The California Public Records Act, or CPRA, is a crucial reporting tool for reporters trying to hold government agencies and officials accountable.
But sometimes, the only way to enforce it is with a lawyer.
VOSD’s Andrew Keatts detailed his 78-day push to obtain internal communications from the San Diego Association of Governments. He had proven that SANDAG was collecting far less than anticipated from a 2004 tax hike and had equally unrealistic estimates in a projection of what a new sales tax increase would provide for local highways, transit and open space.
SANDAG would later admit he was right about it. But we wanted to know if they knew this before going to voters with the pledges of what the new tax would fund.
SANDAG claimed that the amount of time staff would waste to go through the emails that were responsive to Keatts’ request would outweigh the public service of releasing the information.
Eventually our lawyer got involved and threatened to take the agency to court. SANDAG finally gave up roughly 2,000 e-mails, which included the “WTF” and “OMG” emails that revealed the agency knew of its revenue shortfall and still misled voters.
“They came in a batch of 2,700 emails after 6 p.m. on the Friday before Martin Luther King weekend,” wrote Keatts. “After wading through them all, we found what we had suspected: SANDAG staff had discovered in fall 2015 the fatal flaw in its economic forecast that had spiked revenue projections for their tax increases beyond reasonable expectations.”
Podcast: SANDAG’s OMG Moment
On this week’s podcast, Keatts and Scott Lewis broke down the big story and the three or four different ways SANDAG leaders are spinning it in their responses. They range from claiming ignorance to throwing the agency’s former chief economist under the bus.
• Ramla Sahid, the executive director of nonprofit Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans, also came into the studio to discuss the issues facing the roughly 82,000 refugees who have come to San Diego since 1975 and how city leaders haven’t been doing enough to protect the refugees living here.
Sacramento Report: Anderson Leads CA’s Anti-Sanctuary Movement
Sen. Joel Anderson has become the voice for California Republicans’ opposition to sanctuary city policies, voting against Attorney General Xavier Becerra because of his support for cities’ sanctuary policies and speaking to various news outlets about various crimes he thinks undocumented immigrants commit.
This week’s round up of state politics also includes the surprising pushback Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher received for proposing a bill that would start addressing beach accessibility issues and a proposed bill that would allow the state to declare a homeless emergency.
• Immigration officials conducted enforcement actions in six places across the country they’re saying were routine but have a lot of people on edge.
Soccer Development Debate Hits Phones
Competitive Edge, a polling firm long associated with Mayor Kevin Faulconer (and a sponsor of Voice of San Diego), is in the field with a survey about the proposed soccer stadium.
“Shall the Qualcomm Stadium site, and auxiliary property, be redeveloped with 55 acres of public park, mixed uses including possible office, retail, residential, student and faculty housing units or a hotel, a professional soccer stadium for possible college football use and an optional, stand-alone NFL and college football stadium with no public subsidies? If this proposal were on the ballot would you vote yes to approve it or no to reject it?”
The survey asked for opinions on a possible 450-room hotel and floated names of possible opponents including former state Sen. Marty Block and former state Sen. Steve Peace. And it tested how convincing the argument is that the land should be given to San Diego State University.
Quick News Hits
• Mayor Kevin Faulconer seems like the perfect Republican candidate for California’s 2018 gubernatorial race, but insists he’s not interested. (LA Times)
• LA Times: “The San Diego Police Department says that since officers began wearing body cameras nearly three years ago, there have been significant decreases in misconduct allegations and high-level uses of force.”
• Poway Unified School Dsitrict is facing a potential $24.5 million budget shortfall (NBC 7)
• Hotel sales in California dropped 54 percent in 2016, from $9.5 billion the year before to $4.4 billion. (Union-Tribune)
The Week’s Top Stories
These were the most popular Voice of San Diego stories for the week of Feb. 4-Feb. 10. Click here to see the full top 10.
1. ‘OMG,’ ‘WTF’: Emails Show SANDAG Knew Forecasts Were Wrong, Went to Voters With False Promise Anyway
Emails obtained by VOSD reveal that top SANDAG officials were told the agency’s economic forecasts — and therefore the numbers it showed voters about last year’s Measure A — were way off almost a year before the 2016 election. Instead of acting, the agency continued to rely on numbers they’d been told were faulty, misleading voters in the process and keeping important information from potential watchdogs. (Andrew Keatts)
2. The Only Problem With the Pro Soccer Plan Is a Big One: How Will They Get the Land?
The effort to build a Major League Soccer stadium is in a hurry of its own design. But a project of this magnitude could take years to approve. To get around that, the group backing the project is going to try to do what stadium proponents across the state have done: a ballot initiative that never actually makes it to the ballot. (Scott Lewis)
3. How San Diego Went From Booster to Skeptic on the State’s Massive Water Project
Gov. Jerry Brown wants to build two 35-mile underground tunnels to keep water coming south through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta. The San Diego County Water Authority used to pine for such a plan. But now, emboldened by its drought-proofing projects and wary of shocking ratepayers, the agency is aggressively questioning Brown’s delta tunnels. (Ry Rivard)
4. Roberts: I Should Have Been Told About SANDAG Errors
County Supervisor Ron Roberts, who chairs the SANDAG board and who was one of the public faces of the effort to sell Measure A, said the agency needs to rebuild public trust after Voice of San Diego revealed executives there knowingly misled voters about how much money the measure would have raised. (Andrew Keatts)
5. Why Some Homeless Advocates Oppose the Mayor’s Shelter Plans
Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s plans to address homelessness are drawing jeers from some of the city’s most outspoken advocates. It’s the latest conflict amid a difficult shift toward quickly moving homeless folks into permanent, stable homes instead of shelters or short-term housing first. (Lisa Halverstadt)