Morning Report: Big Holes in City’s Pothole Program

 

The city will fix your neighborhood pothole in four or five days, promised a councilman on TV a few months ago. That sounds great! Except it’s not true. Our investigation shows that it takes the city an average of five weeks to fix a pothole once a resident reports it, and that’s if anyone accurately documents the fix.

“VOSD found that mistakes are pervasive in the city’s system for tracking pothole complaints, making response times impossible to verify in more than one-third of cases,” our data guru Keegan Kyle reports. “Among complaints free of errors, response times have worsened more dramatically in some parts of the city than others.”

La Jolla, Clairemont and Rancho Bernardo, in particular, have seen response times go up and up, way beyond those of some other neighborhoods. It’s not clear why. Even in the district of Councilman Kevin Faulconer, the one who promised a quick turnaround time, the average fix took almost 32 days in 2011. That’s twice the time as in 2008.

What’s going on? There are more pothole reports, says a city official, possibly due to road-ruining storms and greater coverage of the pothole menace.

Council members said they’re concerned by our findings and want action through an audit.

Bob Filner Would Like a (Blunt) Word

Rep. Bob Filner, who’s finishing his final term as congressman and hopes to put the word “mayor” before his name, isn’t known as a delicate flower (like, say, me). He’s notorious among reporters, staffers and others for his verbal aggressiveness, and he put it on display the other day at a congressional hearing on veteran disability claims.

Filner expressed “rising irritation” during the hearing, according to The New York Times, and criticized the Veterans Benefit Administration’s approach to a huge backlog. “The definition of insanity is to try the same thing over and over again and expect different results,” he said.

Neither candidate in November’s mayor’s race is known for being warm-and-fuzzy. As our reporter Liam Dillon notes in a look at Filner’s latest episode of tell-it-like-it-is-ness, “he can be aggressive, sarcastic, confrontational and bombastic. Filner has had notable unflattering run-ins, but he also dispenses with the typical niceties to fight for his constituents.”

As voters citywide get to know Filner, will they like his blunt style or find it a turn-off in a city accustomed to sunniness? We’ll be watching, and we’ve already been exploring how his personality affects his ability to get things done.

Better Know a Mass-Layoff Retraction

We’ve compiled a few take-home points from this week’s news that the massive teacher layoffs in San Diego schools have tentatively been called off.

Among the takeaways: Teachers and the district have promised to talk more going forward. As our Will Carless notes, “that marks a big shift for a union that for the last few years has refused to hold formal, regular meetings with the district.”

Good News for the VOSD Commentariat

If you like to read online comments, you may have a pet peeve about how hard it is to figure out who’s responding to whom. (It’s tough enough to figure where to put the “whom” when thinking a sentence like this.)

Well, peeve be gone! We’ve updated our comment software to allow “threading” of comments. Our web editor Dagny Salas explains: “That means if you want to reply to a specific comment on a story, your comment will show up indented underneath the original comment to indicate that it’s in response to it, instead of at the end of a long list of all the comments on the story. This should make it easier to reply to comments specifically and to follow along with the many debates our commenters have every week.”

The Judge That Became Liberal Catnip

An activist attorney for conservative Christian causes and one of the nation’s leading “birthers” has won a local judgeship. It’s now a national story, with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow bemoaning this development. “Yes, this is really happening,” she declared. “Yes, this is your country.”  

As the U-T columnist Logan Jenkins put it, “How did a local judicial race turn into catnip on a national left-wing cable show?” He has some theories and background on Kreep, who’s been a quotable local figure for decades. (A late Democratic congressman once jibed that he “seems to have drawn philosophical input from Tomas de Torquemada, or possibly the Third Reich.”)

One problem for his challenger, Garland Peed, was that he couldn’t publicly bash Kreep. That’s against the rules.

As Jenkins notes, “Kreep won his judgeship fair and square.” But it remains to be seen whether the local judge community will let him try major cases or banish him to the permanent backwater of misdemeanor arraignments.

Kreep, however, hopes to oversee a family court.

Quick News Hits

• Hey, guess who’s a moderate? A Republican congressman says he is, CityBeat reports. Wait, what? It’s long been conventional wisdom that the two parties are becoming more extreme on both sides of the ideological aisle. But Rep. Brian Bilbray, facing a tough reelection campaign in a redrawn district, is touting his supposedly moderate bona fides.

He has evidence: conservative groups that rate members of Congress haven’t been overjoyed with his voting record. Still, he’s far from a liberal congressional Republican, if there is such a thing.

• If the news about our evolving comment system inspires you to join the ongoing debate on our site, be aware that you have to reveal your real name. The same goes for the sites of other local newspapers.

Good riddance, you may be saying. (That’s certainly what I’m saying.) But other sites still allow people to comment without revealing their identities, and some journalism pundits think that’s just fine. A journalism site rounded up opinions, including this one from an online manager at Buzzfeed: “There is a social realm where things are rationally sorted and then there’s the anonymous place that brings out a person’s base instincts. It can become a frothing, bubbling cauldron of insanity.”

We’ll continue to adjust our own commenting system over time as technology evolves. Let us know if you see features you like elsewhere.

For example, some sites allow users to block all comments from people they don’t want to hear from. I’ve tried this elsewhere, and I like it. But it’s possible that I’d block everybody else’s comments, and they’d all block mine. Then I’d end up spending each day talking only to myself.

That would be terrible. Or as I call it, just another day with a “day” in its name.

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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