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The homeless veteran with the story of his life etched in the countless lines across his face. The woman in a wheelchair whose life is an exercise in patience. The man who was shot seven times and lived, his neck revealing his brush with death.

These are among photographer Sam Hodgson’s 10 favorite images of 2009. There aren’t just pictures to look at: Hodgson includes vignettes about how he got the photos and the challenges they posed.

Like several of our staff members, Hodgson is near the beginning of his career and learning his craft. Within recent months he’s reached a new level of expertise, sparking conversations through his photos. We hope you find his work as evocative as we do.

In other news:

  • The prescription painkiller known as OxyContin has become popular among criminals who want to take it and sell it. And where do you find painkillers? At the pharmacy, of course. Hence a series of robberies at local drugstores.

    A 26-year-old man is the first person in the county to face charges involving the pharmacy robberies. He has pleaded guilty and faces seven years in prison.

  • We visited him in jail, where he told us about how his own drug use began and offered perspective on what he calls “an epidemic” of prescription-drug abuse.
  • Our reporters are looking forward, each examining what’s coming up next on their beats. First up: Water. We offer perspective on what to look for in 2010 and explain how things stand now in terms of the water supply.

Elsewhere:

  • A story in the NYT can hardly have come at a worse time for those calling for public money to support a new football stadium.

    The story’s headline: “Stadium Boom Deepens Municipal Woes.” Its second paragraph says: “From New Jersey to Ohio to Arizona … stadiums were sold as a key to redevelopment and as the only way to retain sports franchises. But the deals that were used to persuade taxpayers to finance their construction have in many cases backfired, the result of overly optimistic revenue assumptions and the recession.”

    An author of a book about taxpayer subsidization of professional sports tells the paper that many stadium deals included “revenue bombs” that blew up years after the deals were approved. “In many cases, the architects of the deals are long gone by the time the bill comes due,” the paper says.

  • The U-T says residents of Serra Mesa, the neighborhood north of Interstate 8 near Highway 163, have prevailed in their effort to get a developer to shrink plans for a big housing development next to Montgomery Field. 
  • And finally, San Diego’s Bishop George D. McKinney, a member of the Church of God in Christ’s ruling board, recently ordained a new minister here. That’s certainly not unusual, but the minister is: He’s white, and the denomination is largely African-American. And the minister, who lives in Oklahoma, was once an imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

    McKinney told a Tulsa paper that the ordination reminds him of the early days of Pentecostalism in Los Angeles more than a century ago, when “whites, blacks and browns worshipped together.”

The Coffee Collection and Quote of the Week will return in 2010, but we’ll be back in the office on Monday. See you then.

— RANDY DOTINGA

Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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