Community choice aggregation supporters rally in downtown San Diego. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

As local governments move toward creating their own agencies to buy and sell energy, proponents say we could get cheaper, greener energy. But, as our reporter Ry Rivard discovered, there’s a hitch: Those governments might buy solar, wind or hydropower from some place that ends up replacing what it lost with coal or gas generation.

That’s what happened in Northern California, where two community choice aggregators bought hydropower from an agency in Washington state. The California governments were able to claim they were making supplies cleaner. But in Washington, “the amount of coal and gas used by the utility increased by about a half-million megawatt hours,” Rivard reports.

An economist calls it “resource shuffling.” Our story digs into the details about what this all says about efforts to wean power systems off coal and gas.

The city of San Diego is heading toward a decision about whether to create a community choice system. Solana Beach already decided to.

Here’s our FAQ on how it works and what’s at stake.

Border Report: At Last, Progress in Border Sewage Mess

When rain comes, South Bay’s beaches suffer more than any others in the county. Outflows of sewage from south of the border often pollute the ocean water requiring the beaches to be closed. It has been this way for decades.

Now, as this week’s VOSD Border Report explains, there is some progress. Not much: In one bit of news, the Mexican government says it will spend $4.3 million in improvements to Tijuana’s wastewater system. By one estimate, spending of $330 million is actually needed.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government is spending $10 million on water systems along the border. That’s still very little “but it’s a start,” the mayor of Imperial Beach told us. It’s unclear how much of that money we’ll get.

Also in the Border Report: More news about water, drug smuggling along the coast, and a possible bid by the county board of supervisors to join the Trump administration’s lawsuit against California’s so-called sanctuary laws. (County Supervisor Dianne Jacob was on FoxNews talking about the issue.) And we have quite a lot more news in the Border Report.

Government News Roundup: Hackers vs. Cities

A cybersecurity expert tells CityLab that cities should be freaked out about the hacker attack on the city government of Atlanta, which has crippled a big chunk of its computer systems and caused a fair amount of chaos and lost data. The hackers want a ransom — $51,000 — and it’s not the first time an American city has been targeted in this way.

“Cities in general approach cybersecurity like private companies do. But at the government level, you have fewer resources and also fewer skilled people, which makes things more difficult,” the expert says. “You also have to deal with politics, and security is something invisible, particularly if people perceive that there aren’t that many attacks. But if you don’t keep up to date with security fixes, you can get caught with, in this case, a destructive malware ransomware.”

Meanwhile, an Atlanta councilman tells the New Yorker about how devastating the ransomware attacks have been on the three computers in this office: “Sixteen years’ worth of information—gone. Every e-mail. All our contacts. All our files: city policy, district-specific projects, activities. It’s devastating.”

Realtors Want to Goose Home Sales

Realtors are gathering signatures to force a state ballot measure that “would nudge older homeowners to sell their underutilized homes by vastly expanding the ways they could transfer their existing property tax assessment to a new place,” the S.F. Chronicle reports.

The problem: Baby Boomers keep their houses (and their tax breaks) well into the empty-nest stage, meaning that bedrooms families could use are empty.

But the solution won’t be an easy sell to everybody. Local governments and school districts could lose tens of millions of dollars statewide in property taxes.

Meanwhile, the U-T reports that a “new battleground is emerging in San Diego’s housing crisis: the need to preserve thousands of older apartments with subsidized rent restrictions that will expire in the next five years.”

Corrections: We Bungled Item on Fact-Checking Site

• Monday’s Morning Report incorrectly described a legal fight that’s roiling, the locally based fact-checking site. The complicated dispute that’s forced the site to ask users for donations is between individuals and entities over control of the site, not between the former husband and wife who founded the site.

• A story about city arts commissioners voicing concerns about public artwork in not-so-public places said that the decision to move forward on a public art piece on a water facility in Oak Park would ultimately be decided by the City Council. It will be decided by the executive director of the Commission for Arts and Culture.

Quick News Hits: Pot in the Past, Pot in the Present

• Pot shops report healthy sales and few problems at three months into legal recreational marijuana. (U-T)

• California has “became the first state to allow nonbinary residents to change their gender on all relevant legal documents, including birth certificates, to a gender-neutral option.” Vox explores what that means for kids.

• KPBS explores how climate change could affect birds and migration in the county, with one expert saying it could affect every single species.

• If you like gawking at mansions, check out this L.A. Times look at what $1 million will buy you in San Diego County. In Oceanside, it will get you seven bedrooms, 4.5 bathrooms and a master suite with a private deck. If you’d like to be a Powegian, or dream of being one, or just like saying the word, a million-dollar home only has three bedrooms.

• A local “immersive reminiscence therapy day care facility designed like a 1950s town for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients” hopes to open this month. Check out the pretty amazing photos.

• Hipster alert! Ciderhouses are a thing now.

• You don’t often hear candidates take cyclists to task. But Daniel “Danny” Smiechowski, a lesser-known candidate for the City Council district that serves Clairemont and several beach communities, isn’t ordinary. In a Times of S.D. commentary, he gripes about those dockless bikes popping up everywhere and suggests bike shops should rent bikes instead.

He says he’s pro-bike, however, and notes that he has “a second home in France where I routinely interview French politicians on alternative transportation.” However, he contends “it’s safe to say most folks barely have the energy to get out of bed in the morning, let alone peddle some heavy, geared bike up a grade larger than nine percent,” and he wonders if he dockless bikes are “another Pet Rock fad, but with wheels?”

That’s not all he’s saying. As major candidates begin to not only acknowledge that they’ve smoked pot in the past but also say they toke in the present, Smiechowski tweeted this: “I smoked dope in 1971 while in OB.”

Well. We can look forward to more stunning revelations from hopefuls such as “I drove a station wagon in Tierrasanta during the Reagan Administration” and “I got a tattoo on El Cajon Boulevard when ‘Roseanne’ was first on the air.”

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 ( Please contact him directly at and follow him on Twitter:

Randy Dotinga

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

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