Morning Report: The Mayor's Seal Spiel

Morning Report

Morning Report: The Mayor's Seal Spiel

Mayor botches marine claim, checking on the Witnesses, city makes a deal, more U-T layoffs and blocking Jim Jones.

Got a spare moment? You could spend it watching the 24-hour live “seal cam” that shows the activity at La Jolla’s Children’s Pool, the focus of an endless debate over the rights of humans and sea mammals.

Mayor Bob Filner wants to spend $50,000 in city money to keep the camera operating. After all, he recently declared, “We’ve become an internationally known center for seal research now” because of the camera.

But that’s not true. He should know better, so much so that we’ve awarded a rare “huckster propaganda” verdict to his claim. Read the Fact Check here.

Fact Check TV examines a conservative columnist’s bold claim about border fences.

Witnessing a Religious Movement in Action

A couple years ago, we stumbled across the fascinating story of how thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses converged on Qualcomm Stadium and gave it a deep cleaning. “I would never see myself scraping,” one cleaner told us. “For the stadium? No. For my God? Absolutely.”

The story became one of the most popular on our site for the year.

Now, our contributing photographer Sam Hodgson has returned to the stadium, this time to take photos of the “God’s Word Is Truth” District Convention. You can check the pictures here.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses, it turns out, have close ties to San Diego. As I reported in a history flashback article, attendees at the stadium “may not have known how close they were to a onetime landmark of their faith: A mansion in Kensington that was supposed to house biblical patriarchs like Abraham and Moses upon their return to the earth.”

The house was home to “a retired judge who steered the Jehovah’s Witnesses during one of their most controversial periods, a time when they changed their name, were prosecuted by the Nazis and helped set the course of religious rights in America.”

City Makes a Deal with Employees

The city and its unions have reached a tentative five-year labor deal, U-T San Diego reports: The contract “calls for a five-year freeze on the pensionable pay of city workers while at the same time giving them their first across-the-board compensation increases in several years.”

Filner touted the idea of a five-year agreement earlier this year, telling KPBS it would provide $25 million in “almost free money” in the first year and $25 million in the second. The VOSD Fact Check department deemed his claim to be true.

Even More Layoffs at U-T

• U-T San Diego has shuttered The Californian, a daily section covering the Temecula area – a move that came with newsroom and sales team layoffs.

The paper revealed some details in a story posted on its site Tuesday night: “‘The U-T will continue to publish a newspaper that delivers the region’s most complete, trusted and authoritative journalism,” (CEO John) Lynch said. A recent byline count shows about 10 news people were affected.”

Space 4 Art Needs Some … You Know

It now has non-profit status, so that’s good. But Space 4 Art, which offers studios, apartments and a gallery to artists in downtown’s East Village, needs a permanent home. The U-T has details, and its story leads the weekly VOSD Culture Report.

Also in the Culture Report: beatmaking, digital signs, La Jolla graffiti (it’s already jangling the upper crust) and the end of a summer-time run at the Old Globe.

Quick News Hits

• Our report on an exodus of schedulers from the office of Mayor Bob Filner leads the Top 10 list of VOSD’s most popular stories of the past week.

The Stumblr of the day comes from Spruce Street.

• VOSD sports blogger John Gennaro examines how the Padres have slumped thanks to various absences. He hopes the return of Yasmani Grandal will make a big impact.

• There’s more great news for the local economy and more stinky news for anyone who wants to buy a house: Home prices jumped by 2 percent from February to March of this year, according to the closely watched (but delayed) Case-Shiller index, and are up 12 percent over the past year, The New York Times reports.

Those numbers put the region in the middle of the pack among 20 major metro areas. Still, the local prices are 33 percent lower than the market peak in November 2005, according to numbers that aren’t adjusted for inflation.

• The government agency that runs the port is facing a $5 million shortfall in the 2013-2014 budget, the U-T reports. This year’s budget is $150 million.

“The port’s budget solutions will likely mean added costs for port tenants, who may pass that along to diners at restaurants, visitors to hotels, anglers on a sport fishing cruise or shoppers eating bunches of bananas unloaded at the 10th Avenue Marine Terminal,” the paper says.

• A news outfit called Frying Pan News is out with a story titled “How Enterprise Zones Are Killing the California Dream.” It looks at the government tax break program that’s supposed to woo businesses to struggling parts of the state. But, critics say, it actually helps regions that are doing fine and “simply rewards employers for moving jobs from one location to another.”

The governor has been trying to kill the zone program, but he hasn’t succeeded yet.

• Lots of readers reacted to our Q-and-A with uber-commenter Jim Jones, whose remarks grace our site nearly every day. Among other things, readers bashed him, bashed us and bashed editor Sara Libby, who wrote the piece.

Now, a reader has created a piece of software for the Chrome browser that will automatically block any comments on our site from Jones and replace them with a photo of a dog named Hazel.

Well, that’s handy. But don’t get any ideas, readers. There’s no need for a browser doohickey that blocks my work, so don’t even think about it. That means you too, Mom. (Some people!)

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego and vice president of the American Society of Journalists & Authors. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

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