The site of the Newland Sierra development near San Marcos. / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

As required by state law, San Diego County needs to create a strong climate action plan to protect the environment from rampant growth and pollution. Officials came up with one in 2012, but courts struck it down. Now they’re trying again, and it looks like it’s going to be quite the fight.

“The plan is necessarily ambitious and disruptive,” our reporter Ry Rivard explains in a new story. But the far-reaching plan has left some environmentalists unimpressed.

Environmentalists “have many objections, most prominently that the county’s plan makes it too easy for developers to build sprawling developments in the backcountry,” Rivard reports. And critics aren’t thrilled about a “carbon credit” arrangement that allows developers to offset the impact of their projects. Even one developer looking to take advantage of that program was shocked by the extent to which a fellow developer intended to rely on it.

A new drought is here, and dry weather has brought much warmer temperatures than usual, especially inland, over the past few weeks. (KPBS)

City to Probe Claims of Sudden Sky-High Water Bills

The city is launching an investigation to figure out why so many residents say their water bills skyrocketed once new “smart meters” were installed, the U-T reports.

“Utility officials have downplayed the situation, saying that while the outcry is unusually vociferous, people protesting their bills is common,” the U-T says. But multiple media reports have profiled residents who are stunned by shocking increases.

A woman in Kensington, for example, tells CBS 8 that her water bill ballooned to $6,000 instead of the usual $165, and no one — neither the city nor a plumber — could find an explanation. “Regardless, she was told she was on the hook for the bill, and her water has been shut off three times since March.”

The city tells the station that it tried to work things out with the customer, but hasn’t heard from her in months.

Another customer tells the U-T that her typical bimonthly bill is $150, and she just got a new one for $3,334.

So when will the investigation by the city auditor be done? By June, maybe. And that’s on a fast track. Still, the water department says it’s responding to complaints.

Ex-Congressman’s Spending Makes ‘Zombie’ List

Former Rep. Ron Packard (Rep.), who represented a chunk of North County and was known as one of the most obscure members of Congress, left office 17 years ago. So how did his campaign fund continue to spend more than $140,000 for 11 years after he last ran for office in 1998?

Good question. The Tampa Bay Times says his spending is one of 102 “zombie campaigns” — “federal campaigns that were still spending money years after their candidate left office, stopped campaigning, or in some cases, died.”

As the paper explains, “by law, donations should be spent on campaigning and the cost of being in office. They can also be refunded to donors or given away to other candidates, political committees or charities. But the law doesn’t stop ex-lawmakers and losing candidates from keeping their campaigns running forever, even if they never re-enter politics.”

Former District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, now a candidate for county supervisor, used $2,500 in campaign funds to pay a law firm that “represented her in an effort to make sure county pension officials keep sending her benefit checks even if she takes office at the county again.”

As the newspaper notes, “typically, legal work concerning a candidate’s personal finances is not a campaign expense.” A campaign consultant didn’t respond to questions. (U-T)

Quick News Hits: That’s One Cheesy Donut

The state has dismissed a claim by an El Cajon councilman that the mayor and another councilman insulted him with ethnically insulting comments. The councilman who made the accusations, an Iraqi immigrant, “has a history of confrontation, having filed several lawsuits and harassment claims. He’s also been a defendant in other legal actions,” NBC 7 reports.

The U-T profiles departing Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman and has more details about her widely praised replacement as top cop.

• Dueling protests between a right-wing group and counter-protesters at Chicano Park spawned 3 arrests over the weekend, including one of a suspect accused of punching a police officer in the face. (NBC 7)

• This is a very good question, North Park (@marxjesse)

• “Donut Bar has a grilled cheese doughnut,” reads a headline in the U-T. “It tastes better than you might think.”

As the newspaper explains, “Donut Bar takes two cinnamon sugar doughnuts, cuts off the ends and slathers butter on each side. The two pieces are warmed on a griddle before American and Havarti cheese is added to form a big, fluffy grilled cheese doughnut.”

Huh. Hey donut people! You doing anything with those spare cinnamon sugar donut ends? Would hate to see them go to waste when they could go to, um, waist…

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

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com...

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