Iraqi Christians first started settling in East County back in the 1960s, drawn by a landscape that reminded them of home. Now, more than 50,000 of them are thought to live in El Cajon and surrounding communities.

Are they welcome there? Not always. They haven’t managed to infiltrate the old-boys’-network of politicians, which hasn’t always described them in glowing terms despite a faith that fits in with East County’s conservatism.

“They’ve ruffled some feathers,” El Cajon’s current mayor says. “What I’m hearing from my constituents is they’re uncomfortable with the way El Cajon is changing. When they see this new ethnic group coming in and trying to take over, they have problems voting that in.” Reminder: “This new ethnic group” also counts as his constituents.

Local lobbyist Mark Arabo, who’s growing in influence as a power player, is at the center of all this as the most prominent Iraqi Christian locally. In the second part of our three-part series on Arabo, VOSD’s Liam Dillon digs into his role in a changing El Cajon, including his fight against rules cracking down on alcohol sales. In case you missed Part 1, read it here.

Conflict of Interest Trips Up Civic San Diego

Civic San Diego is still trying to keep itself relevant in a post-redevelopment world. One of the ways it’s tried out hasn’t worked out too well so far, Andrew Keatts reports.

“Civic San Diego’s plan to act as a master developer in low-income neighborhoods is already dealing with a conflict of interest,” Keatts writes.

The City Council doled out money to Civic for a consultant (or two) who would both set up an investment fund and then manage it. Turns out, the same person or group can’t do both, and now Civic is trying to sort out the conflict by rewriting its plan.

Dave Roberts Scandal Bombshell

Another shoe has dropped in the scandal engulfing County Supervisor Dave Roberts’ political career.

Here’s NBC 7 San Diego on the Democrat’s troubles: “A former employee for San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts is accusing him of misusing public funds, using county money to pursue a personal relationship and retaliating against employees who spoke up against these alleged practices.” Here’s the U-T’s version.

If true, the complaint is devastating.

Spend! (Or Not): School Fixes in Pics

San Diego Unified is spending $5 billion in bond funds on various building fixes and other improvements, but it hasn’t been a smooth process and some of the priorities seem out of whack.

VOSD’s Mario Koran and two of our contributing photographers take a tour of the district to see what’s being repaired and what isn’t (yet). They find that school stadiums are looking spiffy while roofs leak, doors don’t work properly and students and teachers get baked by the sun.

But other top-priority spending also gets its moment in the spotlight, like a professional-grade kitchen that would fit in on “Top Chef” and a broadcast studio that might make lesser local TV stations (you know who you are) a bit jealous.

City News Roundup: Cabbies Say No

• Attorney Cory Briggs is suing the city again, this time over a lease for Belmont Park. (U-T)

• Wouldn’t a downtown shuttle like the one in Denver be nice for San Diego? Nope, say cabbies, who’d prefer that pedestrians pay the meter. (KPBS)

• CityBeat’s John Lamb thinks politicians are getting overly stimulated over trouble for the convention center expansion.

The Chargers’ Rent: You Heard it Here First

You might have seen a story floating around by the Associated Press and U-T that talks about how the city pays the Chargers each year to play at the football stadium. We knew about this, too. In fact, three months ago, we broke the exact same story.

Here’s what we found:

Over the past seven years, the city has paid the Chargers a total of $3.3 million despite a lease agreement that requires the team to pay the city.

There are two reasons for this. The Chargers annual payment due to the city gets eaten away by a series of rent credits, which drastically reduces the team’s bill. Then the city pays the team each year as part of a settlement to a 2006 American with Disabilities Act lawsuit at Qualcomm. The result is that the city has owed the team money – an average of about $500,000 a year — after every season since 2007.

Indeed, the city subsidizes Qualcomm operations to the tune of $12 million a year.

You can catch up on all the stories in our continuing coverage of the Chargers stadium debate here. The mayor’s stadium task force is set to release its financial plan for a new stadium next week.

River Might Not Run (As Much) Through It

There’s a good chance that some water from the Colorado River will dry up next year. (U-T) But at least our mini-Miracle May looks likely to continue with rain coming our way later this week.

Meanwhile, Earth Island Journal offers the surprising news that “everyone is anxious” in California about the drought: “this glimpse of a limit to our once-boundless growth seems vertiginous.” Water may be in short supply, but big words aren’t.

Wait, Who’s Poor Now?

A news site called MainStreet profiles a married San Diego marketing manager who has “a five-month-old baby, lives in a spacious home, has a career and is pursuing an advanced degree.”

So what’s the problem? She had to go back to work after three months of leave after having the baby, and her husband works two jobs. “With monthly bills that include some $1,200 a month for childcare and $2,500 to pay the mortgage, the Fentons are among the one in five Millennials who are living in poverty.”

Quick News Hits: Jury Stats Overruled

• Stepping Stone, a drug and alcohol treatment center for the LGBT community, is in “desperate” financial trouble. (Times of SD)

• Former star U-T sports writer Tim Sullivan, who was sacked when new stadium-boosting owners came in, says he’s willing to look at any offer to return. Still, he admits an offer is “unlikely” (“don’t imagine there’s any great groundswell to get the band back together”) and adds that his departure was due in part to a new approach at the paper that was “inconsistent with the core precepts of the profession.”

• For once, a depressing statistic about San Diego isn’t actually true. Hallelujah! Turns out that we aren’t a statewide disgrace when it comes to people skipping jury duty without permission. A bit less than a third of people summoned in the county don’t respond or appear, a new report says, not 45 percent. That number belongs to those slackers in Ventura County, not us.

The incorrect number came from a Sacramento Bee commentary by the director of the legal-reform advocacy group that commissioned the report. He acknowledged to me yesterday that it’s wrong but didn’t say how he managed to garble it in print.

Too bad. With my own jury summons in hand, I’m in the market for a really good excuse right about now. Hmm. The dog ate my ability to distinguish reasonable from unreasonable doubt?

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego and president of the 1,200-member American Society of Journalists and Authors ( Please contact him directly at and follow him on Twitter:

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at and follow him on Twitter:

Leave a comment

We expect all commenters to be constructive and civil. We reserve the right to delete comments without explanation. You are welcome to flag comments to us. You are welcome to submit an opinion piece for our editors to review.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.