When it’s hot and windy outside, local fire officials would really like people to only use outdoor equipment before 10 a.m. and after 3 p.m. or later. But there’s no law. That means everyone from homeowners with lawnmowers to construction crews with backhoes can keep on working.

As we report in a new story, the lack of rules set the stage for at least one of last month’s devastating wildfires — the one that swept across part of the Black Mountain Ranch region of San Diego.

Equipment, it turns out, is a common cause of fires across the state. But officials are hesitant about giving the rules some teeth: You don’t want to make so many restrictions for the ‘what if?’ that economies and jobs can’t go on,” said a local fire marshal.

It All Started with a Seattle Socialist

Last year, Seattle voters sent a socialist to their City Council. She called for a big boost in the city’s minimum wage, and she succeeded. By a unanimous vote, the Seattle City Council recently approved boosting its minimum wage to a national high of $15 an hour, well above the state of Washington’s already high minimum wage of $9.32.

In a new VOSD commentary, another Seattle City Council member, Jean Godden, tells the story of her city’s bid for what supporters call a blow for social justice. Godden writes that keys to success included the creation of a 25-member commission that worked toward a “final compromise.”

Thrown Under the Bus at the Transit Agency?

Inewsource has published more than a couple dozen stories about troubles at the transit agency that runs buses and trains in North County. Now, it reports that “at least 20 high-level managers and employees at the North County Transit District have left the agency since Jan. 1, continuing an exodus that began more than a year ago.”

Severance payments cost $300,000.

Why does this matter? A former state Assemblyman says the departures raise questions about the “safety culture” at the agency.

• A new rapid bus service between downtown San Diego and North County has debuted. NBC 7 says it’s the first transit service to use those nifty I-15 express lanes.

U-T: Nothing to See Here, Move Along

Never mind those rumors about how the U-T is for sale. It’s not for sale, declared the newspaper’s president and chief operating officer Mike Hodges in an email to the staff Monday.

To make things even more clear, the message is slated to appear on page A1 of the print newspaper today.

But what about an acquisition, as head honcho John Lynch has been hinting? (“Papa Doug” Manchester told our Scott Lewis that there would be an announcement last Friday. There wasn’t one.)

Well, Hodges writes, the paper doesn’t have any purchases to announce at this time.

OK then.

Quick News Hits

• Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s budget got the green light from City Council Monday evening. Councilman David Alvarez explained his lone no vote — he said his constituents got shortchanged.

• How’d the police department lose track of $1 million? Due to a clerical error, the city says. (City News Service)

• The average wait time for new patients is 44 days for those seeking primary care or specialty care at the VA health system in San Diego, the AP reports.

The number comes from an audit that “said a 14-day target for waiting times was ‘not attainable,’ given growing demand for VA services and poor planning. It called the 2011 decision by senior VA officials setting it, and then basing bonuses on meeting the target, ‘an organizational leadership failure.’”

The audit calls out a VA clinic in Escondido for special attention, Times of San Diego reports, but it’s not clear why.

• Thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court decision, the state will continue to be responsible for monitoring about 2,000 disabled prisoners in California’s county jails and making sure they’re getting proper resources, the L.A. Times reports.

The state’s been trying to get out of being responsible for the prisoners in the wake of its decision to saddle county jails with low-level prisoners.

• The state bullet train project, which is envisioned to someday far in the future make it to San Diego, is tied up in a morass of lawsuits thanks to “the strictest engineering and spending controls ever placed on a major state project,” the L.A. Times reports.

• The San Diego History Center is holding a “Progress of Man” walking tour at Balboa Park this coming weekend. It’s about how in 1935 “a Depression-era San Diego pulled itself up out of the doldrums to create a spectacular world showcase that celebrated the Progress of Man.”

Oh. That kind of progress. I thought the tour would show how humans evolved from cavemen to Kardashians. My bad.

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly attributed a statement about the sale of U-T San Diego to John Lynch. The statement came from Doug Manchester.

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.

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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