The San Diego County Board of Supervisors discuss the annual budget. / Photo by Sam Hodgson

Republicans have long dominated San Diego County government. They hold all five county supervisor seats, and all four countywide offices like sheriff and district attorney.

But a judge’s ruling late Friday could help Democrats gain some of that power.

Andrew Keatts has the news and an explanation about why it’s such a big deal.

In short: A Superior Court judge ordered the county to put a measure on November’s ballot that, if approved, would change the way the county holds elections.

Right now, candidates can win outright in a primary election if they take more than 50 percent of the vote. The measure would ensure all res go to a general election runoff between the top two vote-getters. Democrats do better in the general election, when turnout increases and lower-propensity voters go to the polls. Democrats argue it’s best to make final decisions when the most people vote — and that a “primary” election suggest to voters that final decisions aren’t being made. Republicans argue it’s a simple power grab, changing the rules to give yourself an edge.

City voters approved a similar measure pushed by Democrats in 2016.

This new measure took a lot more complicated path to the ballot, as Keatts explains.

Why it matters: The timing issue is important, because partisan control of the board could be up for grabs in 2020. Democrats have a good chance to take one seat this fall, with former Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher facing former District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. They also have a good chance of taking a seat representing the South Bay in 2020.

It could set up Supervisor Kristin Gaspar’s re-election bid in 2020, in a purple swing district, as the race that will determine party control.

If voters approve the measure, Democrats will have a better shot.

Civic Official Voted to Give Developer a Contract After Developer Paid Him $100K

An ethics commission fined the chair of Civic San Diego, the city’s redevelopment arm, for what they consider “egregious” conflict-of-interest violations.

Ten months after being paid $100,000 by a developer, Rath twice voted to give that developer the right to build a $47 million project in southeastern San Diego, and a $5.8 million loan from city affordable housing funds. On at least two occasions, Rath spoke favorably of the developer’s bid in the public.

Voice’s Andrew Keatts reports that the $11,000 fine is only the latest problem against Civic San Diego, which is struggling to survive.

When news of the violations surfaced late last year — causing Civic to rescind its vote on the project — Rath dismissed the allegations. He now admits he made a mistake but says he had no ill intent.

Attorney Cory Briggs, whose group initially brought the violations to light, called on Rath’s removal from the board and on the district attorney to open an investigation.

Politics Roundup

  • It was the flop heard across City Hall. But last week’s unraveling of a Convention Center expansion was only the latest in a decade-long failure of government to act. The Voice of San Diego podcast gives an exhaustive rundown of what happened. And in the Politics Report, there’s a behind-the-scenes look at how things unfolded at City Hall leading up to that disastrous vote.
  • Democrats in Sacramento prevented an audit of the DMV that would have shed more light on why wait times remain a problem, despite the agency getting more resources and expanding its hours. Republicans have seized on the issue.
  • Incumbents for the San Diego City Council are outraising their challengers. District 8 is a different case, because David Alvarez is termed out. Alvarez’s former staff, Vivian Moreno, has the edge on campaign contributions over her opponent, San Ysidro School Board member Antonio Martinez. (KPBS)
  • Bryan Pease, an Ocean Beach attorney who finished third in the San Diego City Council primary, is taking his claim that incumbent Lorie Zapf can’t run for re-election to the Court of Appeal. A Superior Court judge sided with Zapf two weeks ago. (City News Service)

In Other News

Finally …

Melons are all the rage at the San Diego Zoo, especially in the scorching days of summer.

Photo courtesy of San Diego Zoo Global

“Every animal I know who could eat a melon likes a melon. They’re juicy and sweet and cool,” said senior veterinarian Dr. Cora Singleton. “If you’re a bird, they love to come by and eat the inside. If you’re an elephant, you plop the entire melon in your mouth.”

Zookeepers serve up melons from restaurant vendors to creatures galore, and they even have a name for this: “Melon enrichment.”

“We feed out cantaloupe and honeydew as part of some animal diets all year long, and watermelon is used as a special treat,” said animal care supervisor Jessica Sheftel. “Bears tend to like honeydew, and reptiles gravitate toward watermelons.”

Photo courtesy of San Diego Zoo Global

“Most of our animals do not receive a whole melon at one time, as it is more than they should have,” Sheftel said. “However, our larger animals such as bears and elephants sometimes receive whole melons. This is when they are the most enriching because they have the opportunity to process the melons the way they might process other fruit in their natural habitat.”

There’s one popular animal that doesn’t eat melons: The koala.

Koalas mainly eat eucalyptus leaves, and they don’t tend to drink water.

But they aren’t necessarily deprived of awesome treats. The zoo is home to a diabetic koala named Quincy that just got his own human-style continuous glucose monitoring device. Zookeepers give him pureed eucalyptus smoothies to help him tolerate medical procedures. “Put that in a big syringe,” Singleton said, “and he’ll volunteer for most anything.”

Wow. That’s about as cool as a melon in August.

For videos of large animals eating (or valiantly trying to eat) watermelons, click here.

Randy Dotinga

The Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx and edited by Sara Libby.

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