluidity
by munificent

John's Opinion

I have been on John's list for some years now, he has it down on the power players in San Diego...he was instrumental (or his orgainizing and his writings) in getting San Diego watched by the International Justice yada lolo- I've forgotten the name ---but their mandate is to watch corruption. Yes, San Diego is now internationally renown for corruption in City/County Government!

Date:   10/2/2005 10:01:57 AM   ( 16 y ) ... viewed 1462 times

By JOHN McNAB
Voice Guest Columnist
Thursday, Sept. 29, 2005

The Children of California shall be our children.”

Or so is written that Leland Stanford said at the death of his only son,
Leland Stanford Junior.

From that moment, one of the great robber barons of his time took up the
mission of helping people. Foremost was his establishment of Leland
Stanford Junior University on farmland he owned in Palo Alto.

In San Diego, we have our own ruthless capitalists. None stood out more
than Corky McMillin. Starting with nothing, McMillin created an empire to
respect. The competitive zeal to succeed at any cost not only made him
the largest locally owned homebuilder, it made him one of the most
powerful local power brokers.

Corky McMillin engendered enormous loyalty of those on his team. This
loyalty to McMillin extended to local power players and politicians. Over
the past ten years, McMillin and his company employees, family and friends
have been at the top of the list of those funding local political races.
Actions taken by government representatives show their investment
handsomely paid off.

Yet Corky McMillin wanted a lasting legacy. The opportunity came in the
early 1990s when a military base closure round was initiated.

Indications of McMillin’s early Naval Training Center (NTC) involvement
show up in unusually heavy campaign contributions to congressman Brian
Bilbray, who was key in getting Naval Training Center for local insiders.
Even contributions to congressman Duncan Hunter, whose brother James works
as a vice president for McMillin, received no comparable largess. After
Bilbray lost his congressional seat, McMillin hired former Bilbray staffer
Megan Conley to do public relations for the NTC privatization. Bilbray’s
former chief of staff, Pat Baker, showed up to numerous meetings to ensure
the giveaway plan went through.

When then-city mayor Susan Golding obtained NTC, a developer selection
occurred. When both her handpicked citizens committee and the City
Manager selected Lennar Communities over McMillin for the project, a two
week delay of the council selection vote surprisingly occurred. The given
reason was for the council representatives to be lobbied by the
developers.

Looking back, there is evidence to believe that McMillin was preselected
and that the recommendation of Lennar became an obstacle to get around.
McMillin’s lawyer for the deal, Brian Seltzer of Seltzer Caplan McMahon
and Vitek, had been Chair of Golding’s Finance Committee (fundraising) for
her 1996 mayoral campaign. He had also co-chaired the campaign finance
committee for councilwoman Judy McCarty in 1994 and councilman Harry
Mathis in 1996. Throw in that the local council representative Byron Wear
always looked to support Susan Golding’s endeavors and that Christine
Kehoe after the vote received an extraordinary amount of campaign support
from McMillin and Seltzer in subsequent elections. It was apparent that
Lennar, whose political contributions were $500, did not have the
political investment necessary to get the deal.

Once Corky McMillin had NTC in hand, an avalanche of deal changes
commenced. What started as a bad public deal was methodically stripped of
every public return. At council meetings to pass deal dissipations, Corky
McMillin could be seen huddled in the council back room with his team -
his employees, members of the City Redevelopment Agency, City Development
Services staffers and representatives of the City Attorney’s office.
Watching that cooperation, McMillin’s face would shine with contentment.

In the hallways, McMillin avoided conversation with opponents. Instead,
he would give a cunning smile that relayed that he had the power and there
was nothing that the public could do.

Yet as increasingly brazen changes to the deal were brought forth, public
furor mounted. It became less easy to have council neglect their public
duty. As the outrageous nature of his deal change requests were
deliberated at council, Corky McMillin often would sit and fume when
decisions were delayed or slightly modified.

During a stretch last year when McMillin had suffered a couple setbacks at
the Planning Commission, Corky McMillin attended a Coastal Commission
hearing on the park issue.
Save Our NTC was at the hearing to save the admiral’s review stand. To
many preservationists, the review stand was the most historic and sacred
structure at NTC. Here, admirals and dignitaries joined parents and our
community to affirm the purpose of Naval Training Center and watch with
pride the culmination of the Naval Training Center experience - sailors
marching across Preble Field in their graduation ceremonies.

Corky McMillin stood in the back of the room listening, arms defiantly
crossed, to the Save Our NTC testimony. Afterwards, Coastal Commissioner
Scott Peters refuted the need to save the review stand and made the motion
to move the park plan along as-is. All the while, Corky icily stared
directly at Scott Peters, making it known how much money that he and his
friends had invested in his political career. When the coastal commission
vote was taken, the other coastal commissioners sheepishly went along with
Peters.

The relentless assault on the public’s return continued through this year.
Then-councilman Zucchet, who avoided taking money from McMillin only to
have McMillin’s lawyer - Brian Seltzer - greatly help pay off his campaign
debt, was there to lead the charge. A contractual obligation to build a
resort hotel was changed to deny promised public access and stiff the
city of one million dollars in annual hotel tax revenue. Demolition of
buildings on the National Register of Historic Places that had been
promised for public use was approved to create a strip shopping mall. The
park, which was to be a McMillin expense, became a $2+ Million profit
center with the city picking up the $500,000 annual maintenance costs.

After these shenanigans, the City Redevelopment Agency finally released
Naval Training Center audits. Gone was any chance of the city receiving
their promised 50 percent share of deal profits. Inserted was a change to
enable McMillin’s supposed financial partner, Merced Partners, to share in
half of McMillin’s rake. The audit shows that Merced Partners barely put
funds into the deal. If Merced Partners is not providing capital, who are
the hidden beneficiaries of this secret Limited Liability Corporation?

Now that there is little more left to extract from Naval Training Center,
McMillin has passed. Unlike Leland Stanford who took his own property and
with his own funds built a first class university, McMillin did the
opposite.

Taking a state-of-the-art training facility with sophisticated
capabilities far beyond what we understand today, McMillin reduced it to
rubble to build his corporate home. Instead of his own resources, the
property transferred to him for a pittance with over $40 million in
taxpayer subsidies and counting.

McMillin had the power to emulate Stanford and rise above his cutthroat
business actions to bestow a timeless gift to countless future
generations. That he took another course is his legacy and a sad
statement about the aims of San Diego’s current ruling class.




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