Morning Report: Why Corrupt Duo Avoided Jail

You may remember the names of Carolyn Y. Smith and Dante Dayacap: They’re the public officials-turned-felons who were convicted last year of embezzling more than $435,000 from the government agency whose job is to revitalize southeastern San Diego.

They didn’t get any jail time, but a judge did order them to pay back the money they stole — at $100 a month each. That’s $1,200 a year.

Let’s put it this way: It will take a looong time for them to ever pay it all back. Until 2193, to be precise. What’s the point?

Our reporter Will Carless talked to the judge, who says the sentence is both fair and tough: “They’ve lost their jobs, and their prospects for future jobs and they have to pay this amount of restitution. If that’s not a deterrent, I don’t know what is.”

The city is still looking into whether either of the felons have assets that the public can get its hands on.

Shh! Libraries Take a Hit; Public Safety Survives

It’s almost time for us to bid farewell Mayor Jerry Sanders, whose term ends before the end of the year. He’s left some major legacies, including his recommendations about the city budget.

A data analysis whipped up by our statistics whiz Keegan Kyle shows how he’s set his priorities from his first budget to his last, which is now being proposed.

In essence, Sanders made cops, firefighters and attorneys a top priority over parks and recreation, libraries and trash pick-up services. When the budget figures are adjusted for inflation, spending for all six departments is down. But the latter three have taken the biggest hits.   

Filner Releases Pension Plan

June 8, 2011 Congressman Bob Filner said he’s have an alternative pension reform proposal out in public for us wonks to look over in “about a month.”

Many many months later, we checked in and created a timeline of his hints at it. He’s variously said his plans would save the city hundreds of millions of dollars, without substantial pain for current or future city workers.

Well, the plan is now public, graphs and all. It appears to rely heavily on a proposed five-year employee contract deal and pension obligation bonds. This is where an agency borrows money to invest in an underfunded pension system.

To make the case for the bonds, Filner cites the county of San Diego.

Here’s the county of San Diego’s pension story as told in an easy 350 words. And here’s exactly what the system did to borrow money for its pensions.

U-T Wonders if Fletcher Flip Is, Well, Flip

Political observers were abuzz this weekend when the U-T posted an editorial hammering Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher for his defection from the Republican Party and questioning his core values.

The paper saw it as an astounding betrayal: “he essentially left his colleagues behind, harming Republicans running for office. Does this demonstrate a Marine’s loyalty?”

That little shot infuriated Fletcher’s supporters. But the Republican Party chairman, Tony Krvaric, scoffed at their anger: “San Diego’s pretendjournos taxraisers socialists and unionhacks going apoplectic on Twitter as tough questions are finally being asked.”

The paper allowed Fletcher to respond.

Besides the rhetorical war it provoked, Fletcher’s defection continues to have consequences:

• The California Republican Party, once Fletcher’s employer, has decided to endorse Carl DeMaio’s campaign. Fletcher’s campaign happily passed along the news that the party sent down $200,000 to help DeMaio independently. But the bigger effect may come from another benefit FlashReport’s Jon Fleischman identified: DeMaio can now use the Party’s bulk mail permit.

• The LA Times weighs in on the race, including a comment from District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, who’s never seemed to gain any traction in the race. She calls the Fletcher saga a “contrived soap opera” created when local GOP leaders didn’t endorse him.

• The U-T has posted commentaries from all four major candidates on the issues of education, the proposed new football stadium, pension reform for city employees and neighborhoods.

Local Agencies’ Reserves Questioned for … Being Too Big

Experts say we should all have an emergency stash of money to get us through six months or more. Business and nonprofit groups often have reserves too, and local government agencies are no exception.

But how much should they have stashed away for an emergency like a huge cut in school funding or a natural disaster? The U-T finds that seven local agencies have enough money to last six months or more, although one bond rating agency is happy with enough to last 15 percent of the year.

The agencies are the cities of Poway, Coronado, Carlsbad, San Marcos and Imperial Beach, plus the elementary school districts in Solana Beach and Rancho Santa Fe.

So are these agencies being sensible? Financial specialists told the U-T that “overflow reserves could further foment citizens who believe they are overtaxed.”

So make a note: Beware of fomented citizens!  

Quick News Hits

• The sheriff says local jails are almost full, meaning that he’ll soon have to stop jailing suspects accused of some misdemeanors, the U-T reports. The jails are getting extra crowded because the state is shifting some prisoners to them.

• Call it the silver lining of the potentially catastrophic shutdown of the San Onofre nuclear power plant: SDG&E is looking for permission to offer rebates to customers who cut down their electricity use this summer, the NC Times reports.

SDG&E already plans to offer rebates to customers who cut back on use on big energy days in the summer, presumably those that are especially hot. Now, SDG&E wants to expand it to small businesses and certain residential customers, and “it wants to be able to call on large customers who have backup generating capacity to fire up their power plants if state officials declare a power emergency.”

This is all because the nuke plant may remain shut down into the summer, potentially forcing rolling blackouts — or worse.

If the electricity does go out during a Santa Ana, look for me in the nearest walk-in freezer, huddling next to the cold cuts. It’ll be fun! I’ll interview the baloney and pretend it’s a candidate for office.

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

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Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego and president of the American Society of Journalists & Authors. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga

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