Point Loma Branch Library
Point Loma Branch Library / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

In 2018, the San Diego Public Library joined less than 10 percent of American libraries when it did away with daily overdue fees.

But the policy isn’t as straightforward as it sounds, writes Bella Ross. One local teacher ended up with a $1,426 debt to the city after failing to return books she had taken out for her sixth-grade class. She eventually did but it was too late.

Since July 2018, when the no-fine policy went into effect, 7,444 library accounts have been referred to collections. That’s about 3 percent of all active accounts.  

The no-fine policy was intended to open the library back up to people who were deterred by delinquent fines, particularly those from low-income communities. The city also had spent more money trying to collect overdue fees than what it actually collected annually.

But the no-fine policy doesn’t mean you’ll entirely avoid punishment for keeping library materials in practice. After 30 days overdue, people are invoiced for the cost of replacing the item they checked out, though that can still be waived if they return the item. But after 60 days, that option expires and the fine must be paid whether materials are returned or not. 

Read the full story here

Lawmakers Allow State to Keep COVID-19 Outbreak Data Secret

When Assemblywoman Eloise Reyes, a Democrat from the Inland Empire, introduced AB 654, she said the bill was intended to protect workers and keep the public apprised of COVID-19 outbreaks in workplaces. It included language requiring California to publicize the outbreak locations — but that language was ultimately dropped.

The Bay Area News Group reports that Reyes struck the disclosure requirement “once it became clear in late August that the bill would not move forward if the California Chamber of Commerce opposed it.” The final version of the bill, which includes other, minor reporting clarifications in the law, got bipartisan support.

Last year, Voice of San Diego, KPBS and the Union-Tribune sued the county after it refused to release COVID-19 outbreak location data, arguing that disclosure would hurt rather than help their ongoing efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus. The courts have agreed, so far. 

Worth revisiting: Several public records attorneys recently told Jesse Marx that they’re disappointed because of the message judges are sending to local officials and because of the evidence on which the case rested — the word of the county’s public health officer. 

The Recall Is Upon Us 

And the turnout is expected to be high. 

City News Service reports that, as of Monday, more than 837,000 San Diego County recall ballots had been returned. That’s nearly 43 percent of registered voters. 

Citing a recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, Politico also reported that two-thirds of likely women voters plan to vote no on the recall, in favor of keeping Gov. Gavin Newsom in office. GOP frontrunner Larry Elder, a conservative radio host, has suggested that employers should have a right to ask women if they intend to have children as a way to protect their “investment” — which former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer called “shocking and concerning.” 

When pressed to explain what he’d done to support women while in office locally, Faulconer, according to Politico, said he started “recognizing our female employees, shining that light on them for the first time.” 

Whether Newsom wins or loses, KPBS reported, the recall election outcome is likely to reverberate across state and national politics

Haven’t voted yet? Use this map to find your nearest polling place. 

City Groups Energy Workers In Single Category

For weeks, MacKenzie Elmer has been trying to understand what a ban on natural gas and a mandate that all buildings run on electricity would mean for San Diegans. Such changes would force a shift in the local economy. 

One researcher estimated that if California replaces natural gas with electricity inside most buildings, the state will lose more than 10,000 jobs in the natural gas sector. A jobs analysis conducted by San Diego, however, is less clear because it groups all jobs in energy under one category.

“This is important because some union groups want policymakers to ensure workers in natural gas aren’t left behind as the state favors renewable energies more and more,” she writes in the Environment Report. “If you’re going to ban gas, how many people would be rendered jobless — or at least looking for work?”

Read the Environment Report here.

Hughes Responds to 101 Ash, Civic Center Conflict-of-Interest Claims

Jason Hughes, the former city real estate adviser who received $9.4 million in payments for two city lease deals, claims in legal filings that city officials’ awareness of those payments and failures to order him to file formal disclosures should sink the city’s attempts to void the leases. 

The Union-Tribune broke the news that attorneys for the prominent downtown real estate broker are arguing that the city’s lawsuits seeking to kill the 101 Ash St. and Civic Center Plaza leases are “baseless attempt(s) by the city to distract from its own failings.”

In the filings, Hughes’ attorneys flagged a 2007 city attorney memo suggesting that city officials, rather than consultants, were responsible for ensuring financial disclosure rules are followed. Hughes’ attorneys also cited exchanges between Hughes and former city officials that purportedly show Hughes sought to clarify his role and disclose his plans to seek payments. They claim emails and the memo also show city officials — rather than Hughes — were responsible for making the call on whether Hughes needed to file economic disclosures that would have revealed the payments to him through the city’s landlord, Cisterra Development.

Former City Attorney Mike Aguirre, who signed the 2007 memo and is representing a taxpayer challenging the city’s 101 Ash St. deal, and a spokeswoman for current City Attorney Mara Elliott told the U-T that the memo and exchanges with former city officials didn’t absolve Hughes of the need to report payments he received.

In Other News

  • A newly amended complaint filed against the county says a sheriff’s deputy watched for at least 10 seconds as an inmate gouged out her right eyeball. Instead of intervening, he walked away. And by the time he’d returned with other deputies and medical staff, the woman had removed her left eye as well. (Union-Tribune)
  • San Diego City Councilman Sean Elo-Rivera released a proposal that includes revisions to the city’s accessory dwelling unit regulations in response to feedback from his constituents. The changes the city needs to make won’t always be comfortable, he argues, but they will make historically exclusive neighborhoods inclusive while honoring the existing fabric of communities. Read Elo-Rivera’s op-ed here.
  • Authorities and people in the business sector have praised the new Amazon facility in Tijuana, while residents of the Nueva Esperanza neighborhood, located in front of the new warehouse, still have doubts about what this will mean for them. (Union-Tribune)
  • The San Dieguito High School District board has set a timeline for finding its next superintendent, aiming to have the person selected by the end of September. (Union-Tribune)

Correction: In this weekend’s Politics Report, we wrote that the city of San Diego was seeking to hire the firm Colantuono, Highsmith and Watley to help it prove that Measure C was legally approved by voters to raise the hotel tax. But the firm is actually being hired by the Yes! For a Better San Diego campaign that supported Measure C, not the city. The city was just asked to waive any conflict of interest for the firm.

This Morning Report was written by Maya Srikrishnan, Jesse Marx and Lisa Halverstadt, and edited by Megan Wood.

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