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I once read that if you wanted to judge how much power someone has, don’t just look at how big of an organization they control or how much might they wield under their own operation, look at how much they influence outside of their own sphere.

Under that measurement, and just about any other, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis is the most powerful politician in San Diego. How a Jewish, lesbian, Republican with a thick New England accent reached this position in San Diego is a remarkable story and one Kelly Thornton is telling in a five-part series that begins today.

Through interviews with more than 50 law enforcement officials and political figures along with people from her own office, Thornton examines what impresses even Dumanis’ foes and what her biggest vulnerabilities are as she considers moving from district attorney to another political post perhaps at the city or state. 

If you want to understand how San Diego works, you’ll have to understand how Dumanis figured it out. It’s a fascinating tale.

The site is hopping today in what is the beginning of the New Year of work for most, so let’s dive right in to some other news:

  • On Sunday, we posted a story from California Watch examining the role both major political parties are playing to help large donors make their money work for the candidates they support. While most local jurisdictions have stringent campaign financing limits, the political parties don’t and both Republicans and Democrats have perfected a system that allows the biggest donors to get the money where they want it, avoiding laws that force disclosure and strict contribution limits.
  • This is a phenomenon we’ve followed for years. Local political operatives have known for quite some time that the political parties’ latitude with donations has probably effectively destroyed local campaign contribution limits. A couple of years ago, the San Diego city Ethics Commission explored whether San Diego itself could ever put limits on the donations to political parties and the Democratic Party worked with Republicans (for once) to ensure that the system would not be subject to local regulators.
  • The Union-Tribune had, of course, brought to light an unusual pattern of party donations to local Assemblyman Joel Anderson.
  • California Watch, our partners who provided the comprehensive story with some local angles, by the way, just launched their impressive new website.
  • For many months, housing and economy analyst Rich Toscano has pondered the question of shadow inventory — the theory that there are many thousands of homes that banks have foreclosed on but that haven’t reached the market for buyers yet. Obviously, if they did, the homes would increase the supply and potentially then depress prices.

    Toscano now says that our own Kelly Bennett has proved that there are, in fact, nearly 20,000 homes that have been foreclosed but haven’t reached the market. In a new post, Toscano floats some interesting theories about whether those homes will indeed make it to the market.

  • In an obituary, we profile a San Diegan who went from a Japanese internment camp in Arizona during World War II to a prominent life repairing and designing jewelry. Kazuo “Matt” Matsuda ran Matt Jewelers and is yet another example of why everyone in San Diego has an interesting story if you take a minute to listen to it.
  • Sam Hodgson has photos of the Chargers’ nice end to a fantastic season yesterday.
  • Finally, you might have seen me write or heard me talk about The Dissolving City — the theory that if you care about a municipal service in your neighborhood, you will have to raise your own money to protect or improve it.  I’ve taken this as an inherent negative, but to get the blog revved up for the year, I’m asking several San Diegans a series of questions as they look to 2010. And the first respondent, Marco Li Mandri, is trying to persuade me, and you, that dissolving the city may be exactly what’s needed.

    Read his thoughts and tell me what you think. Stay tuned all this week and next for more Q&As like this. Also, consider answering the questions yourself and send me your responses.

If its start is any indication, this week’s Morning Reports are going to be long. And that’s a good thing. Happy New Year.

— SCOTT LEWIS

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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