Morning Report: RIP, These Highway Projects | Voice of San Diego

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Morning Report: RIP, These Highway Projects

Hasan Ikhrata, the executive director of SANDAG / Photo by Megan Wood

Hasan Ikhrata has been clear since taking over SANDAG that the agency doesn’t have the money to build everything that voters approved with the 2004 sales tax measure TransNet, and that he wouldn’t want to build those projects even if the agency had the money, but he’s now getting more clear than ever about which old projects don’t fit into his new vision.

During a meeting last month of an oversight committee for TransNet, Ikhrata spelled out that 21 unbuilt projects — 19 of them freeway enhancements — are not part of the regional plan through 2050 that officials on the SANDAG board are expected to approve this fall. SANDAG staff in a follow-up interview confirmed that unless the board objects, those old TransNet projects are dead.

“These projects, not only do we not have the money to do them – they’re not the right projects for San Diego,” Ikhrata said. “We’re telling you that straight out. I thank you for listening to us.”

Faulty revenue projections over-estimated how much TransNet would bring in, and the projects the agency completed ended up costing way more than expected, as Voice of San Diego first revealed in 2016. Now, Ikhrata said, the agency expects to have only $700 million available between now and 2048, almost all of it coming after 2035. Plus, state mandates have forced the agency’s hand in departing from its previous focus on highway expansion projects, to its new approach of building an integrated regional network with its backbone as a new, fast and frequent commuter rail system covering hundreds of miles around the county.

Facing Pushback, Sheriff Says He Assumed Deputy in Video Was Overdosing

Medical professionals continue to push back against a body-worn camera video released by the Sheriff’s Department purporting to show a deputy overdosing from incidental contact with fentanyl in a San Marcos parking lot in July. As the video has gone viral in recent days, toxicology experts have lined up to express doubt that a fentanyl overdose can be triggered through contact with skin or through inhalation. 

Sheriff Bill Gore made a number of startling admissions to the U-T about the video. He said he alone concluded that the deputy was overdosing and decided to publicize the video without any input from physicians. He also vowed to release more information but said, in the words of the newspaper, “there was a chance there might not have been a toxicology test taken.” 

The deputy, Gore also said, was out of the country as of Monday. (For you non-journalists out there, that means the deputy is harder to track down for comment.) 

Gloria Relaunches Office Responsible for Emergency Planning

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria announced that he’s relaunched the city’s Office of Homeland Security as the Office of Emergency Services. “This change refocuses our efforts on disaster preparedness and positions the city to better respond in times of crisis,” he said on social media. 

It’s not immediately clear how the new office will differ from the old office, which was also engaged in disaster preparedness. But as Jesse Marx reported in April, Gloria’s decision to separate homeland security duties from the Police Department was a significant and overlooked part of his wider police reform package. Former Mayor Kevin Faulconer had merged homeland security and policing during his administration. 

Going forward, Gloria has named Christopher Heiser, a veteran of the Carlsbad and San Diego fire and rescue departments, to be executive director. City News Service reported that Heiser also served as incident commander for Operation Shelter to Home at the San Diego Convention Center and was instrumental in setting up city-operated vaccination sites. 

More Vaccine Mandates

In Other News

  • Dominion Voting Systems sued San Diego’s One America News Network and Newsmax Media, alleging they defamed the U.S. voting machine company by spreading false claims it rigged the 2020 election against former President Donald Trump. (Times of San Diego)
  • After roughly a month of intense, coordinated outreach, hundreds of homeless people in downtown San Diego have moved into shelters, but hundreds remain on the streets. (Union-Tribune)
  • The trial is underway for the fired La Mesa police officer accused of falsifying his report in the arrest of Amaurie Johnson. (NBC 7) 

The Morning Report was written by Andrew Keatts, Jesse Marx and Maya Srikrishnan, and edited by Sara Libby.

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