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The Newland Sierra property / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

Climate change is helping to increase the length of droughts and causing more intense wildfires. San Diego County, like all local governments, has an obscure but powerful document that lays out ways to curb the region’s contribution to climate change.

But as Ry Rivard reports, six years after the climate action plan was crafted and more than $1 million in attorney’s fees later, the county is still struggling to finalize a plan that passes legal muster.

Courts have repeatedly found the county’s plan to be illegal in some way or another — improperly prepared at best and disingenuous in reaching the goal of fighting climate change at worst. That means major new housing developments are now in limbo.

County officials have talked for years about building more housing on undeveloped land but are hampered from doing just that until they overhaul environmental policies, or find an appellate court that will agree with their arguments.

Those same officials can’t say they weren’t warned. In 2010, a consultant paid to review the county’s draft climate action plan suggested it would legally indefensible. The plan approved by supervisors two years later actually allowed greenhouse gas emissions to increase and was later invalidated by a judge.

Opinion: Time for a New Approach to Homelessness

John Brady, an advocate for homeless San Diegans, has a New Year’s resolution for officials and residents alike: Stop treating homelessness as a crime and as someone else’s problem.

In a new op-ed, he argues that the resources available to people who want to take care of themselves — by showering and doing laundry — are limited. Yet the county is sitting on billions in reserves.

“The people in greatest need should no longer be used as pawns,” he writes. “Currently our needy live in an endless game of whack-a-mole, continuously pushed from canyon to canyon or from your neighborhood to the next. This expensive approach hurts all of us.”

Police Conduct Under the Microscope

A new report finds that racial profiling complaints against law enforcement are virtually never sustained and that police kill black and Latino citizens at a rate higher than their portion of the population. The report stems from a 2015 law written by San Diego Assemblywoman Shirley Weber.

Meanwhile, San Diego County must pay $2.5 million to a woman who was Tasered by a Sheriff’s deputy inside her home. As the U-T’s Greg Moran noted, “The county doesn’t lose these cases very often, and rarely at this amount of money.”

Health Risks in Migrant Camps Growing

Dozens of Central American migrants in Tijuana defied orders by Mexican authorities to leave a private warehouse near the U.S. border where they have camped since mid-December, according to the U-T. The warehouse was intended as a temporary solution but Mexican federal health officials say the conditions inside at putting people at risk.

Doctors in San Diego’s emergency shelter told the U-T that many migrants released from federal custody are in poor health and have not had access to medical care. They’re arriving with weakened immune systems and suffering from communicable diseases like the flu, cold and respiratory infections, which are associated with living in close confinement for long periods of time.

Two weeks ago, the Trump administration announced a new policy that would force asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico as their claims made their way through the U.S. immigration system. That change was supposed to take place immediately, the U-T reports, but there’s no sign yet at the border that it has been implemented.

Politics Roundup

Over on the podcast, hosts Scott Lewis, Sara Libby and Andrew Keatts consider the ways in which the new Democratic supermajority on the San Diego City Council could flex its power. Dems have been slow to offer specifics on any proposals they may push or attempt to override.

Democratic City Councilwoman Barbara Bry officially entered the 2020 race for mayor, tapping veteran Republican political consultant Tom Shepard. Bry echoed plenty of politicians before her when she announced that one of her priorities would be expanding educational opportunities.

By 2021, term limits will ensure that the County Board of Supervisors sees a full makeover. U-T columnist Michael Smolens considers what that change could look like. Newly elected members Jim Desmond and Nathan Fletcher will be sworn in Monday.

In a separate piece, Smolens reports that state lawmakers sound increasingly determined to break through the barriers that have stymied denser housing development. “The question is whether the problem has reached the critical mass necessary to persuade the general public to accept something that, for the most part, it doesn’t really want,” he writes.

In Other News

  • Rep. Duncan Hunter called on President Donald Trump to free a Navy SEAL accused of stabbing a teenage ISIS prisoner to death and shooting at Iraqi civilians. (Times of San Diego)
  • Numerous tenants in recent years have sued San Diego developers and property managers for mold intrusions. But as the U-T reports, establishing a definitive link between exposure to mold and ill health can be elusive.
  • Faye Girsh of University City is a leader in the national right-to-die movement. Disappointed at times by the slow pace of legal and legislative change, the U-T reports, she’s figured out other ways to help people looking to engineer their exit.
  • The Hilton in Mission Valley hosted a cannabis and hemp job fair with positions in marketing and management that go beyond the handling of the actual plants. (NBC 7)

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

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