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City Council hearings can have the look of a cybercafé nowadays, with council members clicking away on their laptops and audience members thumbing away at their cell phones. They’re keeping up with e-mail. They’re sending out their perspective or snark about the day’s events via Twitter messages.
It might not all be smiley faces and LOLs, however. Increasingly, governments around the country are worried that politicians’ laptops and computers could be used for a more nefarious pursuit: Real-time communications between politicians and lobbyists.
That’s not the only complication to open government presented by the technology boom: “The use of personal e-mail addresses off the city’s servers already complicated the retrieving of those e-mails. Now, the hard-to-track communications of text messages, private Twitter messages and other communications both during council meetings and outside of them raise the specter of whether pieces of the Public Records Act are even enforceable in today’s world.”
• There was a key question that perplexed us as we were working on “A Staggering Swindle,” our investigation into a local mortgage scam: How was it that the buyers and sellers of the condos in the deals had notably different versions of the purchases’ receipts?
We got our answer: The escrow officer, who is supposed to be a neutral third party, doctored the documents to hide the fact that the deals’ mastermind was getting millions of dollars. That’s important info the buyers and banks would’ve wanted to know.
The escrow officer pleaded guilty to fraud in court last week and faces up to 30 years in prison and fines.
• Housing and economics guru Rich Toscano crunched the latest housing data and found an old trend picking up again: The rebound has been far stronger in low-priced homes than in high-priced ones.
“As of June, despite having risen 17 percent off their April 2009 trough, low-tier home prices were still down 45 percent from their 2005 peak. The high tier was down ‘only’ 28 percent, with the middle tier and the aggregate index both down in the 34 percent range,” he writes.
• Three out of every 10 San Diego households don’t make enough money to cover the basic cost of living, despite more than half of those homes having at least one full-time worker, according to a new study.
What’s the importance of that number?
“We’ve always known San Diego is expensive, but we didn’t know how many people couldn’t afford to live here,” said an analyst who worked on the report. “Those people are doing things like selling off their property just to make it.”
• The feds are handing out dough to local school districts to help them save teacher jobs. Play around a bit with the data and find out how much your district could get.
• The Chula Vista Police Department blames its low murder clearance rate on “the city’s proximity to the border and socioeconomic conditions, as well as the sophistication of criminals and budget cutbacks.”
Earlier in the week, we broke down the rates for San Diego cities and found Chula Vista and National City at the bottom.
• This doesn’t look right: The Chula Vista elementary school board meets privately before its public meetings and enjoys taxpayer funded food. But the grub isn’t the big problem. Public bodies can’t get together like that without telling the public and making it a formal meeting. Otherwise, the public’s business could be made in private. (Union-Tribune)
• The county of San Diego has cancelled its grant to a local organization after San Diego CityBeat revealed it violated rules about giving to religious organizations. The grant had been proposed by Supervisor Bill Horn, who had said the paper was lobbing false accusations. (And, for a change, the Union-Tribune actually gave CityBeat credit for it.)
• Jerry Lewis is still going strong. And, after he’s done with his latest telethon, he’s got San Diego in his plans, according to a LA Times profile:
“Just days after the telethon, the performer will fly to New York City to begin casting 70 parts for the Broadway adaptation of his ‘Nutty Professor’ — the 1963 Jekyll and Hyde comedy that Lewis wrote, directed and starred in that young fans may more readily associate with Eddie Murphy’s 1996 remake. Multiple Oscar-winner Marvin Hamlisch and Grammy-nominee Rupert Holmes are handling scoring duties for the musical. And after six weeks of rehearsals, its cast will relocate to San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre, where the production will premiere.”
• Lastly, San Diego State is having a dismal time trying to sell season tickets for its football team. (U-T)
What, you thought I’d close with a zinger at SDSU’s football program? Come on, I’m not that cruel.
— ANDREW DONOHUE