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If you’ve had your car towed in San Diego County over the past several years, there’s a good chance the towing company has a connection to one man: Nash Habib. He’s the czar of towing here, and — as an extensive investigation by VOSD’s Liam Dillon reveals — he’s a man with a troubled past and a troubled present.
In a very short time, Habib, a 40-year-old Iraqi refugee, has built a towing empire that rivals any in San Diego. Habib or his associates own at least parts of more than a half-dozen towing companies in the region, starting with Habib’s flagship company, Angelo’s Towing.
Habib has managed to amass some serious wealth: His business has a fleet of new tow trucks, and Habib himself has more than $3 million in property and enough disposable income to donate to politicians, including Hillary Clinton.
But his story also includes a long history of legal and financial troubles, including numerous misstatements and evasions when local governments asked about his past. So far, those problems haven’t affected Habib’s ability to get lucrative public contracts.
Now, though, as a result of our reporting, Habib is facing a city of San Diego investigation into his background. He was already under the state’s microscope.
Read Dillon’s new investigation of Habib’s remarkable rise and the big mystery that remains at the center of it.
Inside the Briggs Hotel-Tax Overhaul
Local attorney Cory Briggs is a top nemesis of local politicians and power players. But now he’s trying to woo hotel magnates to support his ballot initiative aimed at dramatically revamping the city’s hotel-tax system, while also potentially paving the way for a new football stadium and annex to the Convention Center.
It’s complicated, and even a top hotelier is mystified (“I feel like a dog watching TV”). Not so mystified: a firebrand radio host who hates it. Now, VOSD’s Scott Lewis identifies the genius in the proposal, which is also its Achilles’ heel.
San Diego Raiders? Say It Ain’t So
Broken Mains Drain Your Wallet
• From 2012 to September 2015, Inewsource finds, San Diego has paid out almost $10 million to resolve claims related to broken water mains. About 35 million gallons of water were wasted, the news outlet finds, and “nearly three of every five breaks occurred in asbestos cement pipes whose replacement the city has only recently begun to address.”
The story includes a map of where the breaks happened. Not surprisingly, the older mid-city areas are a bit hot spot.
SeaWorld Faces More Heat
An L.A. Times editorial calls on SeaWord to go further with its plans to overhaul its orca shows here and stop breeding entirely. Meanwhile, critics of SeaWorld will love The Onion’s sardonic take on its plans. A faux man on the street: “This is exactly the kind of gradual, piecemeal change SeaWorld’s critics have been demanding.”
• In other environment news, local researchers say pretty coral reefs are healthy coral reefs. Oh great, now every plain reef is going to demand more moisturizer.
• The Atlantic checks in with the festering environmental sore known as the Salton Sea. It’s “now a major source of air pollution — and no one seems to know how to stop it from getting worse.” The main photo, of a desiccated fish in a dry lakebed, is pretty stunning and might keep you away from your tuna sandwich for a few minutes. OK, seconds, in my case.
Culture Report: Cabrillo Monument Goes Art-Tastic
Artworks, installations and music by about 50 artists will debut at the scenic Cabrillo National Monument on Saturday. That’s the word from VOSD’s weekly Culture Report, which leads with news about the event. Also in the Culture Report: Nasty criticism of the San Diego Art Institute (but a great response from the target), racist artifacts on display, a celebration of lowriders and an early appearance by Santa.
VOSDers on How We Work
VOSD managing editor Sara Libby, VOSD reporter Andrew Keatts and I were among the speakers at a writers conference here this past weekend. In addition to holding forth on the state of journalism, we talked freelancing, moonlighting and how to pitch a story to VOSD. Click here on the hashtag #spjasja to catch up on the discussion via Twitter.
Quick News Hits: Brains vs. Brains!!!!
• Local workers took part in a nationwide protest calling for a minimum wage of $15 per hour; NBC 7 has video of protesters swarming a downtown McDonald’s.
• Statutes of limitations determine how long prosecutors have to go after someone accused of committing a crime. Famously, there’s no statute of limitations for murder in California and many other places. Not so famously, there’s no statute of limitations on embezzlement of public funds in our state.
States have tinkered with statutes of limitation for sexual abuse because victims often don’t realize they were attacked until later in life. (This can create complications, as we’ve learned.) Now, a state legislator wants to eliminate statutes of limitations for rape and related crimes.
• It looks like the Supreme Court may rule on President Obama’s bid to allow 5 million undocumented immigrants to remain in the country. Meanwhile, the L.A. Times has this summary of the findings of a new report: “half of Californians in the country illegally would be eligible for the state’s healthcare program for the poor if it were expanded under a proposal by legislators.”
• Good grief, San Diego Reader! (Warning: NSFW, don’t click on this at work. Second warning: The paintings are real, but the story is parody. Third warning: The prime rib at Albie’s is delicious, but your arteries won’t thank you.)
• When the zombie apocalypse comes, you might be happy you live here. And not just because there’s a good chance you’ll have sunny weather for your daily schedule of brain-seeking, staggering and undead ennui.
The Gizmodo blog says we’re the 7th best place in the country to survive an invasion of the walking dead since we have a high proportion of scientists and medical types who’d be really helpful in the search for a cure.
We have “a good chance of saving humanity just in the nick of time,” Gizmodo says. Boston is the best place to be, while Riverside/San Bernardino, meanwhile, pulls up the rear at 50th out of 53.
Suggested revision to Temecula’s city motto: “Old Traditions, New Zombitunities.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.