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Gary Ernst, Oceanside’s city treasurer, wanted to remain in his job so he submitted papers to run for another term. Then he died last week, apparently of natural causes.

He’s still on the ballot, though, creating a conundrum for city voters. Well, not all of them. City Councilman Jerry Kern tells our Maya Srikrishnan that the choice is simple: Vote for the dead man and not for his opponent Nadine Scott, an attorney, special district treasurer and neighborhood activist, even though she is actually alive.

“Even though Gary passed away, he is still better qualified than she is,” says Kern of the late Ernst, who was endorsed by the county GOP.

Scott is not pleased by this unusual politicking: “I find it 100 percent unethical for anyone to promote a deceased candidate over a highly qualified candidate simply so they can alter and frustrate the process.”

If Ernst is elected, the City Council can call a special election, which will cost thousands, or appoint someone to the position.

Culture Report: ‘Come’ Hither

This week’s VOSD Culture Report leads off with a project by an artist-in-residence at the San Diego Art Institute who’s camped out at a Balboa Park parking lot with a bread truck covered in balloons spelling “COME.”

Now, we’ve all been taught to not approach strangers with balloons in bread trucks, or something to that effect. But this is legit: “He was inviting passersby to sit inside the truck, which had been turned into a makeshift film studio, and record a mock personal ad or dating video.”

This is inspired by dating videos from the 1980s with all their cheesiness and occasional moments of raw honesty.

Also in the Culture Report: Cash-strapped newspapers face a perennial question about newsroom staffing: Should they pay journalists to write about topics without local connections like TV shows, movies and books, not to mention sporting events like the Olympics and (in San Diego’s case, at least) just about every World Series and Super Bowl? Or should they just run stories from other publications about these topics, allowing the newspapers to devote more of their resources to local news?

The Union-Tribune, which has been cutting back its newsroom this year, has made a call regarding movie reviews: It won’t need a local reviewer’s services anymore, although it will still cover local film festivals and filmmakers. “It’s really a question about whether or not readers want someone local doing this sort of work — if they value having a voice they know — or if it’s really not that big of a deal for them,” says freelancer Anders Wright, whose reviews won’t run in the paper anymore.

Also: There’s a San Diego Who Con (sorry, Roger Daltrey fans, this about Dr. Who, not the other Who). And: Legos descend on Balboa Park, Oktoberfest events are upon us and the San Diego Opera has military fans on the mind.

S.D. Home Prices Zoom

“San Diego County home prices have increased more than most of California in the last year,” the U-T reports. An index says the median price (not the average) is up 6 percent over the past year, a bit more than L.A. and Orange counties. It’s also a bit more than the national jump of 5.1 percent.

Another report says the median home price in the county is $498,000.

Meanwhile, the U-T finds that even tiny 180-square-foot studio apartments are going for a pretty penny in our fair city. Studio 819, that tall apartment building in Hillcrest at 9th and University, rents teeny studios of that size for as much as $805 a month.

The average rent for a studio? A stunning $1,251 a month.

No, SDG&E Hasn’t Forgotten You

About 28,000 SDG&E customers haven’t been getting bills lately because the power company wasn’t sure they were accurate. This has turned out to be an unpleasant surprise for customers who are getting socked with unexpected big bills to make up for the ones they didn’t get.

The problem has apparently been going on for months, but SDG&E is only now mailing notices to customers who don’t have online accounts. (U-T)

619 Area Code’s Ready to Burst

The 619 area code is reaching capacity, but state officials aren’t planning to make anyone change their numbers. The plan is to start assigning some new users within the area code’s geographical boundaries to the area code of 858. That’s expected to begin in two years.

Where’s the 619? “The area served by the 619 area code includes the southern portion of the City of San Diego, and the adjacent cities of Chula Vista, Coronado, El Cajon, Imperial Beach, La Mesa, Lemon Grove, National City, Santee, and unincorporated areas of San Diego County.”

Quick News Hits: Wet Words

Councilman Scott Sherman and Councilman-elect Chris Ward, a Republican and a Democrat respectively, are joining the campaign against Measure C, the Chargers-supported stadium initiative. “Trust is an earned commodity and the Chargers haven’t earned the taxpayers’ trust,” says Sherman, who wrote a VOSD commentary bashing the Chargers’ stadium plans.

KPBS reports on plans to upgrade the communication system that links local emergency workers.

SeaWorld is planning a virtual reality roller coaster for its Orlando park, “immersing riders on a deep-sea mission alongside sea creatures inspired by extinct and mythical creatures of the past, including the fictional Kraken.”

Here in San Diego, looks like we’ll be stuck with boring ol’ reality. Meanwhile, SeaWorld released new renderings of the attractions coming here next year. (U-T, 10News)

Mike O’Connor, an NBC 7 sports producer, tells the story about how the late golfer Arnold Palmer spent a few minutes with him in Coronado more than 30 years ago and changed his life.

We have rivers and estuaries in our fair county, not to mention streams, creeks, springs and tributaries. What the heck’s the difference? The website Atlas Obscura offers a rundown of 58 terms for “aquatic geology,” from freshets and meanders to lagoons, channels and billabongs.

Yes, billabongs. It was a word before it became the name of a surfwear company, defining “where a river changes course and creates an isolated stagnant pool of backwater behind where the former branch dead ends.”

“Isolated stagnant pool of backwater.” Or as I like to call it, the 1980s.

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. He is also immediate past 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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