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We’ve been covering some of the long-term issues and challenges that have prevented San Diego from making progress on homelessness. But a much more immediate threat to that population has emerged this week.

The vicious spree of violence against the homeless continues and may take a third life. Another San Diego homeless person was attacked Wednesday, set on fire by an assailant in downtown. He was in grave condition.

Police are certain the same suspect is responsible for two murders earlier this week and an attack that left a man severely injured and in critical condition. “We consider him extremely dangerous,” a police official said Wednesday.

Police continue to distribute security photos of the suspect and urge the homeless to avoid being alone. The U-T has details, including horrific descriptions from a witness, about Wednesday’s attack downtown.

Meanwhile, one of those long-running challenges has flared up again.

Is it wise to feed the homeless? It’s a hot topic in San Diego these days in light of an increase in homelessness in downtown’s East Village and a report that a pastor was told to lay off the meals as baseball’s All-Star Game nears this month.

In a new story, our Lisa Halverstadt takes a look at the sides in the debate. Some homeless advocates say homeless people must eat, and they should be fed where they are instead of being required to do something like enter a shelter or go somewhere else.

But critics, including businesspeople and other homeless advocates, say so-called public feedings can actually make it harder for service providers to help homeless people.

“It keeps those who are on the streets from accessing services,” says one of the critics. Another puts it this way: “What people who are homeless need more than anything is a home, not necessarily a meal. A meal is important but it’s not going to change a life in most instances.”

KPBS examines the weekly “moving days” for the homeless: Every Monday for months, cops and city workers have swarmed into the East Village to clean and throw away trash surrounding homeless encampments.

Before the workers come, the homeless “piled their blankets, tents, mattresses and clothes into carts. They pushed with one hand and used the other to balance buckets and containers on top of their overflowing loads. One woman wheeled a beige couch. A man lugged his gas barbecue. Some pulled pets on leashes.”

The homeless later come back. As we’ve explained, authorities can’t force the homeless off the street, but they have stepped up sidewalk clean-up efforts that can temporarily displace homeless people — a move city officials say is meant to address the spike in complaints from East Village residents and businesses.

Readers Weigh in on Balboa Park Plan

The Jacobs plan for Balboa Park — open up space to pedestrians by building a bypass road and a paid underground parking garage — is back, and so are people’s opinions about it.

We compiled the responses of many folks who wrote in. You can read them here.

A sampling:

• “Parking should be free at the park. Need spaces? Increase easy public transportation. Young families are being priced out of enjoying this city.”

• “If we are trying to take parking out of the center of Balboa Park, why is the parking garage going right there?”

• “I have no interest in parking offsite and waiting for a trolley, especially since the new attractive underground garage is so much more convenient and desirable.”

• CityBeat columnist John R. Lamb questions the resurrected plan, which is being embraced by Republicans but, conspicuously, not by Democrats: “Is that what’s this is all about? Scrubbing from our memories any last vestiges of the distasteful Filner Era? A toilet-swirly to the head of anyone who opposes those with money to burn, an inkling of an idea and a willing pair of mayoral ears desperate for a legacy?”

Opinion: Hey, the Drought’s Still Here

The county was addicted to water until drought restrictions went into effect and we responded, writes Tracie Barham, executive director of San Diego Coastkeeper, in a VOSD commentary. “Meanwhile, the San Diego County Water Authority was fighting hard to get us hooked again. Why? It is the public agency that sells us our water; its member agencies bring in more money when we waste water and less money when we conserve water.”

Now, water officials are acting like we can go full hog once again, she writes, “but the drought, and the consequences of our dependence on imported water, are as severe as ever.”

This week’s VOSD North County Report tracks the state of water restrictions in the north part of the county and finds that some may be lifted.

The drought has been lifting, but a projection suggests we could be hit by more dry weather this fall. Keep in mind that the people who study these things thought last winter would be wetter than it was. (KPBS)

In other environmental news: “If seismic activity in California and the bustling oil industry there are in any way linked — and a recent study led by researchers at CalTech adds to evidence that they might be — then state regulators may only have themselves to blame,” reports the science news site Undark. “That’s the implication of a recent analysis by the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental advocacy group, which found that between April of 2015 and March of 2016, the California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources issued dozens of permits to oil companies for wastewater disposal wells near active seismic faults.”

Politics Roundup: Government Shutdown Redux?

• Local Rep. Darrell Issa is hopping mad that Hillary Clinton won’t be prosecuted over her email system, and he “proposed that now might be a good time for the Republican leadership to shut down the federal government in protest of what he called ‘an imperial president’ who will not ‘enforce criminal charges against a criminal.’” (ThinkProgress)

• This doesn’t rise to the level of an election shenanigan (can you have a single shenanigan?), but it’s still worth noting: A Facebook page titled “The Same Photo of Kristin Gaspar Endorsing Donald Trump Every Day” is poking at the Republican candidate for county supervisor by posting, yes, the same photo of her doing just that. Every day.

Quick News Hits: Our Climate’s Just ‘Good’?

The drowning death of a Navy SEAL trainee after he was repeatedly dunked during training has been ruled a homicide. (U-T via L.A. Times)

The San Onofre nuclear plant settlement, the one that socked customers with a $3 billion-plus bill, is being opened again. (KPBS)

Bizarre news on the cop body camera front: “a state legislative committee has approved a bill would prohibit police departments from releasing any audio or video that depicts the death of an officer in the line of duty unless the officer’s family approves,” reports the L.A. Times, which editorializes that “while it’s distasteful to think about that footage showing up on YouTube, important decisions about who gets to see body camera video should not be made by grieving family members.”

The city is debuting an “open data portal” to give people access to information about topics like bike routes, road usage and drinking water tests. (CNS)

A new Bankrate report ranks about 200 cities on whether they’re good places to retire. And San Diego is ranked at … Hmm. I’m scrolling and scrolling to find it. Is this thing on? Oh, wait there we are: At No. 133, above Carlsbad (No. 153) and just passing Pittsburgh (No. 134).

Well, yes, we have very high housing costs. But doesn’t our weather count for something? Not really. San Diego’s climate is only ranked as “good.”

Ahem. “Good”? So who’s ranked “great”? Every ranked city in Florida, it turns out. No, I’m not making this up. Plus New Orleans. Among the other “good” climate cities: the notorious sweatboxes of Las Vegas and Bakersfield.

Oh my. Whoever put this together left their brain out too long in the sun. Here’s a prescription: Take two 73-degree July days and call me next week.

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. He is also a board member and ex-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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