One day when the rain came in February 2014, an employee at National City’s A-1 Alloys Recycling Center went out and got a sample of rainwater and sent it for testing, as state water pollution laws require. It came back reporting a too-high level of copper. Then the environmental attorneys descended.
The recycling center’s owner paid a hefty fine and went out of the business, eliminating 14 jobs. This may sound like the price of pollution control, but there’s a twist: The owner could have easily ignored the law — others do — and saved himself and his business.
The story “illustrates the dark lottery stormwater regulation has become in California,” our Ry Rivard reports. “The enforcement action was supposed to clean up San Diego Bay, which receives most of the region’s pollution. But there is little evidence that it did. It’s unclear whether the standards he did not meet were even useful indicators of water quality problems or that a rational enforcement system would have targeted his small scrapyard, rather than a larger industrial site.”
Prosecutors Probe Former Poway Schools Chief
John Collins, the disgraced former head of the well-respected Poway Unified school district, is facing an investigation by the county district attorney. “Collins’ legal team cited the existence of the criminal probe in a court filing Tuesday,” our Ashly McGlone reports, “arguing a lawsuit filed by the school district should be postponed while the criminal investigation is under way.”
No criminal charges have been filed so far. The school district is suing for what it alleges is $300,000 in unauthorized pay that Collins took; he denies any wrongdoing.
The Congressman, the Campaign Funds and the Flying Rabbit
There’s a new report that Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, already in hot water over inappropriate campaign spending, used $600 in campaign funds to pay for air travel for a family rabbit. “Hunter’s staff told the Press-Enterprise newspaper that the House Office of Congressional Ethics questioned the bunny expenses — offered as an example of over-reach by the agency,” the U-T reports.
It’s not clear why the rabbit’s travel required so much money (did it need its own first-class seat?). Whatever the case, Hunter’s spokesman says the spending is “an obvious example of a mistake being made.”
“Many of Rep. Hunter’s repayments had to do with mistakes under specific circumstances,” he said, “and in other cases there were bona fide campaign activities connected to expenditures that (the office) was not aware of and didn’t account for.”
Mayor Dips Toe Into Governor’s Race
“San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer has quietly started discussing a potential run for governor with advisers and prospective donors, according to a former Los Angeles mayor and sources familiar with Faulconer’s deliberations,” Politico reports. He’s promised to not run for governor in 2018.
It’s not clear how he would have done this non-“quietly”. With a press conference and adjoining carnival? Sky-writing? Emergency broadcast system alert?
Opinion: Developers Always Lose? Oh, C’mon!
In a VOSD commentary, land-use lawyer Everett DeLano blasts a recent piece in which one real estate professional told our Maya Srikrishnan that “developers always lose” here. “I thought it was some sort of parody,” he writes. “It’s an absurd assertion. Developers have the inside track both to staff and elected officials in numerous jurisdictions, often using (and sometimes abusing) their connections and their significant campaign contributions for their personal gain.”
Dumanis Is Here to … Stay?
District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis isn’t being clear about whether she plans to step down before her term ends or run for another term. But she does have a firm idea about whom she’d like to see follow her: “She wants Chief Deputy District Attorney Summer Stephan to succeed her and David Greenberg, another chief deputy, to take over as the top assistant,” the U-T reports.
• A prominent prosecutor in the city attorney’s office is suing former City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, alleging “her former employer retaliated against her and abused his power when he asked her to break the law and she refused.” The attorney had been linked to a scandal over what the U-T described as “98 bungled cases, including several in which missed deadlines meant those accused of domestic violence weren’t prosecuted.”
A story by NBC 7 doesn’t include any comment from Goldsmith, although it says the city attorney’s office is reviewing the suit.
Chargers Drama Drags on, Part MCXVI
“A joint meeting of the NFL’s finance and stadium committees has been called for Jan. 11 in New York, a possible sign the Chargers won’t announce this week whether they plan to leave San Diego,” the U-T reports.
• CityBeat columnist John R. Lamb offers this colorful, if a bit impenetrable, advice to Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Chargers honcho Dean Spanos: “Get off the dance floor, mayor and owner dude. You’ve sized each other up, exchanged corsages and motel-room keys, broken up, patched things up, restarted the break-up talk, blah yadda blah. Don’t leave us wondering what’s up a year from now. Enough!”
North County Report: Measure B Reaches Out from Grave
The defeated Measure B, which would have allowed a big housing developing in North County’s Valley Center area, hasn’t gone into that good night just quite yet. The developer and opponents got into a tangle in court over the wording of ballot materials, and now the developer wants the foes to pay legal costs.
This news leads VOSD’s weekly North County Report, which also looks at the North County economy, Tri-City Medical Center’s property battle, a new Vista councilman and more.
Quick News Hits: Pipes and Pepperoni
• The Inewsource analysis of census data from 2006-2010 and 2011-2015 “finds that the countywide poverty rate grew from 12.3 to 14.5 percent. That’s an increase of 94,000 people living on incomes below the poverty line, enough to fill two Petco Parks.”
• The city is cracking down on the Rural/Metro ambulance service and threatening to kill its contract amid its failures to respond quickly enough to calls. (NBC 7)
• UCSD may get its own fire station. (U-T)
• You can now pay off some National City Public Library fines with a food donation. (U-T)
• I just came across this amazing YouTube video of a 1978 commercial for a San Diego pizza joint: “At Organ Power Pizza, when you say music … and … pizza, that means party! Your whole family will love the mammoth sound of 888 pipes, cymbals, bells and drums, music and dancing, and crowd-pleasing pizza!”
Oh man. It’s gonna take a whole lot of slices to make this headache go away.
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 email@example.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.