Hello, and welcome to this thing!
Consider it part Morning Report, part week in review, part Things Sara Would Like to Discuss. Eventually, this will become a members-only email, meaning you’ll have to wear a bitchin’ jacket while reading. If you’re not yet a member of Voice of San Diego, get on that.
Not to sound too cheerleader-y (I’ll leave that to the pros), but kicking off What We Learned at this particular moment is both a blessing and a curse because we happened to publish the most stellar lineup of stories this week since I’ve been a part of VOSD. That means we’ve got a lot to go through, and a lot to live up to. So, let’s do this.
It wasn’t the bayfront. It was Sempra.
It all started with a simple question: What did José Susumo Azano Matsura, the man accused of donating illegally to San Diego politicians, want?
Unraveling the answer took Liam Dillon seven months, many trips across the border and many deep dives through Mexican corporate documents.
The show-stopping conclusion: Azano probably wasn’t trying to develop along San Diego’s Bayfront, as prosecutors allege. Instead, he was likely making a last-ditch effort to take down Sempra, the energy giant with whom he’d had a long, cross-border feud.
Azano is still facing a federal trial here in the U.S., and Sempra is well positioned to keep growing in Mexico, where the dispute began. But don’t take this for a clear-cut case of good guys versus bad. Sempra has faced its own accusations of corruption in Mexico, and though it hasn’t faced charges, it hasn’t been able to completely explain them away, either.
One City Heights family had an infuriating encounter with the police.
Video surveillance contradicts key pieces of the officers’ story. The police even wrote that one of the brothers involved thanked the officers who beat his brother and arrested his mom for their vigilance.
The mayor’s got a stadium problem, folks.
On Friday, Scott Lewis posted his latest news from the Chargers stadium saga. The mayor might actually be running out of time if he hopes to put something on the ballot in November 2016. Why? The city attorney told Lewis that he didn’t know whether the city could put a stadium plan on the ballot without going through the California Environmental Quality Act requirements for a report on alternatives.
And that could take well more than a year. With the mayor’s task force not scheduled to even release its preferred plan until September and a promised robust public process after that, well, there’s not enough time.
The mayor’s response, basically: We’ll figure it out.
• The task force — excuse me, the Citizens Stadium Advisory Group — might not be open to the public, but it’s open to public relations. It has hired PR dude Tony Manolatos. But Manolatos won’t say who’s paying him.
“I’m not holding back the answer. Money is being raised. When I know more I’ll tell you,” he told us.
• On the podcast, Scott Lewis went head to head with Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani. Wasn’t just stadium stuff, though. Lewis also quizzed Fabiani about his time in the Clinton White House and other big-time clients the man has served.
San Diego schools’ concussion chief had his own concussion controversy.
At first glance, a devastating concussion suffered by a player decades ago in another district might not mean much for San Diego Unified and its efforts to make sure incidents like this don’t happen.
But there’s one big link: a man named Bruce Ward. He’s now the district’s point man on sports safety protocols. Back in 1992, though, he was the coach who decided to play Vu Dang, a 17-year-old who had already suffered a concussion the week before and who ended up suffering massive brain trauma that almost ended his life.
Mario Koran’s story of how the student slowly built a life for himself after the hit is a must-read.
Local Airbnb hosts are feeling the heat.
When it comes to policing Airbnb, the site that lets you rent out rooms or your entire home to paying guests, there’s a certain squeaky-wheel factor to the city’s approach.
“Late last year, the city began tracking down dozens of Airbnb hosts through the site itself and from neighbors’ complaints, among other methods,” Lisa Halverstadt reported this week.
The city says its crackdown is only meant to let people know they have to take certain steps to rent legally – like paying business taxes and getting one of two special permits.
That’s not so easy, though, we found. Those permits can take a year.
Oh yeah, we turned 10.
Seriously, this is how crazy of a week we had: Our 10-year anniversary is at the bottom of the list. We got a new website, and reminisced over our most impactful investigations, memorable moments and favorite quotes.
What I’m Reading
I hope to pay far more attention in future roundups to what is happening in San Diego beyond our newsroom – but this week I’ve essentially had two modes: scrambling to get these stories out the door, and falling asleep mid-sentence.
Here, though, are the best reads I snuck in:
• This bananas story about a young mother who fell from the Oakland Coliseum, and the fan who saved her life;
• A stunning speech by a black federal judge to three white young white men convicted of a hate crime killing;
• The Onion’s hilarious take on SeaWorld drama: “SeaWorld Debuts New Controversial Orca Whale Burlesque Show;”
• This incredible Cal Sunday tale of an Amazon tribe that sends one of its boys to Seattle to save their village;
• And this Washington Post writeup of a San Diego State professor’s research on women in film.