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The state has been busy shifting upkeep of low-level prisoners — both during and after their time behind bars — to counties.

County Supervisor Bill Horn claimed the other day that the shift caused theft in the county to rise by 16 percent.

San Diego Fact Check finds he’s wrong. Theft has actually gone up by 3 percent. “By claiming a 16 percent increase, he essentially made about 5,300 additional crimes appear out of thin air,” our data specialist Keegan Kyle reports. “And those thousands of nonexistent crimes helped bolster his criticism” of the state.

Auditor: City at Risk of Corruption

The city’s system to grant building permits has holes that could allow developers to engage in corruption by convincing employees to adjust permit prices, San Diego’s auditor says. “It creates an environment where someone lone or rogue could do it,” he tells us.

It may seem like few people are building anything these days, but the city’s Development Services Department processed $1.16 billion in city permits in 2011.

The head of the department, however, says the auditors are full of baloney and don’t understand the controls that are in place.

The audit didn’t find any sign of corruption.  

Fact Check TV: Pothole Patrol

Councilman Kevin Faulconer told a TV audience that it’ll take just 4-5 days for a pothole to get fixed once you report it. Fact Check TV finds that he’s extremely over-optimistic about the reality. Our recent story has more details about how long your friendly neighborhood pothole will be screwing up your alignment.   

On Homeless Congressmen

One of my favorite Voice of San Diego moments came when one of our reporters uncovered how the district used taxpayer funds to pay for $57-plus meals for school officials. “Have you ever tried to eat on $25?” the schools superintendent asked when challenged. “I promise you it is very difficult to do.”

Life is tough, I tell you. How tough? Well, local congressman Duncan D. Hunter (the son of his predecessor) makes $174,000 but still ends up sleeping in his D.C. office, the U-T reported. “I work until I go to sleep, and then I sleep a bit, and I wake up. It’s like in Iraq,” Hunter said.

U-T columnist Logan Jenkins is amused, imagining a Hooverville of homeless congressfolk “heating up a tin pan of beans, maybe playing ‘Oh Shenandoah’ on the harmonica before stripping down to skivvies and pulling out bedrolls from beneath desks.”

Medical Marijuana Crackdown Tallied

The U.S. attorney’s office that covers San Diego and Imperial counties says 217 local medical marijuana dispensaries have been shut down, the NY Times reports.

The conventional wisdom is that just about anyone can get a medical marijuana license from a willing doctor — for a stubbed toe, say, or a pimple, or nothing at all — and start smoking. I haven’t seen any journalism or other evidence that actually confirms this notion here. (I’m even willing to stub my toe and test it out, but no editor has asked.)

The assumption is widespread, facts be darned, and Laura Duffy, the local U.S. attorney, believes it. In fact, she thinks it’s rampant.  

“Most often the individuals who are visiting these places have obtained sham doctor recommendations for really no purpose other than to engage in the recreational use of marijuana,” she tells the paper.

Shark Sighted off La Jolla

A lifeguard spotted a great white shark off La Jolla Shores beach yesterday, and authorities closed a stretch of the beach and issued warnings elsewhere, NBC 7 San Diego reports.

For more about sharks — which have killed people off our coast — check my story from last year titled 5 Things You Should Know about Sharks. The big message: Shark attacks are extremely rare.

Also, a 2011 Fact Check revealed how a world-renowned scientist utterly blew his claim about the effect of shark attacks on local drowning rates.

Quick News Hits

Pension law leads our list of the most popular stories of the week.  

• San Diego is hosting some big time international trade negotiations.

• Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig says the prospect of the O’Malley family and others more local purchasing the Padres is “great” (Associated Press). Negotiations are reportedly continuing with the family, the heirs of a former L.A. Dodgers owner.

The city’s water system is in poor shape, reports Investigative Newsource: “Tens of thousands of valves, which shut down water in cases of leaks or breaks and turn it on to douse fires, are not maintained according to national recommendations.”

The city auditor is looking into ways to fix things, but a water official says inspections once every five years “seems to work.”

Spiders on the March

Brown widow spiders have only been around Southern California for about a decade, the LA Times reports, but they’ve still managed to turn themselves into a menace. A new study finds that they’re become more common than black widows around people’s homes and • yikes • even in patio furniture and recessed handles of garbage cans.

A bug expert tells the paper that the spider’s bite hurts, but isn’t as much of a threat to your health as a black widow’s.

If I see one of these spiders, I’ll do the obvious thing: Run for my life! (Walking for my life is also an option. But the Internet, durn it, doesn’t seem to offer any details about the brown widow spider’s speediness.)  

I won’t holler, though. That didn’t work out well during a skunk encounter in the back yard last year.

 Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at and follow him on Twitter:

Randy Dotinga

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

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