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If you own property downtown, you pay a special fee to cover extra services like tree trimming and those security guards that zoom around on Segways. And, if you’re one of those property owners, there’s a chance the city of San Diego has overcharged you and hasn’t told you about it.

A small band of residents realized the problem a year and a half ago. A city official promised a refund. But 18 months later, the city has now changed its tune and the owners are left in a thicket of bureaucracy.

And every penny matters for at least one downtown property owner, a shelter for the mentally ill called Safe Haven.

“With the bad economy the last few years, it’s been even more difficult to raise the money we need,” its operator said. “We try to be so frugal, to be as efficient as possible, so to hear that we may have had extra money taken away is upsetting.”

The Governor’s Famous Final Act

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger cut the prison sentence of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez’s son from 16 years to seven in his final act as governor yesterday. (Sacramento Bee) Esteban Nunez was convicted of manslaughter for his participation in a fatal 2008 stabbing of a 22-year-old man on the campus of San Diego State.

The victim’s father, Fred Santos, said this: “He had all the big political guns coming out in his defense. We’re just regular people. Is this what justice is all about?”

It isn’t the first time the well-connected came to Nunez’s side. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was among those who wrote to the judge in the case testifying to Esteban Nunez’s character and seeking a lighter bail. 

Staunching the Red Ink of City Hall and City Schools

• A New York Times headline writer slapped San Diego with the unfortunate-yet-appropriate label of Enron-by-the-Sea in 2004 and the name has stuck. There are five things city leaders can do this year to rip that label off for once and for all, Liam Dillon writes.

San Diego has often been a dubious leader in its financial crisis, a few years ahead of its government colleagues in its pension and other woes. That appears to be the case again, as the Times notes now that public workers face outrage over budget problems across the country.

• Is it time to freak out about school budget cuts? Things have looked really bad for San Diego City Schools in recent budget years, only to watch the landscape shift suddenly and have worrisome budget cuts minimized. This year, however, could be the year in which the sky does actually fall. Emily Alpert provides a guide of what to look for as you decide whether you should light your hair on fire.

The Toll of War

The death for locally based troops in Afghanistan was 56 in 2010, according to a count by the North County Times. Several thousand are set to be deployed in the country’s southern Helmand province this year, the newspaper says.

Issa on the Attack

North County Congressman Darrell Issa made it clear he would be the Obama Administration’s top public nemesis in the new Congress and he’s off to a fast start in 2011, saying Attorney General Eric Holder may need to step down because there has been no swift prosecution in the Wikileaks case.

 “The world is laughing at this paper tiger we’ve become,” Issa told Fox News Sunday.

Look Mom, We’re in The New York Times

The proposed Comcast/NBC merger contains proposal that could stimulate the growth of nonprofit news organizations, The New York Times reported over the long holiday weekend.

The  Times says voiceofsandiego.org’s partnership with NBC 7/39, which includes San Diego Explained, Fact Check TV, Behind the Scenes TV and more content-and-idea sharing, would be the model for partnerships with between five and 10 NBC affiliates across the country.

The plan was outlined in a letter to the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, the paper says, the same day the chairman indicated he would support the merger if certain conditions were met. Still, a Los Angeles Times columnist says the merger does nothing to enhance the public interest.

The Best of ‘The Best of 2010’

The week between Christmas and New Years is generally a dead zone for reporters. It’s nearly impossible to get people on the phone. So we spent the last week or so putting together lists of the Best of 2010 and looking forward to 2011. Here’s a quick readers’ guide:

Quotes of the Year | Seriously, just read it. It’s good stuff.

Nudes, Chargers, Condos, Quake: 2010’s Most Read |We’ve waited six years to write that headline.

Top 10 Photos of 2010 |You helped make them and pick them.

San Diego’s Words of 2010 | Blurb, bomb factory, brownout — and that’s just the B’s.

The 7 Fascinating Education Ideas of the Year | The cool stuff going on in the classroom.

The Five Big Education Stories to Watch in 2011 | Oh, don’t worry. There’s just a battle brewing for the heart of the school board, basic funding for education, neighborhood schooling and what reform looks like.

Three Arts Storylines We’ll Watch in 2011 |It’s all about the money this year.

Trivia Contest! | There’s still time to test your local-news-nerdom.

Hey Look, It’s Those Facebook Twins

Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss became 2010’s most famous twins. They’re the guys who say they came up with the idea for Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg ruthlessly stole the idea from them while they were Harvard students. They want to rip up a previous $65 million settlement for more.

They’re also Olympic rowers who, The New York Times says, are now living here in San Diego as they train for the 2012 games.

They haven’t mentioned anything about coming up with the idea for a local nonprofit news organization, have they?

You can reach me at andrew.donohue@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0526. Follow me on Twitter: @AndrewDonohue.

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