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Voice of San Diego’s Scott Lewis (middle) moderates a debate between Michael McConnell (far left) and Gil Cabrera about a potential measure to increase to the city’s hotel room tax. / Photo by Vito Di Stefano
Voice of San Diego’s Scott Lewis (middle) moderates a debate between Michael McConnell (far left) and Gil Cabrera about a potential measure to increase to the city’s hotel room tax. / Photo by Vito Di Stefano

Homelessness funding has become a central selling point for Measure C, the San Diego initiative on the March ballot that’ll raise new revenue for the city through a new hotel-room tax.

Though a majority of the money would go toward a Convention Center expansion, Lisa Halverstadt reports that the initiative is expected to pull in about $2 billion for homelessness over the next 42 years. 

Two major contentions over that funding have emerged: how it might be used and whether it will be enough to meaningfully address the problem. Homeless advocates have seized on Measure C’s lack of specificity because it doesn’t commit the city to housing and an array of programs.

Even some of Measure C’s most prominent supporters acknowledge that additional help will be needed to meet the city’s housing goals, rental subsidies and other services. 

The development costs associated with the city homelessness strategy, which was approved by the City Council last fall, would total $963 million over the next decade. By comparison, Measure C is projected to pull in $276 million for homelessness in the measure’s first decade. 

One prominent homeless advocate said he’s more inclined to support a different measure that could appear on the November ballot because it would commit to directing money toward homeless housing. But supporters of Measure C don’t see it as an either/or situation. They’re urging the public to vote for both. 

Our Latest Schools Guide Is Out

We know that navigating the public school options in San Diego County can be overwhelming and confusing.

That’s why Voice of San Diego started its annual publication, A Parent’s Guide to Public Schools, three years ago. And we have good news: the latest edition is out!

The guide contains step-by-step information to help navigate school choice and presents important data for every public school in the county. You can see every school’s test scores, graduation rates, special programs and more. We also included new data this year, on each school’s average years of teacher experience, writes VOSD’s Will Huntsberry.

We also have a special online map, where you can filter for certain types of schools like “charter schools that are dual language” or search only for schools with International Baccalaureate programs.

Elected Officials Tell City Attorney to Recuse Herself on Smart Streetlights

San Diego City Council President Georgette Gómez and Councilwoman Monica Montgomery have requested that City Attorney Mara Elliott recuse herself and hire outside legal counsel to help draft a new surveillance ordinance.

In a memo obtained by NBC San Diego, they pointed to recent statements Elliott made about the city’s smart streetlights being a “game-changer” for law enforcement. 

“Given your recent press release and related public statements regarding the City’s smart streetlights, it is evident that you hold a distinct policy position on this matter,” reads the memo.

Last week, the city’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee, which is chaired by Montgomery, asked officials to write stronger rules for the use and acquisition of devices capable of watching or listening to the public. The smart streetlights were primarily sold as a way to reduce energy costs and collect data that would be useful to planners. 

Elliott made clear that she has no intention of stepping aside.

“I believe the city can protect its citizens from crime without infringing on their privacy rights,” she told NBC San Diego in written a statement. “Seeing all sides of complex issues is my job. I have a duty to speak my mind and I will not be silenced.”

City on the Verge of Disincorporation Hasn’t Evaluated Top Leader in Years

Lemon Grove’s city manager, Lydia Romero, is required to undergo annual performance reviews, per her contract. But as the Union-Tribune reports, the city hasn’t completed one in two years.

Mayor Racquel Vasquez told the newspaper that Romero’s 2019 evaluation will begin this summer, but it appears the 2018 evaluation still needs to be finished too. One cCouncil member said the delay showed a “lack of leadership.”

In the meantime, Romero has promised not to accept a raise, or cost-of-living increase, whenever the evaluations are completed.

The city is in bad shape financially. It’s looking at a budget deficit beginning at the end of this year and rising after that — to nearly $1.2 million by mid-2022. A measure on the March ballot would increase the city’s sales tax by 0.75 percent on purchases other than groceries and medicine.

If passed by the voters, the city estimates that the tax will generate nearly $3 million in new annual revenue.

Balboa Park Conservancy’s Signature Project Finally Gets Funded

The San Diego City Council authorized acceptance of an $8 million grant that would allow the city to move forward on a long-planned renovation project for Balboa Park’s Botanical Building that should be completed by the summer of 2022, the Union-Tribune reports.

In late 2013, the Balboa Park Conservancy announced plans to restore and upgrade the iconic Botanical Building, VOSD’s Lisa Halverstadt reported back in 2016. The effort was billed as the group’s signature project that was supposed to be finished before the 2015 Centennial Celebration. That didn’t happen and as of 2016, the conservancy had raised less than $500,000

In Other News

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

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