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Last year, the convention center boasted that the annual Comic-Con would land a cool $178 million in local coffers. This year, the estimate clocks in at $136 million.

What happened? We happened. Last year, VOSD’s Lisa Halverstadt questioned the convention center’s number-juggling. Among other things, it looked at spending by conventiongoers at 42 conventions attended by people with a median (not average) income of $106,000. You know, the kind of money that people who attend conventions tend to make since they’re doctors, lawyers and business types… not necessarily Comic-Con attendees.

It’s not clear how well they do or don’t do in the wealth department. That’s the point.

So this time around, the convention center asked the same economist that put together last year’s numbers to adjust them this time around. Even he says the new estimate could be quite a bit off the mark since he’s not getting paid to come up with more reliable statistics.

It’s Hard to Actually Get Off the Power Grid with Solar

It sounds like a great idea: Put some solar panels on your roof and say goodbye to SDG&E and its high rates forever. Well, good luck with that. It’s actually very rare for the people who set out to get completely off the grid to actually get off the grid.

As VOSD’s Lisa Halverstadt reports, “it’s true that a large enough solar panel system will produce as much or even more power than you need, and can offset your SDG&E bills entirely. But you’ll need more than just solar panels to actually cut the cord.”

This means many solar power users rely on SDG&E for backup.

• This week’s weird weather is promoting power officials to ask people to cut down on how much electricity they’re using. “The California Independent System Operator is asking residents to use less power between 2 p.m. and 9 p.m…. because of anticipated high demand on the system as a result of the heat,” NBC 7 reports.

More Flack for Urban Renewal Agency

The Robert Green Company, a developer, is criticizing Civic San Diego, the city’s urban renewal agency, the Daily Transcript reports. It says the way the agency chose a developer for major projects downtown was a mess and gives the appearance of preferential treatment. Two developers were allowed to change their offer price after turning in their proposals, and the original bids weren’t made public to show there wasn’t any funny business.

The sites are at Seventh and Market streets, and Park Boulevard and Market.

Meanwhile, a high-ranking employee with Civic San Diego who worked on that project just left the agency abruptly. That follows a series of recent high-profile executive departures. Two of the six people on the committee that chose the developer for the project that’s the subject of the Robert Green Company’s complaint have now left the agency. Tom Tomlinson, the interim director of the city’s planning department, was also on the selection committee.

By the way, this same project led to the resignation of the CEO of Civic San Diego’s predecessor in 2008. Robert Green Company competed for the project in 2006. The company says they thought they had justification for legal action then, but decided not to pursue it.

Money Returns for Drought-Fighting Turf

The city of San Diego’s new annual budget puts $1.2 million back into a popular program to reimburse residents who replace their thirsty lawns with drought-resistant plants. The program had opened back April with $750,000 but ran out of money within a week due to high demand.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s administration said there’s now $1.2 million in new money for the rebates. Despite being popular, such rebates are not without controversy. The San Diego County Water Authority, which supplies much of the city’s water, and which is led in large part by city of San Diego appointees, has complained about the wastefulness of a similar regional program run by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Brown Quickly Signs Vaccination Bill

Anti-vaxxers suffered a major defeat yesterday when Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that will require kids to be properly vaccinated in order to attend public school unless they have medical reasons to avoid immunization. Parents won’t be able to claim that their personal beliefs should allow them an exemption.

Only Mississippi and West Virginia have vaccination laws this strict, the AP reports. Foes of the bill might sue.

How are people reacting? A certain famous actor is trolling big-time via Twitter.

• “More than 6 million workers are expected to benefit from a new law taking effect Wednesday that requires California employers to provide them at least three paid sick days a year.” (AP)

Metrolink to S.D.? Maybe!

Metrolink, the poor man’s Amtrak, links the Oceanside train station to points north and northeast. Its trains are cheaper to ride than Amtrak’s but they’re decidedly frill-free. (Yes, it’s possible for trains to be even less luxurious than the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner. Trust me on this.)

Now, the L.A. Times reports, Metrolink has a new attitude thanks to a new boss. “It does a lot of good things, though it needs improvement,” he says. He’s pushing for newer trains with fewer commuter-delaying breakdowns, fixes for broken ticket machines and maybe even Wi-Fi, although that will cost $10 million for some reason. And changes are coming to make the trains more hospitable to bikes and surfboards.

So what does this matter to you if you don’t want to travel from Oceanside? The new chief says Metrolink may expand to San Diego, although it sounds like Redlands, Palm Springs and Indio might get service first.

Culture Report: Mo’ Money, Mo’ Art

VOSD’s weekly Culture Report provides details about happy news for the California Arts Council, which met here last week and is getting a financial shot in the arm thanks to taxpayers. Some of the funds will go toward new programs to promote the arts among military people (vets, service members and their families) and troubled kids.

Also in the Culture Report: karaoke for kids, love thanks to 9/11 and “West Side Story” at the Old Globe. (Fun fact: I introduced the movie musical to a toddler the other day while baby-sitting. You’re never too young to get an education in Rita Moreno.)

Quick News Hits: Parrot Fever

• There are questions about whether Border Patrol officers leaked details to the protesters who held up busloads of undocumented immigrants in Murrieta last year. (KPBS)

• The city is cracking down on the banking of money from parking meters after a revelation that $18 million was just sitting there. (U-T)

• The Chargers are cozying up to L.A.-area elected officials. (Daily News)

• Audubon magazine is making what must be its first appearance in the Morning Report: It’s out with a story about the “technically illegal release” of 18 parrots in El Cajon not too long ago. They’re urban denizens that went to a kind of animal rehab before being let loose into stand of trees where they’d presumably find company with hundreds of other parrots who live nearby.

The animal-rehabber behind the effort tells the magazine that the state gave her a bunch of lousy choices: “They said we could keep the birds, adopt them out as pets, take them back to Mexico, or have them euthanized. These are not pets. These are wild birds, and they don’t do well in captivity.”

So how did the released birds do on their own? Let’s just say there was a happy ending, at least for the moment, although we’re betting a lot of East County cars would beg to differ.

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego and national president of the 1,200-member American Society of Journalists and Authors (asja.org). 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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