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Now, the News

You might get “free” trash pickup in the city if you live on a private street. Then again, you might not. The same goes if you live in an apartment: the city might come by and pick up your garbage without charging you anything extra. Or, depending, it might not.

This is all part of what the U-T calls the city’s “convoluted reality” when it comes to trash collection. The pesky issue is getting plenty of attention as the mayor tries to stop free trash collection for about 14,200 homes. It sounds like the City Council won’t go along; residents complain that they pay taxes for the service, so it should be free. 

There’s more to it, the U-T says. Fewer than 60 percent of residences in the city actually get trash pickup without paying an extra cost other. Private haulers pick up the other garbage. 

The print edition of the U-T has a handy chart explaining how many residences of various types get “free” or paid trash pickup. (The chart doesn’t seem to be available online.)

We examined the tangled, stinky and scandal-filled history of trash pickup in San Diego earlier this year.     

From South of the Border, a Do-Drink-the-Water Message

A simple look at a map will tell you that there’s water off the coast of Mexico in the Pacific Ocean. And a simple look at Mexican government will provide another bit of insight: “They don’t protect the environment like we do in California,” an American environmental official tells us. And not just that: “They don’t ask as many questions.”

This is just one reason why water agencies from throughout the Southwest (including San Diego’s) are studying whether to build a desalination plant in Mexico that would pull the salt out of ocean water. The water could then head north to the U.S. for us to drink. 

“Regulators, legal experts and environmental leaders question whether the agencies are looking to Mexico for cheap labor and easier permitting, as manufacturers and power producers did before them,” Rob Davis reports.

A New Mission for Local Gangs

The arrest of 29 members of an Oceanside gang last week is a big sign of how gangs are getting into more than the usual graffiti and violent crimes, the NCT reports.”What you’re looking at now, presumably, are no longer street gangs — they’re criminal gangs,” a criminology professor tells the paper. They may also be older too: almost all of those arrested were in their 20s and 30s. 

The arrested gang members stand accused of taking part in a prostitution and human-trafficking ring. The NCT says everyone was supposed to follow certain rules called “The Game.” 

“According to those rules, prostitutes could be traded or gifted among pimps. The women were forbidden from speaking with or even looking at pimps other than their own,” the NCT reports. “‘Gorilla pimps’ enforced these and other rules of The Game with violence. ‘Finesse pimps’ enforced the rules in other ways — drugs, lies and charm.”

We’ve been tracking these trends and the response of local prosecutors. We’ve also reported on sex trafficking and on prostitution, particularly in one hot spot: El Cajon Boulevard. 

Meanwhile, NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof notes that Americans tend to care more about victims of sex trafficking abroad than here at home. In the U.S., “they’re often runaways out on the street wearing short skirts or busting out of low-cut tops, and many Americans perceive them not as trafficking victims but as miscreants who have chosen their way of life. So even when they’re 14 years old, we often arrest and prosecute them — even as the trafficker goes free.”

Tight Budget? Fire the Volunteers

In other news from North County, the city of Oceanside is thinking about killing off eight of its 23 advisory boards. Their members serve as volunteers, but city staffers still need to prepare reports for them and keep track of meetings, the NCT reports. 

My own experience as a City Hall reporter taught me a couple things about advisory commissions. For one, they spend countless hours debating controversial issues only to watch as their decisions are appealed on up the chain to another level. Then there would be even more endless debate. If the final decision didn’t go their way, these folks would get mighty steamed and wonder why anyone bothered to consult them in the first place.

Good question. Then again, the key word here is “advisory.”  

It’s Curtains (But That’s Good)

We cap off our series about the preparations for the new San Diego Opera production with a look at last-minute details.

Democracy Gone Bad

Liam Dillon passed along what he called an “absolutely essential read on California’s governance” from The Economist magazine. The magazine says California is an experiment in extreme democracy gone wrong. But it offers some hope. Some.

Word Watch: Meet ‘Jerrysandersing’

We gather our regular collection of opinions logged on the site. The local commentariat is busy opining on the redistricting process that will eventually lead to new City Council districts and, potentially, power shifts among various groups like Latinos, blacks, Asians and gays. The idea of gerrymandering gets thrown about, and a commenter comes up with this mayor-focused zinger: “‘jerrysandersing’ could become a new term for being a completely out-of-touch politician who talks up giant municipal projects while being unable to fix the potholes or keep all the fire stations staffed.”

To be fair to the mayor and others in the build-build-build crowd, the money to build comes from a different place than the money for staffing.

Commenter Don Wood notes that both Republicans and Democrats have been upset about the makeup of a supposedly impartial commission to draw a map of new City Council districts. “It looks to me like the independent panel of judges who appointed the panel members did a fine job,” he writes. 

This reminds me of a chat I had a long time ago with a North County school board member. I applauded myself because my coverage of the board’s nasty politics had annoyed both factions. In fact, people on both sides thought I was biased against them. “If you’re a journalist,” I explained, “that means you’re doing a good job.”

The board member thought for a moment. “Well,” she said, “it might just mean that you’re incompetent.”

Finally, two names familiar to VOSD readers had a point, counterpoint in the U-T this weekend. Lani Lutar, CEO of the Taxpayers Association and Vladimir Kogan, a Ph.D. candidate at UCSD both take stabs at articulating the true way to see the city’s pension crisis. Kogan says it was a gamble gone bad. Lutar writes that none of the architects can claim ignorance about what they were doing.

Piddler on the Roof

The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s 88-member collectors group is considering which one of five art pieces it should donate to the museum. The U-T is asking its readers for their thoughts and offers photos of the artworks, including a small gargoyle-shaped copper sculpture designed to help women engage in a certain common activity while standing up. (Convenient!) “The work as a whole brims with humorous irony that could be lost if taken too seriously,” an arts blog explains. 

Talk about brimming: One of the pictures shows the artist demonstrating the artwork atop the Chrysler Building in New York City. I’ll bet she made quite a splash.

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

Randy Dotinga

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

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