The Morning Report
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Every week in Saturday’s Morning Report we do a wrap up of five things we learned that week.
It’s usually beneath the immediate news of the day. But I’m trying something new today and starting with it. Let me know what you think.
5 Things We Learned This Week
1. The New U-T Does Indeed Want to Be a Player: San Diego got a clear idea this week of what new owner Doug Manchester wants to do with the paper.
A front-page editorial screamed for us to “Think Big” and advocated a downtown waterfront mega-project featuring a Convention Center expansion, a Chargers stadium, a basketball arena, man-made beaches and a mysterious “civic icon.” The paper called the proposal its No. 1 priority, though it didn’t get many backers. The Chargers were excited. My friend Scott Lewis called it “half baked.” The mayor just ignored it. Today, a panel of economists largely panned it.
Manchester learned something that every journalist learns early on: Your first front-page story rarely has the impact you hope for.
Now we watch to see what the paper does from here. Rob Davis asked in his big Manchester profile whether the aggressive developer would use the paper as a bullhorn or a bludgeon. He just used it as a bullhorn. If people don’t respond, will he use it as a bludgeon?
2. The Convention Center Expansion Keeps Moving Along: Despite the newspaper’s new vision, the old plan for an expanded Convention Center moved on. Liam Dillon painted a rare behind-the-scenes picture of the power-brokering that went on during the public hearing on a tax increase.
The hubbub arose after Carl DeMaio wanted to cap the taxpayer contribution, but found out that the council actually had already lost its chance to do that. Still, as Dillon pointed out, there are five roadblocks — some serious — still standing in the way.
One other problem: analyses like these from University of California, San Diego Ph.D candidate and former VOSD reporter Vlad Kogan. “Those of us who are skeptical about the wisdom of the proposed expansion and would prefer instead to invest the expected $520 million cost into much more essential and productive civic infrastructure — with the potential to benefit many more San Diegans — should welcome the opportunity to debate the merits of the project on economic rather than political grounds, because it’s a debate project supporters are sure to lose.”
3. Another Swindler Bit the Dust: Three years ago, we brought you the tale of a staggering swindle: A wild mortgage fraud ring that netted the colorful mastermind’s company at least $12.5 million from three San Diego County developments. We learned this week that this mastermind, Jim McConville, had pleaded guilty to money laundering and conspiracy to commit fraud.
4. Maybe SD County’s Transit Plan Faces Real Trouble: Attorney General Kamala Harris added her office’s might to environmentalists’ lawsuit against the region’s $200 billion, four-decade transit plan. She’s concerned that the plan doesn’t do enough to combat climate change and will set a bad precedent for other planning agencies across the state. We have the breaking news and a bunch of easy-to-digest context.
5. How Sweetwater Got in Hot Water: We’ve heard now for months about the gifts bestowed upon Sweetwater school district officials by a contractor who’s charged with bribery. But what did he receive? We take a look at how his company, and others, benefitted when school officials ignored their internal recommendations and sent work the companies’ way.
Honorable Mentions: Crime continues to drop despite the economic malaise; San Diego got ranked as the No. 1 city for solar; and a bunch of Christmas performers and business people got totally shorted by a young entrepreneur who promised a yuletide nirvana.
The Evolution of (The Museum of) Man
The Museum of Man in Balboa Park is undergoing a major transition toward becoming a center where people go to better understand each other.
In our weekly Q&A, we talk with executive director Micah Parzen about that shift. Randy Dotinga, in typical Randy Dotinga fashion, asks Parzen: “Does that mean less focus on old stuff?”
The reply: “Possibly, but I think it means a different and innovative focus on old stuff. We are history, and the artifacts that we steward are our collective stories as a community, a region and humanity.”
• The top comments of the week feature reader insights on libraries, a Christmas nightmare and transit. Like this one from Omar Passons: “But as long as we have pipes bursting and in need of repair, wastewater problems, roads, sidewalks and public buildings in the rest of San Diego that need attention it is patently offensive to dismiss honest public debate as reactionary rhetoric. “
• The new fence being built at the border is cutting off access to the border monuments that once stood as the sole markers separating the United States and Mexico.
Here along our border, “peering through the new vertical bars and double mesh on a recent day, you could still make out a marble, pyramid-shaped monument on the other side,” reports KPBS. You’ll see a familiar name and writing style on that piece — it’s from former VOSD reporter Adrian Florido. He, to my joy, has landed on KBPS’ Frontera desk, where he’ll be able to put his smooth voice to work on the airwaves.
• OK, if you can get past the headline on this one (Kissing Severed Heads), you’ll be good. Kelly Bennett went to the final rehearsal for San Diego Opera’s “Salome” and put together a collection of comments and reaction from the staging.
In House News
• This year I’m trying to explain more to the public about why we do the things we do here. My first take was this piece: Why We Consider Ourselves Truth Vigilantes.
Press critic and New York University professor Jay Rosen, who I quoted in the piece, highlighted it yesterday, contrasting it to a statement from a major newspaper and asked the question: “Over which of these two statements on fact checking does the flame of a free press burn brighter?”
• Do you want to know what we’re reading? In a new feature, Dagny Salas has the VOSD reading list.
Quote of the Week
“I have 80% of inmates that would vote for you. They might not be able to but their extended families will.”
— Former Congressman Duke Cunningham in a jailhouse letter to Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich.
Number of the Week
— The priority rank at the U-T San Diego of the U-T San Diego’s waterfront mega-project idea.