The proposed city sales tax hike has been alive, dead, alive again, dead again (as of Monday) and now alive once more, maybe.

And the San Diego school board president — who was behind putting a hike in property taxes on the ballot, then wasn’t, and reaffirmed he wasn’t — has reversed course again. He’s for putting it on the ballot, and it’s still a go. At least we think it is. You should visit a chiropractor about your whiplash.

Here’s what happened yesterday: Councilwoman Donna Frye, who’s staked out a position in the middle between labor and the business community, proposed a new idea, a kind of grand compromise. She wants the council to consider a ballot measure that would impose a higher sales tax on city residents but come with a suicide clause: if the city doesn’t drastically reform the way it does things, the tax will die in two years.

There are plenty of questions about this: Does the law allow such a complicated ballot measure? Will labor and business interests find common ground and accept reform a la Frye? (My Magic 8-Ball says “Outlook not so good,” but it’s quite a cynical 8-Ball.)

Over at the school district, board president Richard Barrera flip-flopped on his previous flip-flop and says he supports a tax hike the board has already agreed to place on the November ballot. In front of befuddled onlookers at a board meeting, trustees decided to stick with the plan to ask voters to raise taxes on property owners depending on the kind of parcel they own.

“Amateur hour,” complained a school board candidate, while a board member griped that the district was “snookered” by the mayor.

Voters must approve the tax by a two-thirds vote. Coincidentally, two of the board president’s three recent viewpoints have been in favor of it putting it on the ballot.

In other news:

• He’s been a reality TV contestant. He’s an expert on General George Armstrong Custer, the one whose last stand is rather well known. And he says he has terrible timing (sort of like that unfortunate general).

But he may be exaggerating a bit. When an earthquake hits, Patrick Abbott is often in the right place at the right time: available to talk to reporters who call upon San Diego’s most well known geologist.

In an entertaining profile, we meet the retired San Diego State professor whose mouth has launched a thousand discussions of fault lines, tectonic plates and quake magnitudes.

• A City Council committee today will discuss the controversial idea of slashing fire crews from four firefighters to three. At least one councilmember hates the idea and wants the council to tell the mayor to not even think about it, thank you very much. But the council may ultimately have no say in the matter.

• The City Council approved a $6.6 million recycled sewage demonstration plant. It will operate for a year and create one million gallons of water a day.

The idea is to win over state regulators and give residents some glasses of water derived from sewage. Why? To show they won’t keel over.

• Local home prices went up again in May, according to new numbers. It’s been a remarkable turnaround: the prices have increased by about 12 percent over a year, bringing more good news for homesellers and bad news for homebuyers.

• The San Diego Fact Check Blog takes a look at an environmentalist’s claim about the number of least terns left in the world. He says there are only hundreds of pairs left, a pretty dire number that could influence decisions about how to protect them. But is he right?


• The city enters a new phrase of its debate over what municipal employees deserve in pay and benefits: The WSJ reports that “an annual scorecard on benefits shows that public employees continue to have richer benefits than their private-sector counterparts.” At least for now.

Another tidbit: “The more generous benefits given to government workers are part of a larger trade-off, according to economists. Unable to match private-sector salaries for their most valued workers, governments instead offer more-attractive benefits packages.”

• So what shall we call the flap that’s been dogging a local congressman? Stogiegate?

The NCT doesn’t have any ideas on that front, but it does have an update. (You could call it a puff piece. Har!): “A group of Congressional staffer cigar enthusiasts sponsored by U.S. Rep. Brian Bilbray has been wrongly singled out as a tool for lobbyists seeking influence on Capitol Hill, Bilbray said Monday.”

His perennial Democratic opponent, Francine Busby, was unimpressed, complaining via press release that “lobbyists are paying thousands of dollars to host events for direct access to staffers in order to influence members of Congress.”

Basically, it seems that lobbyists are, you know, lobbying. And smoking up a storm.

• A committee has chosen the lighting design for a special San Diego-Coronado Bridge lighting project. The lights would be powered by wind turbines, but the financial powering of the whole project is still up in the air: officials need to raise $5 million. (U-T)

• The city is thinking about raising money by allowing ads to be plastered on all sorts of things from benches to kiosks. The anti-meat-eating folks at PETA are already sniffing around for possibilities: they’ve written the mayor, asking to post an ad on lifeguard towers. It “features one of our gorgeous Lettuce Ladies and reads, ‘Save Lives: Go Vegan! PETA.’ … We’ll even send our lovely Lettuce Ladies to San Diego to unveil the ads and pass out delicious vegan hot dogs.” (LL)

Absolutely unbelievable. No, not the ads on lifeguard towers: that’s totally believable. I’m talking about the “delicious vegan hot dogs.”


Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at

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