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The California Environmental Quality Act, known as CEQA, might as well be called STOP for all the times it’s been used to halt projects in their tracks, even when there’s no actual issue regarding protection of the earth and the skies.

VOSD’s Lisa Halverstadt puts it this way in the latest in her series of reports examining how business is conducted in San Diego: “Neighborhood groups, businesses and unions across the state have learned to wield the CEQA weapon. Sometimes their concerns are genuine. Sometimes they’re not motivated solely by threats to an endangered species or air quality. It’s almost never possible to gauge their true motives.”

She focuses on a case in El Cajon in which residents banded against a center for the homeless and used the environmental law as a cudgel even though a judge ultimately declared their cause had nothing to do with the environment. No matter: The delay almost killed off the project. “If you’re short on power and influence and the good-old-boy weapons, you need to have your weapon,” one local says.

Ex-Planner’s Surprising Take on Transit Plan Mess

Bill Fulton, the much-heralded San Diego head of planning who got the heck out of Dodge earlier this year, is a fan of protecting the environment by getting people to drive less. So you might think that he’d sit at his new job in Texas and be fine with a court’s ruling that a huge regional transportation plan doesn’t go far enough in that direction.

Nope. He thinks the ruling stinks, but not because of what it says about the importance of protecting environment. Instead, he says it goes too far by giving the governor too much power.

Right Name, Wrong Man

“On Jan. 13, 2014,” begins a new story in CityBeat, “two sheriff’s deputies approached a man at his home in Alpine, placed him in handcuffs and said they were taking him into custody for escaping from prison nearly 30 years ago.”

This is the account of what happens next, courtesy of a lawsuit. The man and his wife said there must be some mistake, and there was evidence for this, including the lack of a scar on the suspect’ forehead. But a fingerprint machine didn’t work, a public defender didn’t believe him and cops were mostly unsympathetic. He was placed in solitary confinement for a week. Then came the news that it was a case of mistaken identity.

“These are just allegations right now, but, if proven, this was a pretty outrageous violation of the poor man’s civil and human rights … at each step of the way, somebody failed to do their job correctly, and an innocent man suffered,” says a local attorney.

Water, Water Everywhere but Barely a Drop to Save

I’ve grown up and no longer spend my time in the back seat demanding, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” Now, my mantra this rainy autumn has been a bit different: “Is the drought over yet? How about now? Why isn’t it over?”

Apparently, it’s going to last forever. The L.A. Times talks to scientists who say a soggy month or two isn’t going to do the trick. Three years of above-average rainfall might do it, though. The problem? Evaporation and runoff keep water from filling reservoirs.

Snow’s here! “We heard that it snowed in Mt. Laguna, so we wanted to come up and hit each other with snowballs,” one guy tells NBC 7.

• Speaking of Mother Nature, Los Angeles is finally doing something about the prospect that an earthquake could cut off a huge proportion of Southern California’s water supply. How big is the risk? Well, major aqueducts “cross the San Andreas fault a total of 32 times.” (L.A. Times)

Quick News Hits: Train to Sobriety

• The L.A. Times takes a look at what those cop body cameras actually see: “the quality of the images are on par with today’s camera phone videos and capture what an officer sees and hears in the field. The images do blur during quick movements, however.”

• Should riders on the Coaster get to turn it into a kind of booze cruise? Riders, at least those who got in touch with transit officials, seem to really like the idea of being able to drink beer and wine on the coastal commuter train. But transit staff members say passengers get too rowdy, and they want to nix the hooch. (U-T)

• A new app offers details about wait times at the border, even for pedestrians. (U-T)

• Golf and tennis: Sports for the common man. Wait, what? Well, California’s most renown state historian says, that’s the way it’s played out in San Diego, where these “aristocratic” sports became especially accessible to the 99 percent. (U-T)

Roast a Record Over an Open Fire

Remember the “Holiday Halftime” Christmas music records that were produced by every NFL team — including the Chargers — in 1970? Me neither. But the sports blog Deadspin does, and it’s recalling a time when the NFL was “willing to go all-in on an ad man’s harebrained idea for a novelty record.” The post includes a photo of Chargers tight end Willie Frazier at a recording session.

You can learn more about the Chargers recording session here. Other singers include Lance Alworth, Gene Foster and Jim Tolbert tackling tunes like “Frosty the Snowman” and “A Tropical Winter,” whatever that is.

The songs don’t seem to be available anywhere on the Internet for you to listen to, so you’ll get some extra silence today. And here you thought I wasn’t going to get you anything for the holidays!

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego and president of the American Society of Journalists and 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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