As San Diego struggles to catch up to other cities’ technology and open data capabilities, classic problems of service delivery need to be addressed alongside policies that open up the city’s data.

“To do open data right, San Diego will have to give the public confidence that the information is timely and accurate,” writes Joel Hoffman, who moderated an open data panel Thursday. That’s a real challenge in a city that, according to one recent audit,  “does not have a strategic direction or policy initiative” when it comes to the delivery of services through technology like websites or apps.

While the city’s comparatively ancient  technology services might be a big, dark cloud over local government, City Councilman Mark Kersey saw at least one silver lining. “I would say the only real advantage to being so far behind everyone else is that we can learn from what everyone else has done,” Kersey said.

Last-Ditch Efforts

Having been defeated at City Council, organized employers in San Diego are pushing to defeat the recently approved affordable housing fee increase by taking the issue directly to voters. The costly practice of challenging city policies by putting them up for a public vote isn’t new, but business leaders are more frequently turning to public referendums as their last hope for setting policy.

The referendum process is available to anyone who can gather enough signatures to have an issue placed on the ballot. Anyone who can afford it, that is. “It’s a process by which it’s easier for people that have a large bankroll,” said former City Councilwoman Donna Frye.

All the President’s Time

At the end of a San Diego Unified School District meeting on Tuesday, the role of board president was handed over from John Lee Evans to Kevin Beiser. What of it? Education blogger Christie Ritter looked into why the role of president matters, since the pay is the same, as is the ability to place items on the agenda.

The big difference, aside from attending more ceremonies, is how much more time the board’s president and vice president must commit to their roles.

The Active Life: San Diego Explained

San Diego’s exceptional weather supports a local “sports and active lifestyle” economy that boasts 23,000 jobs and $1.5 billion in local activity. Those figures put the city second on a list of cities with the largest amount of activity in that sector. Andrew Keatts joined NBC 7 San Diego’s Catherine Garcia to break down what local companies account for all that economic activity in our most recent San Diego Explained. How we came in second to Seattle, though, is still unclear.

On Babies and Bathwater

We recently reported on several ideas to fix the city’s managed competition process, each of which has wide support. But not everyone thinks these ideas, or even the practice of managed competition in general, are worth the time. “We believe managed competition is flawed beyond repair,” writes Peter Brownell, research director at the Center on Policy Initiatives, in a letter. “It’s time for San Diego to haul this clunker to the junk heap.”

News Nibbles

• House candidate Carl DeMaio wants Republicans to focus on his record instead of his sexual orientation when they consider whether the GOP should support him. “A year from now, I want people talking about the DeMaio budget,” DeMaio told D.C.’s The Hill newspaper.

• The end of the controversial Mount Soledad cross, long embattled in state and federal courts, may finally be in sight as a federal judge ruled that the cross must be removed. The judge stayed the removal order to allow for more appeals, so you probably have plenty of time to go see the cross if you’d like.

• Christmas is shaping up to be a lot less holly-jolly for 18,000 San Diegans whose unemployment benefits are set to expire before year’s end.

• “Former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner has been sued by another city employee, one day after he was sentenced to home confinement for the unwanted groping of women,” the Daily Transcript reports.

• After months of free parking at the new downtown library, fees are now collected after one complimentary hour has been consumed. Visitors say the parking rent is too damn high.

• A giant red box shaped like a Christmas gift is sitting in Balboa Park, tagged “To San Diego, from Southwest Airlines.” Your guess is as good as any.

The Lowest

Bell ringers are out in force with their red kettles and good tidings, collecting donations for the Salvation Army. But somewhere in Lakeside, there is a Grinch among us.

“Robbers distracted a bell ringer near the store’s side entrance, grabbed the iconic red kettle and ran away,” reports the U-T. The robbery stung extra sharp this year since the Salvation Army has reported decreased giving in that area and has deployed extra workers to try to make up the difference. Salvation Army officials asked that communities keep watch over their local bell ringers. I’ve found most of them to be great conversationalists, if you have the time (they sure do). If you’re really nice, they may even let you ring the bell a few times.

Seth Hall is a local writer and technologist. You can reach him at or follow him on Twitter: @loteck.

Seth Hall

Seth Hall is a local writer and technologist. You can reach him at or follow him on Twitter: @loteck.

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