Injustice for those whose lives were cut short by hit-and-run drivers. Incompetence run wild among centennial planners at Balboa Park. The major ties that bind the wobbling SeaWorld empire to the coffers that keep our city running.

Plus: Two major police department failures, a blast of offensive hypocrisy at City Hall, a literary icon’s vice-ridden past and troops of cabbie sniffers.

To mark another year of journalism devoted to the public good, our top writers looked back and identified their favorite stories of the year. The roundup includes details from the writers about each article and updates on how things stand now.

Stay tuned: Later on, we’ll take a look at the best local journalism of the year from other news organizations.

Uber and Out? The Limits on Airport Pickups

San Diego may have one of the most conveniently located major airports anywhere, but it’s not easy to take public transportation to it.

Now, however, the Uber and Lyft “ride-sharing” services are changing the game. These quasi-taxis are easier to find and pay than cabs, although they’re less regulated.

The trouble comes if want to take Uber or Lyft home from the airport. In general — although there are some exceptions for Uber — these aren’t not supposed to pick you up at the airport. But some ride-sharing drivers ignore the rules — I’ve gotten two rides home via Lyft in the last few months — and play a cat-and-mouse game with airport authorities despite potentially heavy penalties.

Just in time for your holiday travel, I’ve written a story explaining the rules and regulations regarding Uber & Co. at the airport. And here’s a pro-tip: If you can’t summon an Uber or Lyft car at the airport, take a free parking shuttle to someplace where you can.

Opinion: Minimum Wage Study’s ‘Deeply Flawed’

In a VOSD commentary, Escondido economist Irv Lefberg says that new UCSD study questioning the value of the minimum wage is bogus. Among other things, he writes, the timing of the period studied — which includes the Great Recession — is poor: “trying to evaluate the impacts of a small, gradual increase in minimum wage affecting a small portion of the workforce in the midst of an earthshaking set of economic events is pure scientific folly.”s

Culture Report: Playhouse Goes Latino

The weekly VOSD Culture Report explores diverse storytelling at the La Jolla Playhouse, more money for the port’s public art program, and a new chief at the Diversionary Theater. Plus: Independent local bookshops aren’t dead yet. Not quite as comfortable as those dearly departed Borders stores, but still not dead.

Behind Bars, a Deadly Year for S.D.

Sixteen inmates have died in county jails in 2014, a record in recent years, CityBeat reports. County officials have brushed off concerns about the county jail system’s horrific record, but they may finally be turning around: a sheriff’s commander does offer reasons why the number is high, but says “we don’t hide behind this figure as an excuse or justification for the number of jail deaths.”

Also, no suicides have occurred in the county jails since July; five occurred earlier in the year. The change could reflect the influence of a new jail medical director.

A Death and a Governor’s Bitter Legacy

“We’re about to die! One of my friends might die right now!” yells a San Diego State student into his phone on an October night in 2008. “You need to send an ambulance as quick as possible.”

The paramedics arrive. Four men are bleeding. One will die. A young man with some of the powerful political connections possible will be accused. Later, a governor will get involved as his second term winds to an end.

Many parts of this story have been told, but never to the extent as in a series of remarkable articles in the LA Times this week. One is under the headline “Knives, a death, a famous name.” The headline for the second story: “On the eve of a murder trial, a deal is struck. But will it stick?

Quick News Hits: Finally

• The giant parking garage in North Park has long seemed utterly unnecessary considering how much free parking is available nearby, even as the hipster hotspot has become more popular. Few people seem to park in the garage, requiring the city to step in with subsidies.

But after 9 years, “North Park’s parking garage is finally paying for itself,” Uptown News reports, possibly because the North Park Theatre next door is starting to book more acts.

• “The Interview” — yes, that “The Interview” — will be playing this week in at least one place here. Our longtime friends at the Media Arts Cetner seized the moment to score showings of the film.

• The city installed a bike lane on Fifth Avenue near Balboa Park. One might not expect any fuss since the stretch of road isn’t typically congested by cars, so there’s room for bikes to get their own lane. But a local group thinks the lane stinks, and it’s suing, saying the city violated the state’s environmental law. You know, the law that’s occasionally used to fight projects for reasons that have nothing to do with protecting the environment.

• A website called Engineering News-Record examines the obstacles faced by the $741 million border crossing renovation.

• There’s a good chance you’ll be spending tomorrow with your loved ones — and your liked ones, your barely tolerated ones and all the rest. If you get the point where you’d like to tell someone where to go, take a deep breath and play them this San Diego-related song from the 1970s, which I just discovered on YouTube.

Heck, maybe someone will take you up on the suggestion! FYI: The subject of the song is open tomorrow, 9 a.m.-8 p.m.

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 and follow him on Twitter:

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at

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