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Morning Report: RIP, Convention Center Measure

The San Diego Convention Center / Image courtesy of the San Diego Convention Center Corp.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s rush to try to save his long-running push to expand the Convention Center blew up on Thursday when the City Council failed to vote to place his proposed hotel-tax hike on the ballot.

The mayor had hoped to save the flailing effort after Wednesday’s bombshell news it had fallen short of a state-required threshold to quickly be placed on the ballot before the Friday deadline.

The 4-4 vote, with City Council Democrats opposing a measure nearly identical to Faulconer’s measure, could have major ramifications for the mayor’s legacy and the issues most important to him.

Scott Lewis tells the tale of how we got here after last year’s effort to put a similar measure on the ballot failed. It was a long road from a California Supreme Court ruling that made a tax increase seemingly a lot easier to achieve, and a signature-gathering effort that bombed spectacularly.

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The City Council’s vote means a Convention Center expansion can’t move forward and that the city won’t get an influx of homeless funding that the measure also would have provided despite increasing public pressure to respond to the crisis. It also leaves the city with a slew of questions to answer about addressing both the homelessness problem and a land deal reached with developers who had planned to build on the land the city planned to use to expand the convention center.

City Council President Pro Tem Barbara Bry and other City Council Democrats said Thursday they couldn’t rush through a process they felt required more public input.

“It’s clear that the Council has well-established policies and procedures for how we place a measure on the ballot,” Bry said.  “If we make an exception today, we will be losing the trust of our residents.”

Faulconer fired back after the meeting.

“The City Council talks a big game about making our city better but when it came time for action all we heard were excuses,” the mayor wrote in a statement.

Yet the City Council vote will likely reflect far more on Faulconer’s legacy than on the City Council’s.

  • The coalition of business and labor groups backing the citizens’ initiative announced Thursday it plans to sue one of the consultants that worked on the measure, Arno Petition Consultants, “for breach of contract and fraudulent practices,” it said in a release. The campaign said it discovered the firm misrepresented how many signatures it had gathered and how many were valid.
  • The campaign also expressed hope that the measure could be viable for the 2020 election. If its signatures are deemed valid, it would make that ballot. The question is: Would it have the support then?

McNeil Case Began in a Familiar Way

National City police officers monitor a City Council meeting. / Photo by Vito Di Stefano

There’s still much we don’t know about what happened to Earl McNeil, the man who stopped breathing while in the custody of the National City Police Department and later died. City officials have refused to release body camera footage and other information about his case so far.

But one thing we do know is that McNeil came in contact with the police because he reached out to them.

This is actually how many stories of police interactions that end in death or serious injury begin, reports VOSD’s Jesse Marx.

It was the case for Alfred Olango, a man fatally shot by an El Cajon police officer in 2016. Olango’s sister had called 911 to request help for Alfred, who was having a mental breakdown.

It’s the case in more than half of San Diego’s police shooting or in-custody death cases that police first came into contact with them through a call for service.

Another common thread among police use-of-force cases is mental illness: Roughly a quarter of the ones in San Diego County last year involved civilians who displayed signs of mental distress.

National City’s police chief has a pretty shocking take on how officers deal with the mentally ill: He suggests families should basically expect that if they call police about a loved one in distress, force will be deployed.

In some cases, he said, “people call us and say the person is out of control and we get there and they go, ‘But don’t hurt him.’ But it’s like, they’re out of control and tearing up the room. How are we going to stop them? Honestly.”

Special Podcast: The Shermanator

Scott Sherman

San Diego City Councilman Scott Sherman / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Scott Sherman is on fire.

In a special podcast, the councilman talks about his frustration with a few of the recent decisions his colleagues have made.

The new vacation rental regulations: Sherman said they are an infringement on property rights and possibly face a strong legal challenge.

The lease extension between San Diego State University and the city for the Mission Valley stadium: Sherman said the City Council should have pushed for a better deal for taxpayers.

And on the city’s pension measure: He thinks the U.S. Supreme Court should take it up.

The Opioid Overdose Feedback Loop

When doctors who prescribe opioids later find out that some of their patients died from an overdose, they start prescribing less opioids.

That’s the big finding of a study in San Diego that included about 800 local doctors, dentists and others who had prescribed opioids and other risky medications to patients. Half of the doctors got letters from the medical examiner’s office informing them of patients’ overdose deaths, the other half didn’t. Those who got the letters started prescribing less opioids, those who didn’t prescribed the same amount.

The paper was published Thursday in the journal Science, the Associated Press reports. Back in January, the Union-Tribune wrote a deep dive on the study and one of its authors, Dr. Roneet Lev, chief of emergency medicine at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego. Here’s the podcast version of the U-T story.

Other News

The Morning Report was written by Maya Srikrishnan and Kinsee Morlan, and edited by Sara Libby.

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