What We Learned This Week | Voice of San Diego

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What We Learned This Week

Adventures in #bestcoast politics.

The beauty of being a journalist in San Diego, Scott Lewis and Andy Donohue told me while I was interviewing for this gig, is that all you have to do is look. Look into a corner of politics or policy, and Bam! a story will hit you like it was an old-school “Batman” TV graphic. Now I, too, tell this to journalists when they come to town.

Sacramento doesn’t seem like it should be that kind of place. As the capital of the most populous state in the nation, it should be teeming with journalists. And it does have some truly stellar ones – but there are fewer than there used to be. The Union-Tribune recently laid off at least one of its Sacramento reporters as it consolidated with the L.A. Times. Bureaus for national outlets have closed shop. Sacramento is becoming a town that needs more people just willing to take a look.

I started writing about Sacramento by accident. I’ve written plenty about politics over the years, but when Brian Joseph, who helped us launch the Sacramento Report, left for a full-time gig, I figured I’d fill in for a couple weeks. That was eight months ago.

We’ve checked in on all the members of San Diego’s legislative delegation at one point or another. We recently held a live podcast taping with Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, and have an event with Assemblywoman Shirley Weber coming up this week. We’re still limited in many ways, not just because I have one or two other things to keep me busy here at VOSD but also because we’re almost as far away geographically as one can get and still be in the same state. We’d love to build a bigger freelance network in Sacramento (tell your friends).

Still, it’s been thrilling to build up a little statehouse coverage machine from scratch. I’m pumped so many of you nerds have come along for the ride.

What VOSD Learned This Week

The phrase “follow the money” is a bit of an inside joke around the office. It’s overused and obvious to the point of becoming cliché. It can also make the process of poring through records and obtaining information people don’t want you to have sound easy.

But it’s not wrong, either. Examining where politicians and others get their money will always be fertile ground. That’s what Liam Dillon learned when he decided to poke around the city’s towing industry, and discovered that towing companies are perhaps the largest source of illegally laundered money in local politics over the last decade. District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, in particular, has received thousands of dollars’ worth of questionable donations from tow company owners and others.

Mario Koran did the paper chase too, and broke the story a few weeks back that school board president Marne Foster had held a private fundraiser to benefit her sons. This week, she apologized for the event and called it “a Mistake of the Heart.”

What Else VOSD Learned

• It’s one step forward, two steps back for the waterfront Convention Center expansion.

A study released recently showed that such an expansion could be a boon for the city. But as Ashly McGlone points out, the study might also undermine the expansion because it shows another type of expansion could also work. That’s a problem because the city is arguing in court that a waterfront expansion is the only feasible option. Another blow to the project: JMI Realty says it won’t build a hotel nearby – the project would have been a cash cow that could’ve helped fund the expansion.

• The ouster of the L.A. Times/Union-Tribune publisher is a good reminder that decisions about San Diego’s newspaper are being made far, far away.

• Mario Koran made a great primer on some of the education hot potatoes we’ll be dealing with at Tuesday’s One Voice at Time event with Weber.

• Chula Vista really, really wants developers to set up shop along its waterfront.

• The city’s new public art manager wants to see new projects become edgier and exist in neighborhoods beyond downtown.

• Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman re-upped her “Riot Standard” for releasing body camera footage to the public.

What I’m Reading

• If you read one thing this week, it should be this gorgeous, forceful essay by Julia Ioffe making the case that America should take in more refugees. (Foreign Policy)

• This epic, exhaustive investigation uncovers what exactly happened between the NFL and the New England Patriots during the Spygate and Deflategate scandals. (ESPN)

• Nikole Hannah-Jones has really owned journalism over the last month or so. She was the reporter behind that stunning “This American Life” series on school integration. Now, she has a piece examining the dearth of black medical students and tiny Xavier University’s Herculean effort to make up the gap. (New York Times Magazine)

• For years now, we’ve heard from Anne-Marie Slaughter about women in the workplace, and the struggle to “have it all.” Now, her husband shares his side of the equation. (The Atlantic)

• This list of potential National Geographic cover stories now that Rupert Murdoch owns the mag is hilarious. Sample entries: “There Are Ice Cubes In My Drink, So How Can Global Warming Exist?” “The Ten Most Reaganesque Animals” (The Toast)

Line of the Week

“To be perfectly honest with you I don’t want to be here.” – Serena Williams, when asked during a post-match press conference why she wasn’t smiling. (Now that I think about it, I’ve never heard a jubilant Super Bowl victor exclaim: “I’m going to … the post-game presser!”)

What do you think?
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