SANDAG Executive Director Hasan Ikhrata / Photo by Andrew Keatts.

Hasan Ikhrata has taken over SANDAG at a crucial time for the agency.

It’s recovering from scandal, facing major financial problems and just had its normally predictable political dynamics thrown in the dryer by a state reform law. And now, he’s taken over with a promise to reimagine the future of public transit in the region, making bold proclamations to media outlets ever since he came to town.

In a sit-down interview with Andrew Keatts, Ikhrata went into some greater detail on his new vision. For one, he said it won’t be included in the regional transportation plan the agency must adopt early next year; there’s no time for that, so SANDAG instead plans to adopt a new plan that’s basically just a minor update of the old one. Then he’ll amend the new plan with his vision, once the agency has time to sketch it out.

So what will be in that vision? He said the region needs to start thinking about underground rail connections to make transit faster and to continue to make improvements to the highway network, but also to pursue Elon Musk’s futuristic hyperloop and the aerial gondolas (or skyways) the agency has toyed with in the past.

And, he says sales taxes, which SANDAG has always used to fund regional transportation projects, aren’t the best way to do it. Eventually, he said, San Diego and the rest of the country should transition to charging drivers for how much they drive, rather than taxing sales and using it on transportation.

San Diego DA Plans to Challenge Criminal Justice Reform Law

Thanks to a new state law, people who played marginal roles in a killing can’t be charged with murder. It also means accomplices to murder who were convicted under the old rules are eligible to have their sentences re-examined. Once someone in San Diego does so, District Attorney Summer Stephan’s office plans to challenge the law, arguing it’s unconstitutional on the basis that voters needed to approve it first, inewsource reports.

Once Stephan challenges the law, she’ll join DAs from Los Angeles and Solano counties in opposing the change, which supporters of the law argue could affect some 800 cases dating to 1960. The DA’s office took a more liberal interpretation of the law and said it must review 1,200 cases.

The law’s supporters argued previous sentencing practices illogically allowed people who prosecutors acknowledged did not commit murder to nonetheless be charged with murder because they aided the murderer.

The change had been embraced by the criminal justice reform community, who said the law most harshly impacted young people and minorities.

Stephan’s decision to oppose the law is to some extent an echo of her campaign last year, in which she alleged her opponent – public defender Genevieve Jones-Wright, who ran an unapologetic campaign on the need for criminal justice reform – was a danger to public safety.

Drug Crimes Aren’t the Only Crimes in Tijuana

Tijuana experienced its most violent year on record in 2018, and things haven’t slowed down in the first week of the new year.

But the tendency of public officials and the media to write off all of the city’s violent crime as the inevitable result of the illegal drug trade is dangerous, one border expert tells VOSD’s Maya Srikrishnan in the latest Border Report.

Cecilia Farfán-Méndez, a scholar at the University of California, San Diego’s Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies, said that it’s become clear over the past decade that the state of Baja California is either incapable or unwilling to investigate homicides. The impunity has “created opportunities for other criminal activities,” she said.

New Governor, County Supes, DA and More Take Office

New state and county officials were sworn into office Monday, including new San Diego County Supervisors Jim Desmond and Nathan Fletcher, and District Attorney Summer Stephan was sworn in for a full term after being appointed to lead the office when Bonnie Dumanis stepped down. NBC San Diego has video of the county ceremony.

Gov. Gavin Newsom defied our expectations by proving he is aware San Diego exists – the new governor mentioned San Diego by name when recalling a visit to a migrant shelter.

You can read the full text of Newsom’s inauguration speech here, but it won’t capture the awesome moment in which his 2-year-old-son crashed the speech by running on stage.

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by Sara Libby and Andrew Keatts.

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