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    The New Year is nearly upon us. That means it’s time to look back on 2014 and determine San Diego’s Voice of the Year. We fielded suggestions from our members and debated among ourselves who provoked the most important conversations of the year.

    See who made the cut Monday morning.

    ♦♦♦

    A who’s who of state and local politicians greeted its opening in 2011. It got millions in federal and state benefits. The city fast-tracked permits.


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    But the Soitec solar plant in Rancho Bernardo is now on its death bed along with the 450 jobs the French company promised San Diego.

    “Soitec’s arrival was supposed to be a shining example that large-scale manufacturing was possible in San Diego after all,” writes Lisa Halverstadt in her scoop. That’s all crumbling now.

    Check out Halverstadt’s story. Soitec and its client, SDG&E, do not agree on some crucial points.

    CEQA: Now What?

    As you may have noticed, we ran a whole week’s worth of stories about the California Environmental Quality Act, CEQA. You can’t start a quest about what’s real or what’s fiction about challenges in San Diego’s business climate, as Halverstadt did, without running into CEQA.

    Now, we finish with what to do. Jim Whalen, a local land use project manager and planning commissioner, wants CEQA reform. He writes that reform should make it so the law can distinguish between true environmental complaints and people who just want to shut down a project.

    On Monday, we’ll follow with an environmentalist’s perspective on how the law can actually be made stronger.

    • To review: We explained how CEQA, ironically, helped make Mission Valley a mess of roads and traffic. The law is the great uncertainty many businesses and entrepreneurs run into and it can be used as a weapon by competing businesses and others. And, despite a push to change it in Sacramento in 2013, reformers simply can’t get on the same page.

    Economy Booming … for Some

    Two local thinkers broke down new jobs numbers differently. Kelly Cunningham, from National University’s System Institute for Policy Research, says one side of our local economy is doing great. But a large group is getting left behind.

    “Blue collar or mid-level work has been disappearing in San Diego since at least the early 1990s when aerospace and other manufacturing jobs departed from the region,” he writes for the Times of San Diego.

    Phil Blair, of Manpower, had his own take. It was, simply, an “outstanding year for job growth” in the region.

    The unemployment rate is steady. (KPBS) Wage growth is pretty slow. (U-T)

    Police Watchdog on Police

    Yuki Marsden is chair of the Citizens’ Review Board on Police Practices in San Diego. In a Q-and-A with our Catherine Green, Marsden reveals how the process works, gaps she sees in the system and what she thinks of body cameras.

    “There’s a lack of transparency,” Marsden said, when it comes to the department’s interactions with the review board and with citizens who make complaints.

    Ben Hueso’s Chief Talks Bill Creation

    In this week’s Sacramento Report, Brian Joseph interviewed Ana Molina, chief of staff to State Sen. Ben Hueso. She explains how a bill emerges in the Legislature.

    In other news, Hueso agreed to plea to a “wet reckless” charge instead of a full DUI for his August arrest. If you have a lawyer, this is not an uncommon outcome, as we discovered earlier this year. The city attorney’s spokesman reposted his own comparison of DUI vs. wet reckless. But it’s missing a row under “likely penalty” that I would call “stigma.” Wet reckless is definitely a relief in that one.

    What We Learned This Week

    • Now that they have the choice to go somewhere else, students are fleeing South Bay’s Castle Park High School in droves.

    • All five of the new trustees elected to Sweetwater Union High School District’s board ran on a platform of transparency and restoring public trust. But so far, few of them are living up to those promises.

    • San Diego’s former celebrity planning director, Bill Fulton, said the much-discussed ruling against our regional transportation plan was not only wrong. It was dangerous.

    • Chuck Patton’s Bird Rock Coffee Roasters will soon open a third location and has become a recognized name in micro-roasting. But Patton said that’s no thanks to a city that caters to craft beer brewers and few others.

    Quick News Hits

    • San Diego’s Bumble Bee Foods was purchased for $1.51 billion. (NBC 7 San Diego) We profiled Bumble Bee’s CEO this year.

    • Lots of baseball news to go around: The All-Star Game may be coming to Petco Park. The park is getting some upgradesAnd the Padres are making lots of big moves. (Fortune, U-T)

    • Assemblywoman Shirley Weber is pushing for a state law on police body cameras. (U-T)

    • SANDAG is considering a pilot program that would allow it to offer wireless internet on some buses. (Fox 5)

    Quote of the Week

    “We needed to do something because we weren’t getting through to the mayor or the City Council or anyone else even though we were delivering petitions.” — El Cajon resident Pat Riley on why a group he was part of used a CEQA lawsuit to try and stop a homeless shelter. His primary worries were not about the environment.

    Correction: A previous version of the Morning Report misstated Jim Whalen’s job title. He’s principal at J. Whalen Associates, a project management and development firm, and was appointed to the San Diego Planning Commission earlier this year.

    Correction 2: The original All-Star game news link was to a joke by a local sports commentator about how much talent is coming to the Padres. We’ve updated it to a link with actual speculation.

      This article relates to: Corrections, Morning Report, News

      Written by Scott Lewis

      I'm Scott Lewis, the editor in chief of Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you'd like at scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0527 and follow me on Twitter (it's a blast!): @vosdscott.

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