The Morning Report
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The North County city of Encinitas likes to call itself the Flower Capital of the World, but things haven’t been too flowery there on the growing front lately. Water prices, competition and other challenges have wilted this prettiest of industries.
What’s a flower farmer to do? Get into the weed business and grow pot instead of — or in addition to — poinsettias and daisies. As our contributor Jared Whitlock reports, Encinitas leaders are discussing whether to allow marijuana farming in their fair city.
But not everyone is on board. Some neighbors don’t like the idea of pot farms next door, and a local school district may weigh in too. And there’s the awkward fact that while Encinitas voters seem to like legalizing recreational pot, judging by their big-time support for the idea last November, the city has banned marijuana shops because of concerns about so-called neighborhood character.
City Notches a Big Pension Win
San Diego’s voter-approved pension reform is legal, at least for now.
The city won a court ruling Tuesday, after a state pension board over a year ago called the whole thing into question. The pension board said the city broke state law when it didn’t negotiate the measure with labor unions before putting Proposition B to voters, since city officials — including the mayor, city attorney and former councilmen — had put the whole thing together.
The measure froze pensionable pay for city employees for five years and shifted new employees besides police officers from pensions to 401ks.
Our Liam Dillon explained the pandemonium that could have erupted if the pension board’s ruling stood.
But a state appeals court just reversed the pension board’s ruling. The court said it really was a citizens’ initiative, even though government officials were involved in it, and state case law is clear that citizens’ initiatives aren’t subject to state union negotiation requirements.
The board for the city’s white-collar union, the Municipal Employees Association, will meet Wednesday to decide how to proceed. The union’s general manager Michael Zucchet told me he expects the board to vote to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.
At a press conference celebrating the ruling, Mayor Kevin Faulconer, former Mayor Jerry Sanders and other supporters praised the ruling and said it set case law across the state that citizens’ initiatives had no requirement to negotiate with unions. Radio talk show host Carl DeMaio, a former city councilman and failed candidate for Congress and mayor, said he will now pursue a statewide pension reform measure in 2018.
Zucchet said the city’s approach with pension reform created a roadmap around state labor requirements, and the court ruling had now blessed that approach for other cities across the state.
— Andrew Keatts
That 91 Percent Graduation Rate? Take a Closer Look
San Diego Unified is crowing big-time about its official 91 percent graduation rate for the class of 2016, a record high. But, as our Mario Koran reports, the numbers don’t tell the full story.
“Whether it was revamping the courses high schools offered, allowing certain students to test out of requirements or losing low-performing students to charter schools, the district moved students toward its graduation rate in a variety of ways,” he writes.
But what about the rule that all students must take college-prep courses? Yes, that’s required, but students can get Ds and it’s OK as long as their overall GPA remains above a C. So you must take college-prep courses but you don’t have to actually be prepared for college. Hundreds of students who were struggling also left for charter schools, which set their own graduation requirements.
Another Sidewalk Lawsuit … This Time From an Ex-Mayor
Former Mayor Roger Hedgecock and his wife Cynthia are suing the city of San Diego over an accident that Cynthia Hedgecock suffered in 2015 when she tripped over a broken sidewalk in Pacific Beach, the Reader reports.
Hedgecock is one of a surprisingly large number of elected San Diego mayors who resigned in disgraced — four (!) at last count — although his criminal record was later expunged. He became a temperamental right-wing radio talk show host who once tried to get a “Normal People” contingent into the city’s gay pride parade.
Last month, the city agreed to pay almost $5 million to a man severely injured when he was thrown off his bicycle when he biked over a broken sidewalk with a 7-inch bump. The U-T reported that it took six months after the accident to fix that sidewalk; it’s not clear if the sidewalk blamed in the Hedgecock accident has been fixed.
As VOSD has detailed, the city’s sidewalk repair policy doesn’t make any sense. After the March settlement, Councilman David Alvarez renewed his call to shift the responsibility of repairing sidewalks to the city, instead of property owners.
Meter Money Is Still Parked in Accounts
A Hillcrest bus stop is beyond gross, KPBS reports. The bench was covered the other day with “newspapers, an old sock, chicken bones, food wrappers and a used condom.”
A local business leader would like to use revenue from parking meters to boost the cleaning of the bus stop. “But that spending, according to city officials, would run afoul of state and local laws that strictly regulate how parking meter dollars can be spent,” according to KPBS.
Instead, the money is sitting in an account, and millions apparently are going unspent in Hillcrest alone. Parking meter revenue could be spent to boost parking, but the city’s much-ballyhooed Climate Action Plan aims to discourage driving.
Colorado River Named Most Endangered
A new report says the Colorado River, the source of much of our water, is the most threatened river in the nation. “We’re using more water than the river can provide, and at the same time, the supplies are declining because of climate change,” the director of the river advocacy group behind the report tells the U-T.
As our Ry Rivard has reported, three states have been negotiating over future access to river water, and “California water officials are offering to give up some of the state’s strongest claims to the river — at least temporarily.”
Culture Report: Talking Homeless and More
The AjA project, a local arts group, is out with a new project that highlights nine people and their thoughts about San Diego’s highly visible and highly disturbing homeless problem: “(Un)Sheltered + Conversations” includes a large photo mural in Hillcrest and an online media gallery where visitors can listen to interviews and contribute their own thoughts via stories, photos and videos.
News about the project leads off the latest VOSD Culture Report, our weekly look at arts and culture news.
Also in the Culture Report: Dancing about climate change (!), turning down free public art, and playing music in the desert. Plus: A flap over border art, restaurant surcharges, and the demolition (but partial mural restoration) of the California Theatre.
Quick News Hits: The (Nick) Name Game
• “The San Diego metropolitan area’s economy grew late last year at its slowest pace since 2010, based on a series of government indexes reported on Tuesday.” (City News Service)
• Rep. Duncan Hunter, not considered to be an endangered congressman despite a slew of bad press over wayward campaign spending, has a new Democratic rival in a former Navy SEAL and current East County school board member. (City News Service)
• A bright red statue of a rather chill-looking seahorse is missing in La Jolla, according to its owner, who has the rather awesome name of Clemel Gazzar. (NBC 7).
Perhaps the thief is the same miscreant who made off with a bronze Lorax statue from the home of the late Dr. Seuss in 2012? The Lorax was later found in a canyon after a tipster visited a police department in, of all places, Montana.
• Our story about Encinitas noted its nickname — “Flower Capital of the World” — and sent me into a Wikipedia wormhole journey through the nicknames of other California cities.
Some suggest that cities are trying just a little too hard: “Community of Homes” (Arcadia), “Center of the Southland” (Buena Park) and “Gateway to the Salton Sea” (Coachella). Others don’t exactly bring out the tourist in me: California is home to capitals of broccoli, flower seeds, kiwi fruits, olives, lima beans, hubcaps, pumpkins, artichokes, poison oak and more.
San Diego, of course, has its “America’s Finest City” nickname, one that has its origins in a political catastrophe, just like the unofficial motto bestowed on us a few years ago by the New York Times (“Enron-by-the-Sea“).
We’re also supposedly known as the “City in Motion,” although that one should really belong to Yuba City, aka Prune Capital.
• 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.