Morning Report: City Tried to Keep Secret Memo That Was Already Public

News

Morning Report: City Tried to Keep Secret Memo That Was Already Public

Image via Shutterstock

As a San Diego City Council member in 2015, Todd Gloria wrote a memo to then-Mayor Kevin Faulconer calling for the development of citywide policies around surveillance.

Jesse Marx went searching for a copy, but a city official said the memo was being withheld because it would chill deliberations if made public. But by then, the memo was already public.

It had been sent to Congress several years ago, and in April the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform posted a copy of it in a batch of documents online.

Turns out Marx wasn’t the only one interested in the memo, though. The newspaper La Prensa filed a nearly identical request with the city last month, but a different city official said it didn’t exist. The newspaper filed suit last week and pointed to the contradictory responses as proof that it’s being treated unfairly.

Then, in yet another twist on Tuesday, the city attorney’s office said it had reviewed the matter again and released the memo online.

“The ordeal lays bare how subjective the public records process can be,” Marx writes. “At various points over the last couple months, different city officials decided that the memo couldn’t be released, that it didn’t exist and that releasing it is totally fine.”

Council Stands By San Diego’s Housing Plan

The San Diego City Council stood by the city’s state-mandated plan to accommodate housing demand. It voted Tuesday to make small changes to the plan a month after state officials said it wasn’t sufficient as written.

Housing advocates from across the state called into the Council meeting, urging the city to make more significant changes to its document outlining how it will build the 108,000 new homes the state says it will need by 2029.

San Diego is the focus of state advocacy because its plan is the first to be adopted since new changes went into effect, intending to strengthen a decades-old law that has consistently failed to address the state’s housing crisis.

City planners dismissed criticism of the plan, which suggests sites like newly built grocery stores, an expensive YMCA facility and a cemetery are likely to become housing within the decade, by saying arguing its development restrictions allow so much potential homebuilding that it won’t be a big deal if every site zoned for redevelopment doesn’t pan out.

Research suggests an even larger buffer between hypothetical capacity and realistic housing production is necessary, and the city is fresh off a previous eight-year period in which it didn’t even come close to meeting the state’s target. If the city replicated its best year during the previous cycle for each of the next eight years, it would still be less than halfway to its 108,000-unit target.

Lincoln High Gets a New Co-Principal

San Diego Unified School District Interim Superintendent Lamont Jackson announced Tuesday evening at the school board meeting that he had selected a new principal for Lincoln High School.

“So there’s no confusion, I want to make sure that everyone understands that this position is part of the district’s plan to support Lincoln High School and the community — specifically targeting the work that we do with our ninth graders to ensure they are making the growth and gains they need to be successful as they enter 10th, 11th and 12th grades. So this position is in partnership with the current lead principal, Stephanie Brown,” Jackson said.

The new principal is Melissa Agudelo, the current principal of San Diego Metropolitan Regional, Career, and Technical High School or SD MET.

Leadership turnover at Lincoln High, and specifically whether there had even been turnover of any significance recently, has been the subject of very passionate debate. San Diego City Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe recently sent an open letter inquiring about leadership turmoil after the district abruptly removed the director of the high school, who had a major role in running the school, staff members told us.

“In addition, an open forum that includes community members and parents, along with district officials, is needed in order to provide feedback and potentially choose the next principal of LHS,” Montgomery Steppe wrote May 19.

The district did not appreciate the suggestion and has maintained that Brown has had full control of the school and delivered major achievements.

“Finally, we will not respond to your suggestion that we hold a meeting to ‘potentially choose the next principal
of LHS,’ as we find the quality of the current leader to be exceptional,” wrote school board member Sharon Whitehurst-Payne on June 3.

But the district was hiring a new principal to partner with the current one and announced its choice five days later.

Encrypted Technology That Wasn’t: A Vast FBI Sting Out of San Diego 

A criminal informant and $120,000 – those apparently were the simple makings of a vast encrypted communication network created by the FBI San Diego Field Office that has led to some 800 arrests worldwide. 

FBI agents, with the help of an informant, created a program called Anom that was then distributed through alleged criminal networks on pre-programmed cell phones. Anom looked like a calculator app on the phones, but was actually a program for encrypted communication. 

Distributors sold roughly 12,000 Anom devices that made their way into 300 criminal syndicates, the New York Times reported.

Any message on any one of those devices ultimately ended up in the hands of the FBI, as well as police agencies in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, which collaborated with the FBI in the investigation. 

The chats have led to drug busts, details about murders and even the prevention of 10 killings, according to Swedish authorities.

In the last 48 hours, 500 people have been arrested across the globe.  

The FBI apparently settled on the plan to create its own encrypted technology after bringing down an encrypted communication company called Phantom Secure in 2018. The feds flipped one of Phantom Secure’s distributors, who helped to create Anom, with the promise of a reduced sentence and $120,000.  

In Other News

  • The National Women’s Soccer League announced Tuesday that an expansion team will begin play in San Diego in 2022, City News Service reported. The team’s name hasn’t been decided, and the team will begin play at the University of San Diego’s stadium until it finds a permanent home.
  • The San Diego City Council gave its final stamp of approval to a new, 20-year deal with SDG&E to continue providing energy and electricity to city residents. Environmentalists had opposed the deal, pushing Mayor Todd Gloria to negotiate a shorter arrangement with more renewable energy commitments from the utility, but a supermajority of the Council approved the contracts. (City News Service) 
  • Local pandemic restrictions will be relaxed a bit further Wednesday, the Union-Tribune reports, as San Diego officially enters the less restrictive “yellow tier” of the state’s system after the county for the second consecutive week recorded under two cases per 100,000 residents. The restrictions will disappear next week, when the state officially discards its tier system on June 15.
  • Planned hikes to sewer rates to people who live in single-family homes could be both smaller and more gradual, after the city of San Diego received a second opinion on a plan to increase the charges by 28 percent over the next four years, the Union-Tribune reports.
  • Scott Lewis penned a remembrance of Gail Stoorza-Gill, one of Voice of San Diego’s founding board members.

The Morning Report was written by Will Huntsberry, Andrew Keatts and Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.

Show Comments
Loading