The biggest driver of civic discussion in San Diego in 2016 — VOSD’s Voice of the Year — wasn’t a single person. Instead, it was a collection of people: The downtown homeless.

“This year,” our story notes, “the shanty towns throughout downtown San Diego became impossible to ignore.”

The number of unsheltered homeless folks downtown has skyrocketed, growing by almost 70 percent since the beginning of the year. Law enforcement targeted the homeless with questionable methods, a serial killer stalked the homeless and city officials tried to push them out of sight to pretty the city for the All-Star Game.

The good news? “Finally, people with the political sway to force a real response may be paying attention. Downtown business and tourism groups told the mayor last month the issue is hurting the tourism and the convention industry.”

We’re taking note of other prominent Voices of the Year too. Check our write-ups about them: The artists of Barrio Logan, Lincoln High parent activist Cindy Barros, former San Diego State coach and whistleblower Beth Burns, environmentalist Nicole Capretz (she’s also in the running for a Californian of the Year honor courtesy of the N.Y. Times), Councilman Chris Cate, the El Cajon police shooting protesters, the Encinitas opponents of new housing, Prop. A proponents Gary Gallegos and Ron Roberts, craft beer leader Jacob McKean, Rep. Scott Peters, architect and downtown visionary Rob Quigley and Chargers CEO Dean Spanos.

Sounds of Silence: Major Voices Who Clammed Up

Our managing editor Sara Libby takes note of seven times that local people in positions of power — normally a bunch that never shuts up — failed to deploy their mouths in 2016. Each time, they went mum instead of explaining their positions and priorities.

“Though 2016 was an election year – a time specifically designed for politicians to lay bare their positions and priorities – San Diegans got remarkably little candor from the people vying for their votes,” Libby writes.

One’s a county supervisor who, refreshingly, admitted that he refused to take a position because voters might not like it. He was voted out of office anyway. Another is the mayor of San Diego. We also take aim at Council President Myrtle Cole and the leadership-challenged elected leaders who make up the SANDAG board.

California’s Ugly History of Eugenics

The New York Times takes a look at California’s leading national role in robbing the rights of those deemed mentally inferior: “From 1919 to 1952, California’s state homes and hospitals sterilized about 20,000 people under eugenics laws that were intended to cure societal ills by halting the procreation of people deemed inferior.”

A new report estimates that more than 800 of these people may still be alive. A database lists the identities of the victims — an interesting choice given their potential interest in privacy — and there may efforts to reimburse them.

Along similar lines, we’ve written about how San Diego sex offenders often faced a choice — prison or castration — from the 1930s to the 1960s, courtesy of local judges. “It was offered as a curative option. That was when the science said you can actually cure sex offenders by castrating them,” a professor told me.

North County Report: They’re Watching You

This week’s North County Report takes note of our story about the Sheriff Department’s debut, without public discussion, of a pilot program to use drones to monitor the public during operations. “This is not an Orwellian tool,” a lieutenant insists.

Also: North County’s transit agency faces allegations that officers used security cameras to ogle women and read people’s text messages, Rep. Duncan D. Hunter blames the media for bad press about his decisions and the leaders of the county’s smallest city spent time sending a message to the president-elect.

Quick News Hits: But I Didn’t Order an Odor

Every single Democrat in the state Senate was named committee chair, vice chair or floor leader, except for San Diego’s Toni Atkins, former speaker of the state Assembly. The Sacramento Bee says she’s the only one to get none of these positions, but she will work on a housing committee, among others.

No surprise here: The Save Our Heritage Organisation has filed a lawsuit to stop Balboa Park’s restarted Plaza De Panama project.

UC Irvine professor Peter Navarro, a failed San Diego mayoral candidate and prominent player in the slow-growth battles of the 1990s, will head a new White House trade office under President-Elect Trump. The L.A. Times says “Trump is signaling that he wants to follow through on his tough campaign rhetoric in which he blamed the Chinese for the large U.S. trade deficit and manufacturing woes.”

“San Diego public utilities workers used city-owned vehicles for personal purposes last year, and one of them got paid $6,000 for time spent conducting personal business with a city vehicle instead of working, according to a report by City Auditor Eduardo Luna.” (U-T)

The $25 million settlement in the local Trump University case is final. (U-T)

 There are still a few days left in 2016, but heck, I’m calling it: We have a winner for Best Craigslist “Missed Connection” Ad of the Year, San Diego Division.

It just got posted by a woman reaching out to “Barefoot Starbucks Adonis (with Manbun!),” whom she spotted at a Starbucks in Golden Hill. She was smitten, until “something hit me… not a deep thought or swooning passion,.. but your raw, unadulterated, human funk. At first I thought I must be mistaken, my nose must be picking up the overroasted Italian beans because you, you would exude a patchouli, no wait, a sandalwood/palo santo and faintly sweaty must, nothing as acrid as the sinus-infecting stench that was causing my windpipe to constrict.”

No such luck. He stunk.

It’s the same old story: Girl sees boy. Girl smells boy. The end.

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 is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at and follow him on Twitter:

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