COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | GEORGE CHAMBERLIN

Money in the Morning

Frank Mercardante may soon be getting new business cards. The local banker led the growth of Southwest Community Bank from its start in San Diego to a large regional business lender. Last June, Southwest was bought by Placer Sierra Bank and Mercardante took over the CEO job at the Sacramento-based holding company. This morning it was announced that Placer has agreed to be bought by Wells Fargo in a deal valued at $645 million. The transaction is expected to close by the middle of the year.

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The Rosarito Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau is trying to clear up the confusion about the need for a U.S. passport when tourists reenter the country from Mexico. Javier Sanchez, director of the bureau says that starting on Jan. 23, U.S. citizens returning to the country by air will be required to have a passport. However, those reentering by land or sea will not need the document until 2009. More than 1 million people visit Rosarito Beach each year and that number will be going up soon with the development of the Donald Trump resort.

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I'm not sure Chargers fans would agree with this, but a new study finds that the popularity of professional football is declining from its all-time high in 2005. A nationwide survey by Harris Interactive found that 29 percent of adults who follow more than one sport say pro football is their favorite, down four percentage points from 2005. College football, baseball and auto sports each get top ratings by sports fans. When Harris first conducted the survey in 1985, 23 percent of fans favored baseball.

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Another biased report out says few people in San Diego can afford to buy a home. The UT jumped all over the report from the Center for Housing Policy, claiming "moderate-wage workers can't afford a home." Of course, the claim is based on the median price of $477,000. In fact, very few first-time homebuyers buy the median priced home. I saw some attractive condos in National City with starting prices at $175,000. Sure, they were apartment conversions, but that is the way many buyers get their start. And that falls clearly into the area of affordability that includes most of the people excluded in the Center's skewed report.

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Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was busy yesterday. First, he delivered his State of the State speech and then he declared January as "California Dried Plum Digestive Health Month." He pointed out that 99 percent of the nation's supply of dried plums - prunes - come from the Golden State.


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