The downtown San Diego skyline / Photo by Sam Hodgson

Tables set eight feet apart. A designated soda fountain sentry. Reenvisioned servers armed with disinfectant spray bottles. Eating out again in San Diego will be a little like strategic warfare. 

Will Huntsberry recounts the bizarre new reality of what reopening pieces of the economy and government will look like, based on the several stage-setting events held this week by local officials and business leaders.

The state this week approved San Diego’s plans for an accelerated stage two reopening.

But if the city’s economy were a three-legged stool – balanced by military, tech and tourism industries –- it would be tottering. Leisure and tourism sustained 85 percent in losses since the pandemic lockdown, according to University of San Diego economics professor Ryan Ratcliff. 

The local court system sort of opened for the first time since March on Tuesday. But 20,000 criminal court cases need to be reset for hearing. Jurors may not step foot in a courtroom until June 15. 

And, to top it off, the court system is looking at a hole in its budget that’s deeper than any deficit dug by the last recession.

New Budget Would Scale Back Smart Streetlights

San Diego’s smart streetlights program will shrink considerably if Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s revised budget passes as is.

After initially setting aside $2.1 million, he’s now offering to pay for the controversial data-collection platform with approximately $825,000 from a pool of parking meter revenues that are separate from the general fund.

But shutting down the data-collection platform entirely, as the City Council president suggested earlier this month, would come with its own cost, Jesse Marx reports. San Diego would still likely be responsible for repaying the financing of the equipment.

There’s also a concern over the devices that had been purchased with federal anti-poverty dollars. The city’s independent budget analyst says San Diego could be forced to pay back some $2.9 million. Officials have been trying to sell some of those same devices back to the vendor to recoup costs.

In the meantime, the city’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee is working on an ordinance that will govern the future use and acquisition of devices capable of watching and listening to the public.  

The Legal Question at the Heart of School Openings

San Diego Unified was one of several big school districts that recently warned the governor they couldn’t physically reopen in the fall without more money. Whatever you think of the threat, it poses a potentially explosive legal question: Do local schools have the authority to stay closed?

Huntsberry considers the question in the Learning Curve, noting that the state constitution gives the state government the duty to create an education system “open on equal terms to all.” It’s possible that more rural school districts in San Diego County will open and more urban ones won’t. 

“That would be ripe for a lawsuit,” said an attorney who specializes in education. 

In Other News

  • San Diego County’s estimated unemployment rose to a record-high 30.1 percent. (CBS 8) 
  • The San Diego city auditor is recommending that classified employees be added to the jurisdiction of the ethics commission after an internal investigation found an employee accepted $3,000 in gifts from vendors. (NBC San Diego) 
  • Climate change intensified the 2018 summer heat wave in San Diego as ocean temperatures broke the century-long average for almost two consecutive months, according to a new scientific report. (Union Tribune.)

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

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