The Morning Report
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The exploding population of homeless people downtown is increasingly getting the attention of downtown hoteliers, whose customers are complaining. Descriptions abound of event planners recoiling at homeless encampments near their event, or of hotel staff repeatedly confronting angry homeless at their front desks.
“A manager said a homeless man recently snuck into a conference room and slept underneath a stage,” emerging only once the conference was in progress, Lisa Halverstadt reports. She offers quite the collection of anecdotes about visitors vowing never to return or having to be coaxed to not move their event.
While Tourism Authority CEO Joe Terzi called for immediate action, a recent meeting between hoteliers and the mayor resulted only in “brainstorming” about public-private partnerships and information sharing. Meanwhile, hotels are stuck with the costs of increasing private security and offering incentives for event planners to keep their events at locations where attendees may not feel safe. For their part, the hotels say they are willing to participate in a solution, including funding homeless solutions through a tax increase on their business.
Stacie Spector, the mayor’s recently hired senior adviser for housing solutions, said the city needs to act quickly to prevent the problem from hurting the business and tourism environment downtown.
• Speaking of hotel taxes. The 2 percent hotel fee on top of the city’s 10.5 percent room tax (which some have argued is actually a tax too) is back in the spotlight. The city adjusted the fee to cover on certain hotels, which put to rest a similar lawsuit filed by attorney Cory Briggs and his clients. But others are apparently not yet satisfied. The Union-Tribune’s Lori Weisberg reports the second lawsuit in the last three months was filed last week, claiming the two percent charge paid by hotel guests since 2008 is an illegal tax. Worse case, it could put hoteliers on the hook for over $100 million in refunds.
The Learning Curve: Grad Rates Under Microscope
The U.S. Department of Education recently announced it would be auditing the graduation rates published by two states: Alabama and California. That means graduation numbers we’ve recently marveled at for their exclusion of many students and for being the product of questionable online courses are going to get an extra layer of scrutiny. The department is keeping quiet on why California has been selected for the audit, but in his regular education column, the Learning Curve, Mario Koran notes that state school officials have announced rising graduation rates, even in cases where standards have toughened.
Koran also has updates on our recent stories about the lingering controversy after the resignation of San Diego Unified trustee Marne Foster, bilingual education and a weird court case that may make life much harder for charter schools in this week’s edition of The Learning Curve.
San Diego Explained: Missing Public Art
Usually when we build a public building like a fire station or a library, we require it be made to look nice by commissioning art that fits with the style of the building. Back in the days of former mayor Jerry Sanders, budget cuts were put into place that temporarily eliminated that requirement. Fast forward to the present time, Kinsee Morlan and NBC 7’s Monica Dean report the impacts of that decision are now showing up. New public buildings are coming online with no accompanying public art in sight, as we show in our most recent San Diego Explained.
Late Police Study Finds Racial Bias
A new study, long overdue, finds “San Diego police officers are three times more likely to pull over Hispanic and Black drivers and perform a search of their vehicles,” NBC 7’s Dave Summers reports. Police Chief Shelly Zimmerman both claimed the study was flawed and acknowledged that police officers are humans who carry biases. Courthouse News reports San Diego State University researchers looked at 260,000 traffic stops from 2014 to 2015 and found that “25,000 to 30,000 traffic stop cards were missing.” The cards record data collected by police officers about drivers they stop, including race.
As a result, Zimmerman said the department was committed to improving officer training and changing the way data is collected during driver stops.
Chargers Might Leave 3: Leave Harder
ESPN reports that “Barring a miracle, the San Diego Chargers are expected to exercise the team’s option to move to Los Angeles in 2017.” So we’re back to this again. Scott Lewis, long-suffering Chargers observer as he is, put down his thoughts about this news in a series of tweets. “I bet the mayor and City Council would take it as a relief if the Chargers did leave. Like getting a throbbing, decayed tooth pulled,” Lewis writes.
• It’s time for the next round of changes to the North Embarcadero to begin, including dealing with parking, open space and road work. (inewsource)
• Rep. Darrell Issa will take the unusual step of suing Doug Applegate, his opponent in the last election, for libel. (Union-Tribune)
• California Attorney General Kamala Harris is headed to the U.S. Senate, U.S. Rep Xavier Becerra will replace her as California’s top lawyer. (KPBS)
• A big ring of car thieves were arrested and over 100 vehicles returned to their owners. (NBC 7)
• December Nights, the Balboa Park event widely known for its outdoor festivities, begins on Friday. NBC 7 breaks down the number and reports that among the nine stages you will find 105 performances overseen by at least seven Santa Clausii. An overall attendance of 350,000 people is anticipated, each one of whom is expected to drive two different cars and strive to park as close as possible to the event.