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A local environment advocate chided San Diego in a tweet the other day: “To close driest year ever, water use last month in SD was up 25% over the same month a year ago. Do better.”

Ouch. Could that really be true? Did we take longer showers and water our lawns more as a potentially historic drought kicked up? (Don’t look at me!) San Diego Fact Check examined the claim and finds … yeah, sorta. In our view, it’s Mostly True.

Technically, yes, we used 25 percent more potable water in December 2013 than the previous December. But there’s more to the story. For one thing, gardeners and farmers had to use more water because the month was especially dry. For another, we didn’t increase our water usage that much comparing year to year — and water usage is down over the long term.

About Those ‘Massive’ Pay Raises

It’s down to the wire, and the mayoral candidates are making their last arguments. One that keeps popping up in Scott Lewis’ mailbox from the Kevin Faulconer camp: David Alvarez voted for big pay hikes for unions.

That’s interesting for two reasons: It’s referring to the big five-year labor deals, and Faulconer didn’t just vote for the same deal, he said he led the charge. And Faulconer suggests to us that Alvarez wanted much more for unions – in doing so, he’s offering some details on negotiations that are supposed to be secret. Faulconer says ultimately, he voted for much smaller union raises and the deal that happened was a compromise.

Clarifying the Debate Over Fire Response

The city is trying to provide better emergency response by the Fire Rescue Department, which actually spends most of its time helping people with medical emergencies, not fighting fires. There’s a debate over how to spend money: Should the department focus on building smaller (and presumably faster-responding) teams or new fire stations or some combination?

In a new story, we look at questions raised by Councilwoman Marti Emerald at a recent meeting — she’s skeptical of the smaller teams — and explain why she’s distorting the big picture and throwing around a red herring.

There They Go Again: Puncturing the Housing Fee Myth

Mayoral candidate David Alvarez is the latest official to accuse opponents of the big boost in affordable housing fee — levied on builders — of never bothering to suggest an alternative. As we explain in a new story, they did.

In particular, they offered to go for a lesser fee hike: “If Council Democrats had said yes, the smaller increase would have happened. The Council majority has every right to pursue the larger increase, but that doesn’t mean the compromise offer didn’t exist.”

Commentary: School Board’s Disastrous Decision

Nicole Temple Assisi, founder and chief executive of Thrive Public School, writes a commentary in our pages about her failed bid to persuade the San Diego school board to approve a charter school. We earlier reported about the reasons why the decision (which isn’t final) was mighty peculiar.

“It was not the finest hour for the SDUSD board of trustees, which ignored district staff diligence and its own existing policies to deny a school that would have served the influx of families in Mission Valley,” she writes. “The neighborhood, by the way, does not currently have a single public elementary school.”

Quick News Hits

• CityBeat slaps around a misleading mailer targeting mayoral candidate Alvarez.

Meanwhile, columnist John Lamb takes aim at another mailer that quotes a Latina woman — a Democrat — as saying “David Alvarez doesn’t understand the needs of most communities. Unless you live in one of his three chosen neighborhoods, he’s written you off.”

Funny story: She appears to live in National City (making her ineligible to vote for San Diego mayor and definitely “written off” by both campaigns), and the photo appears to have been taken there too.

• The Atlantic Cities website examines the murky law regarding traffic stops and police dogs. Check our primers about traffic stops here and here.

• KPBS reports that sheriff’s deputies will get an 8 percent raise over four years per a new contract. Could that spell trouble for the SDPD’s hiring efforts?

• Politico chronicles the power of labor in this former GOP stronghold.

• The L.A Times examines the prospect of the Chargers skipping town now that there’s more progress toward a stadium in Los Angeles. Still, the Chargers aren’t leaving soon.

San Diego’s Biggest Big Shots, Circa 1985

My Google search for mentions of the late Neil Morgan turned up a fun artifact from San Diego’s history: a 1985 L.A. Times story noting the results of a poll of the city’s insiders about who the city’s top insiders are. (No, that’s not a misprint: They asked movers and shakers to name other movers and shakers. Service-y!)

So how does the 56-person list look now, almost three decades later?

Many of the dozens of people are no longer with us, including Joan Kroc and several businesspeople. (Bankers overall seem to have declined in influence since the 1980s, perhaps due to mergers). Two female politicians who didn’t poll that well would become mayor in a few years. Not a single Latino made the list, and only two African-Americans did.

And then there’s the matter of the guy at the top of the list: then-Mayor Roger Hedgecock, who found himself in a mess of legal trouble that would ultimately end with his record being expunged. “The sponsor of the poll said the mayor’s conviction probably would have had a bearing on Hedgecock’s ranking,” the newspaper story notes.

Here’s hoping that made it onto a list of San Diego’s top understatements of the 1980s.

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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