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Look, I love a good list.
I know you’ve probably seen a lot of them lately, including on VOSD as we’ve looked back at our coverage of the last year and forward toward the issues on the horizon for 2016. More on those in a moment.
But please indulge me once more, before we dive into meaty stuff starting next week.
I have a lot of fun collecting my favorite stories from around the internet each week for this newsletter, so I figured here I’d just list a few of the very best from 2015.
Police accountability was arguably the biggest story of the year, so it’s no wonder a lot of the best journalism dealt with it head on.
Three pieces rose to the top:
• The Guardian’s revelation that Chicago police essentially operate a black site on U.S. soil, where offenders – mostly black – are held for often minor violations, off the books and without access to a lawyer.
• The New Yorker’s examination of the problem in Albuquerque, N.M., where the rate of fatal police shootings is eight times that of New York City, and where no officer has ever been indicted.
• This joint Marshall Project/Pro Publica investigation of a serial rapist who went uncaught for years, in large part because police didn’t believe one of his earliest victims – and even charged her with falsely reporting a crime.
Journalists who examined racial disparities in education also struck a major chord this year.
• The Tampa Bay Times’ Failure Factories is an incredible series that uncovers how officials in Pinellas County, Florida, “turned five schools in the county’s black neighborhoods into some of the worst in Florida.”
• Don’t listen to “The Problem We All Live With,” Nikole-Hannah Jones’ heartbreaking piece about school integration, if you don’t want to end up sobbing as a gymnasium full of parents tells a bright, young black girl that they don’t want her at their school.
All of those pieces are amazing, and worthy of your time, but they’re also very heavy. So I’ll leave you with my favorite read of the year, a piece that is a total and utter joy to read about Katie Ledecky, arguably the most dominant athlete in any sport right now. (RIP, Grantland.)
What VOSD Learned This Week
This past week straddled 2015 and 2016, and so did we.
Looking back: Many big projects and land use decisions will head to voters this year. Maya Srikrishnan took stock of the lessons we’ve learned from similar battles that have already played out: the fight over One Paseo, Barrio Logan’s community plan and others.
One of the defining stories of the year was California’s drought and how officials have scrambled to respond. Locally, there’s been one overarching strategy: fight. The San Diego County Water Authority picked a number of battles this year over how to pay for and regulate water, and how those fights play out could affect millions of people.
We’ve rounded up our own best work this year in numerous ways, including the most-read stories of the year, but Randy Dotinga also took a look back at the best San Diego journalism from our colleagues at other outlets.
Looking forward: Lisa Halverstadt examined the issues that will be at play when the fight over short-term vacation rentals resumes.
Andrew Keatts reviews a few key projects and trends that will test city leaders’ commitment to smart growth in 2016.
Outside the city, there are seven big developments to keep an eye on. One of those is Lilac Hills Ranch, a massive project we’ve uncovered many concerns about that. This week, the state Fair Political Practices Commission found for a second time that one of those concerns – that County Supervisor Bill Horn may be conflicted if he votes on the project – was strong enough that Horn should recuse himself from the vote.
The city could once again be facing down more pension pandemonium in 2016.
And law enforcement officials may change the way they respond to crimes in which video evidence plays a large role.
Three bros to know: We got up close and personal with three men and their work this week.
Stephen Russell is taking over as head of the San Diego Housing Federation, and talked with Kelly Davis about that question that’s always looming for San Diego: How can we build more affordable housing.
Vista native Don Bartletti is the county’s most decorated photojournalist. He’s spent his 30-plus-years career at the L.A. Times and beyond documenting the plight of immigrants and refugees, and let loose on some of the current crises facing those groups.
Our own Mario Koran shared his incredible life story on this week’s podcast – he hit bottom with drugs, alcohol and a stint in jail and worked his way back up by making it through graduate school and pursuing journalism.
What I’m Reading
• Slate had two of the best pieces I’ve seen on the non-indictment of the officer who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice: One explaining the concept of “officer-created jeopardy” – in which officers create an unsafe situation then use those circumstances to justify their use of force – and one lamenting how some officers refuse to accept any risk. Then there’s the brilliant Connie Schultz, who absolutely nails this description of the racist ways in which people talk about Rice, a child. (Creators Syndicate)
• All hail Leslie Jones. (New Yorker)
• On trying. (The Awl)
• A debate for the ages: If dogs wore pants, would they wear them on two legs, or on four? (New York Magazine, The Atlantic)
Line of the Week
“My finding Hillary intensely “likable” is weird. It doesn’t signify universal approval of her decisions. I can and do disagree with Hillary Clinton, regularly and strongly. But some part of me also hopes that Hillary Clinton is having a nice day.” – From an essay on the subversiveness of finding Hillary Clinton likable.