There are dozens of elected officials in our county, from the high-profile congressional and state representatives to the folks who spend their time overseeing obscure agencies like water districts.

And then there are the people who get elected to run hospitals. Yes, hospitals. Thanks to a quirk in San Diego County’s history, we’re home to four government-run hospital districts, which soak up property taxes and borrow money on the public dime.

What’s up with these things? We take a look in a new Reader’s Guide. Pay special attention if you live in North County or East County: You’re probably covered by one of these hospital agencies, and each one has a unique story to tell about revenue (or lack thereof), management and its ability to play well with others.

We also examine a big issue: Why bother having a public hospital if it’s going to partner with a private health system?

Poor Got Boost from Farmers Market Vouchers

In a new story, we check out a study’s findings about a unique program that helps San Diego-area poor people get access to healthier food by giving them extra funds to spend at local farmers markets.

The Day in the Mayor’s Race

We’re all enjoying a nice breather from the mayor’s race, but it won’t last for long: The run-off election is scheduled for… Hey, wait. When is the election scheduled?

Feb. 4, maybe. Or Feb. 11, possibly. Or maybe another date, the U-T reports. It’s all up in the air at the moment thanks to a few complicating factors.

One thing is clear: Replacing the previous mayor will cost taxpayers as much as $9.2 million.

The City’s Weird Sewage Warranty Deal

You know how you might be paying an extra fee to cover repairs if something happens to the cable-TV wiring in your house? Through a lucrative partnership with a private company, the city is now offering a similar kind of coverage to property owners concerned about the sewage lines at their homes.

Some residents got letters about the coverage and thought it was a scam. Nope, reports U-T columnist Dan McSwain, but the “sewer warranty” is no sweet deal either, “unless you somehow know your sewer is about to break.”

“San Diego is endorsing this product without knowing anything about the risk of losses,” he writes. And as financial protection goes, this is quite pricey: the product “costs at least $103 a year to cover up to $4,000 in repairs to only the length of sewer pipe that connects a house or condo to the city’s main service in the street.”

Quick News Hits

San Diego Explained, our video series in conjunction with NBC San Diego, explores the tangled web of the city’s high-profile loss in a big case involving pension proceeds for retired employees.

• The McStay family homicide case is on the cover of People magazine.

• “The U-T San Diego ownership thinks secessionist proponents are onto something,” the paper declares in a new editorial.

• CNN offers five quirky things about San Diego. Unlike a lot of similar lists, this one isn’t terrible.

• “Winemakers in Baja California, Mexico are outraged by a recent change in land-use regulations that they say opens the main wine valley to urbanization,” KPBS reports. At issue is the Valle de Guadalupe near Ensenada.

• Following up on a story we mentioned in yesterday’s Morning Report: “The District Attorney’s Office has dropped a felony vandalism charge against an Ocean Beach man for pruning foliage on city property, citing the likelihood it will grow back,” the U-T reports.

• San Diego Family Magazine offers a handy guide to local Christmas light displays.

• Who’s the richest (and poorest) of them all? A Washington Post map has the answer: It pinpoints the zip codes in the county where the wealthiest and poorest people live, along with everybody in between. Check the map here and a legend that tells you what the colors represent here. (The yellow ones are “Super Zips” with the nation’s highest levels of income and education.)

Type in your zip code here and you’ll get information about the overall income and education levels of your neighbors.

• What does San Diego’s street grid reveal about the city? As a guy who — and this is true — lives between 34th Street and 34th Street, I’ve always assumed city planners spent too much time at a downtown saloon. But that’s not all, Atlantic Cities reports.

A software developer has created a tool that allows people to figure out how friendly their street grids are to cars and pedestrians: “In most cities with wide streets and big blocks, [he] says, precious little space is allotted to pedestrians.”

Of course, wide streets can also create a sense of great openness if they’re not swarming with cars: Think of mostly deserted suburban streets or even those in places like Normal Heights that seem to have been designed with streetcars in mind. And the narrow streets of old American and European cities can make you feel boxed in.

They might even make you wish there was some giant expanse of endless open space out there. To the west, maybe. Oh well, just an idea.

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.

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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