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Morning Report: Hepatitis A Forced City Leaders to Act, But Big Homeless Issues Persist

Workers power-wash a sidewalk near the Midway area. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

San Diego’s reputation as a nice tourist destination was tarnished this year when an historic hepatitis A outbreak made international news.

The city’s homelessness crisis fueled the spread of the disease, and while city and county leaders had been holding meetings, writing memos and making plans to house the growing number of people sleeping on our streets, little was being done until San Diego’s hep A problem made its way into headlines.

In her latest story, Lisa Halverstadt revisits how hep A forced city officials to set aside their usual bureaucratic processes [1] and try to get people off the streets.

New shelter tents have gone up, but it’s unclear what will happen next for the folks who move into them — or for the hundreds of others who chose not to.

A handful of potential ballot measures to pay for permanent housing and homeless services may make their way onto the 2018 ballot. There’s also a new regional strategy to tackle homelessness, but leaders will need to maintain momentum now that the hep A crisis is calming and the pressure subsides.

“The question is whether San Diego leaders and perhaps voters will continue to demand results and make the tough decisions they’ve resisted for years,” Halverstadt writes.

Border Art by Actual Border Artists

If you’re on Instagram, you probably saw at least a half dozen photos of people standing in front of a large photo of a toddler peering over the international border wall in Tecate. The installation by famed French artist JR got a ton of media attention.

But even with the attention JR brought to the border — plus an uptick in interest in immigration policies from President Donald Trump’s aggressive border agenda — many local artists making border art are still struggling to get anyone’s attention.

I pulled together a photo essay highlighting six other works of border art by local artists [2] from 2017. Let me know if I missed anything [3].

Details on Escondido Council’s Salary Bump

The Escondido City Council voted to increase its own salaries by 10 percent over the next two years. To justify the bump, Mayor Sam Abed compared his salary to that of the Chula Vista mayor.

In his latest North County Report, VOSD contributor Ruarri Serpa digs into the figures [4], noting that Chula Vista is a fair bit larger than Escondido.

Also in the roundup of North County news: Oceanside is closer to allowing commercial medical marijuana operations and Encinitas learns that must build more affordable housing.

Weed Will Remain Illegal at Border Checkpoints

Pro tip: Don’t take weed on road trips that require passing through a Border Patrol checkpoint. The Associated Press reports that marijuana possession will still be prohibited at eight Border Patrol posts in California [5]. It’s yet another instance of the fundamental clash between federal and state marijuana laws.

In Other News

• A new analysis by the Fitch Ratings credit agency says that recently approved pay raises for San Diego police officers limit financial flexibility for the city [6], which is staring down projected budget deficits. (Union-Tribune)

• A new investigation from the New York Times found companies and clinics are taking advantage of the soaring cost of urinalysis tests [7], and one of those companies is San Diego-based Millennium Health. A Millennium spokeswoman told The New York Times that the company has had new owners since 2015 and now adheres “to the highest standards of responsible and ethical business practices.”

• A program that subsidizes monthly and annual transit passes for city employees needs to be tracked and controlled better. [8] (Union-Tribune)

• A renowned cancer expert at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla has been placed on administrative leave [9] due to a lawsuit alleging the institute systematically discriminates against female employees. Representatives for the institute deny the allegations. (Union Tribune)

• Chula Vista has long struggled to properly staff its police and fire departments. Now city leaders are mulling a sales tax hike to help solve the issue [10]. That comes on top of the sales tax increase Chula Vista residents approved last year to improve the city’s ailing infrastructure. (Union-Tribune)

• Sylvester Stallone scored the ultimate selfie. The actor paid $403,657 for a Rocky statue of himself [11] from the now-shuttered San Diego Hall of Champions in Balboa Park. (Times of San Diego)