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Morning Report: Mark Arabo Barred from Leading NMA

San Diego County throws support behind the Trump administration's sanctuary lawsuit, a new record store is coming to City Heights and more in our daily roundup of news.
Mark Arabo, a local leader in the Chaldean community, greets supporters at a rally for Iraqi Christians seeking peace in their home country in El Cajon. / Photo by Sam Hodgson

Mark Arabo is going down swinging.

The Chaldean businessman made a name for himself as a national spokesman for Iraqi refugees. He helped raise money for political candidates and for several years ran the Neighborhood Market Association, an influential corner store trade group.

But when members of the NMA sued in 2015, his grip on the organization began to slip.

Late last year, Arabo, and some of his allies, were excoriated by a judge for abusing power and undermining the organization’s finances.

Now, Andrew Keatts reports that a receiver who was responsible for untangling the NMA’s finances has been frustrated by what he found. Arabo had outsourced his roughly $40,000 a month management contract to another company for $15,000 a month. Yet another consultant then came forward to claim that he, in fact, had a verbal agreement to run the NMA for $3,000 a month.

The court concluded that Arabo’s compensation was excessive and “unconscionable,” although it’s still unclear whether he would be eligible to return as NMA president once a new board is elected.

In court papers filed last month, Arabo accused the receiver of engaging in an “Iraqi style coupe d’etat (sic) harkening one back to the days of Saddam.”

County Backs Trump in Suit Against California

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted 3-1 Tuesday to submit a legal brief in support of the federal government’s lawsuit against California challenging laws that restrict police and business cooperation with immigration enforcement efforts. The vote follows similar actions in Escondido and Orange County.

The deadline to file a brief in the case was April 6, but Board Chair Supervisor Kristin Gaspar said the county would file the brief when they could, likely when a decision in the case is appealed.

Gaspar, Supervisors Dianne Jacob and Bill Horn voted in favor of the county getting involved in the lawsuit, while Supervisor Greg Cox voted in opposition. Supervisor Ron Roberts was absent, though he previously said he didn’t want the county to get involved.

“The Board’s vote is a largely symbolic move that will create fear and divisiveness in our region, waste taxpayer funds and create distrust of law enforcement and local government within many communities,” said Cox in a written statement after the vote.

At a press conference afterwards, both Gaspar and Jacob said the laws being challenged by the federal government posed a threat to public safety. The lawsuit challenges three California laws that passed last year.

You can read about The California Values Act — the most talked-about and controversial — which tries to stop local law enforcement from participating in immigration enforcement. We wrote about it in English and put together this Q-and-A en Español. We also wrote about the other two laws, which deal with work site audits and conditions in immigration detention centers in California.

The Union-Tribune and City News Service have run-downs of the vote and arguments for and against.

— Maya Srikrishnan

Governor Asks Critics to ‘Chill’

Meanwhile, the state Assembly’s public safety committee voted on a bill to overturn SB 54 Tuesday. The bill’s author, Orange County Republican Travis Allen, went on a tirade in which he called California’s attorney general and Oakland’s mayor criminals. The bill was resoundingly voted down. Not a single supporter spoke in its favor.

The debate is creeping into seemingly every level of government.

The latest Southern California city to side of the federal government was Los Alamitos, which has a population of 12,000. More than two dozen police, according to the Orange County Register, broke up skirmishes outside City Hall. The Associated Press reported that screaming could be heard inside the chamber during the meeting.

The vote took place hours after talk radio show host Carl DeMaio complained to reporters that state lawmakers had put “public safety at risk to score some cheap political points in the name of racial division,” according to the Union-Tribune.

At a press conference with reporters in D.C., Gov. Jerry Brown urged critics of the state’s sanctuary laws to “just chill” and recognize that undocumented immigrants are human beings with families, whose work is integral to the California economy, according to NBC 7.

Other cities in Orange and Riverside counties are considering similar resolutions this week. The ACLU of Southern California is threatening to sue municipalities that try to exempt themselves from state law.

With the rhetoric escalating at home, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and other regional officials, including Tijuana Mayor Juan Manual Gastélum, wrapped up a another day of talks in Mexico City on cross border-trade and investment. One topic of conversation appeared to be the sewage flowing into the South Bay through the Tijuana River Valley. Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina, whose city is suing the federal government over those environmental problems, was also a part of the binational summit, which ends Wednesday.

Culture Report: Vinyl Is Booming

Within a roughly two-mile radius of my apartment in North Park, I can name four record shops. Voice’s Kinsee Morlan reports that the owner of one of those shops, the eclectic Folk Arts Rare Records, is preparing to open Jupiter Records & Tapes in City Heights and planning to price most everything in the store at a $5 flat fee.

Brendan Boyle said he wants his new shop to be a community spot, with art galleries and DJ classes. The goal is to get people away from their computers and other electronic devices.

Also in the Culture Report this week, arts advocates gave a collective sigh of relief with the release of the new mayor’s budget. It didn’t cut as much as they had feared. Plus, elevator rides are awful, but the one at Porto Vista Hotel in Little Italy is much more pleasant.

Social Media Goody

Some dude dragged an electric scooter onto the beach and rode along the shore. Thank you, Reddit.

In Other News

A San Diego ballot measure in November would eliminate the loophole allowing council members, like Lorie Zapf, whose districts change because of redistricting, to run for third and fourth terms. Terms are supposed to be capped at two. (Union-Tribune)

Patrick Soon-Shiong, a biotech billionaire and soon-to-be owner of the Union-Tribune, promised stability for the newsroom and a hands-off approach if one of his own companies is the subject of coverage. “You can write anything you want about us as long as you write the facts,” he told staff in an interview with editor and publisher Jeff Light.

Two members of the Solana Beach City Council resigned without much explanation in recent weeks, and officials are opting to appoint replacements rather than hold special elections. One of those seats is going to Lesa Heebner, who previously served as mayor. (The Coast News)

As construction of the border wall begins, Mexicans react with anger and indifference. (El País)

San Diego City Councilman Chris Cate wants his colleagues to consider a program to reward citizens who report illegal debris dumpers. (City News Service)

Ahead of 4/20, a CityBeat columnist paid tribune to a medical marijuana activist who wrestled with the DEA and lost and later committed suicide.

The U-T has a roundup of fundraising in local congressional campaigns (spoiler: Democrats are doing well). Scott Lewis moderated a debate of candidates in the 49th District put on by students at La Jolla Country Day School and Pacific Ridge School. All four major Democrats running showed up: Doug Applegate, Sara Jacobs, Paul Kerr and Mike Levin. There were two Republicans there (though not the top three rivals: Diane Harkey, Rocky Chavez and Kristin Gaspar). You can watch the video here.

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