The hoopla surrounding the new desalination plant in Carlsbad may be obscuring an inconvenient truth: Sure, we’ll rely less on water from elsewhere when we remove the salt from the seawater that’s right here. At least for now, though, it’s going to be more expensive than the current system, which relies on water from places far outside San Diego County.

As the system works now, we all pay more per drop when water prices go up, and skyrocketing rates mean many of us won’t get any relief on monthly bills even if we conserve. Is there a better way? Richard Carson, an economist at UC San Diego, thinks there is: He wants to stick new customers with the bill for the new source of water, while everyone else gets a break.

VOSD’s Ry Rivard hears him out. “Rather than raise all the current residents’ water prices so that the new development can get the same price, you could have kept effectively water rates where they were,” Carson says.

Culture Report: Sniff Sniff. Who Arted?

Last week’s VOSD Podcast featured local artist Brian Goeltzenleuchter, who has nabbed a grant aimed at helping writers reconstruct memories through smell. Now, the weekly Culture Report provides more aromatic detail about his project.

One of the odors is b.o., but not the bad kind. Goeltzenleuchter is trying to perfect another smell: “weed that’s smoked in the 1970s on the boardwalk at Mission Beach.” (Turns out weed was a much bigger industry around here — back in the day — than you ever may have imagined. We explored the Coronado Connection in a 2013 Q&A with journalist Joshuah Bearman, who exposed how kids from the Crown City dominated the West Coast pot trade.)

Also in the Culture Report: News about the mysterious and sudden take-down of new artwork at the Cabrillo National Monument, possibly because some posed cliffside safety issues. Plus: Music in Barrio Logan, the first-ever jazz concert at the San Diego Symphony, the biggest burgers in town and much more.

El Niño Roundup: No Baby Steps

El Niño may be named after a child, but he’s getting his big britches on: “Thanks in part to El Niño, a series of strong storms have blanketed the Sierras with snow,” the L.A. Times reports. “Another storm this week is expected to deliver another layer of the white stuff — and draw skiers back to resorts.”

Meanwhile, El Niño is worrying weather watchers across the globe since it has the potential to spawn drought in Asia and Africa while bombing the Western Hemisphere with storms. Other potential victims: coral reefs and anchovies, which aren’t just used as pizza toppings.

• U-T columnist Logan Jenkins is worried about a eucalyptus tree in front of his house, especially with the prospect of big storms coming, and he let the city know about the risk. Sounds like a wise, citizen-ly thing to do, right? Civic duty and all.

Well, maybe not so well or good. Turns out “our suspicion that the tree might pose a danger would make it worse, not better, for us (or, more accurately, our insurer),” Jenkins writes.

He called the city attorney’s office to get some perspective on tree policies. No sale: They blew him off, with a spokesman saying the attorneys who represent us and get paid by us don’t want to talk about stuff “people sue us over.”

Buyouts Thin Journalist Herd

Los Angeles Times reporter Tony Perry, a blustery character who’s covered San Diego for 28 years going back to the days when the paper had a scrappy local bureau, says goodbye in a note to colleagues. He’s one of several journalists at the Times and its sister paper, the U-T, who have taken buyouts designed to reduce the cost of newsroom staff.

According to the Reader, the departed-via-buyout troops include U-T editorial page editor Bill Osborne, who’s survived the whiplash from the moderate-to-conservative Republicanism of the Copley era to three new owners in the span of just a few years.

Through it all, we’re sure there hasn’t been a change in reader confusion about exactly where the paper stands. As Osborne told us in 2009, “on many occasions I have received an email, letter or phone call from a reader saying he or she was canceling a subscription because our editorial page was too conservative, only to be followed — often the same day — by a reader saying he or she was canceling because our editorial page was too liberal.”

One journalist not leaving? The U-T’s longtime land-use and development reporter, Roger Showley, who on Facebook shot down an earlier version of the report that said he had also decided to leave: “Contrary to San Diego Reader’s report, I am not leaving the San Diego Union-Tribune. One big reason – I get to work downtown again and who wouldn’t stay for that!?” Showley broke the news of he and his colleagues moving downtown a few days ago.

Quick News Hits: Belly Up to Belly-Filling

• How much did it cost the state pension system to earn $24 billion in private equity proceeds since 1990? A total of $3.4 billion for the investment managers, a new report says. Good gig! These high fees are controversial, the L.A. Times reports, but there’s no debate about one thing: Taxpayers get the bill when investments don’t pan out.

• Sure, basic cell phone rates have fallen over the last few years. That’s the good news for consumers. But, as the L.A. Times notes, “average federal, state and local taxes and fees for California customers reached a record 18%.” You might remember Chula Vista had to refund $8 million in cell phone taxes in 2013 as part of a legal settlement, but the refunds weren’t automatic.

• An El Cajon elementary school is vacant during testing aimed at determining whether it’s been contaminated by an underground chemical leak. (U-T)

• Local legislator Lorena Gonzalez is reviving her bid to require employers to pay double-time to employees who work on Thanksgiving. This time, however, she’s limiting it to large retailers. Her previous effort failed, despite the delivery of pumpkin pies to the offices of colleagues, so this time she’s limited the effects of a bill. (Sacramento Bee)

• It’s almost time to chow down. On Thanksgiving, many of us will enjoy — or pretend to enjoy — a dollop of green bean casserole. It’s been around for 60 years, which is good news for Big Fried Onion. And those pesky millennials, the Washington Post reports, will be embracing turkey alternatives like ham, vegetarian-friendly options and even more boozing.

On the way out: Cranberry sauce. And in, at least in our part of the country: Salad. That’s the West’s “most disproportionately common Thanksgiving side dish,” according to, which clearly doesn’t have enough to do.

The Southeast loves mac & cheese as a Turkey Day side dish (what?!), while the Northeast is really into squash (eww!), eating it 56 percent of the time. Meanwhile, the data shows the West really enjoys cherry pie. Or you have a wild hair you could try an avocado pie thanks to an ultra-simple recipe courtesy of San Diego’s Border Grill.

Hmm. Well, ohhh-kay. Just keep the squash out of pie and nobody gets hurt.

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 ( Please contact him directly at and follow him on Twitter:

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at

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