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January was a tense time between us and the San Diego Association of Governments. Months before, we had revealed that SANDAG made a crucial error that caused forecasts for tax collections to be wildly off. SANDAG officials wanted to respond.

The chairman, County Supervisor Ron Roberts published this op-ed insisting the agency did not know whether the error had any impact on revenue expectations for the agency’s 2004 sales tax hike, TransNet. He also wrote that the agency could still build the transportation projects it had promised in 2004.

Roberts’ piece turned out to be quite misleading.

Now according to new documents our Andrew Keatts obtained, SANDAG staff wanted to be more forthcoming in that op-ed. Staff’s draft sent to Roberts also did not include the misleading statement that the agency did not know of the impact of its error. He changed it.

Roberts now says he would not have written it like he did, based on what he has since learned.

Sports! SoccerCity Backers Want Vote After All

No surprise to VOSD readers and podcast listeners: The backers of the SoccerCity project in Mission Valley decided they want the City Council to put it before voters in a special election (the same one the mayor hopes will include a hotel-room tax hike to expand the Convention Center).

When the initiative was launched, its sponsors, FS Investors, insisted there was likely not enough time to wait for a special election and wanted the City Council to approve it outright. But the plan has some major critics and the mayor’s push for another ballot measure makes the cost of an earlier, special election more palatable.

Assuming the signatures FS Investors turned in are verified, the City Council could choose to put it on the next election, which right now isn’t supposed to happen until 2018. But the mayor’s plan would have a special election Nov. 7 of this year.

St. Louis voters approved a sales tax hike but rejected another measure that would have allowed some of the new tax money to pay for a stadium for Major League Soccer. A lot of cities are competing for the two expansion soccer teams the league promises.

MLS put out a statement saying the vote was a significant setback for St. Louis’ bid, which might be good news for San Diego soccer fans.

The latest edition of The Kept Faith, the local sports podcast and member of the VOSD Podcast Network, feature chats with Dodger fan Robert Pouder and Padres fan Joe Chandler about Opening Day up in L.A.

Just how bad will the Padres be this year? Try the worst in the entire Major Leagues. That’s what the 538.com news site predicts, giving us a less than 1 percent chance of winning the World Series. (The specific number isn’t listed, but we can assume it’s somewhere it’s much closer to zero than to 1.)

The website also ranks the Padres pitcher rotation as the worst in the league too.

(Editor: However, the Padres shut out the Dodgers in Los Angeles last night 4-0 so maybe the Padres are the best team, Randy.)

Legislation Roundup: Keep Youngest Kids Out of Juvie?

A state senator is pushing a bill that would forbid the state from prosecuting kids younger than 12. “In lieu of doing time in a jail cell at juvenile hall, children would be redirected to dependency court, child protective services, mental health counseling and other services at the local level,” The Sacramento Bee reports. (Dependency courts figure out what will happen to kids amid accusations that they are being abused.)

• “A plan to raise taxes and fees to pay for California road repairs includes a concession to the trucking industry that would block the state from requiring truck owners to upgrade to lower-emission models.” (KPBS)

Sempra on Hot Seat Over Lobbying

KPBS discovered four county supervisors met with lobbyists from a marketing division of Sempra, the parent company of SDG&E, in possible violation of state law.

State investigators are looking into meetings between the lobbyist and elected officials. (As KPBS reported earlier, they include three City Council members and the mayor.) “The reason for the state investigation revolves around a question of whether Sempra Services has received full approval from the agency that oversees utilities, the California Public Utilities Commission,” KPBS reports. “The dispute is over an alternative energy program called community choice, which would allow cities and counties to bypass SDG&E and decide on their own where to buy energy, which could allow them to choose more renewable energy sources.”

What is community choice? Basically governments, like San Diego City Hall, may take over the job of buying electricity from utilities, like SDG&E. We explained what community choice aggregation is in this FAQ by Ry Rivard.

It’s going to be a historic debate in San Diego over the next year. A lot of people in other places will be watching.

• “A chemical leak at a natural gas facility that had long been owned by San Diego-based Sempra Energy has been found to have contributed to the troubled health of residents in a poor Alabama community,” the L.A. Times reports. The culprit, say Alabama officials, is the chemical used to give natural gas an odor so we can smell it, although the story notes that there’s debate over whether it’s actually dangerous.

Culture Report: Science and Art, Unite!

The Birch Aquarium has a new exhibit that has something to do with the ocean and a lot to do with art. It’s an eight-food cube that plays sound and shows films of dinoflagellates. (No, despite the name, they’re not kinky dinosaurs. They’re tiny organisms in the water that light up waves by creating bioluminescence.)

As this week’s VOSD Culture Report explains, the exhibit is designed to blend science and art. The artist, by the way, was incredibly gentle with the creatures, coaxing them to light up with sounds from Tibetan singing bowls, the human heartbeat and even a little waterfall.

Also in the Morning Report: 10 years of Liberty Station, border art, the challenges facing small breweries and more.

Quick News Hits: Ghost Driver Alert

Kaiser Permanente’s new $850 million San Diego hospital, the first it’s built here in more than 40 years, will open later this month in Kearny Mesa. Kaiser Perm serves about one in five local residents. (U-T)

San Diego’s auditor reports that he’s found evidence that unnamed city administrators misused so-called purchasing cards, which the Reader says are “used to transfer funds to cover official expenses.”

Pole dancers performed during an athletic event at Balboa Stadium over the weekend, and they’ve gotten quite the dressing down from critics (U-T)

The N.Y. Times dropped by La Jolla to check in on how scientists are using surfers to understand the role of the ocean in illness.

If you see a car tooling around UC San Diego that looks like it’s being driven by no one, don’t be too shocked. As the U-T reports, researchers have created black “seat suits” that drivers wear to make it look like their cars are driverless.

The idea is to research how people react to driverless cars without actually using driverless cars. Perhaps pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers will get really distracted and cause accidents? I guess we’ll see.

Hmm. I could swear that the empty car seat across the street just gave me an invisible finger.

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 randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com...

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