North Park Towers-6
A shadow of power lines along the alley behind North Park Towers / Photo by Ariana Drehsler for Voice of San Diego

Even if the city of San Diego had to pay $6 billion to buy its power grid off San Diego Gas and Electric, the savings to ratepayers could eventually top $180 million over 30 years of the sale. 

That’s what a new study suggests.

Today, the city’s Environment Committee will hear results of an analysis by NewGen Strategies & Solutions, LLC hired to study whether a public takeover of the electric grid is possible – and what it might cost. NewGen studied two basic scenarios, assuming SDG&E would sell its grid at a price tag of $2 to $6 billion. But that’s a range SDG&E would likely dispute. 

“We remain confident that once the city has all the facts, they will again arrive at the same conclusion reached in 2021 when they approved the recent franchise agreement: a long-term partnership with SDG&E remains the best option,” said SDG&E spokesperson Anthony Wagner in an emailed statement. 

The NewGen report is just the first step in the public power pursuit. The city would eventually have to get permission from entities like the Local Agency Formation Commission, (which recently approved the divorce between water districts), the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission. The estimates on savings to ratepayers also don’t account for costs of an inevitable legal battle over municipalization or inflation. 

SDG&E makes money for its investors by building things like poles, wires and transformer stations. Proponents of public power argued that profit should instead be put toward lowering energy prices. San Diegans pay the highest electric rates in the continental United States. 

Catch up: After a contentious battle over whether the city should renew its franchise agreement with its investor-owned utility, San Diego eventually signed up for another 20 years with SDG&E. While that dashed public power proponents’ dreams of a full takeover of the local energy grid, a contingent of councilmembers swore to keep the option on the table and put money aside to study what’s called municipalization. 

U-T Cuts Coming to Light

The San Diego Union-Tribune building in downtown San Diego on July 10, 2023.
The San Diego Union-Tribune building in downtown San Diego on July 10, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

NBC San Diego has the first list of reporters taking the buyouts the new owners of the Union-Tribune offered when they took over last week. MediaNews Group, the firm that purchased the newspaper, has also indicated that it may pursue involuntary reductions in staff as well. 

The initial list of people taking the buyouts include longtime courts and investigative reporter Greg Moran, photo editor, and Voice alum, Sam Hodgson, editor Dana Littlefield, columnist Diane Bell and reporters Gary Warth, Joshua Emerson Smith and Deborah Brennan. 

The NBC story goes in-depth on the buyers of the newspaper and things like how difficult the decision to take the buyout was for some staff members. 

Warth gave some perspective on how the cuts over the last 14 years have affected him and the coverage the paper offered. 

“I used to cover a school district. And then I covered a region of school districts. And then I covered half the school districts in North County. And then I covered all the school districts in North County. And then I covered all the school districts in San Diego County. Plus the colleges,” he said. 

Fletcher’s Accuser Said Agency Offered Belated, $10,000 ‘Severance’

MTS headquarters at the 12th and Imperial trolley station. / File photo by Adriana Heldiz
MTS headquarters at the 12th and Imperial trolley station. / File photo by Adriana Heldiz

The woman who accused former County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher of sexual harassment and assault has amended her lawsuit (CBS8) to include the detail that the day after she was fired, in February, the agency’s director of human resources offered her a $10,000 severance agreement.

Things to consider: Severance agreements are usually presented the moment an employee is terminated. Offering it the next day seems strange. 

The complaint is here. It implies also that MTS specifically included in the severance agreement a requirement that the accuser, Grecia Figueroa, not disparage Fletcher or MTS. It’s not uncommon for severances to have clauses like that but if it did specifically mention Fletcher, that’s a big deal: It would mean MTS knew that Fletcher was being accused of improper behavior by Figueroa as early as the day after her firing. 

Before this, we only knew the agency was informed when Figueroa sent a claim to MTS and Fletcher about 10 days after her firing.  

SDSU and Mountain West Kiss and Make up

San Diego State University’s shunted lover, the Mountain West Conference, has begrudgingly accepted it back after weeks of turbulence. 

The drama all began because SDSU sent a letter outlining its intention to skip out on the Mountain West in favor of the glitzy Pac-12, a renowned conference that could bring greater visibility to the university’s stellar athletic program and more money. The Mountain West took it as a final breakup note, while SDSU said it meant for it to be an early notice.

The latest: At a news conference on Wednesday, Mountain West Commissioner Gloria Nevarez announced that the conference had reached a deal with SDSU and that it would continue to be a “member in good standing” through the 2023 – 2024 season. She did not offer details on the agreement, but said she felt they’d landed in a good place.

The dirt: But the Union-Tribune had more details. The paper reports that the Mountain West will distribute SDSU’s $6.6 million share of the media distribution payment the conference had withheld as a first installment of the exit fee the university was slated to pay – Nevarez said it had already been released at the Wednesday conference. The conference’s legal fees, which are reported to be less than $100,000, wil be subtracted from that pot of money.

The Aztecs’ wandering eye: As far as SDSU’s tryst with the Pac-12, things seem to have ground to a halt. The conference still hasn’t finalized the media deal that stalled SDSU’s predicted invitation to join. And if SDSU leaves, the deal struck with the Mountain West would preclude any reduced late exit fee – meaning were it to leave with less than a year’s notice it would be on the hook for $34 million. 

County’s Office of Ed Is Chipping Away at Chronic Absenteeism

Laura Rodriguez Elementary School in Logan Heights on March 10, 2023.
File photo by Ariana Drehsler

Even before the pandemic, the San Diego County Office of Education was concerned about chronic absenteeism – when a kid misses 10 percent of days in a school year. That’s why it launched its Improving Chronic Absenteeism Network, which advised schools on evidence-based strategies. 

At that time, around 10 percent of students countywide were chronically absent. Then the pandemic hit, and the countywide average tripled, writes Jakob McWhinney in the latest The Learning Curve. 

Officials said that increase has made the work much more difficult and important. But they also found that the factors that drive chronic absenteeism haven’t really changed.

Over the past year, the network has worked with a cohort of 18 schools to try to reduce the skyrocketing levels of chronic absenteeism. Though there’s still a long way to go to reach even pre-pandemic levels, they’ve found some success.

Read the Learning Curve here. 

In Other News

  • Has your new food waste green bin not been emptied and received a city notice for containing items other than food waste? Environment reporter MacKenzie Elmer would like to speak with you if so
  • A new lawsuit filed on behalf of the sisters of a 13-year-old girl who died in a state of malnutrition alleges multiple agencies failed to report possible abuse. (Union-Tribune)
  • A recent report ordered by the CSU system said SDSU’s Center for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination lacks the infrastructure and resources to properly do its job. (KPBS)

The Morning Report was written by MacKenzie Elmer, Scott Lewis and Jakob McWhinney. It was edited by Andrea Lopez-Villafaña.

Join the Conversation


  1. Imagine if, instead of replacing one monopoly for another, the City instead opened up the electrical lines to true competition – the way it was done in the 1970’s with AT&T.

    The result of that was an almost infinite drop in cost (from days where it cost $1 /minute to call someone in the next city to today where no one actually pays attention to the cost of a call) and infinite improvement in innovation (“Princess phones” were the epitome of innovation once…)

    Maybe switching to a government monopoly might drop the price of electricity by a couple cents per kilowatt (like CCA’s have done), but the very idea that going from a government-protected monopoly (SDG&E) to an ACTUAL government monopoly would result in a truly significant change is ridiculous.

    Believing that would require ignoring the entire history of what happens to cost (up) and quality (down) with almost every other government monopoly in existence.

    There are states that have transitioned to open electrical lines, their rates are uniformly a fraction of what we pay here.

    But then that would be a solution, not a band-aid, and we can’t do that…

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