Welcome to Bizarro San Diego.

It’s a strange place – an interesting place where city leaders do things.

And this week, we actually got to live in it.

Check out just how far we departed from norms.

Council President Myrtle Cole, who never makes waves and who, upon ascending to the Council presidency, could not articulate any goals beyond “moving forward,” came out with not one but two strong statements in the last week. First, she issued a strong condemnation of how SDSU’s racial-profiling study was presented to the City Council. And she said clearly that she would not change her mind on funding a special election.

Meanwhile, progressive coalitions are becoming active and aggressive. That could signal a big shift from what has been an incredibly lame showing for San Diego’s left as a whole over the last few years – the lowlight of which was Dems’ failure to put up a big-name candidate in the 2016 race for mayor, or in Rep. Darrell Issa’s swing district.

But the biggest sign we’ve stepped through the looking glass: The mayor … are you ready for this? … wielded some power. First, there was the revelation that he has far more power over the budget than we realized. His chief of staff actually tweeted the city attorney’s determination that “the mayor can change whatever he wants.”

There’s more. On Friday, the mayor announced that he’d not only be vetoing the City Council’s changes to his budget, but he twisted the dagger by vindictively cutting funding for Council Districts 1 and 3, whose representatives voted against him.

Celebrations of the mayor’s vast power? Political retribution for those who dare cross him? We’re talking about a guy who is routinely described as “vanilla.” A guy who we once called the mayor of Pleasantville. A guy who wants nothing more than to stand behind a podium and bore everyone with his declarations of bipartisanship and togetherness and moving forward and zzzzZZZZZZzzzz … sorry, I fell asleep.

Regardless of where you land on the special election or the merits of the two proposals that could go before voters, take a second to luxuriate in the fact that for one glorious week, we lived in a city where leaders took bold stands on their priorities and made moves to ensure they come true. How bizarro.

What VOSD Learned This Week

Even though everyone was talking this week about two potential measures that could go on a special election ballot, the substance of those two measures actually got very little of the attention.

Instead, observers were rocked by two surprising pieces of news: First was the fact that the mayor has more power over the budget than everyone realized. The second was the revelation that the Qualcomm Stadium site is valued at $110 million. Andy Keatts and Scott Lewis broke down why that’s so huge.

One of the measures the mayor hopes makes it to a special election ballot is his plan to raise hotel taxes to fund a convention center expansion, homeless services and road repairs. But others on the left say there are better ways to use new tax revenue: A new progressive coalition wants a 2018 vote to raise money solely for affordable housing – either through a TOT increase or other means. And on the VOSD podcast, homeless advocate Mike McConnell told us about his effort for a 2018 ballot measure to fund homelessness solutions, and a poll he funded to prove its viability.


Attorneys who do important work protecting foster kids’ safety and best interests are waiting with bated breath on the new state budget, which will either help them bring down staggering caseloads or keep things on the brink of collapse.

Also going on at the state level: There are several bills still alive in the Legislature that zero in on San Diego issues and causes.


We all know we’re in the midst of a housing crisis, by the way, but local real estate expert Rich Toscano says there’s no new housing bubble yet.

One big way to address the crisis is to build more homes, and to build them densely. One group of architects is finding innovative ways to build dense projects, and their model is innovative, too: They work for free (for now).

North County, meanwhile, is trying to balance building new housing with wildlife conservation. Environmentalists say one developer is being given a leg up in the process.


Now that the drought’s basically over, officials are rethinking whether desalination is a smart move.

What I’m Reading

• In any other presidency, stories like this would be earth-shattering scandals. For President Donald Trump, they barely register a blip among the thousands of other crises each week: Trump funneled money given to a kids’ cancer charity into his own charity, which boosts his family’s interests. (Forbes)

• Every woman who’s been on a bad date or creeped out by someone at a bar is familiar with the panicked string of texts you send to your best friend. This imagines those texts happening between James Comey and Jeff Sessions, about Trump. (Washington Post)

 Reasons to love California, but hate the California secession movement. (The Baffler)

• You know someone’s a great writer when they can tackle a subject like buying a houseplant and turn it into something beautiful and mesmerizing. (New York Times Magazine)

• A handy guide for men who are interested in apologizing for the first time. (McSweeney’s)

Line of the Week

“He raised both his middle fingers and explained, using colorful language, that anyone criticizing Mylan, including its employees, ought to go copulate with themselves. Critics in Congress and on Wall Street, he said, should do the same. And regulators at the Food and Drug Administration? They, too, deserved a round of anatomically challenging self-fulfillment.” – The New York Times refuses to print expletive phrases like “go fuck yourself,” and we get to enjoy weird linguistic gymnastics as a result.

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

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