For years, the city of San Diego has been slowly but surely gaining momentum to an outcome once considered unfathomable: taking over from San Diego Gas and Electric the responsibility of buying power and selling it to city residents.
The creation of a government-run “community choice” energy agency now looks inevitable. And the city is even considering what it would take to take on a larger role in the city’s energy future, as Ry Rivard reports in a new story.
A City Council committee voted Thursday in favor of a plan to start the community choice agency. Next week, the full Council is expected to finalize a deal with other neighboring cities to begin buying and selling power to some 2 million people. The cities are pursuing this so they can take control of where their energy comes from, allowing them to use entirely renewable energy by 2035.
But the committee also struck a deal with consultants to potentially renegotiate the city’s deal with SDG&E that allows the utility to operate the energy grid and deliver power to local residents. That role delivering power — as opposed to buying and selling it — is where SDG&E actually makes a profit.
Renegotiating that contract could just result in the city asking for more money from SDG&E for maintaining its right. But it could also result in the city buying the entire grid system and handling power delivery itself. As far-fetched as that sounds, San Francisco is currently looking to do just that from its utility, Pacific Gas and Electric.
Mitch Mitchell, SDG&E’s vice president of state governmental affairs and external affairs, said a city grid takeover would be a long way off, if it ever came about. He also said he expects to see legislation next year that could lead to the state buying out SDG&E’s long-term energy contracts.
(Disclosure: Mitchell sits on Voice of San Diego’s board of directors.)
She’s Running – And They’re Off!
San Diego City Council President Georgette Gomez confirmed Thursday that she’s running for the 53rd Congressional seat that’ll be vacated next year by Rep. Susan Davis.
Gomez told supporters in an email that she wants to go to D.C. “to deliver bold, progressive change for our community,” the Times of San Diego reports.
Get ready for a game of musical chairs.
The city council presidency, the District 9 seat and the chairmanship of the Metropolitan Transit System will all open up because of Gomez’s decision. Some people are already positioning themselves to run for Gomez’s Council seat. Expect announcements to start as early as next week.
Activist Ray Lutz recently created an “exploratory” campaign committee to run for the 53rd Congressional District, the Union-Tribune reports. Democrats Sara Jacobs, Jose Caballero and Joaquín Vázquez are also in the running.
Grocery Workers Will Not Strike After All
Union workers at Ralphs, Vons and other grocery stores voted overwhelmingly in favor of a new contract this week, preventing a strike. They’ll receive hourly wage increases over the next three years, as well as more money for pensions and health care.
Todd Walters, president of United Food & Commercial Workers Local 135, told the Union-Tribune that the contract was the best he’s seen in decades. He credited a good economy and the willingness of neighbors to show up and rally on behalf of the workers.
“Working people in our community don’t deserve to have to work three jobs to survive,” he said.
The new contract should also be seen as a win for Walters. He won election last year, ending the tenure of longtime UFCW president Mickey Kasparian and leading the way to a major shift in politics on the left in San Diego.
Suicides Slightly Up in San Diego
There were 465 deaths by suicide in San Diego County last year, according to a report released Thursday by the San Diego County Suicide Prevention Council.
That reflects a slight year-over-year increase and rate of 13.9 deaths per 100,000 San Diegans, a measure that has largely held steady since 2012.
At a Thursday press conference, Stan Collins of the Suicide Prevention Council emphasized the need to focus on ways to separate people who may be at risk from objects they may use to harm themselves.
“Research has demonstrated that reducing access to lethal means works,” Collins said.
Firearms were used in 37 percent of last year’s suicides, a method that officials said has been increasing in recent years, while hanging or suffocation amounted to a third of cases.
To address the rising gun-tied deaths, the county last fall launched a campaign to work with local gun shop owners and firing ranges to share educational materials and information about suicide prevention.
Collins and others also emphasized the need for San Diegans to learn to recognize suicide warning signs and do what they can to offer support, including encouraging those who need help to call the Access & Crisis Line at 888-724-7240.
Supreme Court: Ban on Central American Migrants Can Continue
The Supreme Court will allow the Trump administration to proceed with a new policy barring most Central American migrants from seeking asylum in the United States.
In a late Wednesday ruling, the court temporarily nixed a lower court decision blocking the new policy in some states. The Associated Press noted that the new rules depart from decades of U.S. immigration policy.
The court ruling — and the Trump administration’s new policy — represents the latest in a series of new policies and court challenges. Our Maya Srikrishnan recently listed all the tacks the administration has taken to try to reduce the number of asylum seekers:
There’s zero tolerance and family separations, the metering process, the program requiring Central Americans to wait in Mexico for their asylum proceedings, a directive to give asylum-seekers less time to prepare for their initial interviews and recent attempts to turn Mexico and Guatemala into “safe third countries,” meaning that if asylum-seekers passes through one of those countries prior to arriving to the United States, they must request asylum there first.
Buzzfeed’s Hamed Aleaziz tweeted that immigration judges received guidance on the ruling on Thursday. Among the Trump administration’s orders: The ban on asylum seekers will apply to those who crossed after mid-July and have scheduled deportation hearings after the day of the Supreme Court ruling.
- In March, San Diego was home to the largest number of apprehensions, Customs and Border Protection said in a press release. There were 6,880 arrests, and the number has been falling since then. It was 3,326 in August.
In Other News
- All nine San Diego County City Council districts are now dominated by Democrats, according to a new voter registration tally. (Union-Tribune)
- Rep. Scott Peters’ new bill speaks for itself. It’s called the Build More Housing Near Transit Act, and it would attempt to pair commuter rail, light rail, and bus rapid transit projects with federal investments.
- Uber is preparing to pull the plug on its rental bikes and scooters in San Diego. A spokesman said the company has concluded that current regulations “foster an unsustainable operating environment.” (10 News) Last month, the city threatened to revoke Lime’s right to rent scooters in the city, over violations of the new regulations. (Union-Tribune)
- A new report finds San Diego is one of the top three cities in the nation when it comes to wildfire risk. (KPBS)
- Regional leaders plan to visit national lawmakers to lobby them to fund a federal plan to address Tijuana River sewage. (The Union-Tribune)
- A movement is underway to increase sales taxes in Lemon Grove. (NBC 7 San Diego)
- New rules took effect Thursday requiring gun owners to store their weapons in a locked container or disable them with a trigger lock. (City News Service)
- In the latest San Diego Explained video explainer, Voice of San Diego’s Jesse Marx and NBC 7’s Catherine Garcia explain how partnerships between local police and a doorbell camera company owned by Amazon also raise questions about the proper relationship between tech and law enforcement in an era of smart technologies.
The Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx, and edited by Andrew Keatts.