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In September, Pamela Kennedy waited more than five minutes for a 911 emergency dispatcher to answer, before hanging up and calling back, only to wait another two minutes and 38 seconds to speak with someone – all while an intruder was in her home. The intruder had left by the time Kennedy spoke to a real person. In November, another family waited four minutes and 40 seconds to speak with a 911 emergency dispatcher after catching intruders in their home in the middle of the night.

The San Diego Police Department says instances like those, which Andy Keatts reveals in a new story, are outliers. Average wait times for 911 calls are under 20 seconds (which is still longer than department standards). SDPD has been talking a lot about average wait times lately in response to public outcry, after a family with a severely injured infant tried unsuccessfully to reach a 911 dispatcher. The infant later died.

But when you’re an outlier and on hold with 911 for minutes during an emergency, average monthly wait times don’t matter, Keatts writes. An SDPD spokesman acknowledged to Keatts that “two-minute, five-minute, seven-minute wait times, those do occur.” VOSD has requested data that would help spell out how often those longer wait times happen, but SDPD has yet to produce it.

SDPD has about 20 unfilled dispatcher positions out of the 130 in the city’s budget – a number the city has been unable to reach for the past three years.

Unpacking PACs

Political action committees and “dark money” have upended the world of campaign finance, allowing groups to bypass campaign contribution limits and making it difficult to track what money goes to which political campaigns.

Inewsource’s Joe Yerardi joins hosts Sara Libby and Ry Rivard on this week’s episode of San Diego Decides to discuss the ins and outs of PACs and campaign finance mysteries.

Libby and Rivard also talk with Aimee Faucett, who runs the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce’s PAC.

In his biweekly elections column, Keatts looks at some surprising campaign donations from Republicans to Democrats in a couple of City Council races. One of the oddest is a donation from developer Doug Manchester to Democrat Anthony Bernal in the District 3 City Council race. That district includes neighborhoods like Hillcrest, and has been represented by openly gay politicians since 1993. Manchester helped bankroll a campaign to ban gay marriage back in 2008.

Keatts also writes about June voter turnout projections, which are looking higher than usual – something that could benefit Democrats. And he did a mini Q-and-A with District 1 City Council candidate, Kyle Heiskala, who is only 23 years old.

Speaking of campaign finance, Mayor Kevin Faulconer is outraising and outspending his opponents, reports KPBS’s Claire Trageser. Faulconer raised $158,430 since the beginning of the year, dwarfing the $43,063 raised by his Democratic challenger, Ed Harris and the $28,390 raised by independent Lori Saldaña.

Potential New Owner Plays Games With Current U-T Owner

The merger of Gannett Co. and Tribune Publishing could marry hundreds of newspapers nationwide, including Gannett’s USA Today and Tribune papers like the Los Angeles Times and the U-T.

Gannett announced Monday that it was taking its bid for Tribune Publishing past the Tribune board and straight to shareholders, reports CNN. Last week the company offered to buy Tribune Publishing for more than $388 million.

Gannett is trying to pressure the Tribune board into giving in to its takeover bid. Right now, the Tribune board is reviewing Gannett’s offer, but publicly badmouthing Gannett, CNN notes.

“Gannett has no path to control for Tribune Publishing and their tactics clearly demonstrate a desperate and opportunistic attempt to steal the company,” Tribune said in a statement.

Newspaper consolidation like this is nothing new, writes Sam Lebovic in the Columbia Journalism Review.

“Publishers, and their shareholders, seek efficiencies of scale in tough times,” he writes. “The internet is killing newspaper diversity.”

In our Friday podcast, hosts Keatts and Scott Lewis spoke with one of the newspaper industry’s foremost analysts, Ken Doctor, to understand the increase in newspaper consolidations in the past several years.

Can Prop. H Fix San Diego’s Streets?

Proposition H or Rebuild San Diego, a ballot measure put forth by City Councilman Mark Kersey, aims to address the city’s continuous – and growing – infrastructure woes.

The initiative wouldn’t levy new taxes to address San Diego’s dilapidated roads, sidewalks, parks, storm drains, city-owned buildings and other aging or deficient infrastructure. It would just force future city officials to put aside portions of future taxes and money saved to address infrastructure needs.

KPBS talks to Kersey and City Councilman Todd Gloria – who opposes the measure – to dig into how effective the proposal could be. KPBS’s Tom Fudge opens with a scene crossing over the border from San Diego to Poway: “the road suddenly changes from one full of bumps and cracks to a road as smooth as glass.”

We’ve previously laid out the shortfalls of Kersey’s plan. For example, the few hundred million dollars that Kersey expects to raise to put toward infrastructure in the next five to 10 years only makes a small dent in the $1.7 billion infrastructure deficit the city faces.

In January, the city’s independent budget analyst even said that while the measure is nice, it won’t generate enough money to combat the city’s infrastructure issues. Only a new revenue stream would do that.

Quick News Hits

• State electricity regulators at the California Public Utilities Commission have been meeting with Wall Street analysts and hedge fund investors, often discussing pending matters what would directly impact the value of the utility’s stocks – something they’re not supposed to do. (U-T)

• Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher has gone from GOP star to Hillary Clinton delegate. (L.A. Times)

• This is a cool U-T video exploring cross-border drug tunnels.

• Being emoji’d on VOSD’s Slack pretty much immortalizes you. See?

Maya Srikrishnan

Maya was Voice of San Diego’s Associate Editor of Civic Education. She reported on marginalized communities in San Diego and oversees Voice’s explanatory...

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