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Our daily roundup of San Diego’s most important stories (Monday-Friday)
Issa meets his protesters, hundreds call San Diego River valley home, state Senate president's S.D. memories aren't so fond, San Ysidro loses business amid deportation fears and the Chargers try to (trade)mark their territory.
We’ve known for a while that SANDAG, a powerful coalition of local governments, was coming in way short on a previous tax increase and botched its projections of income from a ballot measure. Elected officials on the SANDAG board now want some answers. Several are calling for an independent investigation.
In emails sent in response to a query from VOSD and NBC 7 San Diego, seven of SANDAG’s 21 board members said they were not told about the agency’s botched economic forecast. “None of us are suggesting the result of such an examination is a foregone conclusion — it may indeed exonerate SANDAG — but for the public to be well-served an impartial and thorough examination must be conducted,” wrote Poway Mayor Steve Vaus and six other board members.
A spokesman for San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer wrote in after the story ran to say the mayor, as well, supports an independent inquiry.
SANDAG staff leaders have insisted they didn’t knowingly mislead the public when they put last fall’s failed Measure A on the ballot.
San Diego Unified School District board members made no major decisions at their special meeting on how to close the $124 million shortfall the district is facing. The group did decide to cut their own, and the superintendent’s, salaries in anticipation of the cuts they would ask employees to absorb.
School board trustees make a stipend of $1,500 a month and the change will reduce that by $81 per month. The superintendent was asked to work 14 fewer days next year and therefore take a pay cut of $15,400 on her $275,000 salary.
Hundreds of district employees and parents packed district headquarters for the meeting. The police union president for the district said the cuts his ranks would take — at least $2.4 million — equal 25 percent of the department budget, though no sworn officers. Another speaker raised safety concerns in light of plans for just a few adults supervising 600, 800, or 1200 students on school campus. A representative of custodians said proposed cuts mean 64 more people lost and “I feel it is already unsafe as it is.” And lots of speakers were vocal against cuts to special education resources.
Board members did not have any discussion after the presentation from staff and the public comments.
As liberals storm congressional town halls around the nation, North County’s Rep. Darrell Issa surprised opposing batches of critics and fans yesterday by coming out for a chat at his Vista office. The U-T says opponents (chanting “Where is Issa?” and “We were not paid!”) outnumbered supporters.
Meanwhile, Issa released his plan to replace the Affordable Care Act: He “would allow the public to buy in to the same insurance plans provided to federal employees and their families.” (City News Service)
A critic told KPBS, in audio not available online, that the plan threatens tens of thousands of people in Issa’s own district by making insurance unaffordable.
An estimated 246 homeless people live along the San Diego River, which winds through Mission Valley. The numbers are thought to be way up amid San Diego’s homeless crisis, and that’s not all: Transients are responsible for an estimated 96 percent of trash collected through the river valley.
NBC 7 checks into the homeless problem at the river and finds that cops don’t seem to be devoting much time to arrests there: They made just 45 in January, even though living along the river on city property is illegal. Instead, the police say they focus on assistance for the homeless.
Last year, we dropped by an elaborate homeless camp under a Mission Valley bridge, complete with a kitchen, shelves, rooms, bric-a-brac and even a “master suite.” Check our story and photos here.
The Sacramento Bee profiles state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, who grew up in Tijuana and San Diego’s Logan Heights neighborhood, and explores his the hole in his family that led him to change his name from Kevin Leon.
He speaks of visiting cousins in Los Angeles and getting a taste of a happier life, then having to come home: “They drove him to a Greyhound station in Los Angeles and put him on a bus. Arriving near what is now a resurgent Gaslamp Quarter in downtown San Diego, de León recalls passing pinball arcades, tattoo parlors, peep shows and the old Pussycat Theatre. He would catch the No. 2 bus. ‘I would get home and just cry myself to sleep,’ he said. ‘It was a search for normalcy.'”
A community theater in the City Heights neighborhood has been focusing on kids, but it’s now moving toward an embrace of arts and culture in general. That’s the lead story in this week’s VOSD Culture Report.
“My hope is that it will become a place where people can come and learn how to become artists and develop and hone their skills,” says the manager of the inartfully named City Heights Performance Annex. “People will be encouraged to show off their creative selves.”
Also in the Culture Report: An artist can’t seem to escape the “cool grandma” trope, the San Diego Symphony is reaching out to children on the autism spectrum, Balboa Park’s gay cruising culture and the “Fruit Loop” are getting attention (but Bruce Springsteen was there first) and Sleep Train Amphitheatre’s name is going from mildly peculiar (toot, toot!) to just plain weird.
• Movie theaters in 7 California cities have signed up for a special showing of the movie “1984” on April 4 in protest of the Trump administration, the date is tied to the George Orwell book. But no San Diego theater is listed yet.
• The Trump Administration announced revised rules regarding deportation yesterday. “Under the new rules, the department would greatly expand the number of immigrants who are prioritized for removal,” NPR reports. “This includes unauthorized immigrants who may have committed a crime but not been charged, and anyone an immigration officer deems a risk to public safety or national security. The policies also make it more difficult for migrants to claim asylum.”
Meanwhile, San Ysidro businesses say fear of Trumpian deportations is killing business from Mexico. But there are other reasons too, like the peso’s declining value, the high cost of gas below the border, and gas protests that have shut down the port of entry. (KPBS)
• University City’s Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center received an undefined “threat” yesterday, but police said it was unfounded. On Monday, 11 Jewish centers received bomb threats across the country, all hoaxes, prompting a response from the president. (AP, City News Service via KPBS)
• Despite all the bad “Blackfish” publicity, attendance at SeaWorld parks dipped only 2 percent from 2015 to 2016. (U-T)
• Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers made an emotional appearance at the Hall of Champions last night to celebrate his friend, Nick Hardwick, who was recognized with a spot in the Breitbard Hall of Fame.
Considering the Chargers defensive powers in general, looks like LA Gear is the odds-on favorite. Anyone know the spread?
Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. He is also immediate past president of the 1,200-member American Society of Journalists and Authors (asja.org). Please contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.