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An logo for the County of San Diego on a banner outside the County Administration Center. / Photo by Sam Hodgson

“He is taking a cruise on that most majestic river of all, Denial.”

That is a characteristically delightful quote from San Diego pundit Carl Luna, speaking about Rep. Duncan Hunter.

I was thinking about local officials taking that majestic cruise a lot this week, as two different local entities received scathing reviews of their actions – on issues as monumental as a public health crisis that left 20 dead, and the stewardship of funds to educate children – and their reactions left a bit to be desired.

The state’s audit of local response to the hepatitis A crisis is clear: The county’s inaction exacerbated the crisis, likely at the expense of additional lives. It also confirms critical pieces of Lisa Halverstadt’s reporting – and I say this not as an I told you so but because it’s worth highlighting that the county seems to have only snapped into action once it received bad press, though lives were at stake before that.

Back in May, I wrote that the county’s own assessment of its response to the crisis – which was peppered with words like “innovative” and “success” – was shameful. Now that the state’s report drives home the cost of that inaction, the county’s back-patting feels especially grotesque.

Yet even in the face of the state audit, the county maintains that the criticism misses the mark. From Halverstadt’s report:

Despite the critical audit, the county’s top health official defended the county’s response to the hepatitis A outbreak in a Dec. 3 response to the state auditor and emphasized that the county had, in end, worked with regional, state and federal partners to eradicate the outbreak.

The county’s not alone on its Christmas cruise, though.

Will Huntsberry has been reporting on the bananas situation in Sweetwater, which escalated this week when state officials alleged financial fraud, and county officials seized power from the board. Even in the face of all that, Huntsberry reports, “Since it came to light that Sweetwater officials overspent by $30 million last year, as first reported by Voice of San Diego, they have consistently sought to minimize the scope of the problem. In a letter to parents and staff Thursday, they referred tens of millions of dollars in cuts in the coming years as the ‘right sizing’ of the district.”

Again, the point of bringing these reactions to light is not to gloat or ridicule – there’s no joy to be had in these grim situations.

It’s that the longer we wallow in denial and insist everything’s fine, the longer we’re putting off the real but crucial work of grappling with how to prevent this from happening again.

What VOSD Learned This Week

The news reaaaaaaaaaally, truly did not get the memo about the holidays this week.

Our Voice of the Year list dropped on Monday.

Then, so much news went down – most of it tied to long-running investigations we’ve been following.

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It sounds like a scene from an overwrought crime procedural, but this really happened at a Sweetwater Union High School District board meeting this week: “That my friends and colleagues, is a cover-up,” he said, eliciting an audible gasp from board members and others in the room.

Later in the week, the County Board of Education moved to neuter the Sweetwater board of most of its powers.

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I realize saying “there was a crazy amount of border news this week” is a bit like saying “the weather in San Diego was nice” – but bear with me.

The nonprofit groups running a makeshift shelter for migrants who’ve been released into San Diego say they’re at capacity and need help from state and local leaders – help that so far hasn’t come.

As the government continues to criminally prosecute people caught crossing the border illegally, it illegally kept at least 20 people jailed after they’ve been ordered released.

Experts have told us the United States’ chaotic policies at the border could actually be helping criminal organizations in Mexico.

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The number and cost of customer refunds issued by the city’s troubled water department has risen dramatically in recent years, according to an analysis by Voice of San Diego and NBC 7 Responds.

Meanwhile, as the city moves forward with its plan to build its Pure Water recycling plant, a fight with SDG&E could add $48 million to the cost of the project.

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I absolutely love this 12 days of San Diego politics roundup Scott and Andy put together of the most significant political moments of the year. Over on the podcast, we did another lookback, via a naughty and nice list from the past year.

What I’m Reading

Line of the Week

“The last casualty of the naked-mole rat wars was discovered dead in the chambers on Monday morning, just before the babies were seen, Kearns says. It’s up to us to imagine what incredibly high-stakes drama might have led to that death.” – DCist has been following the saga of the National Zoo’s naked mole-rat colony with frightening intensity.

Sara Libby

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

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