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The city is boosting water rates and debuting a new four-tier system that’s designed to encourage heavy water users to cut down. That’s a lot for residents who pay water bills to take in, and now there’s another complication.

As we report, “a calculator on the city’s website that aims to show city water users how the recent changes will affect them has the potential to add to the confusion about how residents will actually be affected.”

The problem is that the city calculator estimates monthly costs, while single-family-home property owners get billed based for two-month periods. In fact, the city doesn’t even calculate how much water these users use each month; they only look at the two-month total.

Natural Hassles Lurk for Waterfront Builders

San Diego’s waterfront features a glittering array of skyscrapers, shops and tourist attractions, not to mention a sprawling convention center that’s poised to get even bigger if judges pave the way. Others want to build by the bay too.

But bayside growth isn’t just a matter of jumping through bureaucratic hoops, although that’s a big part of it. The natural environment itself poses lots of challenges.

We explore three obstacles created by Mother Nature, who clearly isn’t a developer’s best friend: beach erosion, coastal flooding (which researchers fear is poised to get much worse) and the supply of drinking water.

For Once, an Engaging Government Twitter Feed

The county’s taxpayer-funded “news” site has gotten a fair amount of flak from the local media, which has noted its puffy we’re-really-great attitude and even called it a “propaganda machine.”

But the county communications department and its $3 million annual budget do more than keep the online San Diego County News Center up and running. These public relations gurus also operate one of the most engaging government Twitter feeds around at @sandiegocounty.

In a new Q-and-A, I checked in with the director of the communications department to ask about how the Twitter feed is run, where it fits into the county’s overall public relations strategy and what it’s accomplished so far.

Inside the Battle to Fight Hunger in City Heights

In a new story, we check in on efforts to bring healthy food to residents of urban neighborhoods like City Heights and not simply assume that people prefer to chow down on junk food. “I went in with some assumptions,” says the head of a local anti-hunger organization. “I thought families were choosing not to eat healthy food. I had to educate myself as families would come up to me requesting that we provide healthier options.”

Now, at least one food organization is turning down donations of junk food and focusing on fruits, vegetables and other highly nutritious food.

To Referendum or Not to Referendum?

• CityBeat checks in on the accusations that lies are spouting from the mouths of opponents of a compromise vision for the future of the Barrio Logan neighborhood (we reported on misinformation being spread by some Barrio Logan signature-gatherers back in October). Foes have been gathering petition signatures from voters in a bid to kill the plan. “I don’t think there’s ever been a case of voter fraud in California quite this bad, in particular where we have evidence of it,” said an attorney. “This isn’t one or two signature gatherers. This is ubiquitous.”

Kevin Faulconer, the councilman and mayoral candidate who’s allied himself with the business types opposing the Barrio Logan plan, supports the petition drive and told CityBeat: “I’m hopeful the court will not stand in the way of San Diegans voting on this plan if the City Council does not rescind it.”

Last month, we explained what petition gatherers can and can’t say when they try to get your signature.

• In an editorial, CityBeat blasts Faulconer and his “lying friends.”

• However, CityBeat columnist John Lamb drops by a sparsely attended Faulconer press conference and finds that the councilman is not big on the idea of a referendum drive to kill the recently approved affordable housing fee, also known as linkage fee. The press conference was held in a $1,000-a-night presidential suite at a downtown Marriott.

• In a VOSD commentary, Sean Karafin, an economic policy analyst at the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, explores options to provide more affordable housing in the city: “To solve San Diego’s housing crisis, we need to better promote the development of new housing units while simultaneously attracting and keeping high-paying jobs.”

Quick News Hits

• Blackout! No, not the kind that hit us in 2011. This is a Chargers blackout: The team’s home game on Sunday won’t be broadcast on local TV, the first time this has happened all season, VOSD sports blogger John Gennaro reports in the weekly Sports Report.

• Here’s the headline on Thursday’s biggest local news story and what’s likely to be the most awkward family interaction of the holiday weekend: “Brother-Sister Bomb Hoax Halts I-15 Traffic.”

• Pro-tip from the crime files of the North County town of Fallbrook: Don’t rob the 7-Eleven store at gunpoint when deputies are out front. Especially when there’s not one police car, not two police cars, but three sitting in the parking lot.

For that, all of Fallbrook — well, almost all of Fallbrook — can be thankful.

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego and vice president of the American Society of Journalists & Authors. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

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Randy Dotinga

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

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