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When it comes to drones — “unmanned aerial vehicles” — San Diego may be second to none, at least in the U.S. We’ve been called the “hub of the U.S. drone industry” thanks to hundreds of millions of dollars in military contracts.

It looks like drones will become an even bigger part of the local economy. Now, hot off her inquiry into SeaWorld, VOSD reporter Lisa Halverstadt is launching a new quest to understand the role drones play here and the debate over what services they can provide.

Halverstadt writes: “Both the possibilities and the current reality of the industry raise big economic and moral questions for San Diego residents, who stand to benefit from their success and also to be hampered by it in the form of intrusive spying or malfunction-caused injuries.”

Here are some questions she’ll be pursuing:

“How big is San Diego’s drone footprint, anyway? How many companies in our region play some role in unmanned systems technology – whether for military purposes or for commercial uses? How are drones already being used here? Is San Diego’s drone industry sustainable, and are there needs that aren’t being met, particularly at area universities? How are local boosters positioning our region for commercial drones’ market launch? What are the specific privacy concerns that could stymie those efforts, and are there ways to address them? And are San Diegans inclined to support both government and commercial uses of drones?”

For Business Owners, New Health Insurance Hassles

Health care reform seemed to be a boon for Allen Phillips, who runs an auto repair shop in Del Mar. He could offer a choice of two plans to his employees for the first time and get $4,000 in tax credits.

It sounded like a good deal in January. It sounded like a good deal months later. But he kept waiting and waiting for insurance cards to appear.

He has lots of company. “California’s new insurance marketplace for small businesses is off to a rough start,” Kaiser Health News reports in a story published in partnership with VOSD on our site. “It has enrolled just a fraction of eligible companies, with most being deterred by technology glitches, paperwork delays and customer service problems.”

Here Come the Ballots

Starting today, election officials around the state will start sending June primary ballots to voters.

“The state’s June 3 ballot includes contests for governor, secretary of state and other statewide offices, and for all of the state’s 53 seats in the House of Representatives, all 80 in the state Assembly and 20 of those in the 40-member state Senate,” the LA Times reports. “Voters also will decide two statewide ballot measures: a proposed bond to fund housing for veterans and a proposed constitutional amendment regarding public records and other governmental matters.”

VOSD Radio: Maximum Debate over Minimum Wage

The latest edition of the VOSD Radio Show & Expanded Podcast includes a very special guest — me. (Please, hold your applause.)

I’m on the air to chat about the debate over raising the minimum wage, which I’ve been tracking for VOSD. Our readers have plenty to say about this topic in the comments.

I also talk about my volunteer work for the American Society of Journalists & Authors, which held its annual conference in New York City last month. In partnership with the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma, I moderated a panel about how journalists can tell the stories of trauma survivors with dignity while protecting ourselves from emotional devastation. You can listen to the panel discussion here.

Quick News Hits

• U-T San Diego’s circulation levels have fallen sharply since last year, the Reader reports. Comparing the six months ending on March 31, the average circulation of the Sunday edition fell from 425,000 to 362,166.

• The U-T pays a nifty visit to the San Diego of a century ago, offering an extraordinary compare-and-contrast feature that spotlights a panoramic photo of downtown San Diego from May 1914.

The photo was taken 100 years ago from the roof of what is now the Gaslamp Plaza Suites hotel. It reveals how big San Diego was at the time and is full of fun details like a Bull Durham tobacco sign, a 5-cent cigar sign, Horton Plaza and the Grant Hotel, the old Union train station and even streetcars and a newly built Cabrillo Bridge in the distance.

The U-T annotates the photo with details and goes even further by providing a modern-day panoramic photo taken from that exact spot. Downtown is much bigger and much grander, although plenty of icons of the past still dot the skyline.

At the far right of the new photo you can see a crane and a new building under construction. And so it goes.

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego and president-elect 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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