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Morning Report: The Return of Jim Madaffer

Jim Madaffer is chairman of the San Diego County Water Authority. / Photo by Megan Wood

Jim Madaffer, the colorful former San Diego city councilman, is back in power, as chairman of the board of the San Diego County Water Authority.

Since October, Madaffer said, he’s spent about four to 10 hours a day on Water Authority business. Since he became chairman, two long-time staffers have left and talk has begun heating up about a multibillion-dollar tunnel project to give San Diego a second connection to water from the Colorado River.

The tunnel plan, which would take 20 years to build, would be the single largest, most expensive and complex project the Water Authority has ever attempted.

His main task, from which all else seems to stem, including the tunnel project, is somehow resolving the Water Authority’s long-running disputes with a rival water agency.

Prop. B, the Neverending Story

Michael Zucchet, leader of the largest union of San Diego employees, talked to Scott Lewis on the latest podcast about how the city can make its workers whole after the state Supreme Court determined a landmark pension reform was put on the ballot illegally. The courts stopped short of invalidating Proposition B, but Zucchet thinks the city should do itself a favor and accept defeat rather than continue to look for new legal avenues.

In the meantime, San Diego’s status as the only city in California where firefighters lack death-and-disability benefits may soon be coming to an end.

The U-T reports that city labor negotiators and the firefighters union have reached a deal to give those benefits to the more than 350 firefighters hired in recent years. Prop B, approved by voters in 2012, wiped it out.

Politics Roundup

A bill by Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath would bar Airbnb and similar companies from listing vacation rentals in San Diego County coastal zones for more than 30 days a year unless a full-time resident is on site. The bill, however, would give cities the ability to pass their own regulations renaming residential zones that now host lots of vacation rentals.

We imagine that Mayor Kevin Faulconer spent the weekend in a state of near nirvana, smiling absently as the imagines of an expanded Convention Center danced in his head. He successfully convinced two Democrats to move a tax increase to the March 2020 ballot. “We’re on an upswing,” said his chief of external affairs.  

During a ride-along with Customs and Border Patrol in Arizona, Rep. Duncan Hunter took video of himself pretending to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. It’s fortunate for him that the whole thing was a political stunt: Hunter cannot actually leave the country while he awaits trial. (Roll Call)

Termed-out Supervisor Dianne Jacob is campaigning hard for Poway Mayor Steve Vaus as her replacement. She is fueled in part, writes U-T columnist Michael Smolens, by her antipathy for another Republican challenger.

Room for Improvement in Foster Care

A new report by the U-T’s Morgan Cook calls into question the effectiveness of “voluntary services” agreements in the county child welfare system.

Those agreements allow families to participate in social services when social workers determine a child has likely been abused or neglected and is at risk of maltreatment. It spares the child the potential trauma of being separated from their parent.

But an internal review by a working group, Cook reports, is studying whether those agreements are being used too much and whether they delay the necessary removal of children from dangerous situations.

The county created that group after Cook reported on a lawsuit alleging that officials had repeatedly failed to stop the sexual abuse of two boys. She joined the podcast last summer to talk about her findings.

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.

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