The board and staff of the San Diego Association of Governments are heading out to a retreat for the next few days at Barona Resort. (You can check in on them, if you want.)
It’s not on the agenda, but there may be some talk about our revelation this week that the agency’s leaders knew a tax increase from 2004 was bringing in far less money than they anticipated and promises about a new tax increase they were pitching to voters were based on the same faulty reasoning. The initiative would have brought in billions less than they were claiming jeopardizing many of the promises to build roads, transit and protect open space.
Tuesday, we checked in with Supervisor Ron Roberts, who is the chairman of SANDAG. In a recent op-ed, Roberts claimed SANDAG staff merely suspected the estimates were aggressive. He and staff have said it was only our reporting in October that spurred them to dig into the issue. Now, we know staff explicitly warned higher ups many months before of the consequences they faced.
“I wish as chair or even just as a board member, I had at least been made aware of this,” said County Supervisor Ron Roberts. “I know there are board members who think I’m responsible for this, and that’s fine with me. But I never would have stood out there if I knew it was only going to raise $14 billion, and told people it would raise $18 billion.”
• The U-T followed up our story, which includes sharp rebukes from leaders on both sides of the political spectrum.
Homeless Advocates Rap Mayor’s Plan
As the increased visibility of the city’s homeless problem continues to vex locals and intimidate tourists, Mayor Kevin Faulconer has made several promises. In a recent speech, he promised to add hundreds of shelter beds, build at least one central intake center, do more to reunify homeless folks with their families and push for a hotel-tax hike to raise funds.
A pair of local homeless advocates are not impressed. “They’re watching closely to see if the city’s plan comports with regional plans and follows the so-called housing-first model the federal government and most advocates nationwide are pushing to end homelessness,” our Lisa Halverstadt reports. “They’ve concluded the best way to end a person’s homelessness is to move him into a home,” not into a shelter or temporary housing.
But another advocate for the homeless, the CEO of a nonprofit, says the focus can’t just be on moving the homeless into permanent homes when they simply don’t exist: “We are a huge advocate of permanent supportive housing. That’s what we do. But what do we do in the meantime? Nobody answers that question.”
SD Schools Grapple with Looming Deficit
Not long ago, a San Diego Unified School District trustee, John Lee Evans, brushed off concerns about a looming deficit.
Now, it’s getting real. Schools are warning parents about major cuts coming. One principal, at Ellen Browning Scripps Elementary, told parents that the superintendent was cutting all vice principals at district elementary schools. A district spokeswoman would not confirm that for us, however.
Tuesday, via Facebook, Superintendent Cindy Marten finally addressed the deficit. She promised that layoffs would be handled with dignity, class sizes would not be enlarged and they would look for creative solutions. “We will cut from the top first. Before we ask schools to do more, we will cut central office staff,” she wrote.
• The district also held a media event to highlight how it spent bond money marketed as money for critical classroom repairs. Much of the spotlight was on new sports fields. As we’ve reported, spending hasn’t actually led to overall improvement of classrooms and buildings.
City Politics Roundup: Droning On
The city is thinking about making it illegal to fly drones recklessly. Through federal law, the FAA already bans this, the U-T reports. According to the paper, Lindbergh Field and several smaller local airports have reported drone incidents.
• One Charger staffer won’t follow the team to LA: Jordan Beane, a 32-year-old transplant who helped produce the Chargers media efforts. He’s the one who interviewed Chargers honcho Dean Spanos whenever the team had big news to break. Now, he says he’s a candidate for the council District 2, which represents several beach neighborhoods. It’s currently Lorie Zapf’s seat and she’s up for re-election in 2018.
California vs. Trump: The Series
The president and our state are not getting along. How bad is it? Well, Donald Trump had this to say the other day: “California in many ways is out of control, as you know. Obviously the voters agree or otherwise they wouldn’t have voted for me.”
What will he do? Take money away, perhaps. “I don’t want to defund the state. I don’t want to defund anybody. I want to give them the money they need to properly operate as a city or a state. If they’re going to have sanctuary cities, we may have to do that. Certainly that would be a weapon.”
In fact, The Washington Post reports, “California is one of the few states where federal funding isn’t that great a point of leverage.”
Culture Report: Historical Society Tackles… Science?
This week’s VOSD Culture Report leads off with a look at a La Jolla Historical Society exhibit titled “Weather on Steroids: the Art of Climate Change Science.”
Wait, don’t history organizations focus on, you know, history instead of — in this case — uniting artists and local climate scientists? The historical society’s executive director says this all makes sense considering the role played in La Jolla by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography over more than a century.
Also in the Culture Report: “Slow music” (72 slow hours of it), big upgrades at the Lyceum Theater, Trumpian art and (surprise of surprises!) a craft booze joint is opening in North Park.
• Marie Coronel, a 10News morning show reporter, was seriously injured a year ago when a eucalyptus tree fell on her and photographer Mike Gold as they reported on storm damage. The photographer broke a leg and Coronel suffered multiple injuries. As she now reveals, she also suffered a miscarriage.
She needs physical therapy every day and isn’t ready to return to work, the station reports. But she no longer needs to wear a neck brace, and Coronel tells the station that she’s now pregnant and is due to give birth in August.
Quick News Hits: Beer Begone, Sorta
• Gary Kreep, the conservative activist attorney who became a local judge, has faced accusations that he says inappropriate things in the courtroom. Now, the U-T reports that he recently faced a “Plan of Action” from court officials that included “ordering Kreep to read a judicial ethics book ‘cover to cover,’ and observe other veteran judges as they worked and make a list of their ‘best practices’ to adopt to his courtroom.”
• Should the state keep requiring residents to save water just in case we run short again even though the drought appears to be over? Nope, declares the U-T in an editorial: “Both local and state water agencies lose the trust of the public when they cry drought in contradiction to what’s actually happening.”
• Here’s a handy list of the lowest-priced homes that sold recently in the county, including a surprisingly large number in Jacumba. (U-T)
• A new report says spirits — vodka, tequila and so on — are accounting for a bigger and bigger chunk of spending on booze. The loser, if you can call something with almost half of the market a loser: Beer.
The L.A. Times buries a fun fact about the 2016 numbers: “Cognac was up about 13% to about 5 million cases.”
Oh great. Cognac will become a trend now, and next thing you know every tattooed hipster in North Park will be carrying around a personalized snifter.
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.