San Diego mayors routinely make speeches at the Downtown Partnership’s annual leadership installation dinner. In recent years, they’ve used the occasion to mock the other powers-that-be and, on occasion, those of us here at VOSD.
It burns, it burns! Just kidding. We can handle it. So, presumably, can the San Diego Association of Governments, which got a solid punch from Mayor Kevin Faulconer the other day about its transit funding scandal.
But this jibe, as our Scott Lewis writes in a commentary, is more than a little awkward considering where it came from. Faulconer sits on the SANDAG board but failed to ask questions when the scandal was developing. “It’s cheeky to the extreme to make fun of an organization for its poor oversight when part of your job is to provide that oversight and you don’t attend,” Lewis writes.
Why does this matter? Because two big ballot measures will go before voters in November that could define the mayor’s legacy. Both ask voters to trust his ability to deliver on major oversight and accounting of tax increases.
• The SoccerCity project will appear on a special ballot this fall, and the developers behind it have cleared the way for a $40 million river park in Mission Valley, the U-T reports, setting aside “a timeline that could have cut the funding in half.”
• The November election will also decide if more tax money goes to efforts to help the homeless. CityBeat columnist John Lamb checks in on a Father Joe’s Villages plan to create 2,000 permanent units for the homeless in 5 years, in part by converting motels. “The price tag for the plan is a doozy — $531 million — and by most measures would be the largest frontal attack on the region’s mushrooming homeless crisis in local history if successful,” Lamb writes.
• A CityBeat editor’s note questions the mayor’s Convention Center expansion project, asking: “Should we prioritize that or the fact that when driving down a pothole-ridden 16th Avenue in the East Village, it looks like something we might see in a warzone and not America’s Finest City?”
Rivals Pop Up in Two Races
A few years ago, one of the most obscure elected positions around — county assessor/recorder/clerk — shot into the news when Ernest Dronenburg tried to insert himself and his office into the legal dispute over same-sex marriage. It didn’t stop him from winning another term in 2014.
Now, as our Andrew Keatts reports, a Democratic attorney says he’s trying to oust Dronenburg in 2018: “People will understand as this campaign goes on that we have plenty of public corruption to go around; SANDAG’s recent deception is just one example,” he said. “We’ll have a clear contrast to an incumbent who has a record of discriminating against people.”
Our story notes another Democratic hopeful: Dave Myers, a captain in the San Diego County Sheriff’s office who wants to take the job of Sheriff Bill Gore. Myers, a gay man and 32-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Department, says diversity needs more focus. “When I bring that up, I get push back from the top,” he said. “One day (Gore) asked me why I’m the only openly gay male in a department of over 4,000. I asked him, he’s been sheriff for 10 years, what has he done for inclusion?”
Border Agents Can Search Your Phone
A bipartisan group of lawmakers from both the U.S. House and Senate is pushing legislation “that would make border agents get a warrant before searching Americans’ phones, and affirm that they can cross the border without handing over account passwords” unless there’s probable cause The Verge reports. However, the Border Patrol could ignore the rules in an emergency.
The story says the legislation isn’t likely to pass; it’s not clear how often the Border Patrol demands that Americans open up access to their electronic devices when they cross back into the United States.
A few weeks ago, a NASA scientist says he was detained at customs while flying back to the U.S. and pressured to give up his phone and password. “Since the phone was issued by NASA, it may have contained sensitive material that wasn’t supposed to be shared,” the Verge reported. He got his phone back, “but he doesn’t know exactly what information officials might have taken from the device.”
• City Attorney Mara Elliott and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis have joined “other California prosecutors in urging Attorney General Jeff Sessions to exclude California courthouses from Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrests.” (Times of S.D.)
• Local county jails have mysteriously disappeared from a federal list of agencies that “limit cooperation with immigration authorities in jails.”
Exposing the Reality of Car Insurance Rates
ProPublica is out with a blockbuster story about car insurance rates: “An analysis of premiums and payouts in California, Illinois, Texas and Missouri shows that some major insurers charge minority neighborhoods as much as 30 percent more than other areas with similar accident costs.”
How does that play out in San Diego? Click on the link above and put in your zip code to see how rates compare for a 30-year-old woman with a good driving record. I plugged in 92037/La Jolla. The site compares it to 92102, which covers part of South Park, Golden Hill and Mt. Hope, a neighborhood “with similar insurance losses but a different racial composition.”
Some insurers charge La Jollans more, but the hypothetical Nationwide customer would pay $834 there compared to $758 in 92037.
Fabiani’s Frying Pan-to-Fire Journey
If you follow San Diego politics, you know about local attorney named Mark Fabiani, a Clinton Administration figure who was the main spokesman for the Chargers through the years when it alienated both fan and non-fan alike through its bold and brassy brand of nastiness.
As the news site Bustle notes, he was nicknamed the “master of disaster” more than 20 years ago thanks to his specialty in handling big messes (see: Chargers). He co-authored a book with that title. Now, he’s been hired to protect the reputation Fox TV host Bill O’Reilly, a rehabilitation job that may be even tougher than transforming the Bolts into bullies.
North County Report: The End of Lilac Hills Ranch?
This week’s North County Report leads with news about how the controversial Lilac Hills Ranch project in Valley Center may finally be dead, at least for the moment.
Plus: The transit district that runs buses and trains in North County is preparing for huge cutbacks, teeny-tiny Del Mar might create its own police department, and Poway officials are still trying to figure out how to create a kind of walkable downtown.
Quick News Hits: (Don’t) Keep Walking
• Bail may be on is way out in California jails. A local Republican legislator, state Senator Joel Anderson, is on board. (Mercury News)
Last year, I interviewed the guy who runs King Stahlman Bail Bonds, perhaps the most well-known local bail company thanks to its TV ads. George Stahlman III (yes, the son of the “King”) told me that things have changed in his world: “Before, the seediness was the outside appearance of the bail bond office. Everyone was hard-drinking, card-playing and hard-charging. Now the seediness is done by skirting the rules.”
• Thanks to Consumers Union, the folks behind Consumer Reports, it’s getting easier to figure out if your doctor has been disciplined by the state. Some 23 local physicians got in trouble in just the first three months of this year, the U-T reports. They’re in San Diego, San Marcos, La Mesa, El Cajon, Chula Vista, Oceanside and Escondido plus upscale places like Encinitas, Leucadia, Carlsbad, La Jolla, Solana Beach and Del Mar.
• A commentator who frequently appears in the U-T is out with a N.Y. Times column that suggestsit’s quite possible to split California into more than one state. (This is a different way-out-there idea than splitting California off into its own country.) He notes that “residents of Orange, San Diego and Riverside counties are often frustrated by the outsize influence of nearby Los Angeles,” a claim that deserves a Fact Check.
• The Internet is full of helpful information this week. Over at the car site Jalopnik, a post explains “How To Use A Roundabout And Not Panic,” a handy guide for anyone trying to navigate La Jolla’s Bird Rock neighborhood.
And the N.Y. Times explain “Why You Shouldn’t Walk on Escalators.”
If you try to hoof it when you’re going up or down, the paper says, “you’re doing it wrong, seizing an advantage at the expense and safety of other commuters. Boarding an escalator two by two and standing side by side is the better approach.”
Yes, please consider everybody else’s safety, even if you’re trying to escape some place like the Lindbergh Field’s hellish Southwest terminal. When it comes to tripping on an escalator, some of us are just too big to fail.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Mara Elliott’s name.
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.