The Morning Report
Get the news and information you need to take on the day.
Long one of the most solid advocates, San Diego water officials seem to be changing their minds about the governor’s $17 billion plan to build two 35-mile underground tunnels to bring water from Northern to Southern California.
For the first time in more than half a century, our Ry Rivard reports, the San Diego County Water Authority isn’t pushing to bring water from up there to down here. In fact, its leaders are outright skeptical and, “by some accounts, working to undermine the governor’s most important piece of unfinished business.”
Why the turnaround? Water officials seem to be reacting to two things — their confidence in San Diego’s ability to store and find more of its own water and concern ratepayers would not tolerate the cost they might bear for the massive projects.
Rivard explains the context well. San Diego’s rivalry with an LA based water agency may be more to blame than anything else.
Deficit Causes Concern in San Diego Schools
San Diego Unified schools haven’t announced yet how they plan to plug a giant projected budget shortfall, but a principal has let it slip to parents that almost every elementary school vice principal is on the chopping block.
The district won’t confirm the report, which came from the principal of a La Jolla elementary school. As our Mario Koran reports, Superintendent Cindy Marten has sent her own message to parents via Facebook: “We will cut from the top first. Before we ask schools to do more, we will cut central office staff.”
She added that “every possible qualified teacher will be in the classroom serving students, and not on special assignment to support other district goals — no matter how worthy those goals may be. We need all hands on deck.”
City Saves Big on Chollas Creek Liability
State water quality regulators eased cleanup requirements for Chollas Creek on Wednesday —a move that will save local cities over $1 billion. A decade ago, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board imposed strict limits on the amount of metal allowed into the creek out of concern it was hurting marine life. For years, the city of San Diego has been fighting those limits, with officials calling them too strict and scientifically unsound. Environmentalists worry that without the strict cleanup requirements, the creek will remain an ugly mess and the low-income residential neighborhoods around it will suffer the consequences of unchecked industrial activity.
Hunter’s Never-Ending Scandal Continues to Never End
“Rep. Duncan Hunter’s campaign continued in the last quarter of 2016 to spend money on ‘food/beverages’ at a cigar lounge in his district, where he was photographed apparently smoking a Cuban cigar on election night,” the U-T reports. The congressman’s office won’t talk to the paper about any connection between the spending and his reelection campaign; the money hasn’t been reimbursed, unlike $60,000 in other expenditures that Hunter had to pay back to his campaign.
Parents Sue District Over Field Turf
Parents have filed suit against San Diego Unified “for installing artificial turf fields made with tire crumbs, claiming the crumbled rubber contains carcinogens that endanger children,” Courthouse News reports. We’re reported on the concerns of local parents and a joint federal investigation into the safety of the field turf.
North County Report: Glitch in Pot Shop Bid
Thousands of Vista voters apparently signed a petition pushing for the City Council to either allow marijuana shops or put the issue to a vote, but a glitch could invalidate the whole effort. A similar effort is afoot in Oceanside. These news tidbits lead this week’s VOSD North County Report.
Also: A former Oceanside mayor has died, “agritourism” is apparently a thing, and Oceanside is fixing its pier.
Quick News Hits: Decoding the Wonk Speak
• In a VOSD commentary, East Village resident Andy Kopp declares that it’s time for the top officials of the San Diego Association of Governments to step down or be fired amid the growing scandal over the agency’s coverup of its seemingly botched projections of how much money would be raised by a failed ballot measure.
• CityBeat columnist John R. Lamb digs into a nonprofit called the East Village Association and uncovers a “holy mess that has downtown civic leaders scrambling for the shadows as activist attorney Cory Briggs takes aim at the hazy world of so-called business improvement districts.”
• Might San Diego be a bit insecure about the Chargers leaving? Gee, what would give you that idea? It’s not like our perennially insecure city is going to hold a big rally to whip up enthusiasm about our remaining sports teams… Oh wait. It is. The rally’s on Saturday.
• State lawmakers, including our own Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, “announced legislation that aims to ease the arrival and assimilation of refugees in this state.” Among other things, they would find it easier to get in-state tuition. (Sacramento Bee).
• Meanwhile, almost 800 refugees from Syria landed in the county last year, KPBS reports, and it’s been a challenge to find them places to live. The president is trying to ban Syrian refugees indefinitely.
• The port wants three restaurants to replace the now-shuttered landmark Anthony’s Fish Grotto on the waterfront, but the state Coastal Commission is crying foul due to concern about access, parking and more. The U-T says the commission could tie up the project for years; the port says the commission needs to butt out.
• CityBeat’s annual love & sex issue explores how San Diego is a hotspot of sorts for erotic and potentially lucrative “camming”: “In the span of a few years, influence — and revenue — has waned from the rented-out mansions of San Fernando Valley and is landing increasingly in the bedrooms of 20-somethings, single moms and exhibitionist couples across the country.”
• It’s been a banner week for wonk talk in local media:
The U-T story about the Anthony’s Fish Grotto kerfuffle mentions that the debate over a new development hinges on the definition of “shopping facilities.” (Possible translation: “stores.”)
A Reader article about the sale of a defunct downtown parking garage refers to “vertical circulation for life-safety” (possible translation: “compliance with fire codes”).
And then there’s the CityBeat column about the East Village Association, which makes note of a “placemaking consultant,” a bizarre bit of insider lingo. Turns out it’s “a fancy term for a planner of public spaces.”
Maybe it’s time to hire an impenetrable communication reconstruction specialist (possible translation: de-wonk-ifier.)
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.