The U.S Department of Homeland Security has opened hundreds of internal investigations on its customs and border patrol agents, according to the LA Times, which recounts a Senate committee hearing focused on corruption prevention.

Since 2004 the department has doubled the number of officers watching the border, many of them “younger, less experienced, and in need of seasoned supervisors,” according to Alan Bersin, Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (also known here as a former superintendent of San Diego schools).

They were also hired without a polygraph test, which is now required by law. When polygraphs have been given, “60% were deemed unsuitable for hiring, suggesting that many agents now patrolling the U.S. border with Mexico may have joined ‘with corruption already in mind.’”

Corruption isn’t the only roadblock to keeping border crime under control: just plain bad ideas may be at work, too. One operation intentionally allowed weapons to enter Mexico illegally so they could be tracked to the crime lords. Two of the guns have since been implicated in the deaths of American border agents.

In an interview we did with Bersin last fall, he defined control of the border as being as much about perception as what can be seen in crime statistics. “It’s a combination of crime statistics. San Diego, El Paso and Phoenix are among the safest cities in the United States measured by FBI crime statistics. It’s also a matter of subjective perception. People’s perceptions have a certain reality in their own. You can argue with them, but you won’t persuade them that they don’t feel unsafe when they do.”

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• The head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said he’s considering giving the agency’s lawyers more discretion to decide whom to prosecute and deport, which may lead to fewer cases involving undocumented immigrants who are in-country with family and do not have criminal records. The agency makes hundreds of thousands of arrests along the US-Mexico border each year. (Sacramento Bee)

• It’s not a new issue: We took a look in 2006 at a string of high-profile border corruption cases happening here in San Diego.

Redevelopment Yo-Yo

On Wednesday it looked like the state bills that gutted redevelopment were the beginning of the end for that money spigot.

But yesterday Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the state budget. He told the LA Times the budget “contains legally questionable maneuvers, costly borrowing and unrealistic savings,” among other failures.

For now, that means redevelopment likely continues in its current form, since Sacramento Capitol-watchers think the governor will veto the redevelopment-slaughtering bills, too.

In the comments on that story there’s the usual back and forth about the value of redevelopment, and this joke:

Q. You know how you can tell you’re in a part of the city which benefitted from redevelopment?

A. You have to pay for parking.

Why They Budged on the Budget

By the way, local Capitol-watchers think the budget and its veto thing might be a ruse and that everyone’s in on it.

Here’s why: Under the terms of Proposition 25 the Assembly had to pass a balanced budget by June 15 in order for members to get their paychecks.

So, right before the deadline came down they passed whatever they had, supposedly (the cynical observers say) knowing that Gov. Brown would veto it and they would get paid. The catch: No one’s offering much proof.

Brown says it’s up to the state controller to decide whether a vetoed budget still counts as passed, and, therefore, whether the payroll will be released.

The veto wasn’t a partisan act, by the way: the budget was put together and passed by Brown’s fellow Democrats. CityBeat Editor Dave Rolland wrote on Twitter that if the Democratic anger over Brown vetoing the budget is genuine, then it is a “defining moment in Brown’s tenure.”

• The San Diego Politico blog is quoting the San Diego County Democratic Party as claiming that Democratic voter registrations in the county once again outnumber Republican registrations. As recently as September 2010 Republicans had regained the majority (U-T).

What College-Bound Success Looks Like

Every graduate of Barrio Logan College Institute has gone to college for the last 15 years. The school’s strategy? Informing children and parents that college is a practical, real possibility with lots of advantages — and even psyching them up for it.

“Barrio Logan College Institute gives kids from poor families all the information, opportunities and college pressure that wealthier kids might take for granted. It changes the question from whether they’ll go to college to where,” writes education reporter Emily Alpert. “And that coaxing comes from Latino adults who know what it’s like, who were the first in their families to go to college too.”

High School Journalism Winners

We take it as part of our responsibility to the community to nurture good journalism in all its forms, by mentoring journalism students through classroom visits, workshops, volunteer opportunities and internships. So we’re happy to announce the winners of our first-ever Awards for Excellence in High School Journalism. Congratulations to them all! Each winner will receive a $500 scholarship.

He Wants Justice

Our media partner NBC San Diego quotes a bound-and-robbed store owner as saying he’ll pay a bounty for the capture of the men who tied up him and his daughter and robbed his store.

I would like them dead. That’s against the law, so please don’t run out and kill them. But they have hurt me and my family very much. Personally, I don’t like them. But we don’t want to cause people getting shot, so I won’t give a reward if you bring me their head on a platter. I will give a $10,000 reward for their a— in jail.

Environmental News Blips

Car-charging stations are now available in Balboa Park (KPBS). The company installing them, ECOtality, plans to install many more in the county.

• Vintners are putting new wine in old bottles, a recycling strategy that failed before. Now the sanitized and reused bottles are apparently competitive with the cost of new bottles from China, especially for small and mid-sized wineries. (U-T)

• San Diego Metro profiles a paperless law firm (excepting a few Post-It notes and things of that sort). Digitizing its files means less office space is required and working from just about anywhere is easier, including when vacationing in Orlando. Going paperless apparently does not excuse a lawyer from working all the time.


Keep your eyes peeled for unexpected yarn-splosions. Knitters (two needles) and crocheters (one needle) are practicing yarn-bombing in our midst, which is the creation of cozy yarn coverings for unexpected things like bicycle baskets and bridge handrails. The whole thing can be kind of wonderful.

How Are Arts Groups Surviving?

The headline of one article in the Union-Tribune says arts groups are “blooming in harsh economic climate.” It may be simply a headline writer’s on-deadline overstatement, however, as the article makes it plain that it’s still rough going and a second article says a decades-old arts group is dissolving due to financial difficulties.

Arts Editor Kelly Bennett is putting together the big picture view of the health of San Diego’s arts community. How’s your organization doing? Is funding getting better? Or is it still a struggle?

Get Your Stories Straight

• On Saturday, the Storytellers of San Diego and the Encinitas branch of the San Diego County Library will host their first-ever San Diego Storytelling Festival.

• Gary Robbins and Scott Paulson, who host a ScienceTalk podcast, are writing an old-time sci-fi radio drama and are looking for your help.

I want to be the guy who bellows “Gangbusters!” at the beginning, except it’s not a cop show. Maybe the guy who says “The Shadow knows!” and cackles? No? I can do a bunch of Muppet and Sesame Street voices, well enough to please a four-year-old, anyway.

I’m Grant Barrett, engagement editor for Drop me a line at, call me at (619) 550-5666, and follow me on Twitter @grantbarrett.

Summer Polacek was formerly the Development Manager at Voice of San Diego.

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