Morning Report: The City's Non-Response to Mounting Water Bill Complaints - Voice of San Diego

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Morning Report: The City's Non-Response to Mounting Water Bill Complaints

City bungles response on sky-high water bills, homicide numbers go way down in city, school districts embrace district elections, sheriff candidate gets reprimanded, Qualcomm faces a bigger bid, and a 'boi pond' is bound for Hillcrest
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If you’ve watched local news lately, you’ve undoubtedly heard of absurdly expensive water bills that many residents have received in recent months.

The brouhaha is only growing, as dozens of residents have come forward to say their bills skyrocketed to multiple thousands of dollars for no apparent reason.

Our reporter Ry Rivard took on the issue Monday, looking into the push from residents — and City Council members — for better answers than they’ve been getting.

As Rivard explains, “unfortunately, the city has not done a good job explaining what it knows and doesn’t know. Instead, it’s been making assertions without the supportive data.”

Right now, the city is simply insisting that new smart water meters are working fine, even though it hasn’t bothered to analyze bills before and after they were installed. Many residents suspect their bills have something to do with the new meters.

Meanwhile, we’ve found that a city committee devoted to water rates oversight was barely able it hold its latest meeting because few members showed up. The majority was uninterested in exploring the smart meter question, we’re told, and its meeting this month right in the midst of all this bad press is… cancelled.

Also in his latest issue of the Environment Report. Rivard looks at paintings (yes, there’s a water connection), drought details and more.

Opinion: Bold Action Needed to Fix Housing Crisis

It’s time for San Diego to develop “creativity, compassion and courage to make difficult decisions that build a strong future without diminishing the community character or displacing our most vulnerable populations,” writes John Seymour, vice president of the California-based National Community Renaissance, a nonprofit developer of affordable housing, in a VOSD commentary.

He praises redevelopment plans for a Rancho Peñasquitos complex: “Despite the laudable efforts by the development team, disruption to some residents will occur, and there almost certainly will remain protests and objections. However, we all need to rise above and look at the comprehensive package being offered, including the development of several hundred new homes for a spectrum of renters and buyers.”

Law & Disorder: Homicides on the Decline

Violent crimes in San Diego were down a bit in 2017 compared to 2016, while the number of homicides fell dramatically from 50 to 34, a new SDPD report says. Overall, the city says its crime rate is the lowest in 49 years. (10News)

• David Myers, a Sheriff’s commander who’s running to oust Sheriff Bill Gore, “has been formally written up for meeting with victims of a deputy accused of sexual misconduct by 14 women… His boss said the meeting could jeopardize an ongoing investigation,” the U-T reports.

The Sheriff’s Department closed its investigation on Jan. 19, the U-T says, but Myers was still told last week to report any contacts with victims or witnesses “prior to the close of business on the day the contact occurs.”

• KPBS had to file a public records request to get the city of San Diego to cough up the names of companies that were forced to pay back wages to employees due to minimum-wage violations. Some got fined too.

The city is still refusing to say who had to pay and how much.

KPBS lists the 8 companies, including the already troubled Pancho Villa’s, a popular Latino grocery store in Normal Heights, and franchises of 7-Eleven and El Pollo Loco. Most of the companies wouldn’t respond to questions from KPBS.

Election Roundup: School District Votes Go Local

School districts and cities are under state pressure to do more to prevent white people from dominating elections purely because they’re not concentrated in certain neighborhoods like minorities often are. Now, the Poway Unified, San Dieguito high school (coastal North County) and Cajon Valley (East County) elementary districts are preparing to switch over to geographic district elections instead of allowing every voter in the districts to choose board members.

In the Cajon Valley district, for example, plans will break the district “into five sub-districts covering a mix of suburban and rural areas that are home to a growing number of Syrian and East African refugees, as well as a longstanding Iraqi Chaldean community,” KPBS reports.

The petition drive has begun to force a ballot measure to expand the convention center and help the homeless. “During the first years of the tax increase, 59 percent of revenues would go toward the convention center and 41 percent to homelessness programs. Between 2025 and 2061, 59 percent would go toward the center, 31 percent to homelessness programs and 10 percent to city street repairs.” (City News Service)

Quick News Hits: New Bridge, New Bid and Canine Weed

• Cory Briggs, the local attorney who drives SoCal cities bananas with continual and often-successful lawsuits, wants the state Supreme Court to review a critical ruling targeting his work. (Inewsource)

The ruling is fundamentally about the issue that has made Briggs so controversial over the years. Critics have long alleged that many of the nonprofit groups Briggs sues on behalf of are just shell entities, and that there are no actual clients. Former VOSD reporter Liam Dillon investigated that very question back in 2014. Dillon found that whenever he was forced, Briggs had been able to show he had a client — though it didn’t always go smoothly. But he failed to do so in a recent case, a judge ruled, which could set a damaging precedent for Briggs, as inewsource reporter Brad Racino has reported.

• A new train bridge over the San Diego River opened for business on Monday, with room for a second set of tracks, and the old one will be demolished. (City News Service)

• Broadcom is making a higher bid ($121 billion) to buy its rival, the local company Qualcomm, Business Insider reports. Meanwhile, “shares of Qualcomm took a nosedive on Monday morning after financial firm KGI Securities revealed that Apple was considering dropping the chipmaker for Intel as its new modem chip suppler for Apple’s next generation of iPhones.”

• Apartment rents here are extremely expensive — an average of $1,710 a month for a one-bedroom — and up 7 percent over a year ago. That makes us the 10th priciest rental market nationally, a new report says. We’re behind San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles and Oakland. (Times of S.D.)

• Medical marijuana is now available for stressed-out dogs thanks to a local company, but it’s not designed to make pooches high. “They are not going to have conversations with butterflies and dolphins and things like that,” a company official helpfully tells CBS 8.

My money is on the feline. (S.D. Zoo)

Hillcrest Sees (Garish) Red: Ow, My Eyes!

Have you seen that can’t miss, eye-assaulting, garish-red Eitol Towers building in Hillcrest near Park and University? It’s bold, all right: In capital letters, its website proclaims that “New modern mixed use urban infill created to stir things up along university avenue/Get your ass ready this is gonna be a fun one!”

I reject that directive.

The website, which features photos of multiple bare male rear ends, also notes that “it’s pronounced EYE TOLL/cuz Eitol is ‘lot13’ backwards… the property sits on Parcel 13/there are 13 towers in the design/the 1642 University address adds up to 13/SOO lucky!”

Soo anyway, now comes news that the restaurant chain that runs local gay hotspots Urban Mo’s and Baja Betty’s will open a restaurant in the towers called insideOUT. Among other things, it will feature “heated water feature (the boi pond).”

Boi pond? For equal time, there had better be a grrrl grotto.

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 randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

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