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San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman has a problem: The Police Department is having trouble recruiting new officers. And she has a culprit: the media.

Yes, the media, the same folks who get blamed for both the election of Trump and the negative coverage of Trump, plus just about everything else from talk radio to the shoppers that litter our driveways and much more.

While they’ve been supposed to be putting more cops on the street, the staffing levels at the police department have barely budgeted for five years. How come? “Scrutiny,” Zimmerman told City Council members recently. “People think if they make a mistake, they’ll be the next YouTube video. Some don’t think they have the support of the community. Negative press that happens quite a lot, in the media — it’s not just one reason.” She added that pay and benefits matter, too.

The problem is that Zimmerman hasn’t bothered to back up this claim with any evidence, our Andrew Keatts reports, and the fear of public exposure hasn’t stopped other police departments from hiring enough officers.

The city police union is calling for solutions to the staffing gap. (U-T)

Opinion: A Bad Fix for SANDAG

SANDAG works a bit like Congress: Votes are divided up so each of the 19 member agencies gets one vote (think the Senate) and also divided by population (think of a variation on the House).

Local legislator Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher thinks this system stinks, and she’s trying to change it with legislation that would grant power to population. But that means San Diego and Chula Vista, the biggest cities in the county, could run the show.

In a VOSD commentary, El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells writes that the bill would mean a case of taxation without representation. “This disenfranchises most of the citizens of the county, leaving them in a position where they would pay taxes but have no meaningful representation when it comes to transportation issues,” he writes.

No NAFTA? Not So Fast, Mr. President

Republicans are freaking out in response to President Donald Trump’s plan to pull the U.S. out of NAFTA, Politico reports. (Presidential adviser Peter Navarro, who’s lost five San Diego elections, is helping on this front.) But “the draft executive order could be a hardball negotiating tactic intended to pressure Mexico and Canada to come to the table to renegotiate NAFTA and make concessions that are more to Trump’s liking.”

Meanwhile, he might not be able to make it happen without Congress.

‘Hiccups’ in Calif. Birth Control Access

A new law says Californians can get birth control directly at the pharmacy and have their insurance company pay for it. But reality hasn’t caught up with what’s now allowed, and women have had trouble getting contraception.

“The insurance industry acknowledges there have been ‘hiccups’ in implementing the measure; it blames logistical challenges and says eventually all insurers will cover the 12-month prescriptions,” KPCC reports.

North County Report: A Dud of a Diss on Escondido

Escondido officials are known for their anti-immigrant ways despite the North County city’s large Latino population. In fact, “Escondido is a poster child for local cooperation with federal immigration authorities,” our contributor Ruarri Serpa writes.

So how did the U.S. attorney general manage to drop by our fair county and accuse Escondido, the place derided by immigration advocates as “Little Arizona,” of being a bad example when it comes to cooperating with immigration officials? That’s a good question. Serpa explores the city’s reputation in this week’s VOSD North County Report.

Also in the NC Report: The latest numbers of homeless in North County’s cities, an update on new City Council districts in Vista and more.

Down in the South Bay, Chula Vista is making it clear that it’s no Escondido. It’s the first local city to join the “Welcoming America” network and is declaring that the police there won’t enforce federal immigration laws. (Times of S.D.)

The San Diego Unified school board has declared that it likes proposed state legislation that would stop state contracts from flowing to companies that work with the federal government to make the border wall happen. (City News Service)

Also, the district is going to negotiate with unions as it faces massive layoffs. (KPBS, CNS)

Quick News Hits: Oh the (Early) Humanity!

There was a lot of hoopla Wednesday over a study claiming that the discovery of mastodon bones here during a 1992 road repair project proves that prehistoric humans lived here much earlier than previously thought. But some scientists think the claims are a bunch of baloney.

 San Diego county supervisors are trying to reduce trash that goes to landfills. (City News Service)

• U-T columnist Logan Jenkins takes a closer look at former Mayor Bob Filner’s new self-published book, which happened to come out just a few months after his probation ended.

Here’s some more about his self-awareness quotient (or lack thereof) beyond what we learned earlier this week: Filner writes that “abuse of power led to my downfall,” but he blames a “lynch mob” too and tries to sell Jenkins on the unlikely scenario that a Republican who did the same thing would have been OK.

His family, by the way, calls him “The New Bob,” and Jenkins thinks he could make yet another bid for office: “This book is a signal that the muzzle is finally off, he tells me. His debt paid, Filner is unleashed, ready to lunge back into the arena.”

 This week, the U-T published a guide to San Diego that’s chock full of trivia about topics from the spiritualists who founded Leucadia to the husband-and-wife team who gave their first names to Clairemont and San Carlos.

Another tidbit: Whoopi Goldberg used to be a waitress at South Park’s longtime hippie hangout The Big Kitchen, where the gravel-voiced owner “Judy the Beauty on Duty” (Judy Forman) — a “San Diego institution” — still runs the show.

A while back, a friend and I were enjoying brunch on the back patio at The Big Kitchen. Forman walked by carrying a flyswatter, and I cracked to my friend that “This is a classy joint.” She replied: “You don’t get this kind of service at Dennys!”

Long may she be on duty.

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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