Local judges often have important decisions to make about the accused criminals standing before them: Will they allow them to be released on bail or even without needing to pay bail? Now, these judges have less information to help them make decisions.

“As of Oct. 1, arraignment judges in San Diego County no longer receive risk-assessment reports on each defendant,” VOSD contributor Kelly Davis reports. The reports, which include lots of details about the pasts of defendants, are the victim of cost-cutting.

As a result, a judge tells us, he’s “trying to make judgment calls on very limited information.” His own decisions are limited too: Cost-cutting has also eliminated the prospect of allowing defendants to be released without bail but with certain conditions.

• An investigation by The Guardian names Central California’s Kern County — home to Bakersfield — as the home of the nation’s “deadliest police”: “They’ve killed more people per capita than in any other American county in 2015.”

San Diego County is in a three-way tie for 10th place as the deadliest county in the country based on the per-capita number of people killed by police locally this year. The Guardian counts 12 deaths at the hands of police here. Keep in mind that these numbers say nothing about whether the killings were justified.

(San Bernardino County is at No. 2, and Santa Clara County — home to San Jose — is at No. 4, and L.A. County is tied at 10th.)

Every one of the five most populous counties in the U.S. (including San Diego County at 5th place) is on the Guardian’s list of 13 counties. Orange County and Riverside County, ranking at 6th and 10th in population nationally, don’t make the killing-by-cops list, meaning their per-capita rate is lower than ours.

Hotel Tax Proposal Gets a Big Boost

NBC 7’s Monica Dean and Voice of San Diego’s Scott Lewis join forces in the latest edition of our video series “San Diego Explained” and dig into the continuing battle over the city’s taxes on hotel guests. An attorney who devotes his life to battling government agencies has come up with a new plan, and voters may get to consider it.

• Briggs’ citizen initiative is getting a major boost: “A prominent development team with downtown real estate interests donated on Tuesday $200,000 to help qualify an initiative that would raise San Diego’s hotel tax to fund a variety of civic initiatives.” (Union-Tribune)

U-T columnist Logan Jenkins tries to get through the hotel-tax ballot measure, “a text so dense I can’t imagine one in a thousand actually reading it with total comprehension.”

“Initiatives, we’re taught as an axiom, are supposed to be clear broth. This one is a bouillabaisse stocked with personal hobbyhorses,” Jenkins writes. Anyone got a Cliff Notes version of that sentence?

City Urged NFL to Oppose Briggs Measure

Last week, we revealed the formal term sheet offer the city and county submitted to the NFL about what the agencies would be willing to do to build a stadium and the NFL’s response.

The city Tuesday released its response to that. The NFL had wondered about the effect of Briggs’s initiative to raise the hotel-room tax and pave the way for an annex to the Convention Center and potentially a new stadium. The city appears to urge the NFL to persuade the Chargers to oppose it if the league is worried about any uncertainty it causes.

The letter also addresses the league’s concern that a vote on a new stadium adds a level of uncertainty to the proposal.

“Given the Mayor’s strong approval rating, we believe that a ballot measure that is publicly supported by the Mayor, County, regional leaders and the Chargers is very likely to pass,” the letter from the city and county consultants, Nixon Peabody, reads.

NFL owners are meeting this week and will get together again in January, but the timeline for decisions about which team(s) will split for L.A. remains as murky as ever. (U-T)

Off-duty cops want to bring guns into stadiums during NFL games as a potential weapon against terrorist attacks. (Deadspin)

Mayors to Gov: Time to Freak Out

The El Niño — three words that sound redundant since they mean “the the child” — has yet to smack us big time, and it might still be a bust. Still, every mayor in the county and the county’s own top elected official have signed on to a letter asking Gov. Jerry Brown to declare an emergency.

“Such a declaration would allow local jurisdictions to expedite preparations for heavy rain — like clearing out vegetation in flood channels — without wasting precious time acquiring permits from multiple agencies,” City News Service reports. The mayors also hope the feds will waive their own environmental rules to allow more cleaning out of flood channels.

It’s not clear what the negative effects — if any — of waiving the regulations would be.

The state failed to meet its water conservation goal for October, the L.A. Times reports, falling a few percentage points short of its goal of cutting urban consumption by 25 percent compared with the same month two years ago. But the situation is still good since the state conserved more than required over the summer.

Locally, nine out of the county’s 24 water districts failed to save the mandated conservation amounts in October, City News Service reports. For some reason, all nine districts that came up short are in inland and coastal North County.

In the wealthy town of Rancho Santa Fe, which has become a national emblem of uncaring and profligate guzzlers thanks to its state-leading average water use, the Santa Fe Irrigation District failed to reach its target of a 36 percent cut compared with the same month in 2013. It only got to 29 percent.

Heavy flooding is likely to take the lives of homeless people across the state. But for all the hoopla when Los Angeles city officials spoke of declaring a public emergency over homelessness earlier this year, the L.A. Times finds that “city officials have little to show for such announcement.” The mayor’s “battle plan” has shrunk into a bunch of strategies, and politicians may not even bother to declare a homeless emergency after all.

City to Residents: Do You Care About Environment?

As the big climate change talks continue in Paris this week, the Reader reports that a new taxpayer-funded citywide survey asks residents a goofy question: How would they prioritize preparing “for more frequent storms, increased flooding, extreme heat events, increased wildfires, and severe drought”?

It’s hard to imagine how answers to this question could be helpful. What should politicians do if residents basically say “Meh, don’t worry about it?” Meanwhile, the Reader uncovers the out-of-state out-sourcing of the survey. The city hired a Kansas firm to manage it, a firm that’s open about its mission to prevent those dreaded “community activists” from getting too much of a say.

“While input from special interest groups is important, the needs of the general public can be overlooked if community leaders only have input from well organized groups and community activists,” the firm’s website says.

Culture Report: Art Fees Begone?

The weekly VOSD Culture Report leads with the complaints of a local lobbying for builders who’s sick and tired of developer fees that pay for public art. “Truthfully, these public art fee discussions really tell us about the state of mind of those in charge of, or fueling the debate. It rhymes with ‘duck’ followed by the adverb ‘off’ and is directed at all who aspire to having more affordable housing options,” he writes.

Hmm. Whatever could he mean? Muck Off? Truck Off? Struck Off? VOSD’s Kinsee Morlan checks into learn more about his strict position.

Also in the Culture Report: Development and art in Tijuana, rapping about Iraqis in El Cajon, yet another craft beer joint and the La Jolla author who wrote the book that inspired the movie “Hugo.” Plus much more.

Quick News Hits: Chef Boy-It’s-Us!

• We’ve heard about the ghosts of superintendents past who haunt San Diego Unified, but here’s some good news: As KPBS reports, one charter school — run by a leader who says she believes in former Superintendent Alan Bersin’s controversial vision — is doing great.

• “A San Francisco judge urged state regulators to release emails about a multibillion-dollar deal with two utilities that shut down the San Onofre nuclear plant,” the AP reports.

• Pack up your knives and … Stay for a while! The new season of “Top Chef” debuts today, and it will feature visits to several California cities, including San Diego. Here, the U-T says, “cook-offs will center on contestants elevating the fish taco and creating dishes to pair with brews created especially for the judges.”

“Elevating the fish taco”? Sacrilege! (Maybe even sacrilege especial.) Please join me in flicking bits of cabbage at the screen.

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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