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John Cox, candidate for Governor, talks at the US Grant / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

Pot became legal. The midterms dealt San Diego Republicans a blow. Central American migrants catapulted the region into the national spotlight.

We’ll be looking back at 2018 in myriad ways over the next week, and we’re starting by actually looking, that is, Adriana Heldiz compiled 10 shots that captured a significant moment and either moved us or helped us make sense of 2018.

Here’s a taste.

Members of a caravan of Central American migrants walk to the U.S.-Mexico border crossing in April. / Photo by David Maung
Customers line up for the Urbn Leaf Dispensary’s opening day. / Photo by Vito Di Stefano
Customers line up for the Urbn Leaf Dispensary’s opening day. / Photo by Vito Di Stefano

Over on the podcast, Scott Lewis, Andrew Keatts and Sara Libby looked back at the year via a naughty and nice list, where they pulled out some of the best and worst moments from the year in politics.

Finally, the Politics Report zeroes in on 12 days that defined San Diego politics over the course of 2018.

Sweetwater Board Loses Its Power

The Sweetwater Union High School District’s power is effectively zilch.

On Friday, the San Diego County Office of Education, which acts as an arm of state government, gave itself the ability to overturn any of the board’s decisions due to the school district’s ongoing financial crisis. Officials are running a “negative” budget and will end the school year $11 million in the hole.

In the meantime, state investigators say they’ve uncovered evidence of a financial cover-up.

County officials could have stepped in and taken control of the district weeks ago. But as Will Huntsberry reports, Sweetwater’s board of trustees last week approved an early retirement plan in the face of strong warnings from the county that the plan was fiscally irresponsible.

It was the last straw.

After School Sexual Assault Allegation Became Public, City Officials Pursued … the Leaker

Earlier this year, we reported on an alleged sexual assault in a school in which the teenage suspect confessed to officers that he’d raped his classmate. Despite the admission and statements from other witnesses, a sex crimes detective dropped the case for lack of evidence.

After our story became public, the San Diego Police Department and city attorney’s office sprang into action — by trying to figure out who leaked us the confidential report.

In their zeal, the city breached the attorney-client privilege of a homicide detective whom they suspected of leaking the document, and broke the State Bar’s rules of professional conduct, an appellate court confirmed last week.

Andrew Keatts reports that SDPD internal affairs investigators asked the detective about conversations with her attorney, Dan Gilleon, who was connected to the alleged sexual assault case, and informed her that refusing to answer questions could lead to punishment.

Refunds on San Diego Water Bills Are Skyrocketing

Over the past year, San Diego’s water department refunded more than $650,000 to hundreds of customers who received unjustifiably high water bills.

On average, those customers were overcharged by $500, and the number and the cost of refunds has been dramatically rising in recent years. That’s according to an analysis of department records by Voice of San Diego and NBC 7, as part of an ongoing investigation into the water department’s billing practices.

Ry Rivard reports that the refunds help quantify the scale of the department’s sloppiness, which has been acknowledged in several recent audits. Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s administration has been attempting to fix the problems by replacing some of the officials near the top and keeping a closer eye on those who remain.

Earlier this year, officials first tried to wave away customer complaints about higher-than-expected bills as holiday spikes.

  • Rivard also reports that city officials now believe the number of possible lead water pipes is far less than state officials suggested a couple weeks ago. At most, they say, the number is around 3,000 pipes. State data showed it could be as high as 192,000.

Politics Roundup

  • Sen. Republican Leader Pat Bates is trying to kill the ability of the DMV to automatically register new voters after officials discovered a series of errors implementing the motor voter law. That program was championed by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who accused her fellow San Diego lawmaker of trying to suppress voter turnout following astounding Republican losses across California.
  • Following heavy losses in the midterm, writes U-T columnist Michael Smolens, postmortems by GOP leaders here and across the country stretch from denial and wishful thinking to sober assessments that things must change.
  • The U-T also profiled two of the outgoing county supervisors — Bill Horn and Ron Roberts. They served a collective 55 years in office. Both are termed out and cannot run again.

In Other News

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

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