Mara Elliott / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

City Attorney Mara Elliott’s made some bold moves since she took the helm nearly a year ago, including blockbuster legal opinions on short-term vacation rentals and recreation councils that have recently rocked City Hall.

Her chief of staff, Gerry Braun, has been a crucial behind-the-scenes player.

Braun isn’t an attorney but he’s now claiming his communications are subject to attorney-client privilege.

When VOSD’s Scott Lewis sought communications between Braun and a City Council office, he learned the city attorney’s office has decided that privilege applies whenever Braun is sharing information with people considered the attorney’s clients.

That raises plenty of questions.

Braun might be “the first political chief of staff who can also claim to his counterparts that if you share the messages he sends to you, you are committing a crime,” Lewis writes.

Sac Report: CA Dems Fear Tax Reform Could Demolish Housing Plans

State lawmakers recently passed a slate of bills in response to California’s overwhelming housing crisis. Now they’re worried some of that legislation could crumble if House Republicans’ tax reform bill remains in its current form.

In this week’s Sacramento Report, I dug into the impact of a popular tax credit program that could be on the chopping block if the GOP bill passes, while Ry Rivard put the spotlight on San Diego County’s big lobbying bills at the statehouse.

Also in this week’s Sac Report: Details on recommendations to solve the pot industry’s dearth of banking access, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher’s push to require employers to give part-time workers more notice on shift schedules and an update on sexual harassment reports at the Capitol.

California’s Democratic lawmakers aren’t the only ones panicking about federal tax reform. Only two of the 12 San Diego economic experts surveyed by the Union-Tribune said they believed San Diegans would benefit from the proposed overhaul.

City Cracks Down on Minimum Wage Violators

City investigators have pulled in nearly $60,000 in fines and managed more than 500 complaints since the city’s minimum-wage law took effect last year.

The Union-Tribune reports that many companies have said they weren’t aware of the law, which set San Diego’s required hourly wage at $11.50 versus the $10 for small businesses and $10.50 required of large businesses statewide.

The city treasurer’s office is now trying to ramp up education efforts.

The Union-Tribune also reports that Elliott recently filed the city’s first legal complaint over deceptive menu surcharges meant to cover increased labor costs against Barefoot Bar & Grill on Mission Bay.

VOSD Podcast: The Amazon Bidding War

San Diego is one of a slew of cities trying to lure Amazon’s second headquarters.

Podcast hosts Sara Libby, Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts this week invited the CEO of the nonprofit leading that full-court press for San Diego onto the podcast to help demystify the process.

San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. CEO Mark Cafferty chatted with the podcast crew about what San Diego emphasized in its bid and the strings attached should it come out the winner.

Quick News Hits

The county superintendent of schools is calling on the state to audit the San Ysidro School District following concerns over payouts to two former administrators. (inewsource)

The city’s at least temporarily put the brakes on a City Council vote meant to speed construction of a citywide bicycle lane network. (KPBS)

Qualcomm is resisting fellow telecomm giant Broadcom’s takeover bid, and analysts are predicting a fight. (Union-Tribune)

Top Stories of the Week

These were the five most popular Voice of San Diego stories for the week of Nov. 3-10. Check out the full top 10 list here.

1. ‘A Tax on Poor People’: San Diego Unified Sends Parents Who Can’t Pay for School Bus Rides to a Collections Agency

California is one of a dozen states that allows school districts to charge parents fees for bus rides to school. Records obtained by Voice of San Diego show that in the 2014-2015 school year alone, the district referred 380 parents to a collections agency for debts that ranged from $10 to $500. (Mario Koran)

2. How San Diego Screwed Up Bike Sharing

In many cities, bike-share programs have been successful, with large, growing ridership. That hasn’t been the case in San Diego. On top of bad bike infrastructure, San Diego’s program hasn’t implemented best practices that helped programs elsewhere attract riders. (Alon Levy)

3. Immigration Arrests Are Up, But Actual Deportations Are Down

Immigration courts are fighting severe backlogs that are preventing cases from moving through the system. Experts say much of that is because the administration’s zero-tolerance policy for undocumented immigrants is loading more cases into the court system that might have previously been dismissed as low priorities. (Maya Srikrishnan)

4. Fact Check: More than $100M for Mental Health Is Sitting in the Bank

State Sen. Ben Hueso claimed San Diego County is holding onto more than $100 million in state funds that could be used on mental health services. (Lisa Halverstadt)

5. A Teenager Sued SDPD, and Was Documented as a Gang Member Soon After

Jamie Wilson, the parent of a 17-year-old at the center of a lawsuit challenging SDPD’s DNA collection policies, questions the department’s decision to document her son as a gang member shortly after the suit was filed. She says her son is not a gang member and has no criminal record. (Kelly Davis)

Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa is a senior investigative reporter who digs into some of San Diego's biggest challenges including homelessness, city real estate debacles, the region's...

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