The Morning Report
San Diego news and info
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The county district attorney is suing to overturn former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s commutation of the sentence of a young man convicted of taking part in the fatal stabbing at San Diego State. The man is the son of one of Schwarzenegger’s political allies, and the last-minute move spawned a political firestorm.
In the lawsuit, DA Bonnie Dumanis claims that Schwarzenegger violated the law by failing to notify the victim’s family.
We’ve covered this case extensively, reporting on the outcry, exploring legal options, tracking legislative activity and explaining the intricacies of the case on TV. We also looked at why the governor can let prisoners off the hook.
Yet Another SD Cop Is Accused
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Full Speed Ahead on Retiree Negotiations
After declaring a deadlock, the city has reached an agreement with the city attorneys union over retiree health-care benefits; the blue-collar workers union has agreed too. Only the police union is still in negotiations. Details, meanwhile, are elusive, though enough is known that a taxpayer group thinks it might be a bad deal and councilman Carl DeMaio thinks it the deal is winging it on “fuzzy math.”
Mayor Sanders told the U-T, “If we had saved $50, Carl would have wanted $51.”
School Board Gone Wild
The San Diego school board held a convoluted board meeting on Tuesday night, squabbling over how to cancel teacher layoffs and finding itself unable to agree on how to do it.
One board member wanted to rescind layoffs of all kinds, even if that risked a takeover by the county: “If we’re going to go down the tubes, let’s go down fighting for everybody,” she said. Emily Alpert has the play-by-play from the meeting, which ended with disappointment all around.
Also in education, San Diego’s school bus drivers are at odds with the district over wording in their contract about whether they can be laid off. The school board is pondering whether to slash busing to the bare minimum required by law. And there are new developments in a fuss over changed grades at an unusual high school.
And in the higher education world, San Diego State has a new president: he’s Elliot Hirshman, a top official at University of Maryland Baltimore County, the U-T reports. Th Daily Aztec has the story, too.
Deal Saves Beach Fire Pits
The fire pits at the beach — home to many bonfires — have been saved once again. Councilman Kevin Faulconer raised money through private donations to subsidize the maintenance of the fire pits, KPBS reports.
Feds Aren’t BFF with Upscale Homebuyers
Congress is having second thoughts about allowing federal agencies to back expensive home mortgages in upscale neighborhoods, the New York Times reports. Both sides of the political aisle “agree that taxpayer should no longer be responsible for homes valued well above the national average, and are about to turn a top slice of the housing market into a testing ground for whether the private mortgage market can once again go it alone.”
I asked Rich Toscano, our real estate number cruncher and BS-detector, for his perspective. “Loans that are not backed by the government have higher rates and are harder to qualify for. Right now that’s only a concern for people trying to borrow more than $697,500, but that threshold is slated to drop to $546,250,” he said. “This will render financing somewhat more difficult and costly for homes in the (roughly estimating, here) $600-800k range. However, the scope of the negative impact from this change will likely be pretty small in the grand scheme of things.”
In his column, Toscano notes that local home prices have stabilized.
From the Boondocks, She Creates Art for City Folk
A 59-year-old sculptor lives in a rural North County community, far from the work she creates for public spaces. “Yet she makes public art, as well as works seen in museums and galleries,” writes Valerie Scher in a profile of Anne Mudge. “There’s a contrast, even a contradiction, between the isolated way she lives and the collaborative process required for public art. And an enormous difference between where she lives and the gritty urban places where her art is installed. The contrast energizes her.”
“I really need to mix with the world more and humanize these brutal spaces,” says Mudge, whose work has appeared at places like the airport, an intersection in North Park and San Diego State’s transit center.
Scientist Finds a Powerful Audience in the Pope
A researcher from Scripps Research Institution of Oceanography has been busy trying to sway some big shots in Rome: he’s been teaching the Vatican about global warming, which has drawn the attention of the Pope.
“I don’t think we have the right as scientists to try and change ethical behavior — it requires a moral authority. What better authority than religion to handle such a task,” Veerabhadran Ramanathan told KPBS. On Tuesday, he met online with about 24 bishops and talked about fighting global warming.
One Man, 90+ Animals? Bah, Says State Appeals Court
A San Diego-area man who “accumulated at his residence more than 90 animals” (dogs, birds, chickens, a duck and more) lost his appeal against his conviction on animal neglect charges. He said he wasn’t negligent. (Hat tip to blogger Shaun Martin for noticing the case.)
Questioning the Condor Commitment
Over the last quarter century or so, the number of California condors in existence has grown from 22 to 381, and it now costs $4 million a year to keep the conservation program going. It may sound like a good deal, but Discover Magazine reports that critics question whether one species is worth the cost.
“You could save hundreds of butterfly species with the same investment being put into the condor,” says an ecologist who’s a member of an “outspoken camp of researchers.” But a San Diego Zoo wildlife biologist defends the condor program: “We’ve worked with these birds for decades with everybody telling us that it was not going to work,” he said.
I say, go condors! Just stay in the wild and away from my car, please. It gets enough attention from non-constipated birds as it is.