A few weeks ago, an undocumented couple headed down to Mission Bay one evening with their 14-year-old daughter, a U.S. citizen. They were pulled over by sheriff’s deputies for what the officers said was a cracked windshield.

Neither the wife nor the husband were charged with any crimes or given citations. But they both ended up in the hands of immigration officials. One is still detained today, and the other is out on bond.

How’d that happen in a county whose sheriff’s department says it prohibits deputies from stopping, detaining or questioning people for reasons related to immigration? In a new article, our Mario Koran looks into the case and finds dramatically conflicting stories about exactly what happened and why.

“In dispute is whether Sheriff’s deputies violated department policy by bringing in federal immigration agents,” Koran writes. The department says it didn’t do anything wrong because it technically didn’t ask about the couple’s immigration status — officers called Border Patrol to “inquire into the frequency of border crossings made by the subjects detained.”

But a sheriff’s commander who wants to replace Sheriff Bill Gore says the interaction did indeed violate policy: “there were no arrests made and no citations issued. These people should have been on their way. There was no reason to contact Border Patrol.”

City Officials Ponder a Place Where the Homeless Can Legally Go

Cops have been cracking down on the homeless, but permanent homes and even shelter space are scarce. What is a homeless person supposed to do besides get on a bus to a friendlier place, wherever that is?

Local officials have been grappling for answers, and it sounds like they’re considering a few. As our Lisa Halverstadt reports in a new story, there’s talk of creating safe spaces in parking lots and elsewhere where the homeless can congregate and live in tents or RVs without fear of being cited and ending up in an endless cycle of jail terms and fines.

These efforts, of course, are nearly certain to aggravate people who don’t want the homeless living next door. But there’s another perspective. “Everybody says, ‘Not in my backyard’ but you accept it in your front yard,” says one nonprofit provider. “You do nothing, you got it in your front yard.”

Big Money in Low-Profile Race

In some states, the second-in-command — typically the lieutenant governor — has significant power. Then there’s California, where the person who’s one heartbeat away from the governorship has little to do except sit there and wait for something terrible to happen.

According to insiders, the job of Golden State lieutenants is to “get up, read the paper, see if the governor is dead, if not, go back to sleep.”

How bad is it? A few years ago, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed a budget for his office of about $1 million and asked for three staffers. He himself called the job a “largely ceremonial post … with no real authority.”

But the job can be a stepping stone to the governor’s mansion, and the L.G. is in charge when the governor is out of the state, an opportunity to make a mark.

Now, the L.A. Times says 2018 lieutenant gov hopefuls — Newsom is running for governor — are raising lots of money. The only well-known candidate so far is Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, a San Diego native who’s more of a maybe-candidate at this point.

Podcast: Making It Under the S.D. Sun

In the latest edition of I Made it in San Diego, our entrepreneurial podcast, our Lisa Halverstadt profiles local solar guru Daniel Sullivan.

“We can’t continue to be beholden to an industry that wreaks havoc all over the world,” he says.

Sullivan says when he initially got the idea to go big on solar power, people around him were skeptical and discouraged him from pursuing the idea, including his boss at the time. But his persistence eventually led to the creation of a company that now pulls in $50 million a year and operates in three counties.

Balboa Park Estimate Has Holes

A new analysis finds at least $80 million is needed to repair Balboa Park, but our Lisa Halverstadt says that number is far from comprehensive and only assumes repairs to current facilities as they are — and only up to a certain level even if, say, more accessibility is needed. It also doesn’t include earthquake-safety fixes that could cost tens of millions of dollars, and there are other shortcomings too.

City Councilman Chris Ward, who represents the district that includes the park, is leading an effort to assess priorities and ways to pull in revenue for the park. He held the latest meeting to discuss park priorities on Tuesday night.

‘Papa Doug’ on the Hot Seat

Doug Manchester — hotel magnate, right-winger, former U-T owner — is a buddy of Donald Trump, although the then-GOP presidential nominee did mess up and refer to him as “Papa John” during a local rally last year.

Manchester is up for an ambassadorship to the Bahamas, and at a Senate hearing this week he faced a grilling over his views on LGBT rights. Manchester, a staunch Catholic who has a complicated personal history on the morality front, was a major supporter of the anti-gay Prop. 8 but apologized after an uproar and boycott. He told New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez that his contribution to Prop. 8 was a mistake that he’s tried to atone for.

North County Report: District Elections Fever Spreads

Under pressure from a lawyer who’s threatened to sue cities up and down the coast over the way local elections are held, several cities have decided to hold council elections by district. The idea is that it will boost the political power of ethnic groups that are concentrated in certain parts of cities like Escondido.

Now Encinitas is the latest city to face a district elections push, and it’s likely to play ball to avoid a potentially costly lawsuit. The weekly VOSD North County Report has details along with a reminder of the city’s first mayor, whose critics accused her (in the words of the L.A. Times in 1989) as being “a short-sighted, even mean-spirited, politician whose views on migrant workers border on racism.”

Meanwhile, the process of switching to district elections isn’t going smoothly in Poway. (U-T)

Also in the North County Report: Residents aren’t thrilled about plans to privatize Escondido’s library, Oceanside may make it illegal to sit on the sidewalk (!), local farmers think pot may be a nice cash crop and more.

San Diego is way behind L.A. and San Francisco in terms of holding big marijuana festivals at county fairgrounds, and it looks like we’ll stay that way because the Del Mar fairgrounds is far from lit up with excitement at the idea. It’s facing pressure from anti-pot activists even though the fairgrounds welcomes pot smokers to other events. (U-T)

Quick News Hits: A Ghostly, Semi-Transparent Presence

Yahoo Sports profiles a local women’s basketball team that — headline cliche alert! — “proves that age is just a number.” The story is nice, however, and never once uses the word “spunk.”

• Bunny bonanza! (S.D. Reader)

• CityBeat says locals should be paying attention to the sprawling SANDAG scandal that we’ve been uncovering for months. Meanwhile, the results are in from a Twitter poll created by yours truly: When asked which euphemism they like best from the scathing SANDAG report issued this week, almost half preferred “specter of impropriety.” The runners-up: “somewhat dishonest” and “insufficiently transparent.”

In a related story, I am going to dress up this Halloween as a specter of impropriety. When you hear me say “Boo!” just remember to watch your wallet.

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 is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga

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