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Water prices keep rising even as we use less water, and the local agencies that keep our faucets and hoses in business want to stop the trend. As VOSD’s Ry Rivard reports, one strategy is to seek independence from the middleman known as the San Diego County Water Authority.

“Agencies served by the Water Authority want to rely less on water beyond their control, so they plan to massively increase the amount of water they produce themselves, mostly by recycling wastewater,” Rivard reports.

Assemblywoman: Parents Will Seek and Find Excellence in Schools

Scott Lewis sat down for the latest in our One Voice at a Time series, this time with Assemblywoman Shirley Weber who had a lot to say about the pursuit of excellence in public education.

Weber warned that tearing down and rebuilding failing schools won’t necessarily make them better. She described what it was like to put together a bill about evaluating teachers inclusively and comprehensively only to see it squashed. And she explained why she felt offended when people said it was too hard to evaluate schools and educators with so many kids living in poverty.

It was a quite a conversation and you can catch some of the major quotes or listen to the whole thing here.

Questions Keep Coming for School Board President

At our event, Weber said she was praying for Marne Foster, the school board president facing serious questions about what she did after a high-school counselor gave her son got a negative evaluation for a college application.

The U-T, in an editorial, says the public deserves answers about why the principal of the school was removed and the counselor punished.

Still Seeking Sane Sidewalk Policy

Two years after the city promised to fix its wackadoo sidewalk policies, officials are still trying to figure out what to do, VOSD’s Liam Dillon reports. “It’s a like a lot of these problems,” Councilman Mark Kersey says. “A lot of these problems have built up over time and we want to get this right.”

Reform could come soon, however. The idea is to eliminate a system in which property owners are supposed to fix sidewalks but the city — taxpayers — is on the hook if someone’s hurt because of a shoddy sidewalk.

Sempra Vanquishes Swindle Allegations

“A federal judge has dismissed allegations by a Mexican rancher that he was swindled out of his land in Baja California and thrown in jail in a plot orchestrated by San Diego-based utility company Sempra Energy in its development of an ocean terminal for natural gas imports,” the U-T reports. Sempra is the parent company of SDG&E.

A former high-ranking Mexican official told us this case led José Susumo Azano Matsura, the businessman linked to illegal contributions to San Diego politicians, to engineer an armed raid on the Sempra plant in 2011.

Special Podcast: Meet Mara Elliott

A special edition of the VOSD Podcast features a conversation between Mara Elliott, the chief deputy city attorney, who wants to become city attorney.

A Democrat, she wants to serve the City Council and mayor and not be an independent voice.  Turns out, she doesn’t even think city attorney should be an elected position. That and other revelations about her perspective on the role of the city attorney drove the conversation.

Stay tuned for more conversations with candidates in top city races. (A previous Morning Report misspelled Elliott’s name and it is very sorry about that.)

Was Forensic Specialist a Killer?

Both The Atlantic, the national magazine, and the San Diego Reader chose this week to dig deeply into one of the most bizarre criminal investigations in recent local history.

Investigators suspected Kevin Brown, a longtime crime analyst for the San Diego Police Department, of murdering a girl in 1984, and they believed DNA proved their case. A few months into the investigation, Brown hanged himself.

“At the center of the case were minute traces of Brown’s DNA found on one of the two cotton swabs taken from Hough’s body, a swab that had been stored in the crime lab where Brown worked for 18 years after the murder,” the Reader reports. It puts the case this way in its headline: “Kevin was a sweet, nerdy doofus. Was he also a monster?”

The Atlantic examines the possibility that a sample linked to Brown was contaminated with his DNA.

• CityBeat finds that the Sheriff’s Department deputies have greatly boosted their use of force over the past several years, and they’re also displaying their guns and using tasers more often. But arrests are only up by 3 percent from 2010-2014.

The CityBeat story highlights the case of a man who nearly died after being tased in North County. He awoke at a hospital to discover that his legs had been amputated due to his injuries.

• There’s been media hoopla about the rapid rise in homicide rates in big cities like Houston, Chicago and San Antonio this year, but the city of San Diego is an outlier: Homicides remain low here.

Among the 10 biggest cities in the nation, only San Diego and San Jose have seen their homicide numbers go down this year, at least as of data as of various dates this summer, 538.com reports. As of July 15, 19 homicides had been reported compared to 20 in 2014 by that time.

Among the 20 largest cities, only Austin, El Paso and Seattle had comparable or lower numbers of homicides.

North County Report: Rainbow Un-Coalition

You may not be familiar with the tiny North County town of Rainbow unless you’re a farmer or you pay close attention to freeway signs as you whiz past on the I-15. But the community exists, and it’s no pushover: Its water district beat back a “hostile takeover” by the big boys — comparably speaking — in neighboring Fallbrook.

This backcountry news gets a shout-out in VOSD’s weekly North County Report, along with details about nuclear waste, poor school test scores and rules for homes that serve people in recovery.

Ho-Hum Here, But Outrage in L.A.

There’s been little fuss about out-of-town owners taking over the U-T over the past few years. But it’s an entirely different situation in Los Angeles, where even the county board of supervisors is demanding local ownership of the L.A. Times, the new sister paper of the U-T, in light of publisher Austin Beutner’s ouster.

“While there are ample signs of the decline of newspapers, the outcry in L.A. over Beutner’s firing is a vivid reminder that they still have an important role to play in our civic life, if only they choose to — and can afford to — do so,” writes commentator Rem Reider in USA Today.

Quick News Hits: Fashion Police

This tweet from Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez will be talked about a lot.

City and county officials want to create a film office to woo Hollywood to produce TV and movies in San Diego, but they aren’t in a particularly big hurry to put it together. Budget cuts killed off a local film commission in 2013. (KPBS)

• Gary Kreep, the conservative firebrand who was elected to a judgeship in 2012, will pay a $6,000 fine to resolve issues regarding campaign finance disclosures. The U-T says he could face more discipline.

• Things seem to have gotten drunk and disorderly in the City Council’s luxury skybox at the ballpark. (Reader)

• Phrase of the Day: “awfully vanilla tapioca.” (Our mayor, supposedly.)

• Councilman Todd Gloria finds a certain kind of summer fashion to be less than arresting: “No. Never. Stop It.”

He’s really gonna flip when he sees my polka-dot jorts.

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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