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Our ongoing investigation of the federal case against wealthy businessman José Susumo Azano Matsura, the Mexican businessman accused of illegally funneling money to San Diego politicians, has turned up a stunning fact.
Even as federal prosecutors investigated him, the State Department did its own vetting in 2012 and signed off to allow Azano to sell American-made, military-grade electronic surveillance equipment to Mexico.
This raises a big question, VOSD’s Liam Dillon writes: “Why did the U.S. government allow someone it believed might be involved in drug smuggling and other major crimes to sell sensitive American surveillance technology abroad?”
Azano’s attorney, as you can imagine, is asking the very same question.
Consultants Pay Settlement in Briggs Mess
inewsource appeared to find only smoke (although a lot of it), not fire, in the first stages of its investigation into unusual financial arrangements and potential conflicts involving attorney Cory Briggs. But then it discovered more about a tangled web of connections.
Now, “an environmental consulting company will pay the city of San Diego $143,382 to resolve a claim of potential conflict of interest between one of its former employees and well-known attorney Cory Briggs.” The former employee is Briggs’ partner, Sarichia Cacciatore, who served as vice president of the Briggs firm: “Briggs later sued the city over the project, claiming that the environmental review was inadequate.”
Why such a specific amount? It “covers attorney fees and costs the city paid Briggs after settling the 2011 lawsuit he brought against the city.” City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, meanwhile, lauded inewsource for its coverage, and inewsource published his words.
inewsource has also found evidence of another conflict involving a Briggs lawsuit and his partner’s environmental work.
City Finally Clamps Down on Water Hogs
The city didn’t take new drought restrictions very seriously when they went into effect last fall: In a city of 1.3 million people, it only hired three new employees, all temporary, to enforce rules about watering and car-washing. Not a single person was fined, even though 20 percent of violators didn’t fix problems.
Now, as KPBS reports, the existing water-hog-friendly system is being dumped. Residents won’t have three strikes before they actually get a citation. Now it’ll be two: If people are caught twice, they’ll be fined. Also: “What we’re doing right now is we’ll be more active out there, driving the streets, and making sure that people are following the rules,” a city water official says. New staff is on the way. Meanwhile, the city is spending a bit of money to boost a rebate program to encourage people to tear out grass lawns.
• Urinals and faucets sold in the state are going to have to be water-friendlier as of Jan. 1. (L.A. Times)
Rules Spawn Fewer Border Patrol Shootings
• “Border Patrol agents have used firearms and other weapons less frequently in recent months on the often-violent Southwest border after implementation of guidelines aimed at curbing abuses,” the L.A. Times reports.
• According to the Times, “authorities believe that up to 70 percent of the nation’s methamphetamine enters the country through the San Diego Port of Entry.” Meanwhile, San Diego is getting dinged for having some of the most expensive marijuana (even for medical purposes) in the nation.
How Nonprofit News Is Faring
Until news sites like VOSD came along, nonprofit media outlets were mainly limited to public broadcasting and a couple newspapers. Now, there are many outlets like VOSD that focus on local, state and national news.
The Knight Foundation checks into how they’re doing and focuses on VOSD, among a few others. Their findings, as summarized by NiemanLab: “As the world of nonprofit news matures, the good news is that more news organizations are creating ways to increase their revenue and expand their audience. The bad news: They’re still heavily reliant on grants and philanthropy — leaving outlets at the whim of a few foundations or wealthy individuals.”
The NiemanLab story showcases VOSD’s new Partner Voices program, which highlights local nonprofits.
Quick News Hits: Game of Drones
• The fight over a new gas-powered energy plant in Carlsbad continues, with environmentalists claiming SDG&E isn’t willing to do more to support renewable energy. SDG&E says it needs the plant, which will replace the existing Encina (the one with a landmark beachside smokestack) to produce power during times of high demand. (KPBS)
• The Wall Street Journal drops by San Diego to talk to 28-year-old wunderkind Jordi Muñoz, a Mexican immigrant who’s co-founder of 3D Robotics, “now the biggest consumer-drone maker in the U.S., with tens of millions of dollars in annual revenue, 300 employees and more than $100 million in venture capital.”
• The ballpark downtown is installing one heck of a video screen for baseball fans to watch instead of looking at action on the field. (KPBS) By contrast, Chargers fans have to put up with less-impressive stadium video when they go to the game to avoid watching it on TV.
• San Diego may be infamous for the city’s cheapness when it comes to paying for public services, but marketwatch.com finds that we’re not hurting for rich people. Judging by the percentage of residents who make upwards of $150,000, we’re the fifth-richest bigger city in the country. San Francisco is No. 1.
• Go ahead, The Onion, you can use this one for free: “Local Journalist Sadly Snickers to Himself As He Uses ‘Game of Drones’ in a Headline.”
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 email@example.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.