Construction at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. / Image via Shutterstock

The southern San Diego neighborhood of San Ysidro has a reputation of being a gritty place to live. Now, there’s new evidence that it’s also a gritty place to breathe.

A local nonprofit has been conducting a survey of air quality in San Ysidro and the results are both unsurprising (there’s a lot of pollution) and revealing (little has been done about it).

So what’s the cause? As our Maya Srikrishnan reports in a new VOSD story, “there’s little doubt that cars backing up at border crossings is bad for the people who live nearby … There are several data points in the initial findings that indicate that particulate matter concentration – pollution – is linked to traffic through the Port of Entry.”

Our story looks at what else the data shows and explores possible solutions and what comes next.

Politics Report: Convention Center Expansion Still Hangs in Balance

You might think voters will eventually decide whether to raise hotel taxes to fund the expansion of the convention center and, potentially, other projects too. But there’s a big hitch: a chunk of bayfront land whose future is uncertain.

It may become a hotel, which would spell big trouble for the expansion as envisioned. Now, the officials who run the Port just spent hours behind closed doors discussing “price and terms” — making a deal.

This week’s VOSD Politics Report explains where things stand and what’s at stake.

Also in the Politics Report: A progressive political action committee is reaching out to potential supporters via text message. That may not sound unusual when it’s simple to send a mass text, but this time there are actual people on the other end ready to have a digital conversation.

To find out what’s going on, the Politics Report talks to a young activist who’s helping push the effort. One text, by the way, supports Democratic candidate Geneviéve Jones-Wright, who’s running for district attorney and gaining national attention in progressive circles.

The Politics Report also has the latest on a big redo of an assemblywoman’s plans to revamp how the airport is run. And we have details about major housing developments planned — mainly in the local backcountry — that will need special permission from county leaders in order to move forward.

In other government/politics news:

The U-T investigates why the city is paying almost $18,000 a day — yes, a day — for a downtown skyscraper that it’s not yet using.

According to The Intercept, Josh Butner, a Democratic candidate running to oust scandal-plagued Rep. Duncan Hunter, was a registered Republican a lot more recently than he led people to believe.

DA Candidate’s Questionable Call-Back

As the Politics Report notes, Jones-Wright is drawing attacks from Republicans over a pretty bold statement: “The last time we had a Democrat as DA in San Diego County was in 1995. That’s 23 years of Republican Rule. That’s 23 years of the People being denied justice … ”

Who was DA 20-plus years ago? She’s talking about longtime prosecutor Ed Miller, who was booted out of office in 1994 after serving in his job since 1971. His career was snuffed amid allegations that he had wrongly targeted an innocent man — in other words, that he denied someone justice.

As an L.A. Times story noted, four rivals that year “accused Miller of coasting on his reputation while his underlings bungle cases” — including the infamous and widely publicized Dale Akiki debacle when a mentally challenged man was wrongly accused of molesting children.

One of the challengers, Republican attorney Paul Pfingst, beat Miller at the polls. Pfingst later lost a close election in 2003 to Bonnie Dumanis in a race that, as the L.A. Times noted, “focused largely on Pfingst’s record.”

Both the 1994 and 2003 elections show how local voters are willing to sack well-known district attorneys who’d made questionable decisions. The question now is whether the current interim DA, Dumanis’ hand-picked successor Summer Stephan, fits into the latter category.

Union Activists Plan Protest Over Local Leader

“Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) plan to protest at their union’s convention in Las Vegas this weekend, accusing the union of turning a blind eye to sexual misconduct by one of its top leaders,” The Guardian reports. “Mickey Kasparian, president of the 14,000-member UFCW Local 135 based in San Diego, has settled four different lawsuits accusing him of sexual misconduct in the last year. Three were apparently settled with union money.”

A grocery store cashier and longtime union member says: “It’s upset me because we [Latinas] have to work really hard. We have to break past a lot of stereotypes. So once we get our foot in the door, to then be abused by someone like Mickey Kasparian, it just angers you because we’re women, but we’re Latina women, we fought hard to get where we are.”

The story notes that the national union’s hands are tied in some ways, but there’s a dispute over whether it can do more.

Battle Brews Over Fate of Animal Services

The county wants out of the business of providing animal services to multiple cities in the county, including San Diego, and there’s plenty of outcry about the fate of pets, with some critics worrying that a potential replacement for the city — the Humane Society — won’t do as good of a job. But the county’s animal services department has faced controversy of its own. (NBC 7, U-T)

Salk Institute Places Top Scientist on Leave

The Salk Institute in La Jolla said Saturday that it placed star cancer scientist Inder Verma on leave “due to unspecified allegations, further rocking a center that was earlier accused of gender discrimination by three of its female professors,” the U-T reports.

It’s not clear what the allegations involve, but Verma told the paper he denied several types of sexual misconduct. He’d previously been put on leave as editor of a top science journal and said this was related to lawsuits by the three women.

Quick News Hits: Hey, What’s That Weird Thing?

The L.A. Times editorial board is not impressed by the latest split-the-state idea, which may be heading to a ballot near you: “This far-out plan to break up California is the brainchild of just one man — albeit one worth an estimated $1 billion, which he can spend freely to turn his dreams into our reality.”

It adds: “Cal 3, as the breakup campaign is being called, might sound reasonable and even fun to some voters — like SimCity, only for real. But carving up the most populous state in the union and building new states from scratch is more complicated and perilous than it sounds. Just ask the people who lived through the failed effort to break Los Angeles into three cities in 2002.”

No, a state appellate court has ruled, you can’t lock up kids because they won’t go to school, even though it’s technically a crime. (San Francisco Chronicle)

The 2017-2018 weather season has the potential to be the driest in San Diego’s recorded history, the U-T reports.

A mighty weird-looking construction-type thing — that’s a technical term, if you must know — just appeared at the Meade Avenue bridge over the 805 freeway near my home in Normal Heights. I drove by the other day and wondered what the heck it is (here’s a photo). So did a Reddit user.

Turns out it may  emphasize the “may” — be a “a faux water tank to conceal wireless antennas.” Turns out that’s actually a thing.

Wow. What are they going to hide wireless antennas in next? Heyyyyy … Why is my editor beeping?

Correction

In my What We Learned This Week column on Sunday, I talked about the Union-Tribune editorial page’s bizarre tendency to decline to state an opinion on important issues. I corrected wording in the column that suggested that the U-T did not endorse in certain races. It endorsed in separate editorials that ran after the pieces I highlighted in which no opinion was expressed.  — Sara Libby

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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