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San Diego City Councilman Sean Elo-Rivera speaks at a press conference for a pop-up vaccine site in City Heights. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

San Diego City Council members decided not to re-elect their colleague Councilwoman Jen Campbell as Council president, Monday. She became the first Council president not to win at least a second term in the role since it was formed in 2006 when the city switched to the strong mayor form of government. Councilman Sean Elo-Rivera, who represents City Heights, Kensington and the College Area, took the position instead.

The move was a shock to all but the apparently small number of insiders who knew an effort to change things was afoot.

Elo-Rivera’s win, and Campbell’s loss, came via an unconventional Council majority. Councilman Chris Cate, the body’s lone Republican, joined the Council’s left flank to vote against Campbell’s re-election. 

A year ago, the same left flank mounted an unsuccessful effort to put Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe in the position but ran into a wall of the city’s political establishment. Cate supported Campbell then and, with the backing of organized labor and the business community, she won the seat despite hundreds of calls from social justice advocates supporting Montgomery Steppe. 

Cate wouldn’t discuss what made him change his mind. He has forged a partnership with Elo-Rivera in calling for reform of the Housing Commission. Cate said only that he had a good relationship with Elo-Rivera.

Read the full story here. 

Speaking of District 9 … Latinos May Lose Voting Power There

Residential area in City Heights / Photo by Brittany Cruz-Fejeran

We’re getting close to finalizing the city’s new political lines. The new city council districts, which are being drawn by the volunteer city redistricting commission, will be in place for the next 10 years.

One of the biggest issues the commission is grappling with is how to handle a decreasing Latino population in District 9, which was created to be the city’s second Latino empowerment district in the 2011 redistricting process.

The city’s non-White and Latino population has been increasing, but the Latino population in City Heights has decreased.

The possibility of reducing Latino voting power in the district was flagged in a legal analysis of draft maps a few weeks ago.

VOSD’s Maya Srikrishnan explains how some commissioners have been trying to address the issue.

Click here to read the full story. 

Related Content from the Wonderful VOSD Podcast World: Many residents have been pushed out of their neighborhoods because of the rising cost of living. Well, you may have heard that we have a housing crisis. It’s a term thrown around a lot to describe a shortage that has made housing expensive and helped drive a homelessness crisis in the region.

In our newest San Diego 101 Podcast episode, hosts Adriana Heldiz and Maya Srikrishnan unpack the region’s housing crisis: what caused it and how it hurts communities of color disproportionately.

Heldiz and Srikrishnan talk to Ricardo Flores, executive director of LISC, which helps finance affordable and homeless housing throughout the region, and Ginger Hitzke, an affordable housing developer, to explain restrictive housing policies that have plagued San Diego’s history and why it’s so expensive to build affordable housing.

You can listen here

The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, seen here on Nov. 30, 2021, is currently being dismantled after 45 years of operating. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

What Prevents San O’ from Recycling its Nuclear Waste? A President and Plutonium.

There’s a lot of angst over the 3.6 million pounds of nuclear waste sitting in a bunker next to southern California’s “atomic ta-tas,” writes Voice of San Diego’s MacKenzie Elmer in this week’s Environment Report. 

But while advocacy groups fight in court over Southern California Edison’s waste storage plan at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, and the utility and lawmakers fight with the federal government over a permanent place to store all that used fuel, one aspect of the deadly byproduct of nuclear power is often lost on the public: It can actually be recycled. 

Officials estimate if they could recycle the spent uranium fuel — similar to the nuclear fuel reprocessing program in France — only one-fifth of the waste at San Onofre would be there. Tearing down the plant will generate one billion pounds of waste, 80 percent of it must be buried in specially-designed landfills forever. 

Spent fuel is all that will remain next to the coast along Interstate 5 after dismantling those infamous concrete domes. It still has energy. Why can’t we reuse it? Because of a president and plutonium. 

Read the Environment Report here. 

Aerial photograph of U.S. warships docked at the U.S. Naval Repair Base, San Diego, California (USA), during World War II. / Image via Wikimedia Commons

How San Diego Dodged a WWII Bullet

Contributing writer Randy Dotinga writes in a new piece that if it wasn’t for a big presidential decision that’s forgotten today, we might be remembering 1941’s Japanese attacks on San Diego instead of commemorating the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor this week. 

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who once said he felt like “the godfather of San Diego” may have spared us from catastrophe when he decided to move our Navy ships to Hawaii — a calculated move mostly driven by the desire to impress and intimidate, Dotinga writes. 

But something that spared San Diego a tragedy. Still, the events of that day hit home. 

Read the full story here. 

Federal Judge May Dismiss ‘Footnote 15’ Case

The Union-Tribune broke the news that a federal judge appears likely to dismiss a federal lawsuit filed by an NBC 7 San Diego journalist who sued City Attorney Mara Elliott in the fallout over an infamous footnote included in an investigative memo about the 101 Ash debacle.

U.S. District Court Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo wrote in a tentative ruling Monday that she is not convinced journalist Dorian Hargrove’s first amendment rights were violated amid City Attorney’s Office pushback to a September 2020 story he published mentioning the footnote because he “does not have a First Amendment right to work for NBC7, and the actions taken by NBC7 with respect to Plaintiff’s employment.” 

Attorney Larry Shea, who represents Hargrove, said Monday that the tentative ruling was narrowly focused on the federal court’s jurisdiction and wouldn’t preclude a legal battle in San Diego Superior Court – or a possible appeal – if the judge decides to indeed dismiss the federal case.

Hargrove’s suit had been expected to open the door to depositions and fact-finding that could reveal who was responsible for the footnote.

“I’m not giving up yet,” Shea said.

The tentative ruling follows a filing by city attorneys arguing that the case alleging defamation and civil rights violations should be dismissed. Attorneys for the city and Hargrove are now set to argue at a Dec.16 hearing over whether Elliott and others violated Hargrove’s federal civil rights. 

Hargrove’s attorneys allege that Elliott’s office improperly pressured NBC to discipline Hargrove, who was suspended and barred from covering City Hall, and used its platform to criticize him publicly. Elliott’s office has argued that Hargrove failed to prove in filings that he was defamed, and that Elliott and Assistant City Attorney John Hemmerling’s actions were protected due to qualified immunity.

In Other News

  • San Diego State University officials announced Monday that its Mission Valley stadium will be called Snapdragon Stadium. The Union-Tribune reports that the deal is worth $45 million over 15 years. Freelance writer Mike Stetz wrote an op-ed for us last month about the role stadium names play in communities. 
  • The county revealed at a recent meeting that it is eyeing two sites for potential shelter or safe parking operations in Lakeside, the Union-Tribune reports.

Today’s Morning Report was written by Maya Srikrishnan, MacKenzie Elmer, Andrea Lopez-Villafaña and Lisa Halverstadt. It was edited by Andrew Keatts. 

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