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Our daily roundup of San Diego’s most important stories (Monday-Friday)
Three’s a crowd in updating community plans, getting money where the mouths are, troubled vets wait years for help, Frye vs. DeMaio tensions flare.
On the heels of a special election this week that saw Ben Hueso win a seat in the state Senate, yet another election is coming. On March 26, District 4 voters will select a member of the San Diego City Council.
Our Liam Dillon will be putting together reader’s guides on each candidate and first up is Myrtle Cole. The goal is to take all the neighborhood issues Dillon has collected and explain what the candidates plan to do with each. Cole sees herself as an heir to the legacy of former Council members Charles Lewis and George Stevens. The San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council and the Democratic Party have endorsed her.
But questions about her residency in the district continue to dog her at public forums, Dillon writes. “Cole used to live in the city’s Redwood Village neighborhood. It’s part of the newly reconfigured District 4, but this election will take place under the old lines. Cole moved into the old District 4 in late December, just beating the residency requirement for the election.”
Three’s a Crowd
Updating community plans is tricky business. Many groups have to work in concert, consultants have to be brought in, and politics always plays a role. So when the city noticed three adjacent communities all updating their plans at once, the city began ushering them through as a cluster, our Andrew Keatts reported.
“Ideally, treating the three communities as a cluster will eliminate redundant spending on consultants or public meetings (updating each community plan costs between $1 million and $4 million),” he wrote.
But the individual community groups fear their unique needs could get lost in the 3-in-1 effort. “The city is walking a delicate balance that there are issues where, for information-gathering, it’s best to bundle them together, but they also want to recognize that each community is different,” said Joe Lacava, chairman of the Community Planners Committee.
Getting Money Where the Mouths Are
We recently wrote about how 17 cities were able to apply for more federal aid for homelessness than San Diego, even though San Diego had the third largest homeless population last year. Yesterday, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced grants totaling about $15 million for San Diego county’s network of homeless service providers, our Kelly Bennett reported.
This round of funding was for renewing programs, she wrote, so we won’t know how San Diego has ranked for total aid this year until funding is announced for new and bonus programs.
Whole Foods Wants Full Disclosure
Last November’s election showed that Californians weren’t ready for Prop 37’s brand of labeling requirements for food that contained genetically modified ingredients. In our Active Voice offerings, Clare Leschin-Hoar writes that “the movement to label genetically modified ingredients… is alive and well.” The popular grocery chain Whole Foods, she notes, has set a deadline of 2018 for all of its suppliers to label their products if they contain GM ingredients.
Also, Oscar Ramos blogs about his idea on how to “up the cool factor” of science and engineering for students. He attended a high-energy event at Sports Arena, and “it had all the makings of a high-stakes competition.” From cheerleaders to mascots, the competition seemed typical, except for the competitors. “The competitors on the floor? They were robots,” he wrote.
Cercenar Is Spanish for Amputate
As more Californians become eligible for Medi-Cal coverage in the coming years, the need for translators in the medical field is only expected to grow. Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez has introduced a bill that would use federal dollars to start a system which would certify medical interpreters and reimburse them for their services, reported our Megan Burks.
The bill isn’t much different than one introduced last year. So far, that means “an unregulated patchwork of trained interpreters, bilingual staff, adult family members and children have filled the gap for patients,” Burks wrote. That’s resulted in stories of misdiagnoses and complications, which we recently reported on.
Troubled Vets Wait Years for Help
“The Department of Veterans Affairs has failed to provide key information to Congress and the public that shows the agency’s ability to quickly provide service-related benefits has virtually collapsed under President Barack Obama,” writes the Center for Investigative Reporting. The agency reports the average delay newly returning veterans face while they wait for compensation at 273 days. But veterans in major population centers waited as long as 642 days in some cases, their investigation found.
“The ranks of veterans waiting more than a year for their benefits grew from 11,000 in 2009, the first year of Obama’s presidency, to 245,000 in December – an increase of more than 2,000 percent,” they wrote.
Frye vs. DeMaio Tensions Flare
The mayor’s director of San Diego’s open government department, Donna Frye, was the target of a scathing letter to U-T San Diego from former councilman Carl DeMaio yesterday, decrying her proposed full-time return as “the return of pension double dipping at City Hall.” The city would have to create a special exception to allow Frye to return to full employment with the city, since she is currently receiving pension benefits earned during her time on the City Council.
DeMaio is set to hit the airwaves with his complaints today. Meanwhile, Mayor Bob Filner is set to “launch open government action” today at a press conference with Frye at 10:30 a.m.. We might finally get to see what he’s committing to to make government more accessible and accountable and data easier to get out.
• Mayor Bob Filner needs an attorney for an upcoming hearing over hotel fees and it turns out the city will pay for him to get one, reports KPBS. The mayor doesn’t think City Attorney Jan Goldsmith will fairly represent him. The U-T, which broke the story, couldn’t get the mayor to tell how much he was spending.
• In part thanks to Ben Hueso’s victorious campaigning to replace Juan Vargas in the state Senate, Democrats regained their supermajority in that house, Reuters reported yesterday. Hueso won 52 percent of the vote, avoiding a run-off election.
• The San Diego Hospice Foundation, an entity separate from San Diego Hospice that was setup to support that organization, still has millions of dollars in assets, despite San Diego Hospice’s recent bankruptcy. It is unclear what will become of the Foundation’s money, reported U-T San Diego.
• Cowles Mountain will temporarily close on March 25th for restoration and repairs, NBC 7 San Diego reported.
• Media Matters once again calls out the UT editorial board for recently hyping a court decision in favor of expanding the convention center without noting “that the paper’s owner, Douglas Manchester, has a financial interest in the convention center’s development.”
Supervisors Mull ‘Laura’s Law’
In California, “Laura’s Law” is a law that empowers the courts to require treatment for severely mentally ill adults who are over the age of 18. “Laura’s Law was passed statewide in 2002, but only one county in California enforces it, and it’s not San Diego,” reported NBC San Diego. The one county that does use it, Nevada County, has seen reductions in hospital stays, incarceration days, homeless days and emergency interventions, wrote NBC San Diego.
Vote For Us On ‘American Idol’!
Ok, I admit, we’re not on “American Idol.” But we are competing in it’s open government equivalent: The Knight Foundation’s Knight News Challenge. Having open government is probably even cooler than singing, really.
The Knight News Challenge asks, “How can we make the places we live more awesome through data and technology? How can we make public information more relevant and useful?”
You can find our entry here, where we propose a system to allow residents to vote and comment on issues that are being discussed during public meetings.
Another interesting entry comes from Donna Frye, Ben Katz and Joe Lacava, each an advocate for open government. They propose that all public meeting agendas and minutes should be made available to the public in a machine and human-readable standard. Soon, the Knight Foundation will select some of the proposals to share in $5 million of funding to help make the projects reality.
Correction: An earlier version of this post attributed a story on the Department of Veterans Affairs to KPBS. The story was written by the Center for Investigative Reporting and appeared on the KPBS website.