The owners of a lease of public, port land — crucial to an expansion of the Convention Center on its current footprint — say they have made a deal with Mayor Kevin Faulconer. They say Faulconer agreed the city should pay them $13.8 million to essentially do nothing on the public land and protect the city’s option to expand the Convention Center there.

The mayor’s office, however, denies any deal was made.

Huh? Discrepancy alert! VOSD’s Ashly McGlone digs into the dispute and explains why it matters. “The site is crucial for an expansion of the Convention Center on its current footprint and, if true, an agreement between the city and Fifth Avenue Landing would be yet another indication that Faulconer is committed to that type of expansion.”

That is the expansion this ballot initiative is trying to stop.

Border Report: TJ Airport’s Closer, but No Uber for You

VOSD’s weekly Border Report digs into all sorts of happenings south of the border and at the border itself: A nation-crossing bridge to Tijuana’s airport is now in operation, Tijuana is turning up its nose at Uber and a cross-border bike lane won’t be reality anytime soon.

Plus: Pretty good (but not good enough) coyote camouflage, a preview of an investigation into Mexican drug smuggling, and the intricate, time-consuming and gossip-ridden tradition of tamale-making. (Pro-tip: Tamales might get you out of the hoosegow. At least that’s the legend regarding their use as a 19th-century get-out-of-San Diego-jail tool for a man named Roy Bean. Yes, that Roy Bean. For more, check this delectable VOSD history flashback.)

U-T Exec Takes Buyout

The Union-Tribune announced that another top local executive is out. Russ Newton, the chief operating officer and top business guy for the paper in San Diego (the publisher’s in Los Angeles and runs the LA Times as well) has taken the parent company’s buyout offer and is leaving this week.

Newton was only seven months into the job but oversaw major changes. The newspaper’s printing is now done in LA and its headquarters will be relocated downtown.

Newton was also featured in this complicated New York Times story about a “financial dispute” at his company, Tribune Publishing. A recent round of buyouts at Tribune had largely spared San Diego but did lure Editorial Page Editor Bill Osborne, arts writer James Chute and LA Times San Diego writer Tony Perry into retirement.

And Now a Word About Plumbing

The NY Times takes a look at big choices the state will need to make about water: “What parts of California’s water system, the most elaborate in the world, need fixing the most? And how can it be done in a way that helps the state’s enormous farm economy, which uses huge amounts of water, without sacrificing the needs of its cities or the environment?”

It’s not just a matter for us to worry about. As the story notes, we supply a third of the nation’s vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits and nuts. (Please insert your own 1970s-style “land of fruits and nuts” joke here and then please see yourself out.)

• The county may get some relief from state water restrictions with the help — among other things — of our new physical plant that pulls drinking water out of sea water.

Governor’s Overflowing Fix-It List

L.A Times columnist George Skelton writes that the governor won’t get a break from heavy lifting after his splashy visit to the climate change conference in Paris. We have miles upon miles of bad road, an impending Medi-Cal finance mess, a funding crisis for school construction and more.

“He’s been in Paris,” complains one legislator who’s pushing for road fixes. ”I’ve been in Turlock, Bakersfield and Chico talking to people. We need the governor’s help.”

• “By the time students with disabilities sat down to take California’s standardized tests last spring, they had been promised a set of new tools to help them better access the questions,” reports the education-focused news outlet The Hechinger Report via the L.A. Times. “But some teachers and administrators across the state have reported that this didn’t exactly happen.”

Quick News Hits: They’re Bolting

• Prosecutors will not be releasing the contents of a warrant delivered to San Diego Unified School District in the investigation of school board member Marne Foster. Reports the U-T: “prosecutors are believed to be investigating a $250,000 claim filed against the district last year on behalf of Foster’s son. According to the claim, district officials sabotaged the boy’s college prospects.”

• “The owners of a Southern California janitorial company that provides cleaning staff to major hotels in San Diego, Los Angeles and Riverside counties were indicted on charges of workers’ compensation fraud, payroll tax evasion and extortion,” City News Service reports. Among other allegations, the district attorney’s office says employees failed to get overtime pay or worker’s compensation for injuries.

• A nonprofit North County aquaponics farm that grows veggies and fish will expand by almost three times, KPBS reports, and make more money to support the homeless. Employees of the farm include recovering homeless people.

• In other animal news, a yellow-bellied sea snake recently washed up on the beach in Orange County, and a beach-cleaning volunteer put it in a bag to take home. A word to the un-wise: Don’t do this. The snake, which may have found its way to the coast thanks to El Niño, is venomous.

According to records, it’s only been spotted on the California coast twice before. While some news reports described the snake as dangerous, a specialist told the L.A. Times that you’ll be fine unless you pick it up. Don’t do that either.

• “Quiet day at Sea World,” declares a headline in the S.D. Reader. Slow news week?

• We all deserve a eulogist as sharp as Sports Illustrated scribe Lee Jenkins, a local native and son of U-T columnist Logan Jenkins. In a new column, he mourns the (almost-certainly) dearly departed: The once-and-likely-not-future San Diego Chargers, who seem to have played their last home game here.

While San Diego is one of the most miserable sports cities in the country when it comes to big wins, Jenkins notes that the team has done pretty well in terms of attendance and TV viewership even when it’s stunk. Despite various horrible team decisions, “the community never turned.”

Truth be told, there are a few people in town who just don’t care about pro football. But even we — er, um, I mean they — may get misty-eyed over this column. Let us all raise a glass to toast the Chargers. Or just lift the big box of money that we’ll all save by not turning it over to team owners.

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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