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Morning Report: Random Subsidies

Dumanis makes major bid to keep huge pension if she wins new election, ex-Poway schools chief's court hearing is delayed, a building boon (but not for bike lanes) and potential GPS troubles loom

The city of San Diego’s business subsidy program is a mess. Andrew Keatts reports on a new audit that found the city doesn’t track the program well, or have a good system of determining who deserves special assistance. The benefits seem to go only to the connected.

Keatts focused on a Vons store in Mission Hills. The land was supposed to become affordable housing in a mixed use development. But Vons wanted it and threatened to not build there if the city didn’t act. The city ended up giving the company $57,000 worth of staff time to evade the development restrictions.

“Other businesses might wonder how they can tap into that sort of help. But the report found businesses in poor parts of town rarely get the same attention,” Keatts reports. Tax rebates seem to go out just as randomly.

Skydiving Center to Become Homeless Hub

The San Diego City Council voted unanimously to spend about $7 million in federal funds to buy an East Village building that was home, briefly, to an indoor skydiving center. The city wants to turn it into a homeless navigation center. Here are the services that could be housed there.

This isn’t a new concept. This is essentially what the PATH Connections Housing project downtown was envisioned to become years ago – minus the housing that’s part of the PATH project. But those plans didn’t quite pan out for a number of reasons. The navigation center, “central-intake” idea, took hold again last year.

• At the L.A. Times, columnist Steve Lopez scorches Los Angeles city and county officials for failing the thousands of homeless who live their short, painful, violence-filled lives on the streets in full view of the people in charge. His column has plenty of resonance here, where promises come and promises go and the homeless remain.

• The Salvation Army has received a $50 million donation from Ernest and Evelyn Rady to help local homeless people move into homes; another $30 million is still needed. (NBC 7)

Dumanis, in New Election Bid, Fought to Keep Pension

“Former District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis hired a legal team to lobby county pension officials to keep paying her monthly retirement benefits even if she wins a seat on the county Board of Supervisors,” the U-T reports.

It raises the specter of double-dipping by an elected official should she win her seat. A consultant for Dumanis says she planned to take no salary if she’s elected to the county board of supervisors, but a paper trail uncovered by the newspaper finds “no reference to Dumanis refusing to accept a supervisorial salary.”

A state law to rein in pension costs was supposed to prevent double dipping.

Dumanis’ pension pays her $268,800 each year. When she ran for mayor, Dumanis supported ending pensions for city employees. That year, we detailed how her pension is calculated and what it would reach should she win. It has gotten bigger since.

Hearing for Ex-Poway School Chief Postponed

John Collins, the former superintendent of Poway Unified schools who faces charges of misappropriating public money, was supposed to face a preliminary court hearing yesterday. However, his defense attorney said Collins couldn’t move forward with the hearing because of a medical issue, and it was postponed to April 9. (City News Service)

Check our story here about the downfall of the man who ran one of the most prestigious school districts in Southern California and was the second-highest paid public school employee in the entire state.

Building Boom Hits Santee and Universities…

Santee is seeing a sudden building boom. “The reason for all of the growth is that Santee is one of the few areas in San Diego County that still has available land to build,” NBC 7 reports.

The U-T has a roundup of billions of dollars worth of building plans by local universities.

… But New Bike Paths Have to Wait

KPBS recently reported a few weeks ago: SANDAG, the countywide coalition of governments, has spent $60 million to create bike lanes and make other changes to help cyclists, but fewer than four miles of improvements are actually finished.

The plan to build 77 miles of lanes is behind schedule, the U-T reports, although 50 miles of lanes are supposed to go online within the next three years.

“Bicycle advocates have criticized the agency for the slow rollout, as well as making changes to projects in order to appease business owners, some of whom fear the new lanes will hurt retail sales by displacing parking and increasing traffic congestion,” the newspaper reports.

The Metropolitan Transit System is spending $2 million to add more stops to certain bus and trolley routes.

One route through Hillcrest, Mission Hills and the Gaslamp Quarter, for instance, had been making stops just once an hour on Sundays. Now it’ll be twice an hour. (NBC 7)

Border Report: Immigrant Advocates Form Rapid Response Team

Local groups that support immigrants have created a rapid response team and opened a 24-hour hotline that’s already fielded hundreds of calls, reports our Maya Srikrishnan in this week’s VOSD Border Report.

The network does more than take calls. It “uses software and technology… to alert and verify immigration arrests. In San Diego, these arrests will activate a legal team led and coordinated by Jewish Family Service that will match either one of their attorneys or one from another nonprofit to each case.”

Also in the Border Report: Marijuana may be legalized in some parts of Mexico, some U.S. health insurers allow San Diegans to get covered medical care in Mexico, border patrol officers face threats from thrown rocks, and more.

Yet more reporting on how hard it would actually be to keep local law enforcement separate from immigration enforcement: The Electronic Frontier Foundation reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement has access to dozens of local data from license plate readers.

Quick News Hits: Mapping a GPS-Free Future

No surprise here: The City Council declined to accept Councilman Scott Sherman’s proposal that the presidency of the Council be rotated among Council members. The president has important agenda-setting powers, and the party in charge (the Democrats, currently) tends to control who gets the appointed spot. (KPBS)

Here’s hoping a certain loud-mouthed golf fan at the big tournament in Torrey Pines isn’t from here. You folks were raised better than this! (Deadspin)

There are fears that an Air Force exercise in Nevada over the next couple of weeks will disrupt GPS services across the Western United States, potentially disabling the ability of our smartphones to tell us where we are and how to get to where we want to go.

There’s no need to panic, people! We’ll do fine. I, for one, will just reach into the dark recesses of the trunk of my car to find some printed maps. See? Here’s a… 1987 Thomas Guide. Hmm. And… a AAA map of Phoenix that hasn’t been unfolded since the Clinton Administration.

Yikes. Ok, it’s officially time to panic.

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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