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A heavy-hitter weighs in on Councilman Carl DeMaio’s idea to reduce the city’s $2.1 billion pension debt: City Attorney Jan Goldsmith writes in a legal opinion that the city, acting through the City Council, is authorized to freeze the base compensation of city workers, and that the city can give give performance-based raises that do not have to be included in in retirement payout calculations.
Goldsmith’s 22-page opinion lays it all out in excruciating detail (Footnotes! Legal citations! That squiggly character §!).
A police union official is skeptical (Union-Tribune), saying such a change could encourage officers to seek jobs elsewhere with better benefits. That would presumably help the city with its financial problems, however, by reducing the number of long-term employees who are making lots of money.
The next step is to see whether DeMaio’s plan will gain any traction.
Meanwhile, the governor’s plans to get rid of redevelopment agencies is still preoccupying City Hall. Government and politics reporter Liam Dillon looks at four big questions — including what this all may mean for the Chargers — and explains what Mardi Gras and Lent have to do with anything.
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Arizona Attack’s Reverberations:
• San Diego attorney Judy Clarke, who’s been appointed to represent the suspect in Saturday’s Arizona massacre, will face an uphill battle — steeper than in the past — to convince a judge or jury that her client is insane. Congress made it more difficult to plead insanity since the assassination attempt against President Reagan and John Hinckley Jr.’s subsequent insanity defense, Salon reports.
• Two plots against current San Diego congressmen — Darrell Issa and Bob Filner — appear on Huffington Post’s lists of threats against members of Congress over the past 50 years.
CityBeat notes that “a San Diego extremist who participated in an election-night assault on Rep. Bob Filner renewed his calls for armed revolution following the Saturday shooting.” He wrote in an online message on a white supremacist web site that “I am enjoying this moment because this is how a revolution begins people, and it’s funny. I’m going to celebrate!”
Actual moments of political violence have been rare in San Diego, although there were incidents in the 1960s and 1970s, including the self-immolation of a war protester at UCSD and the fatal shootings of two black militants by members of an opposing group. A mayor-elect forcibly occupied City Hall in 1905, and Robert F. Kennedy spent the day before his L.A. assassination in San Diego.
• Even Wyatt Earp, who spent time in San Diego in the years after the 1880 shootout at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Ariz., has managed to appear in the coverage of last weekend’s massacre. An Arizona historian tells Politico that the town had gun control: it banned deadly weapons in the hands of the populace, doing more than the state does today.
Crowe Story Isn’t Over:
“The cities of Escondido and Oceanside could be on the hook for millions in damages after the U.S. Supreme Court today refused to consider their appeal of a lower-court ruling in the notorious Stephanie Crowe murder case,” in which three boys were wrongly accused of killing an Escondido girl. (KPBS)
We Have a Winner (Sort of):
Hear ye, hear ye! We have bestowed the Whopper of the Year award upon former City Council President Ben Hueso, who’s now a state assemblyman. He made this statement: “Our taxes have gone down ladies and gentlemen. You are paying less taxes today than you were paying last year and the year before and the year before that.” But it wasn’t true, as the San Diego Fact Check Blog discovered.
“Among our whopper finalists, Hueso’s claim stood out because it had the greatest potential to impact local affairs,” writes our Fact Check guru Keegan Kyle. “It aimed to advance his position on a major issue before the City Council and push voters toward approving a sales tax increase at the polls.”
We’ve examined another claim, this one by the CEO of an organization you may have heard of: voiceofsandiego.org. In a recent column, Scott Lewis wrote that Balboa Park is one of the largest urban parks in the world. There’s no universal definition of what an urban park is; Lewis thinks it’s a park surrounded by an urban area. By that definition, Balboa Park isn’t among the largest in the world, and the claim is false.
That’s not to say that San Diego’s parks aren’t pretty darned big. An environmental group says Mission Trails Regional Park is the 15th largest park within a city’s limits in the U.S.
Maybe Lewis Will Get It Right This Time:
The weekend’s tragic events have cast a pall over the way we talk about politics. But our Scott Lewis has found four reasons to be optimistic about San Diego’s civic future: he thinks there’s reason for hope because of the spirit of compromise at the waterfront, the can-do spirit underlying the debate over Balboa Park’s future, a reality check from the new governor and the early start to the mayor’s race. Yes, even that last one is a good thing in his mind.
Farm’s Hopes Mixed:
The City Council’s slated to decide today whether to lease some city land to a nonprofit that wants to create a community garden. But even if it says yes, “the garden can’t yet be planted because city law still won’t allow it. The land is zoned only for commercial development like stores or restaurants, and there’s no exception for uses like community gardens on commercial land.”
Speaking of farming, this week’s Q&A will be with a man who grows produce at a quarter-acre farm in … Point Loma. Really? Really. Let us know if you have questions for him.
Readying the Walls:
Arts blogger Dani Dodge continues her series about the San Diego Museum of Art’s preparations for a new show, revealing how the museum is reconfiguring its walls and taking care to avoid plywood platforms (the wood gives off art-damaging fumes). Workers are painting walls too (“Gainsborough blue” and “Hodgkin white,” named after the show’s artist stars). “There is not a painting in sight but the buzz of a half-dozen workers and the clash of color give the room a vibration of excitement,” Dodge writes. “The workers are calm, but purposeful, and no one is idle.”
Also in arts, we check in with a “gypsy” theater group, the Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company, as it moves into its new home. Like many small performance groups, the company doesn’t have a permanent home. In recent years, it’s traveled to the Centro Cultural de la Raza, the La Jolla Playhouse and the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center at Balboa Park. Watch the Behind the Scene TV version of this story.
Up, Up and … Wow:
Finally, Photographer Sam Hodgson captures an unusual view of the sky and the Civic Center Plaza building.
They’re not silver-lined. (Trust me, I checked.) But they are a nice dose of beauty in a year that’s had too little.