Photos by Sam Hodgson, composite by Amy Krone
In a year that turned San Diego on its head politically, it should come as no surprise Voice of San Diego readers and staffers had plenty to say.
Op-eds ranged from standards of decorum and enforcement in the newly opened Central Library, to evaluations of the state of the city’s Republican Party. Some of the pieces in the collection below offered a novel take or healthy jolt to the overwhelming public conversation. Others prompted a significant response in the comments section — a series of thoughtful exchanges, or something that looked an awful lot like this:
These were the opinion pieces that got people talking in 2013.
Reporter Andrew Keatts’ examination of the city’s coastal height limit — which limits the height of all buildings west of the I-5 to just 30 feet — drew a blistering response. VOSD’s Scott Lewis tapped out his own reply to the vocal critics, who had accused Keatts of an apparent “jihad” on the limit itself. Lewis urged the public to return to the heart of the debate — what impact this constraint has on housing costs in San Diego.
Our community needs homes.
Now, if we don’t let them build in certain areas, that’s OK. That’s a choice.
But it’s a choice with consequences. Exploring and investigating those consequences is not a “jihad,” it’s a genuine attempt to understand how San Diego’s going to handle its future.
Then Lewis wrote another response to the comments on that piece, addressing this time his point about government solutions being just a “drop in the bucket” in making housing affordable. Eleven months later, the city’s population continues to grow and the height limit still stands.
Without an election in sight, former U-T reporter and former Mayor Jerry Sanders staffer Alex Roth had a bone to pick with San Diego’s Republican Party. Roth’s primary complaints included the party’s poor planning in backing Carl DeMaio in the 2012 mayoral primary, the candidate least likely to beat out Democrat Bob Filner, as well as GOP chairman Tony Krvaric’s general “zest for waging ideological warfare” on Twitter and beyond. Roth also pointed a finger at the editorial page of his former employer, the U-T.
In an election that Filner won by a margin of close to 24,000 votes, the irony is that the U-T’s relentless, bull-in-a-china-shop push for DeMaio might have shifted just enough votes to give Filner the victory.
A senior management analyst and member of the Municipal Employees Association had had enough of “all the negativity that has been plastered in the press about me and people like me.” Megan Sheffield’s letter addressed the city’s long-lasting pension crisis, specifically any criticism of the very employees whose benefits and wages hung in the balance of reform.
We don’t make the huge salaries and pensions that newspaper headlines inaccurately report and we are struggling with increasing costs along with you. Please! We are your neighbors, we pay taxes, buy gas and groceries, support our families, send our children to school with yours and pay mortgages — just like you.
The media frenzy of former Mayor Bob Filner’s sexual harassment scandal had one oft-overlooked consequence: It hid the attempts by Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk Ernie Dronenburg to continue denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples, VOSD’s Sara Libby pointed out. Libby argued Dronenburg deserved just as much public scrutiny as Filner:
In the end, both Filner and Dronenburg’s actions come down to stripping people of dignity.
But what separates them is that if the allegations against Filner are true, they’d violate his own stated commitment to equality. Dronenburg, on the other hand, believes his actions are part of his duty as an elected official.
Considering the economic impact of ComicCon and other conventions, the future of San Diego’s convention center arrangements has provided plenty of news fodder. Felix Niespodziewanski of the American College of Surgeons, which holds its annual meeting at the San Diego venue, piped up with the perspective city leaders fear most. He said his group would likely take its business elsewhere if San Diego pursued some of the renovation proposals making the rounds.
The proposed joint-use stadium convention center complex puts San Diego at a competitive disadvantage and would likely result in the loss of some of the largest events in our industry. Our 2017 convention alone is estimated to generate $61 million in economic impact to San Diego, as well as nearly $1 million in hotel and sales tax revenues.
The city has created an ideal package with the location of its current bayside building. Why wouldn’t San Diego want to build on that success?
The opening of the new downtown Central Library came with plenty of fanfare. But VOSD contributor Christie Ritter voiced some early criticism once she had ventured inside. Her first complaint: the lack of parking. But the thesis of her piece, which drew the biggest backlash, was her concern the library’s homeless visitors would define the institution’s place in the city.
As my 10-year-old son and I sat down to admire the gorgeous view from a comfy chair and look through the books we’d picked up off the shelves, a woman nearby let out a long, loud screech. Other nearby patrons looked alarmed and headed out of the area. My son got scared and didn’t want to be by the screamer, who had one leg splayed out over the arm of a chair. The chair next to her was loaded up with what appeared to be four or five bags full of her possessions. We left, too.
I do not begrudge anyone the right to be in the library, and I know that they might not have better options. Nonetheless, all citizens need to feel safe and comfortable using their public libraries.
Online entrepreneur Michael Robertson is among the many vocal critics around the country who aren’t happy with the Affordable Care Act. He made his displeasure known with a breakdown of the numbers involved in his family’s changing options. Once he’d done the math, Robertson decided once and for all he would pay the IRS fine of $285 instead of coughing up far more for “government-mandated” health care. He predicted others would follow suit:
For Obamacare to be financially solvent, the healthy and working must pay in and not make claims to subsidize the unhealthy, old and non-working. Once they realize the true cost, it seems unlikely they will willingly participate.
VOSD collaborator and Realtidbits founder Kelly Abbott brings us full circle, back to the housing market. Even fairly well-off San Diegans are having a tough time affording a home, Abbott pointed out.This threatens the prosperity of the city itself, Abbott argued — what incentive do professionals have to move here if they’ll have to scrounge to get by?
Often the rationale boils down to their inability to get ahead here – not being able to afford a nice place to live here but being able to afford nice places in Boulder or Austin. On Facebook, the people I graduated with shovel snow in the winter but they also own their own homes and live in nice neighborhoods and can put money away at the end of the month for vacations. This hurts our schools (because young people come here in droves but leave once they start having families) and it hurts our businesses (for the same reason).
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