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Deciding who to include on our annual Voice of the Year list is always a wonderfully contentious question inside the newsroom. It’s not made any easier considering San Diego so often feels like it’s stuck in a time warp, endlessly docketing and debating the same issues.

But every year the guiding principle remains the same: We want to spotlight the locals who made us think differently. They made us talk. For better or worse, they changed the conversation about civic life in significant ways, or demonstrated courage and resiliency on the public stage.

Some ushered in major changes through the traditional channels of power that reverberated across the country. Others are regular citizens who felt compelled by circumstances to speak up for their community.

So get on with it already and click through. We’re not spoiling anything here.

But before you do, we should stress for the one-zillionth time that being recognized on this list is not the same as being honored. The list is a reflection of the world as it exists and it points toward the future we’d like to see. You may enjoy Sara Libby’s explanation of what the Voice of the Year list is and what it is not.

Bry Scores Populist Endorsement

Former Councilwoman Donna Frye, one of San Diego’s most successful populist politicians in recent years, waded into the mayor’s race. She’s on Team Barbara Bry and she told the Politics Report that they’re aligned on local land use issues.

Frye said officials need to listen more to local communities on questions of building heights, parking requirements, housing density and more.

She does, however, disagree with Bry and the other Democratic candidates on one major initiative. They’re all supportive of a hotel-tax increase to expand the Convention Center and create homelessness funding. Frye isn’t.

Also in the Politics Report: County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar’s official ballot statement is quite something. And SANDAG’s executive director wanted to make it very clear he supports MTS’s push for a sales tax hike. But they all have some big decisions left to make.

More politics: Two recent reports have suggested that minorities are more likely to be searched, arrested and subjected to force by police. The leading San Diego mayoral candidates commented on the reports, but the issue has yet to catch fire on the campaign trail, writes Union-Tribune columnist Michael Smolens.

The latest VOSD Podcast was about housing, housing and housing: San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer made headlines last year when he said the city should lift the cap on height limits outside the coastal zone. But a couple lines in a speech don’t make actionable policy. This week’s podcast is primarily about housing. The crew also explains a pair of possible sales tax measures that would improve public transit.

And from Sacramento: San Diego legislators in Sacramento have been responsible for a number of recent laws aimed at making workplaces more equitable, including a requirement that women serve on corporate boards and a ban on mandatory arbitration as a condition of employment. But many of those measures are now being challenged in court.

FCC Comes Down Hard on North County Political Smear

We reported last week that the Federal Communications Commission is proposing a huge fine — nearly $10 million! — against Kenneth Moser, a San Diego telemarketer, for spoofing robocalls and spreading misinformation about a Republican Assembly candidate, contributing to his primary loss in 2018. Without a Republican contender on the general election ballot, Democrats were guaranteed to flip the traditionally conservative 76th Assembly District in North County.

Kenneth Moser doesn’t deny the spoofing — meaning he disguised the true origin of the phone call by using someone else’s number — but he portrayed himself as a simple messenger. A woman paid him to do it, he said, but he declined to release the name of his client.

This weekend, we got our hands on the FCC’s report and there’s an interesting side note.

The commission has also determined that Moser spoofed robocalls in the 2016 Encinitas mayoral election. Those robocalls targeted Catherine Blakespear, a Democrat, over her support for an urban farming ordinance that would have allowed people to sell homegrown fruits, vegetables and flowers at temporary roadside stands (gee, how awful).

Blakespear ultimately won the race. It’s also unclear who might have paid Moser for those robocalls in 2016.

He has several weeks to provide the commission with a response to all the allegations included in the FCC report.

Former Nestor Motel Finally Gets Go-Ahead to Become Special City Rehab

Construction continues at a shuttered Super 8 motel in Nestor that the city hopes can eventually house dozens enrolled in its San Diego Misdemeanants At-Risk Track program. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

After years of delay, an 81-bed residential program for chronic low-level drug offenders in the South Bay is expected to open in 2020.

The Union-Tribune reports that the California Coastal Commission upheld a development permit for the project after a group called Citizens for South Bay Coastal Access — represented by attorney Cory Briggs — appealed. The group also sued to stop the project in court, arguing that it would eliminate low-cost lodging for visitors.

According to the U-T, City Attorney Mara Elliott applauded the commission’s decision and said the legal maneuvers had “succeeded only in delaying assistance for people who desperately need access to treatment and counseling, a path to sobriety, and a safe place to sleep at night.”

Earlier this year, Lisa Halverstadt checked in on the larger program and found that only a handful of clients had graduated. The city has struggled despite significant investment.

Meanwhile, the U-T reports, sheriff’s deputies have been trying to connect the homeless with help in unincorporated parts of the county. In June, they created the Homeless Assistance Resource Team with local service agencies.

In Other News

  • It has been almost a year since the government began sending asylum-seekers back to Mexico and the U-T reports that only 11 people have been granted asylum — a rate of 0.1 percent.
  • The U-T considered how the tension between the state’s thriving rooftop solar industry and electric utilities might affect the cost of power. Clean energy advocates say the utilities are exaggerating the challenges of rooftop solar and downplaying the long-term advantages.
  • Oceanside families who are about to lose school buses have identified a possible funding source and want seats on a district committee that oversees spending priorities, the U-T reports. In August, Jesse Marx and Adriana Heldiz followed a group of students and parents as they made the roughly two-and-a-half mile walk on foot in protest.
  • More than a half-dozen UC San Diego students were taken to hospitals on Friday night for alcohol-related issues. (NBC San Diego)
  • The Ocean Beach Pier has again been damaged by high surf. (10News)

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

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