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Daily roundup of San Diego’s most important stories (Monday-Saturday)
In a candid exposé, Politico lays out the dire state of play for Congressman Duncan Hunter as he toils under the weight of a criminal investigation by the FBI and Justice Department. Federal investigators are interviewing Hunter’s staff and family to figure out if “hundreds of thousands of dollars from Hunter’s campaign account were spent improperly” on personal expenses like restaurants and school tuition. Hunter told Politico he follows campaign finance rules, and inferred that much of the spending in question took place in California, where his wife wielded a campaign credit card, while he was in D.C.
The Union-Tribune’s Michael Smolens writes out loud what everyone is thinking: Hunter may be trying to throw his own wife under the bus.
Investigators are also inquiring as to Hunter’s relationship with several women in Washington, and Politico quotes an anonymous Republican lawmaker who claims Hunter has had “probably a little too much” enjoyment of his time in Washington. “Hunter has developed a reputation on Capitol Hill for drinking heavily and carousing, according to multiple lawmakers and staffers who have witnessed his behavior over the past several years,” Politico reports.
When asked if he denied claims that he was involved with women in DC, Hunter said “No, it’s tabloid trash.”
Meanwhile, his campaign has paid more than $535,000 to lawyers to defend him in California and D.C., which is a legal way to spend campaign money, Politico notes. His most recent reports indicate he and his wife have no assets remaining, and his family is living in his parents’ house while Hunter mostly lives out of his office in D.C.
There’s a lot of talk going around about the city’s plan to redevelop dozens of acres of city-owned land in the Sports Arena and Midway neighborhoods. Redevelopment would entail a complicated dance of moving out businesses whose leases are expiring and knocking out buildings to make way for whatever comes next. But some of those businesses are pretty happy with their location, and are looking to renew their leases for as long as possible, Lynn Walsh reports.
Dixieline Lumber is one such business, and owner Joe Lawrence says he’ll soon be looking to renew his lease for at least 10 to 15 years. “We have been here since 1967 and do not intend to go anywhere,” Lawrence said.
That’s to say nothing of the Valley View Casino Center, an arena that is essentially an historic landmark in San Diego that still books 130 events per year, despite its age. Those bookings will include two sports teams in 2018, which don’t have plans to play anywhere else.
• While we’re on the topic of trying to keep sports centers open, Scott Lewis and NBC 7’s Monica Dean teamed up for our newest San Diego Explained to review how the aging stadium in Mission Valley plays into the hopes and dreams of both San Diego State University and a private group of investors that wants to bring professional soccer to San Diego.
The city’s water department acknowledged Thursday that it overcharged hundreds of customers, a problem it blamed on workers incorrectly reading water meters. The city overcharged 343 customers an average of $303.
The department said it “found a pattern of misread water meters in parts of the following neighborhoods: Carmel Valley, Mira Mesa, Rancho Bernardo and Rancho Peñasquitos.” The department says it is now taking steps to ensure it can do this basic function of a utility correctly.
At least one employee has been disciplined, department spokesman Jerry McCormick told Voice of San Diego. He did not give any details.
For months, water customers have complained about abnormally and unjustifiably high bills. In the past, the water department blamed these problems on leaks, its own rate increases and even holiday guests who came over and used a lot of water.
The department’s internal investigation is ongoing. The city auditor is also looking into the matter. -Ry Rivard
Local journalist Kelly Davis has been reporting on vulnerable populations for many years, including a 2013 series of stories about 60 inmates of San Diego County’s prison system dying between 2007 and 2012. The county finds itself in hot water partially as a result of Davis’ report, so they recently got a judge to subpoena Davis and all her notes and reporting documents about the story, including her sources. VOSD contributor Randy Dotinga recites the steps that brought Davis to this perilous point and urges the County to back off.
“Davis, a highly respected colleague and fellow contributor to VOSD, did the right thing and refused to play ball with the county,” Dotinga writes. “The county legal team behind this latest fiasco needs to stand down before it ends up as another sorry exhibit in our local Legal Hall of Shame.”
It’s either a scandal in the making or the worst possible timing imaginable. The Union-Tribune’s Joshua Stewart reports that embattled labor leader Micky Kasparian’s union donated $10,000 to the Democratic Party only one day after party leaders decided he could keep his position on the San Diego County Democratic Central Committee, despite constant absenteeism from meetings that amounted to an assumed resignation under the committee’s own rules.
Calls for Kasparian to step down from his leadership roles have intensified in the wake of three successive lawsuits alleging gender discrimination or sexual misconduct. One of those lawsuits has settled, two are ongoing.
The San Diego Democratic Party’s chairwoman says the timing of the donation was a coincidence and that a request for the donation had been sent weeks earlier.
• A routine review of zoning codes in March could produce big changes to rules around food trucks, charter schools, and certain home businesses. (Union-Tribune)
• The flu has now claimed 231 lives and generated over 15,000 documented cases so far this year, compared to 39 deaths at this time last year. (Patch)
• Bike infrastructure projects funded through SANDAG are still coming, but they may be delayed. (KPBS)
• Find out how close you live to toxic waste fumes coming off of garbage facilities nearby. (Union-Tribune)
• Opposition to a four-story apartment complex project in Scripps Ranch is heating up. (San Diego Reader)
• Qualcomm is fending off a takeover bid from rival Broadcomm, unanimously voting down a $121 billion offer on Thursday (KPBS)
• A petition effort to force all county elections to a November run-off election has received a $100,000 boost from a union. (Union-Tribune)
• Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been holding a mentally ill grandmother in solitary confinement for three months at its facility in Otay Mesa. (Union-Tribune)
• The San Diego Museum of Art has made two big new acquisitions of famous paintings. (Union-Tribune)
• Nunu’s, one of San Diego’s most hallowed institutions of alcohol consumption, has been temporarily shut down due to health code violations. (NBC 7)
The California Democratic Party is in the process of endorsing 49th Congressional District candidates, not the San Diego Democratic Party, as this week’s North County Report noted.