Homeless people downtown seem more noticeable than ever before. We see them sitting next to their tents, yelling at each other on the street, snoozing in corners of the new central library.

The city has routinely swept through their encampments in search of junk — and earthier, stinkier stuff — to throw out. Now, the sweeps are getting bigger — covering larger areas of downtown. VOSD’s Lisa Halverstadt explored why this is happening.

Turns out the extra attention is not a specific plan but a reaction to complaints. “We don’t have a strategy,” a city official says. “We are responding. We are definitely in a reactive mode.”

Whatever mode they’re in, the homeless and their advocates aren’t pleased about getting the bum’s rush. But the city does give notice to the homeless, and police officers try to help the transients find help.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer, the boss of the city employees conducting the sweeps, says he’s focused on finding housing for the homeless and that the efforts aren’t a backdoor to criminalizing homelessness.

New Graduation Rules Leave Kids Behind

In theory, it’s a great idea: Raise standards for kids by boosting high-school graduation requirements. In years past, some students in San Diego Unified were graduating without the classes necessary to enter a UC or CSU school.

San Diego Unified decided to require students to pass college-prep courses in order to earn a diploma, and the class of 2016 is the first to face the new standards.

“But after five years of work, a new study shows that roughly 1,000 students could be denied a diploma this year,” VOSD’s Mario Koran reports. “Those most likely to fall short are, in large part, students from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

The district doesn’t dispute the study but says it’s been working to get them caught up, and that the 2016 graduation stats will reflect those efforts.

SeaWorld to End Orca Breeding

In an op-ed in the LA Times, SeaWorld announced that it would end its orca breeding program.

“This year we will end all orca breeding programs — and because SeaWorld hasn’t collected an orca from the wild in almost four decades, this will be the last generation of orcas in SeaWorld’s care. We are also phasing out our theatrical orca whale shows,” writes CEO Joel Manby.

This presumably means the company will stop fighting the Coastal Commission’s decision to allow it to build new orca enclosures only if they drop the breeding program.

In October, Scott Lewis described the strange case for the breeding the company was forced to make after that decision.

Pension Ruling Gets Challenged

New ethical questions are being raised about a recent state labor board ruling against San Diego’s 2012 pension cutbacks,” the U-T reports.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith complains, the paper says, that “the man who wrote the ruling is a former San Diego labor leader who publicly opposed the city’s voter-approved measure to reduce city employee retirement benefits.” The city is appealing.

For background, check our story about what the ruling could mean. In a word: a mess.

OMG! $202K Bill to Search Records for ‘Yikes’?

The U-T asked local government agencies to search their email records for uses of words and phrases like “what a disaster,” “yikes” and “OMG.” Since the more drama-prone among us (me, maybe) use these on an hourly basis, the searchers might turn up a whole lot of emails.

So what happened? Government agencies told the U-T to pay fees ranging from $1.50 to $2,800 (Chula Vista Elementary district, estimating it would take a tech person 40 hours) to $7,800 (Southwestern Community College, with a 185-hour estimate) and $138,900 (the teeny Mountain Empire Unified district, estimating 1,464 hours).

At the top: the Palomar Health District, which runs North County hospitals, with an estimate of $203,000.

Finally, Our Primary Could Mean Something

It’s been a while since presidential candidates have cared much about campaigning in the California primary. Now, The Sacramento Bee reports, we are on the verge of mattering. Perhaps even a whole lot, even though we don’t get to vote until June 7.

The drama will come in California’s GOP primary, which could push Donald Trump to victory in the Republican race or force every political reporter’s dream — a contested convention.

The Bee says delegates are awarded in a winner-take-all fashion by congressional district, meaning that GOP voters in a district with few Republicans could have lots of power. Think of, say, our own 53rd district, which covers some of the central and southern parts of the county and gave incumbent Rep. Susan Davis a victory in 2012 with 61 percent of the vote.

What do the statewide polls say? Two small and recent ones put Trump ahead.

History lessons: The L.A. Times notes that we gave Barry Goldwater a big victory in 1964. Also: a victory in California boosted Robert F. Kennedy in the Democratic race in 1968 after he lost the Oregon primary to Eugene McCarthy. (We were one of the few states that held primaries then.)

But, of course, RFK was assassinated the night of the primary in Los Angeles, moments after his victory speech. The day before, Kennedy had spent time campaigning (and nearly collapsing from exhaustion) in San Diego.

Kennedy’s assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, was recently denied parole and remains in South Bay’s Donovan state prison.

In other politics news, the battle over a higher state minimum wage is heating up even though the fight in San Diego looks like it will end in a whimper.

Law & Order Roundup: Potted

The county is still making life difficult for medical marijuana shops. (U-T)

• Two suspects accused of being the “Friars Bandit” armed robbers have been arrested, NBC 7 reports. One of the robbers of local 24-hour businesses wore a Padres cap.

Usually it’s the FBI, not the cops, who give nicknames to crooks. Check our story about how the local FBI gives names to robbers like “Mr. Magoo Bandit,” “Big Boy Bandit” and “Ho-Hum Bandit.”

 The Reader is running a blotter of lifeguard and Harbor Police calls. The headline is a grabber: “Woman climbs cliff to avoid seals.” This is how the La Jolla Cove drama ended: “Citizens scare off seals with trash can lids and the female climbs down safely with no injuries.”

There’s also this: “SDFD reports 3 transients possibly trapped in SD River at Camino Del Rio. 1 River, 3 River and 4 River respond to find 3 people bathing in river.”

SDG&E Tweets Up a Storm

Hot environmentalist-on-SDG&E action! The executive director of the local Climate Action Campaign got into it with the power company on Twitter yesterday over solar power. Click here to read the heated back-and-forth, which was over the issue of rooftop solar power. We explained SDG&E’s complicated relationship with rooftop solar here.

SDG&E tried to drop the mic at the end of the difficult conversation: “Thank you for the positive energy.”

North County Report: Par for the (Non)-Course?

VOSD’s weekly North County Report has more on the transformation of downtown Oceanside, which is welcoming several new developments. Strangely enough, the boom isn’t seeming to cause the usual strife among residents there.

The weekly report also features details about the possible demise of a golf course, a mayoral sort-of apology, an emergency room that’s lost to history, and a land-bound “skydiving” facility.

Quick News Hits: My, What a Sensuous Ceiling!

University City’s Costa Verde mall may get a makeover with a big boutique hotel, dozens of new shops and restaurants and a trolley connection. (Times of SD)

 There’s been a whale of a 3.5 million-year-old fossil find along Route 15. (KPBS)

 Oopsy daisy (or maybe oopsy teddy): “A San Diego-area high school teacher has been suspended after a student recorded video of him browsing images of lingerie during class. Had the teacher’s computer not been connected to a projector, no one would have known.” (NBC 7)

• The Reader checks out a listing for a $5.75 million high-rise condo downtown at the Meridian building. It features a “floating glass breakfast bar,” a “bare-metal” toilet (sounds chilly), “caramel coated walls” that “guide the eye over seamless forms,” and “sensuously sculpted ceilings.”

Honestly. For that much money, I shouldn’t have to give my ceilings a cold shower.

Correction: The original version of this piece incorrectly said the sweeps of homeless encampments were getting more common. The city actually doesn’t know that. It does know, they are getting broader, covering more blocks at a time. 

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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