Morning Report: Inside Pension Debacle; Goldsmith's Bungle - Voice of San Diego

Morning Report UNVEILING THE UNSEEN

Morning Report: Inside Pension Debacle; Goldsmith's Bungle

City attorney gets national attention for all the wrong reasons, how 1956 S.D. fire set new standards, and 1913 looks good from here.

Even in a budget of $2.75 billion, $25 million is no small chunk of change for the city. Officials planned to use the money — a kind of bonus from securing five-year labor deals — to hire more cops and expand library hours.

But, as our Lisa Halverstadt reports in a gripping story that provides a moment-by-moment timeline of the disaster, “ultimately key absences, confusion and more than 90 minutes of deliberation ended with a shocking result: The savings expected along with the hard-fought five-year labor deals that freeze pensionable pay increases for city staffers aren’t coming this year.”

The City Attorney’s Big Bungle

VOSD’s Scott Lewis digs into what’s turned into a mighty bad week for City Attorney Jan Goldsmith. Goldsmith is facing a “public relations disaster” over his office’s failed and “foolish” prosecution of a protester who wielded sidewalk chalk.

“The city attorney appeared to recognize the folly. But, as he often does, he danced an awkward line between wanting to blame someone else, this time his staff, and wanting to defend his actions,” Lewis writes.

Lewis rustled up some news too: Goldsmith said he’s reviewing his guidelines for picking cases to prosecute. (His office handles misdemeanors.)

• We have a follow-up to our major story this week about a Sunroad-like developer payoff that resulted in city officials backing off from snarling a project. Not surprisingly, Goldsmith, the city attorney, takes the opposite side of the mayor.

We note the weirdness of the case we uncovered: “It ended with the plaintiff paying the defendant as a condition for dropping its own lawsuit.”

• A local lawyer tells the Reader that he plans to sue over Goldsmith’s partial release of the transcript of a closed-door City Council meeting that prompted the city attorney to cancel future closed sessions to discuss legal or employee matters. If Goldsmith declines to release the whole transcript, the lawyer thinks he should get in trouble for releasing any of the transcript in the first place. Sounds like a bit of a lose-lose situation.

How S.D. Tragedy Set New Firefighting Rule

In a History Flashback story, I take a look at how a deadly San Diego-area wildfire in 1956 — it remains one of the worst wildland disasters for firefighters — changed the face of firefighting.

The tragic loss of 11 lives prompted the creation of 10 “standard” rules about fighting fires that remain in place today but have become controversial.

Quick News Hits

• We’ve gotten 25 submissions to win money in the Politifest Idea Tournament. Get more details about Politifest here.

• Mayor Filner is touting another money-saving city office lease, U-T San Diego reports. Check our previous story for background, and for reasons to be wary of any touted savings.

• The Culture Report highlights the Fringe Festival (no, it doesn’t have anything to do with the clothes they sell at the swap meet), poisoned palm trees near an art museum (!), six-second videos (almost long enough for my attention span) and more.

• We highlight a comment from a reader who thinks congressional candidate Carl DeMaio is right to avoid social issues.

• Laura Duffy, the local U.S. attorney who’s been cracking down on medical marijuana shops, attended a summit this week and seemed to be open to collaboration with the community, NBC 7 San Diego reports. “The more we can work together with members of the community to identify the legitimate individuals who need that treatment and not to expand the recreational use of marijuana, especially among our youth — then that’s something I want to be involved in.”

Compare and contrast her words with those from our January story here.

• The Baja California governor’s race is focusing on a fancy house in Chula Vista. The U-T has the details.

• Whites and Latinos have reached parity statewide, the AP reports.

• The Washington Post examines how many predicted sequester cuts, including Navy drawdowns in the Pacific, didn’t happen.

• The U-T offers a visual tour of the old downtown library.

• As a born-and-bred nerd, much of my non-misspent youth took place in a library (Chula Vista’s, to be exact). I still love libraries, at least when they’re actually open.

I just came across a 1913 San Diego city directory that’s full of nifty ads, including a fun one for The San Diego Union (“A Live Paper Is the Index of a Live City”).

Check the listing for the downtown public library that served the city of about 84,000 in 1913. It’s open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day except Sunday, when it’s only available from 2-5 p.m.

Compare that to now, when library branches are only open past 5:30 p.m. twice a week. Almost all are closed on Sundays. And they’re never open more than eight hours a day.

You know what they say: The more things change, the more they don’t remain the same.

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