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Saturday, May 18, 2024
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Week in Review



Quote of the Week:

‘Whatever the cocktail investment conversation, do the opposite.’

Steve Case, senior vice president of the Irvine Co., offering advice to commercial real estate investors in San Diego. See this week’s Special Report on Commercial Real Estate.


Job Growth Continues:

The county’s job picture continued to look great in comparison with most of the state and the nation, with its December unemployment rate falling to 3.2 percent from the November rate of 3.5 percent, according to the state’s Employment Development Department.

For the same month, California’s unemployment was 5.4 percent, while the national rate was 5.1 percent.

Last month, the region added 2,500 jobs, with about half the gain coming from 1,300 seasonal retail jobs related to the holiday shopping season, the EDD said.

From December 2003 to December 2004, the region added 18,200 jobs, an increase of 1.5 percent, the second largest gain among the state’s largest metropolitan areas. Riverside/San Bernardino increased its net new jobs by 2.8 percent during the 12 months.

San Diego’s December unemployment figure placed it fifth lowest among the state’s 58 counties. Marin was lowest at 2.4 percent, followed by Orange County, 2.7 percent; San Mateo, 3 percent; and San Luis Obispo, 3.1 percent. Colusa had the highest rate at 26.3 percent.

San Diego County’s 3.2 percent rate was the lowest in December since 2000, when it had 2.4 percent unemployment.

During the year, the largest contributor to the employment increase came from 9,100 jobs created by the construction industry. Other sectors showing nice gains were professional and business services; and trade, transportation and utilities, which includes retail trade.

While December’s net gain of 2,500 jobs was positive, it was below the net gain of 3,200 in December 2003.

“It’s not as many jobs as we created in prior years,” said Cheryl Mason, labor market analyst for the EDD. “It’s slower than we’ve seen in previous years, but it’s been a steady, continuous and moderate growth.”

Mike Allen


Tsunami Relief:

Sempra Energy has pledged up to $700,000 toward disaster-relief assistance in the wake of the tsunami that devastated southern Asia.

According to the company, $300,000 will be donated to the Indonesian Red Cross Society and $200,000 to an Indonesian special relief fund. Sempra also is matching combined employee contributions up to $200,000 made to select charitable organizations providing relief services throughout the 12-country region impacted by the disaster.

Pat Broderick


On The Team:

Tim Flannery, a former San Diego Padres infielder and third base coach, will be joining Jerry Coleman and Ted Leitner as part of the 2005 Padres radio broadcast team.

Flannery, 47, will be part of all the club’s broadcasts during the 2005 season, joining Leitner as the core of the two-man booth during road games.

During home games, Flannery will provide color commentary, while Coleman and Leitner will split play-by-play duties.

The Padres are reconfiguring their English-language broadcast booth for the 2005 season with Coleman relinquishing some of his duties as he enters his 33rd year with the Padres.

Coleman will broadcast 81 games in a combination of home and road contests.

All Padres games are broadcast on XPRS-AM 1090, commonly known as the Mighty 1090.

In addition to his new duties, Flannery will continue to co-host Channel 4 San Diego’s pre-game show, “Prime Time Padres,” as well as the pre- and post-game shows for the Mighty 1090.

Lisa Kovach


Qualcomm Earnings:

Wireless technology company Qualcomm Inc. reported net income of $513 million on revenue of $1.39 billion for the first quarter of fiscal 2005, which ended Dec. 26.

In the year-ago quarter, the company reported net income of $352 million on revenue of $1.2 billion.

Qualcomm released earnings and guidance Jan. 19 after the stock market closed. Shares, which had closed at $41.07, fell in after-hours trading to $38.36. The company’s Nasdaq symbol is QCOM.

The company makes microchips for wireless telecommunications and receives license and royalty income from its extensive patent portfolio.

Brad Graves


New Flight:

JetBlue Airways, the discount airline flying daily nonstop round-trip flights between San Diego and New York, plans to expand its transcontinental service to Lindbergh Field with daily, nonstop routes to and from Washington Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C., beginning May 3.

The New York-based, publicly traded airline offers nonstop service from Washington Dulles to Oakland, Long Beach, Sacramento and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

JetBlue, which made its maiden flight from New York City to San Diego in June 2003, also announced plans to resume its third daily, nonstop flight between Lindbergh Field and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on May 3.

Traded on Nasdaq as JBLU, the company’s stock sold for $20.59 a share at the close of the market Jan. 19, down $1.02 from the market closing price the day before. In the last 52 weeks, shares have ranged between a high of $31 each and a low of $19.87.

Connie Lewis


Public Misled:

San Diego City Attorney Michael Aguirre on Jan. 14 released evidence that the 2002 final report of the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Committee on city finances “vastly understated the severity of the city’s pension fund liability by 318 percent or $215 million.

According to Aguirre, in his first interim investigative report, at the time the report was issued, high-ranking officials in the city auditor’s office, who also staffed the committee, had the data.

“If accurate financial information had been provided to the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Committee regarding the true financial condition of the city, surely more prudent financial decisions would have been made by the City Council,” said Aguirre. “The City Attorney’s office has an obligation to determine how and why this information was handled in the way that it was.”

Pat Broderick


Kehoe Appointed:

State Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, was appointed to chair the Senate Committee on Local Government, responsible for hearing legislation related to local government procedures and organization, land use and administration.

She also has been assigned to serve on the budget and fiscal review, energy, utilities and communications, natural resources and water, and transportation and housing standing committees.

Kehoe served as a member of the San Diego City Council from 1993 to 2000, represented the city on the San Diego Association of Governments, and served as a California Coastal Commissioner from 1997 to 2000.

Most of her 39th District is within the city of San Diego, including Downtown San Diego, La Jolla and Pacific Beach.

Pat Broderick


Settlement Reached:

The California Public Utilities Commission on Jan. 14 announced it had entered into a settlement agreement with Mirant Corp., an Atlanta-based energy company, and its affiliates, which filed for bankruptcy on July 14, 2003.

The settlement, conservatively valued at $519 million to $559 million, resolves claims for overcharges in the Western electric and gas markets during the energy crisis, including the PUC’s litigation over a long-term contract between Mirant and the California Department of Water Resources.

The agreement, subject to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and bankruptcy court approval, was approved by other California parties, including San Diego Gas & Electric Co., Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and Southern California Edison.

Pat Broderick


State Of The Union:

The San Diego Municipal Employees Association has retained San Diego attorney Rob Butterfield to represent it over the latest controversy to involve the city of San Diego’s troubled pension system.

At issue is a memo sent Oct. 29 by Lawrence B. Grissom, administrator of the San Diego City Employees Retirement System, to City Manager Lamont Ewell, released Jan. 12 by the Performance Institute, a San Diego-based government-reform watchdog.

According to the memo, the system’s outside tax counsel advised that the system “should not have accepted contributions from any union on behalf of its president, because a union does not meet the tests specified by various federal agencies as a governmental employer.”

The counsel also advised, wrote Grissom, “that we should refund all such contributions to the respective unions.” Not to do so, he said, “would endanger the tax qualified status of the plan.”

In a prepared statement, Butterfield chided “uninformed people and media outlets” for “an incorrect, hysterical view” over Grissom’s memo to Ewell.

The participation of “a small number of non-governmental employees in a government pension plan is an acceptable practice and does not threaten the status of the city plan,” he said. But, Butterfield added, if there are any “newly discovered tax issues” that have cropped up, “those tax issues can and should be addressed in a rational manner and resolved.

“Given the number and complexity of the laws related to public pension systems,” he continued, “these types of issues are not uncommon and there are always solutions.”

Pat Broderick


Second Chances:

San Diego Gas & Electric Co. will get another chance to plead its case before the California Public Utilities Commission over a reallocation of funds that left the utility holding the bag for $791 million in increased costs. No date has yet been set.

The PUC on Jan. 13 granted SDG & E; a limited rehearing on the board’s approval Dec. 2 of a permanent cost-allocation plan among the three investor-owned utilities. The formula distributes costs for long-term power-purchase contracts entered into with the state Department of Water Resources to make sure customers had power during the 2001 energy crisis.

While SDG & E; was socked with an increase in costs, Pacific Gas and Electric received a $225 million decrease, while Southern California Edison, got a $567 million decrease. SDG & E;’s increase could end up costing the typical San Diego industrial customer as much as $100,000 a year on its electric bill, according to PUC President Michael R. Peevey, whose own proposal was voted down Dec. 2.

“It is my hope that, through granting this limited hearing, SDG & E; in particular will have the opportunity to present evidence that, if persuasive, would result in a lower obligation for San Diego customers than the commission previously required,” said Peevey.

Pat Broderick

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