The Morning Report
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Mayor Jerry Sanders continued to back police Chief Bill Lansdowne on Thursday, calling the unusually large group of officers facing legal troubles “absolute jerks” for soiling the SDPD’s reputation, the Union-Tribune reported.
With 10 officers facing a variety of separate accusations and charges, the department and community at large are searching for answers. Sanders, a former police chief himself, told the newspaper it’s “very concerning” that so many of the accused officers have been with the force for a number of years.
Lansdowne said other big-city departments are facing similar troubles and suggested recession-related stress could be at play, while experts told the newspaper that budget cuts have limited officer supervision.
Sanders expressed confidence in Lansdowne’s plan to curb the problems, telling NBC San Diego that “Bill Lansdowne has done a tremendous job of lowering crime in our community.”
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Big Decision Time This Morning
With the City Council slated to face one of its most important votes in its decade-long financial mess, Liam Dillon gives us, as his headline boldly declares, “All You Can Know About the City’s Health Care Deal.”
It’s a really readable Q&A that helps break the billion-dollar retiree health care discussion down into simple, clear ideas. The final question: How good of a deal is this for taxpayers? The answer, well, is the one that really isn’t that clear. The city could’ve tried to just do away with benefit altogether, but didn’t want to risk it. As one expert said to Dillon: “If you asked me to say, if this is your deal, take it or leave it. I would take it.”
The Mayor’s Office, however, still isn’t releasing its financial information behind the deal, frustrating us and the U-T. As its editorial board says, “This does not inspire confidence that the agreement is as good a deal for taxpayers as the mayor says it is.”
At Last, a Money Plan for the Convention Center
In addition to dealing with all of that, Sanders sat down with the town’s hoteliers and announced that he wants them to band together and raise the city’s hotel-room tax on visitors to fund the Convention Center expansion. That would cover about $30 million of the $38 million that would be needed to pay off the construction debt. No one’s sure yet where the rest would come from.
But even this part is going to face a tricky test: It’s not clear whether they’ll be able to do this without going to the voters.
If we wanted to raise the hotel tax and use the money for police and fire and libraries, for example, we’d have to get it approved by voters. But hoteliers have been able to raise it themselves in the past by forging a quasi-governmental agency and using the proceeds to fund tourism promotion.
The mayor doesn’t want the public vote, but his expansion guru said there was no consensus on whether on would be needed. “I’m not sure there is going to be until a judge rules on this,” he said.
Scott Lewis notes that there might be another roadblock, too: The Convention Center itself. The tourism people might want control of it altogether if they’re going to be putting down so many dollars.
• The city, meanwhile, is scratching and clawing for every penny to be able preserve things like its famous fire pits. Three groups, including the Convention and Visitors Bureau, pitched in $65,000 to keep the pits going in the short-term while they search for a more permanent solution. (U-T)
Investigating SEDC Over the Years
With embezzlement charges filed last week, we take a look back at some of the biggest stories in our five years of investigation into the Southeastern Economic Development Corp. They include tales about agency’s affordable housing failures, contracting misdeeds, curious land deals, broken promises and, most relevant to the criminal charges, its hidden bonuses.
Rising Sea Off San Diego’s Shores
Seas are rising across the world at a quickening rate as a result, scientists say, of climate change. Except the Pacific Ocean. Surfers here in San Diego paddle out into an ocean that’s the same level as it was in 1980.
That’s about to change. And it could surpass the rise in other places, The New York Times reports. A study from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography says ocean winds that have spared us here are set to shift.
It sounds serious: “Airports, homes and golf courses could flood, some coastal property holdings could vanish, and sewers could flood with corrosive saltwater.”
The Wonderful Elfin Forest
Our new and bigger photo blog shows off its stuff with some behind-the-scene shots in the Elfin Forest outpost of local sculptor Anne Mudge. We profiled Mudge earlier this week, taking a special interest in the contrast between her private living and her public art. Now, we get a better look at the work she produces and her space.
Bus. Rapid. Transit.
It might sound like an oxymoron for bus travelers here, but there’s a specific type of bus travel that’s key to the region’s nearly $200 billion plan for transportation: Bus Rapid Transit. Adrian Florido profiles this enigma of the roads: It’s got lots of the benefits of trains, but is much cheaper to achieve. At the same time, it requires freeway expansion to accommodate.
Trump’s Baja Bust
While he flashes around his business bona fides and prepares for a presidential run, Donald Trump is now having to answer questions about his business deals — at least one of which is familiar to San Diegans.
If you drove down the coast just past Tijuana in recent years, you saw Trump’s mug all over a billboard selling condos in a five-star ocean front resort in Playas del Tijuana. That deal never came through, investors lost out and, it turns out, Trump was never the developer. He’d just licensed his name to the project in exchange for a fee, something that apparently happened in developments across the country. (NYT)
Who Moved My Chuck E. Cheese?
A new lawsuit by a San Diego woman accuses Chuck E. Cheese of illegally promoting gambling by offering children rewards for playing games. California allows prizes for games of skill, but lawyers for the local woman say the games are based mostly on chance.
As someone who spent many hours honing his skee-ball talents in the noisy confines of Chuck E. Cheese, let me be the first to offer a spirited objection to the idea that these are not games of skill.
My collection of prized wooden Chuck E. Cheese backscratchers can attest to that.