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Voice of San Diego’s ongoing investigation of the San Diego Association of Governments has revealed that the regional transportation agency has twice misled San Diegans about how much money it could raise through tax increases.
This week, Andrew Keatts asks a basic question: Are public agencies allowed to lie on the ballot?
The short answer: yup.
Keatts talks to three election law experts who say the First Amendment protects free speech, even if it’s false speech used to promote ballot measures.
Michael Colantuono, a Northern California-based attorney and an expert in elections, municipal law and local government revenue, tells Keatts that there’s a short window before the election in which false claims can be challenged, but if no one steps up during that time, that’s basically it.
But another expert said a novel legal case against SANDAG could be made, not over election fraud but for “an interesting form of public tax fraud.”
A case like that, though, is likely a long-shot and the only real recourse is how voters react to being deceived. The 2018 primary is less than a year away.
“Government is regulated at the ballot box, not the jury box,” Colantuono tells Keatts.
The Big Power Shift
California’s energy landscape could undergo a major transformation over the next few years as elected leaders push for a future with 100 percent renewable power.
“The state’s push for ever-greater use of solar, wind, geothermal and other renewable energy sources is upending the electricity market,” writes the Union-Tribune’s Joshua Emerson Smith.
Investor-owned utilities like San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric together buy and sell more than 75 percent of the state’s electricity right now, Emerson Smith writes, but that number could plunge to just 10 percent within the next five years, according to an aggressive forecast by the California Public Utilities Commission.
The forecast predicts that a government-run method of buying power called community choice aggregation could soon account for almost 70 percent of electricity sales.
ICYMI, VOSD’s Ry Rivard explains exactly what community choice aggregation is, and why it matters to people in our region. A city-sponsored study released last week found the city of San Diego could buyer power cheaper and greener than SDG&E.
• Speaking of our energy future, Monday is an important day for the future of California’s landmark climate program, cap-and-trade. The L.A. Times broke down what to watch for in the Legislature’s big vote.
Rep. Darrell Issa’s Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Rep. Darrell Issa barely hung onto his office with just over a half percentage point victory margin last November. His traditionally Republican district also narrowly went for Democrat Hillary Clinton.
The Los Angeles Times’ Sarah D. Wire looks into the changing 49th District, which includes parts of northern San Diego County, to see how Issa has been talking a more moderate game.
“It has forced the nine-term congressman to walk a shaky line, reassuring his conservative base that he’s not moderating his positions while showing the growing number of independents and Democrats in his district that he’s not as partisan as people think,” Wire writes.
Rhetoric and actual positions, however, are different: The Times notes that when push came to shove, Issa still supported the unpopular House GOP health care bill.
Weekend News Roundup
• The Trump administration’s stepped-up enforcement efforts against illegal immigration has led to more arrests. In San Diego, “the two local immigration jails are holding more people in detention and the number of judges assigned to hear their cases has more than doubled,” the Union-Tribune reports.
• Last week, two veteran Salk Institute biologists separately sued the research institution, calling it an “old boys’ club” that systemically discriminates against female scientists. Now Salk has publicly responded, saying the institute treats all of its scientists equitably and releasing data showing how the two female scientists were treated fairly and trailed their peers in producing high-quality work. (Union-Tribune)
• Here’s an L.A. writer’s take on the San Diego craft beer scene. (Los Angeles Times)
• Home prices and rents are high in San Diego County, which is why the current economic recovery isn’t worth celebrating just yet. (Union-Tribune)
• The Union-Tribune’s Roger Showley says the IDEA development project nearing completion in East Village has some elements that make it more of a mixed-use development than other projects dubbed “mixed-use,” including a central plaza that’s open to the public. I’ve been covering the East Village development boom, and have pointed out how few of the mixed-used projects planned for the downtown neighborhood include office space or affordable space for arts and culture.
• I’ve covered the city and county’s attempt to get the San Diego Film Commission back up and running after it was closed in 2013, now the Union-Tribune reports that the effort to get San Diego back on the map as a filming destination is going slower than expected.
• The San Diego Pride parade and festival broke attendance records over the weekend. (CBS 8)
Kinsee Morlan is engagement editor at Voice of San Diego and author of the Culture Report. Contact her directly at email@example.com.