I set an alarm on my phone this past Thursday for 9:58 a.m.

Then I went to the California Supreme Court website, and waited, for this.

In the decision, the justices unanimously ruled that communications regarding public business are public records that can be accessed by the public – even if they happen on private devices or originate from personal email accounts.

It’s a big win for transparency, obviously.

But the ruling, and another piece of news this week, felt like validation for my lingering anger over what became one of the defining issues of the 2016 election – Hillary Clinton’s emails.

The fixation on the emails bothered me not just because it wasn’t equal to what seemed like far bigger transgressions by now-President Donald Trump. It was infuriating because it lacked critical context that probably only journalists, lawyers and others who rely on public records knows well: Public officials try to hide their business. All. The. Time.

It happens across party lines, and it happens consistently. Officials and other government employees try to sidestep public records laws by doing things like using a private server – but more often, they try to hide records that are conducted using government devices and email addresses, by claiming that the records are for some reason exempt from the law.

It took several news agencies in San Diego banding together to make a video of a police officer shooting an unarmed mentally ill man public.

Voice of San Diego recently obtained emails revealing SANDAG misled the public – but SANDAG held on to those emails until after a public election in which information contained in them would have been crucial. And even then, they only coughed up the records when we threatened to sue.

Former City Attorney Jan Goldsmith argued at various points over the years that he should not be subject to the California Public Records Act, and that government employees should not have to turn over records from private accounts or devices. Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office claimed at least once that private emails weren’t subject to the CPRA. (Faulconer has also said, though, that he thinks public business conducted on private devices should be made public.)

And lo and behold, it was also revealed this week that Vice President Mike Pence also used a private email account while he was governor of Indiana. It’s almost like that email bluster was disingenuous!

The California ruling this week doesn’t apply to federal records. But it’s a big score for openness nonetheless.

What VOSD Learned This Week

San Diego Unified OK’d more than $100 million in cuts this week. So what’s on the chopping block? Uh, it’s hard to tell. Ashly McGlone shed some light on proposed layoffs and outlined the biggest questions we still have about what exactly will change next year.

One thing the district doesn’t seem to have considered as it scrambles to save money: closing down under-enrolled schools. Mario Koran explained why the idea is a political nonstarter.

There is one pot of district cash that is in good shape: It still has two multibillion-dollar bonds to pay for construction and school improvements. Yet the district’s latest report says it can’t substantially improve school buildings without more money from the state and the district’s own general fund.

Meanwhile, a San Diego Unified parent wrote this great essay on why he resents school foundations – the groups that raise private funds for schools but that can also help deepen school inequality.


Two long-running San Diego sagas keep on keepin’ on: The debate over what to do with Qualcomm Stadium, and the question of how to best tackle homelessness.

This week, we examined plans on the table to address both.

A group of investors wants to remake the Qualcomm Stadium site into a soccer/SDSU football stadium, housing a park and more. The plan, Scott Lewis writes, is likely to meet the same challenge that’s faced virtually every big project in San Diego over the last few years: a ballot referendum.

Another big plan that’s been gaining steam lately is the idea to build a homeless intake facility. The idea has been on the table for years, but it’s only just now getting serious attention from Mayor Kevin Faulconer. What changed? Turns out, two powerful business leaders started advocating for it behind the scenes.


The border is a political lightning rod that is as hot as it’s ever been. It’s also long served as a canvas for artists to illustrate their politics and protests.

Border infrastructure was on the minds of San Diego leaders and lawmakers who converged in Sacramento this week.


The city of San Diego is pushing ahead with its plan to turn sewage into drinking water – but it’s making some other cities in the region nervous.


Murder rates in San Diego are rising even as violent crime as a whole goes down. What gives? Union-Tribune reporter Lyndsay Winkley joined the VOSD podcast this week to give context to the numbers.

Also on the crime front: The group that investigates complaints about county law enforcement officers has been roiled by so much internal turmoil that cases have languished, causing them to be automatically dismissed.

What I’m Reading

• A violent Hollywood shooting 20 years ago changed the course of policing nationwide. (L.A. Times)

• A Kansas woman whose husband was shot in a what appears to be a hate crime has written a raw, honest and heartbreaking account of her family’s journey to America and the depths of her despair over her sudden loss. (Facebook)

• This is a thoughtful examination of what we lose when we give awards to men like Casey Affleck. (Elle)

• More than 100 college athletes over the last five years were kicked off their respective teams over serious offenses like rape only to be given scholarships somewhere else. (Wall Street Journal)

• If you’re a hip-hop head like me, you know that most great rappers are thought to have peaked early. The best albums by Nas, Kanye and Jay-Z seem like their earlier ones. That’s not true for Big Sean, whose best work seems to be in front of him. (NPR)

• This is absolutely nuts: There are companies springing up that charge families absurd amounts to lease purebred dogs – in some cases, the families don’t even know they don’t own their dog. (Bloomberg)

Line of the Week

“Nobody knew health care could be so complicated?” – A real thing said by the 45th president of these United States. (Also, this happened on Monday. Doesn’t it feel like 175 years ago?)

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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