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Chollas Creek, which runs through several local cities, is an ugly and polluted mess. A Regional Water Quality Control Board has spent years trying to get the various agencies around the waterway to clean it up. The liability sat on their books, haunting them. Now, they’ve decided the pollution isn’t so harmful — never mind! — and local governments could save over $1 billion by failing to fix things.
“The board is set to roll back some of its cleanup requirements, which it now says were ill-informed,” our Ry Rivard reports. “The amount of metals in Chollas Creek can now remain largely the same, but after years of bureaucratic exercises, a bunch of public agencies will clear a major liability off their books.”
Politics Roundup: Supes Give Selves $19K Raise
They didn’t say a word. According to the U-T, county supervisors — with one exception — just voted yesterday to give themselves a hefty raise that will also boost their pensions.
The $19,000 raise, which must be finalized next year, will be added to the $153,290 annual salary that county supervisors already get. This “amounts to a 12.5 percent increase in pay in just under nine months,” the U-T reports, and the supervisors could make even more money since their salaries are based on those of Superior Court judges. If those go up, pay for supes will go up too.
It’s not clear how the county budget will be adjusted — what will be cut or raised through extra revenue — in order to pay for the higher salaries.
Only lame-duck Supervisor Dave Roberts voted no. He didn’t say why.
• “In a loss for local governments, the California Supreme Court decided Monday that online travel companies such as Expedia Inc. are exempt from paying hotel occupancy taxes…,” the L.A. Times reports. San Diego is one of the “local governments (that) have been attempting to get the firms to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in back taxes.”
The dispute has to do with whether the companies should pay taxes on the amount that are paid by customers in total or just the wholesale amount that goes to hotels.
• Congress has passed a water bill that bitterly divided California’s two Democratic senators, and it now awaits the president’s signature, which seems to be in some doubt.
As The Sacramento Bee reports, the bill is good news for farmers: it’s “likely to result in greater pumping of Northern California water to farms and cities in the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California.”
New Chargers News Frenzy
The actual letter four San Diego City Council members sent the Chargers and NFL became public, leading to a bunch of news stories. Like we explained yesterday, there’s nothing really here. The idea to pay for a new stadium with nearby development in Mission Valley is an aging one the Chargers were well aware of.
The four politicians proposed the city let the Chargers have the land for 99 years for $1 a year. “Before leaving 60 years of tradition and loyal fans, let’s give one last concerted effort to come to the table and hammer this out face to face, working together toward a common goal of keeping the NFL in America’s Finest City,” the letter reads.
The Chargers were “infuriated.”
Meanwhile, The Washington Post says “there is a strong belief within the league that the Chargers plan to exercise their option to join the Rams in Los Angeles beginning next season, according to several people familiar with the league’s inner workings.”
• Thanks to a vote by county leaders in the Oakland region, the Raiders can now start exploring a new $1.3 billion stadium where the Oakland Coliseum sits now. (ABC 7)
School District Preps for Cuts
All week we’ve been following the fallout of a warning from the County Office of Education that San Diego Unified School District was facing severe financial distress.
Tuesday night, board members unanimously decided to allow staff to proceed with plans to make $117 million in cuts.
Even with the cuts and regular short-term borrowing, “We are skating on thin ice,” the district’s new chief financial officer, Patricia Koch, warned. Unlike recent years, Koch said, “We cannot expect to see the large infusions of funds… We cannot wait for a miracle to happen.”
Trustees were not concerned. Earlier, John Lee Evans called it an academic exercise and implied it was unwise to get worked up about anything before they knew exactly how much money they would get from the state this summer.
“There is no plan for mass layoffs. We always balance our budget. We have the required reserve fund. We don’t have a huge reserve fund, because we are using our money to educate our kids.”
‘Airy-Fairy Gang’ Notches a Win
Here are a few words you might not have expected to be strung together: “The airy-fairy gang picked up some gravitas this week.”
That fantastic sentence is the product of U-T columnist Logan Jenkins, who notes that news of UC San Diego’s satellite in downtown San Diego is an in-your-face to Chargers booster Fred Maas, who ripped the “possibility of bringing some artistic, airy-fairy consultant-based, planner-based plan” to Tailgate Park and the bus yard. UCSD isn’t setting up shop right there, but they’ll be close.
“A crucial domino has tipped,” Jenkins writes. “But many more will have to follow to prove Maas wrong.”
Death at the Border
KPBS has begun a four-part series about deaths of migrants at the border, many of which appear to be connected to physical efforts to block off Mexico: “Since construction on the border fence started two decades ago, nearly 7,000 people have died trying to cross the border, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.”
The real death tool could be thousands higher.
Reporter Jean Guerrero joins a search for human skeletons along a smuggling route. Tracked by vultures, she finds signs of people — camouflage shoes, torn female underwear, dolls, Bibles. And she finds bones: A skull, a spine.
• Violence is up in Mexico, the N.Y. Times reports: “In the first 10 months of this year, there were 17,063 homicide cases in Mexico, already more than last year’s total and the highest 10-month tally since 2012. The relapse in security has unnerved Mexico and led many to wonder whether the country is on the brink of a bloody, all-out war between criminal groups.”
Culture Report: Mini-Billboard, Maximum Outrage
Somebody put a tiny anti-abortion billboard into a diorama at the San Diego Model Railroad Museum. Our Kinsee Morlan noticed it and posted a photo on Facebook, setting off a not-so-mini storm of outrage.
As she reports in this week’s Culture Report, the billboard is now history, and the museum director said that kind of political message doesn’t belong there. “We want to be known as a safe space for people to come and learn,” he said. “We’re just not that kind of museum.”
Morlan learns that there doesn’t seem to be any legal rationale to evict the sign. Meanwhile, local opinion-havers are arguing over whether it’s appropriate for political opinions to appear at the museum and horrify museum-goers with their political-ness.
Also in the Culture Report: A book highlighting important local women, the sixth anniversary of Hidden San Diego, a “sweet and terribly energetic holiday entry” (ahem) and more.
Now That’s Salon-Quality Hair
The Facebook group Vintage San Diego has dug up some fantastic 1970s-era TV Guide ads for local newscasts. Here’s one from 1977 where Channel 10 (aka TheNews) bids farewell to mustachioed anchor Harold Greene, who’s rumored to be the inspiration for the movie Anchorman’s Ron Burgundy.
Was he really? According to Newsday, actor Will Farrell actually ran into Greene one day after “Anchorman” became a smash hit: “He had a question: ‘I gotta ask you — was that movie based on me? I started laughing and said, ‘No, I’m sorry.’ And he says, ‘There’s an old saying in the news game: ‘Yeah, right. …’ And he turns and walks away. He was totally convinced it was him.”
Vintage San Diego also dug up photos of “Newscenter Channel 39” anchor and heartthrob Paul Bloom, boasting yet another mustache. Here he is touted as “The Right Man/The Right Time.” (Hmm.)
Another ad shows the gang at Channel 39 (it’s now NBC 7) hard at work in 1984. Poor bow-tied weatherman Bob Dale, the only guy in the shot with a jacket, almost falls out of the frame while Bloom, “proud to be back,” dominates the shot. Armed with pen, script and mustache, he looks eager and ready for action, whether it’s a breaking brush fire or happy hour at the nearest fern bar.
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 (asja.org). Please contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.