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The San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge will turn 50 in a couple of years, and officials are planning to celebrate its half-century with a multi-million-dollar lighting project. More than 350 people won’t be around to see it: They’ve committed suicide by jumping from the bridge.
Now, there’s talk of installing a suicide barrier, and community meetings are being held this week. They’re just in time, as my reporting reveals. The annual number of bridge suicides is skyrocketing for unknown reasons, reaching double-digits for six years in a row.
The all-time record of 19 bridge deaths came in 2012. This year’s toll is on pace to reach or beat that number.
Coronado Bridge stands virtually alone among “suicide magnet” bridges because it lacks a barrier, and it soon may reach a grim milestone by becoming the deadliest bridge in the United States. Workers are installing a net system at Golden Gate Bridge, the only bridge in the United States with a higher death toll.
My story examines the gruesome statistics and notes that research suggests barriers prevent suicides and don’t just move the problem elsewhere.
I wrote a series of stories about Coronado Bridge suicides for VOSD in 2008, touching on topics such as survivors of leaps from the bridge, the news media’s suicide blackout, and the role of the police in preventing suicides. You can find a list of the stories along with links here.
Marijuana Attorney’s Prosecution Chills Her Colleagues
It’s unusual for an attorney for face multiple felony charges, and it’s especially unusual when the evidence comes from communications between the lawyer and her client.
That’s what’s happening now as prosecutors go after Jessica McElfresh, a San Diego lawyer experienced in cannabis law, who faces allegations that she was in on a scheme to illegally manufacture and sell hash oil.
As our contributor Jonah Valdez reports, local attorneys fear that the case is threatening the sacredness of attorney-client privilege. A judge has ruled that a specific email is not protected, seeming to agree with a prosecutor who says justice comes first.
Plenty of folks from nonprofits to medical marijuana shops are worried that prosecutors will seek — and get — their email communications with the attorney too.
“If the courts start to breach those confidential provisions, then the clients are not going to disclose info to us, and we’re not going to be able to adequately represent them,” one attorney says.
Office Searched in Rep. Hunter Probe
“FBI agents searched the office of Rep. Duncan Hunter’s campaign treasurer in February, seizing computer equipment and documents for their investigation into whether the Alpine Republican misused campaign funds,” the L.A. Times reports. (Seamus Hughes of the George Washington University Program on Extremism and discovered the unsealed warrant and shared it with the L.A. Times.)
A search warrant “said agents were looking for evidence showing whether Hunter’s campaign funds were used for personal reasons, whether there was a scheme to defraud a bank over video game purchases, and whether Hunter’s campaign finance reports were falsified to ‘impede or influence’ FBI and House Ethics Committee inquiries into his use of campaign funds.”
Hunter has been in hot water for a year since bizarre, personal spending of campaign dollars caught the attention of The San Diego Union-Tribune and federal election regulators.
Big Legal Win for Balboa Park Overhaul
A judge has ruled against one of two legal attempts to thwart the controversial Plaza de Panama project in Balboa Park.
Superior Court Judge Gregory Pollack this week rejected Save Our Heritage Organisation’s argument that the City Council should have called for further environmental reviews before approving the overhaul of the park’s central mesa.
Plaza de Panama supporters were celebrating the ruling Wednesday but there’s one more legal hurdle the project will need to cross before it can move forward.
Attorney Cory Briggs and the San Diegans for Open Government also aim to kill the project with their own suit challenging the city’s decision not to let voters sign off on its plan to seek bonds to cover its nearly $50 million share for the project.
Briggs said Wednesday he’s filed an appeal of an earlier judge’s ruling in his case and expects to wait at least a year for a decision from the state appeals court.
SOHO’s Bruce Coons said he is considering an appeal.
Lawsuit Against El Cajon Councilman
Following up on reporting by the Reader, the U-T says “El Cajon City Councilman Ben Kalasho has been named in a San Diego Superior Court lawsuit alleging fraud, defamation, unfair business practices and other claims related to his fall election campaign and to a beauty pageant he runs with his wife.” The councilman denied the charges to the Reader.
Politics Roundup: How San Diego Stands Apart
Longtime California politics columnist Dan Walters writes that San Diego is a “self-contained reflection of California’s cultural and political dynamics,” but the SANDAG mess reveals how we stand apart — our liberal (urban) and conservative (suburban, rural) “are roughly in balance and they spar constantly for dominance in its governmental arenas.”
• CityBeat’s editor Seth Combs, who once got the stink eye when he forgot to address former U-T publisher Doug Manchester as “Papa Doug,” says the hotel mogul should put his mouth where his apology is when it comes to LGBT rights in the Bahamas.
• Is the city’s newly transparent public records request system really transparent? Sorta, kinda but maybe not really, writes CityBeat’s John R. Lamb.
• We removed an incorrect assertion from Wednesday’s Morning Report that stated Mayor Faulconer’s team only achieved what other San Diego mayors had done in securing a permit from the EPA to continue to operate the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant.
The mayor’s spokesman, Craig Gustafson, told us yesterday after reading it that the “line diminishes the countless hours by City staff and years of lobbying to get the permit renewed. Not to mention the devastating consequences to the City if the permit didn’t get renewed.”
North County Report: School Chief Quits Before Contract Signed?
This week’s VOSD North County Report says the superintendent/principal of the one-school Vallecitos School District in Rainbow, up by the county line, has said he’s quitting to become superintendent of the four campuses in nearby Bonsall Unified. The odd thing is that he did this before the Bonsall Unified board was set to discuss a contract with him.
The Bonsall district, which recently began serving high school students, is trying to build a new high school.
Also in the North County Report: A wandering baby whale could really use a GPS, the mayor of Carlsbad wants to keep his job and protesters will be protesting the protesters at Rep. Darrell Issa’s office in Vista.
• NBC 7 has details about spending by former Poway Unified schools superintendent John Collins, who was sacked and is now facing felony charges.
Quick News Hits: Kids Say the Darndest Things
• KPBS and inewsource report that three big families of refugees must move out of their apartments in El Cajon due to overcrowding. The families allege that the International Rescue Committee in San Diego “put them into too-small apartments by encouraging them to sign leases that omitted the names of some occupants.”
• Despite the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown, immigration officials are on pace to deport fewer people from the San Diego region in the current federal fiscal year than the last one, the U-T reports. Most don’t have criminal records.
• U-T columnist Logan Jenkins looks into whether the 2028 Olympics in L.A. will spin off some an event or two down here as happened in 1984. “The initial reading of the tea leaves,” he writes, “is not encouraging.”
• CityBeat’s Pothole of the Week is quite a humdinger. The photo came courtesy of a reader who found the pothole in downtown’s East Village who had this to say: “Note the playful erosion of the asphalt around the base of the manhole and how it juxtaposes with the attempt at orderly decay as depicted by the rectangular settling. The whole construct artfully captures the internal conflict felt by Man in the face of crumbling societal norms.”
• The other day, I went to Mission Bay Park to sit under a tree and work on my laptop. A little girl approached me and asked what I was doing. I told her, and she responded by asking me if I going to be a billionaire. Um, nope, I said. What about her?
“Yes,” she replied, “a billionaire or a mayor!”
Wow. Would she give me a million dollars? “No!”
Well, at least she’s considering a selfless career in public serv… “GO FOR THE BILLIONS, LITTLE GIRL!” hollered local p.r. maven Rachel Laing on Twitter after hearing about this.
Don’t listen to her, young lady at the park! But if you do, please reconsider that million-dollar gift. You’d still be a billionaire more or less.
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.