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In North County, the city of Vista decided not too long ago to energize certain neighborhoods by embracing a “mixed use” of homes and shops. The thinking goes that this kind of development can get people out of their cars and onto their feet, helping the environment through less driving and less pollution.
How’s it going? Our contributing writer Ruarri Serpa checked into things and found that “mixed use” ended up not being mixed at all. “Most cities define ‘mixed use’ as a combination of residential and commercial development,” Serpa writes. “Vista officials, thinking more about how to kick-start development downtown, allowed developers to decide how much residential or retail they would build, including none.”
Critics say the city fumbled its future. A city official says Vista was coming out of the recession “and wanted to see things happening.” Now, the City Council might take a different path.
Hmmm … An MTS Tax in the Works?
Local GOP honcho, Tony Krvaric, noticed something interesting Tuesday. The Metropolitan Transit System, MTS, reported that one of its board members, San Diego City Councilman David Alvarez, had asked whether the agency itself could put a tax increase on the ballot to support transit projects in and around the city of San Diego.
A half-cent sales tax hike to support transit, highways and open space protection failed at the November ballot. It was put on the ballot countywide by the San Diego Association of Governments and faced major opposition from especially North County conservatives, who thought it did too much for transit. Alvarez and other Democrats opposed it because they thought it did too little for transit.
Alvarez’s question may reveal that an alternative to SANDAG is being pursued. However, lawyers for MTS responded that, unlike their counterparts at SANDAG, they cannot propose tax increases unless state legislators change the law.
It’s Chargers-May-Move Day! Maybe
A bunch of sports reporters let loose a frenzy of speculation and rumors Tuesday about whether the Chargers are going to move to LA or not. The team has four days left to decide whether to exercise an option to move. The NFL, of course, can do whatever it wants with its own deadlines. An LA sports personality, Fred Roggin, had a more specific rumor than some of his colleagues: He said Chargers President Dean Spanos will announce today whether he’s moving the team to LA or not.
The mayor and others are trying to make the case they can build a stadium, in part with $200 million from the city’s general fund.
That could get awkward. City staff now say the budget deficit the city is facing next year is getting bigger.
The argument that the mayor makes is that you can take the money the city loses on Qualcomm Stadium every year, up to $15 million, and use that as a kind of annual payment when we borrow $200 million to build a new stadium. However, crucial to that, would be an agreement from the Chargers to pay enough rent so that the city does not continue to lose so much, otherwise we will have just doubled the city’s annual loss.
There’s no such agreement, as far as we can tell. No word from the negotiations have leaked out — if there are any negotiations happening. The mayor’s State of the City speech is Thursday.
— Scott Lewis
County Supervisors Give Selves Hefty Raise
With just one no vote from their new colleague Kristin Gaspar, the County Board of Supervisors voted yesterday to give themselves a hefty 12.5 raise that will not only boost their paychecks now but also stuff more money into their pensions.
As the U-T reports, “the regular salary for supervisors will increase from $153,289.60 to $162,870.20 and then $172,450.80 under the new formula.” The vote, just like a previous preliminary vote, included no discussion, although a statement from board Chairman Ron Roberts says it’s “fair and justified.”
• In a VOSD commentary, Nathan Fletcher, the former assemblyman and failed mayoral candidate, rips the County Board of Supervisors for thinking about giving itself a hefty raise that will also jack up their pensions.
“The county has neglected to truly invest in mental health services and efforts to help reduce homelessness,” he writes, but at the same time it “currently has cash reserves three times the amount recommended by experts in government finance and has millions on hand to invest in a beautiful-yet-costly water park at its downtown facility. It’s pledged millions more to finance a new Chargers stadium. And now, the supervisors are poised to increase their own salaries. It’s a clear case of skewed priorities.”
Governor’s Budget Predicts Dog Days
The state faces a small deficit by the summer, says the office of Gov. Jerry Brown. “The $179.5-billion plan seeks to resolve the budget shortfall by slower-than-expected growth in public school funding by rolling back a series of one-time expenses discussed during last year’s budget negotiations,” the L.A. Times reports.
Meanwhile, the Times also reports that the governor wants to cancel state support for a $622 million program that links care for the poor (Medi-Cal), seniors (Medicare) and in-home services, potentially shifting the cost to counties.
• According to The Sacramento Bee, the budget predicts leaner financial times than another projection. The paper adds that “Brown, who dedicated his budget to the late First Dog Sutter Brown, included a page with a paw print and the quote ‘Save some biscuits for a rainy day.’”
Culture Report: Embracing the Amateur Musician Within
This week’s VOSD Culture Report leads off with a look at interactive public art pieces called San Diego Sound Booths, which allow passersby to create their own music; the music and sounds were put together by kids.
Also in the Culture Report: Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, who’s been our most newsworthy local congressman for months, is still caught in the controversy over his decision to pull down an anti-police painting at the U.S. Capitol. It doesn’t appear that Hunter will get in trouble for it.
If this news is driving you to drink, the Culture Report says there’s yet another new brewery in town.
Quick News Hits: Command and Control
• Rising pension costs are expected to ding the city’s next budget by about another $10 million beyond an expected $37 million shortfall. How much is $47 million? Nearly the entire library budget ($52 million). (City News Service)
• KPBS: “The San Diego County District Attorney on Tuesday announced law enforcement agents were justified in five separate officer-involved shootings, including the September 2016 death of Alfred Olango that set off days of protests in El Cajon.”
• Southwest Airlines will offer non-stop flights to Boise and Salt Lake City starting this summer, and add partial non-stop service (during certain times of year) to Spokane, Indianapolis and Newark.
• No, nerdy blog called The Geekiary, the San Diego Comic Con “hotelpocalypse” is not a thing. You cannot call it that. I have ruled. Please make a note of it.
But yes, you can refer to it as “the day that hotel rooms for San Diego Comic-Con go on sale” and say that it’s now been announced.
• Local TV station CW6 made the national news this week because, and we’re not making this up, a reporter’s words on air accidentally triggered voice-activated Amazon “Alexa” Echo devices to try to order dollhouses. The U-T has the details; apparently no dollhouses were actually ordered.
Ahem. Alexa, the Morning Report guy wants a new pair of shoes! Hey, why am I getting all these orders of tubes? Alexa!!
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.