Downtown San Diego / Photo by Sam Hodgson

Jill Castellano of inewsource wrote a great story this week detailing Carl DeMaio’s effort to overturn the state’s gas tax, and the pushback that effort has received.

But the story is also one of San Diego itself – it drives home a theme that’s been prevalent all the time I’ve been here.

California politics guru Dan Schnur offered this take in the story:

“Because this is a fight that’s being raised out of San Diego,” said Schnur, “it gives the city and the region the chance to be a much more impactful political player than has historically been the case.”

Another political expert, Jessica Levinson, told Castellano something similar:

“I don’t know if this is indicative of more to come,” said Jessica Levinson, a campaign finance expert and political science professor at Loyola Law School. “But I know that it’s at least proved that San Diego can flex its political muscle when it comes to getting something on the ballot.

Whether you agree with repealing the gas tax, the message here is clear: San Diego doesn’t typically lead on big efforts or ideas.

That’s driven home by looking at how the gas tax funding has flowed so far: Though San Diego is slated to receive millions from it, it won’t receive funding proportional to its size in the state because it doesn’t have enough big projects in the works to fund.

It’s also amplified by state and national leaders’ relative disinterest in San Diego despite its status as the state’s second-largest city. Gov. Jerry Brown rarely visits. When national leaders drop in, it’s almost exclusively to visit the border and not the city itself.

I’m always reminded of this essay on homelessness Sen. Dianne Feinstein wrote in 2016. Though San Diego has one of the state’s most dire homelessness situations, the senator doesn’t mention the city once – she instead focuses on San Francisco and Los Angeles. (San Diego’s homeless population is larger than San Francisco’s.) It’s like they struggle to remember San Diego even exists.

The gas tax repeal effort serves as a good reminder that San Diego and its leaders are just as capable of anyone of driving big policy efforts and movements – someone just has to try.

What VOSD Learned This Week

Ashly McGlone continues to find disturbing stories inside San Diego County schools as part of her investigation into how school officials handle sexual misconduct. Her latest finding: Two Poway Unified High School – at separate schools and years apart – had romantic relationships with students (including kissing and sex inside their respective classrooms), then signed deals with the district in which they agreed to resign, and district officials agreed not to disclose the misconduct to future employers.

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After San Diego Unified spent more than a year trying to discredit the findings of Mario Koran’s investigation into how the district achieved its 2016 graduation rate, it now says it accepts and embraces a report that confirmed those findings.

On the podcast this week, we talked about Superintendent Cindy Marten and district official Andrew Sharp’s strange remarks to the U-T editorial board about graduation rates, lead in water and more.

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We already know that former Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman was being misleading when she presented statistics that suggested medical marijuana dispensaries were responsible for a great deal of crime. Now we have statistics from the first six months of legal recreational marijuana, and they show that very few crimes can be attributed to those dispensaries.

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Prosecutions of alien smugglers have dropped in San Diego in the last year. Defense attorneys say that under the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy, prosecutors focus more on misdemeanor cases for those caught crossing the border illegally than on felony cases involving human smuggling.

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Another week, another critical audit of the city’s troubled water department.

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I rounded up three times California has out-California’d itself in the last few weeks.

What I’m Reading

Line of the Week

“They are brainy, liberal and comfortably situated moms who have looked at the political system with the exasperation of a person who has seen her husband get the laundry wrong and realized that she’s going to have to do it herself.” – A description of the record number of women running for office. It’s part of a profile of one of the most effective – and divisive – politicians of all time, written by America’s best political reporter … what are you waiting for?

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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