Mark Arabo / Photo by Dustin Michelson

Since the ‘90s, the Neighborhood Market Association has empowered small grocery and liquor stores in San Diego to compete with larger chains in the region and to lobby officials on policies that affect them.

But there’s long been mystery around the association and its leader Mark Arabo, who took over the group in 2008.

Last month, a judge issued a scathing ruling against Arabo and the NMA. Some association members sued Arabo in 2015 after the NMA board authorized $250,000 in payments to Arabo on top of his salary, while the association’s finances were dwindling.

Court documents from the lawsuit offer a window into the operations of the group – and the fact that its plunging membership has been sending the association’s finances into a downward spiral since 2011.

VOSD’s Andrew Keatts lays out some of the new insights the trial gave us into the association, including an in-depth look at its finances and operations.

VOSD’s Favorite 2017 Stories

At the end of each year, VOSD contributor Randy Dotinga asks all us VOSD staffers to pick our favorite story from the year.

In 2017, those stories included our unearthing of the SANDAG scandal, laying out why San Diego is no sanctuary to undocumented immigrants and a podcast highlighting the resident voices that unearthed a pay-to-play corruption scandal involving leaders of South Bay’s Sweetwater Union High School District.

Our staff also loved an exposé of bureaucratic fumbling during San Diego’s hepatitis A outbreak, a surprising history about how the Civil War came to San Diego and a discovery that the really expensive desalination plant in Carlsbad didn’t turn out to be such a reliable source of water.

Final Countdown to Recreational Pot

Recreational pot sales can legally begin in California next week.

The Associated Press lays out what we can expect on Jan. 1, and what challenges remain. It’s unlikely many people will be able to walk into stores that day to buy recreational pot across the state because many localities, like San Francisco and Los Angeles, are still grappling over their local permitting rules.

San Diego, however, is among the cities that has local rules in place and has businesses ready for legal sales come 2018.

As of Friday morning, San Diego had even received more preliminary licenses to sell recreational cannabis than any other city in California, reported KPBS. All state licenses right now are temporary, expiring on May 1 to give the state’s Bureau of Cannabis Control time to more thoroughly vet businesses before issuing annual licenses.

In case you missed it, VOSD’s Jesse Marx put together this handy round-up of where different places in San Diego County stand on pot right now.

Quick News Hits

• A $13 million project dubbed “Umbral de las Americas,” or “Threshhold of the Americas” will try to revamp the entryway from the San Ysidro border crossing into downtown Tijuana. (Union-Tribune)

An audit finds that San Diego made thousands of dollars in overpayments to the Metropolitan Transit System. (City News Service)

A mastodon excavation in San Diego ignited a firestorm of controversy over the question of when ancient man arrived in the New World. (LA Times)

Months ago a handful of Democrats tried to kick Mickey Kasparian, a powerful union leader wrapped in sexual misconduct accusations, off the local Democratic Party’s central committee using attendance rules. That attempt failed, though Kasparian later resigned from the committee as allegations of his sexual misconduct – which he denies – continued to unfold. (Union-Tribune)

KPBS sits down with Lemon Grove Mayor Racquel Vasquez, who became the county’s first female African American mayor in 2016 to reflect on her first year in office.

This Washington Post column on the return of extreme poverty in the U.S., hones in on rising rates of homelessness in cities like San Diego. 

You probably have realized this by now, but you did not see a UFO Friday night. Those strange lights in the sky were from the SpaceX rocket launch. (NBC 7)

Maya Srikrishnan

Maya was Voice of San Diego’s Associate Editor of Civic Education. She reported on marginalized communities in San Diego and oversees Voice’s explanatory...

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