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You know those cookie-cutter homes, sprawling shopping malls and ghastly business parks that represent suburbs at their worst? An idea has been percolating around the world of community planning: Let’s turn these suburban wastelands into places that look more like urban cities.

The idea is that urban areas, like downtowns, are better for the environment because you can get places without a car and you don’t need a big home with a yard. Now, the concept is getting attention as city leaders consider the fate of Carmel Valley’s One Paseo project.

The debate: Does the project represent a pathetic last gasp of the past? Or the dawn of a brighter future?

To Market Tourism or Not to Market Tourism?

The local tourism industry was hopping mad during the dispute earlier this year over funding that’s used to market the city. But while millions weren’t spent, people kept coming. In fact, as we report, hotel occupancy rates actually inched up a little bit.

But tourism boosters are skeptical about the meaning of that number, and they’ve found other statistics that present a different picture. We check them out in our new story.

As Sentencing Looms, an Isolated Filner

• Former Mayor Bob Filner will be sentenced by a judge Monday. It seems to be unlikely that his sentence will be anything other than terms negotiated in a plea deal. The U-T has a rundown. Among other things, he faces three months of “house arrest” (he will be able to leave for various reasons), three years of probation and a ban on appealing his case or seeking public office. He may also be required to stay away from his victims.

• What’s Filner up to? He’s been spotted jogging and hanging out with his grandchildren. But “he’s stopped seeing most of the people who once called themselves his friends, including those who stood by him in the thick of the scandal. Or maybe they’ve stopped seeing him,” the U-T reports.

A few friends and allies talked to the paper, but it’s not clear how much they really know and some refuse to be identified.

• The U-T also examines the legal problems, including at least one lawsuit, that Filner — and by extension the city — still face.

Understanding Obamacare: The Maze Facing the Disabled

Disabled people often face challenges bigger than their disabilities alone. “Many have several doctors, multiple coverage providers, case workers and advocates and none of them are really talking to one another,” we report.

Will health care reform help them? That’s the question we examine in the latest in our series of Second Opinion Q-and-As about Obamacare.

VOSD Radio: The Big Bolt Blackout

• The latest edition of the VOSD Radio — which comes in a half-hour show and hour-long podcast — examines issues to keep in mind as the Chargers continue to allow games to be blacked out on local TV when ticket sales slump.

The week’s guest is Lani Lutar, a former taxpayer advocate who’s now executive director of the nonprofit Equinox Center, which focuses on the environment. She talks about her mission to ban or at least limit the use of plastic bags.

• The Top 10 list of the most popular VOSD stories of the past week is topped by a look at the battle over drive-thru restaurants in gentrifying North Park. Readers were also attracted to stories about the Chargers blackout, the mission of UCSD’s chancellor and the county’s public hospital systems.

Quick News Hits

• The bizarre saga of the Stephanie Crowe murder case (“arguably the most tortured criminal case in county history”) took another twist last week when a jury acquitted a one-time transient named Richard Tuite of killing the 12-year-old from Escondido in 1998. He’d been convicted before.

“It’s a case drowned by reasonable doubt,” the U-T reports in a summary.

• The Los Angeles Times has a rundown over the various political groups that are in a rush to put measures on the state ballot next year, including “propositions to increase medical malpractice awards, hike tobacco taxes and give local governments the right to scale back public employee pensions, among other ideas.”

The Legislature can put measures on the ballot, and so can voters if they can get more than half a million valid signatures.

• Members of the San Diego City Council have full-time jobs (although it may not seem that way this month when they have five days of Council meetings and 15 days for “legislative recess.”) But their pay is on the lower side as City Hall jobs go: They make $75,386 a year plus benefits.

There’s been debate over the years about whether they deserve a raise. Maybe their pay could be linked to that of judges? That’s how it’s done in Los Angeles. But, as the L.A. Times notes in a bristling editorial, that means the Council members there are now making $181,292.

• Think it’s cold this morning? The weather forecast calls for even chillier temperatures tonight, down into the 30s along the coast.

It doesn’t sound like we’ll get anywhere near San Diego’s all-time record low of 25 degrees, which we reached on Jan. 7, 1913. It was big news at the time, but folks didn’t want out-of-towners to find out about our non-sunny-and-warm weather.

In fact, a crowd in downtown turned on a man who planned to take photos of kids chipping ice off the Horton Plaza fountain and send them back east on postcards. “The cry was taken up by the crowd and the man’s camera was smashed,” the San Diego Sun reported. “Someone took a swing at him, but missed him, and he fled hurriedly down the street.”

Lesson: Don’t screw around with tourism. Try that kind of nonsense today, mister, and we’ll run you out of town on a tweet.

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 and follow him on Twitter:

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Randy Dotinga

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

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