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Preview: Voice of San Diego

Voice of San Diego Podcast

Published: Mon, 16 Apr 2018 21:13:53 +0000

Last Build Date: Mon, 16 Apr 2018 21:15:56 +0000


I Made it in San Diego: The Making of a Local Music Legend

Mon, 16 Apr 2018 21:13:53 +0000

If you listen to local music, then you’ve heard of Tim Mays.   Mays is the cofounder and co-owner of San Diego’s mythic music venue The Casbah.   On this episode of "I Made it in San Diego," Voice of San Diego's podcast about local businesses and the people behind them, hear how Mays went from a kid handing out concert fliers to an indie music legend.   Mays started booking and producing shows in San Diego in the early 1980s as a way to make sure his favorite bands came through town. By the mid '80s, Mays and some of his friends also wanted to open a bar more geared toward his generation – with their music in the jukebox.   Mays' side gig promoting shows and the bar he helped open, The Pink Panther, both found quick success. He quit his day jobs and became a serial entrepreneur with a knack for opening businesses that grew to be local icons.   "I never said, 'I don't want to work for the man,' I just was lucky enough to not have to after a certain point."   After the birth of The Casbah, Mays continued to open new bars, restaurants and businesses in San Diego – Starlite restaurant, Vinyl Junkies record store and Krakatoa coffee shop among them. He's created opportunities for dozens of local bands and artists, helped turn neighborhoods into thriving communities and still finds time to think about what business he might open next.

Media Files:

Airport Transit Envy

Fri, 13 Apr 2018 23:31:20 +0000

Los Angeles is stepping up its game when it comes to public transit. This week, the Los Angeles City Council pulled the trigger on a $4.9 billion transit project to connect people to the Los Angeles International Airport. That news spurred some jealously here in San Diego, where our trolley doesn't extend to the airport. It also resurfaced the news that Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher is proposing legislation to kill the agency that oversees the San Diego International Airport, putting it back under the Port of San Diego's control. Gonzalez Fletcher told VOSD that the Airport Authority's independence cripples transit planning, and the switch would make things better. In a rare moment of alliance, Republican Supervisor Ron Roberts indicated he might support the proposal. He told CityBeat recently that the agency has done nothing to help with traffic congestion near the airport. Meanwhile, the agency's chairwoman says the Airport Authority is doing just fine. On this week's podcast, hosts Sara Libby, Andrew Keatts and Scott Lewis talk about San Diego's envy when it comes to L.A.'s new public transit connection to its airport, and what a shift in airport control in San Diego might mean. Also in the podcast, some reaction to the bill introduced by San Diego Assemblywoman Shirley that would narrow the circumstances in which police officers could kill, an update on the fractured local labor unions and a breakdown of two big water projects. In the second half of the show, Jen Campbell joins the hosts to talk about her bid to represent City Council District 2, which includes the city’s beach areas and part of Clairemont. Campbell's a medical doctor. She said she's running so she can help the city work through issues like homelessness, housing affordability and short-term vacation rentals. She also apologized for, and explained, the controversial statements she made about homeless people during a campaign speech in January. About vacation rentals – a hot-button issue in the city's coastal communities – Campbell said she's open to a ban of whole-home rentals and OK with people who rent out rooms in the homes in which they live. "We have to try and preserve our neighborhoods, preserve our zoning and be fair," Campbell said. "This is a new way of taking a vacation, and it's not going to go away. San Diego's a great vacation destination." Hero of the Week "Water Man Dave" is our hero. Longtime homeless advocate John David Ross died this week. He earned his nickname by driving around San Diego and giving bottles of water and hugs to homeless people. Goat of the Week The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department gets the goat. The agency restrains women inmates who are in labor as a matter of routine, despite a state law that says that should only happen in very limited circumstances.

Media Files:

Potcast: High on Inspiration

Mon, 09 Apr 2018 20:06:14 +0000

Abby Dorsey isn’t the first rapper to embrace weed. Obviously. But the way she speaks about it is unique — more as a medicine than a street drug. Better known as MC Flow, Dorsey started smoking Philly blunts as a teenager and now advocates for patients through her music. She’s also found cannabis to be a useful tool in the creative process, something that stimulates the mind by quieting anxiety. "It turns my brain on in a way, and tunes me into this different frequency, that I tend to find invigorating," she told the Voice of San Diego Potcast. During an interview with Kinsee Morlan and me, Dorsey also talked about shooting a music video at the Urbn Leaf in Bay Pay and the complexity of consuming cannabis while raising a child. Her 2014 holiday single “Pot in the Latkes” is a celebration of getting stoned with your family on Hanukkah, and her latest record is “Her Highness,” which blends humor and politics. It includes a song about Charlotte Figi, a Colorado girl whose use of CBD-oil to alleviate seizures helped mainstream America re-evaluate the war on drugs. Dorsey has been surprised by the people — other moms, neighbors, even her parents — who’ve approached her in recent years, as the taboo began to lift, seeking advice. "People were emailing me and asking me questions and sharing stories, and it just made me realize how kind of desperate people were to talk about this in a way, because we've all been kind of taught not to talk about it," she said, adding: "The only way that we're going to learn and move forward and heal ourselves in a better way is if we actually come out of that closet." Also on the podcast, Morlan and I considered the Board of Supervisors’ race, Oceanside’s new medical ordinance and a report of steady recreational sales at dispensaries. We closed the show by talking with our friend and photojournalist Vito Di Stefano, who shared strange but true tales from the world of potlandia. Some moms are taking tiny amounts of cannabis to relax while avoiding a psychoactive high. And Colorado is finally getting a THC-infused beer. Email us your ideas for future episodes.

Media Files:

The Big Power Shift

Fri, 06 Apr 2018 22:19:48 +0000

A big decision looms: Will the city of San Diego start its own agency to buy and sell energy, or will San Diego Gas & Electric continue to control the energy market? The city says it can go gas-free and get to its legally mandated Climate Action Plan target of 100 percent renewable energy quicker than SDG&E, a utility that has the word "gas" in its name. SDG&E disagrees, and has a plan to hit the goal by 2035. VOSD's Ry Rivard joins hosts Sara Libby, Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts to break down what he's learned about the possible impending power shift. Two of the state’s only government-run power agencies, called community choice aggregators, are Marin Clean Energy and Sonoma Clean Power. Rivard explains how the two CCAs may not have made much difference in the fight against climate change because of "resource shuffling," or buying cleaner energy for themselves while the agencies selling off that green energy then replace it with dirtier power for their own customers. Meanwhile, SDG&E says it has a solid plan to get to renewables by the 2035 deadline. But a city-funded review by an outside consultant said SDG&E's plan isn't as solid as the company claims. Also, thanks to strings attached to a past deal, SDG&E might soon have to buy a $280 million gas plant in Otay Mesa. Also on the podcast, Lewis, Libby and Keatts talk about how taboos surrounding cannabis are starting to lift. Candidates at a recent county supervisor debate openly talked about their own experiences with cannabis. In the second half of the show, Councilman Chris Cate talks about his controversial SoccerCity memo leak, his exasperation over the City Council's inability to regulate the home-sharing industry, the housing crunch, shareable bikes and more. Cate said his office's priorities are public safety, infrastructure, economic development and civic engagement. He said he's running to continue to represent Kearny Mesa, Mira Mesa, Miramar and the rest of District 6 so he can continue those efforts. About that leak of a confidential memo from the city attorney's office about SoccerCity, one of two proposals to redevelop the Mission Valley stadium site, Cate said he paid a fine to the city's ethics commission and he considers the issue resolved. "I felt that I was acting within the law to gather information on a very important decision that was coming to the council," he said. "If I had to do it over again, I probably would do it in a different way." Earlier this year, when the City Council failed to pass short-term rental regulations, Cate said "inaction has proved that as a City Council we cannot govern." He's still frustrated about that, and said the city should set up a permitting system that can help generate fees to pay for enforcement efforts. And about all those bright, shareable bikes piling up around town that some folks love and others loathe: Cate said he digs them. "It's a disruptive technology," he said. "There's going to be kind of those speed bumps in the road at the beginning, but It'll work itself out and I think it's great to have them." Hero of the Week Roger Showley is the hero this week. The Union-Tribune reporter retired this month after 44 years. Most recently, he covered development, growth and land use. His goodbye column is worth a read. Goat of the Week The goat goes to San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore who, in an interview with the Union-Tribune this week, admitted that he's thought a lot about firing sheriff commander Dave Myers, who's running against Gore to be the county's top law enforcement officer. He's aware of the bad optics of that move, though, so he's not firing Myers yet. Good move, but even talking about firing your opponent is awkward.

Media Files:

Supes in the Spotlight

Fri, 30 Mar 2018 20:39:07 +0000

It was an unusually newsy week for the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, whose work often goes under the radar. In this week’s podcast, Sara Libby and Scott Lewis dive into the various ways in which the board made headlines. VOSD’s Maya Srikrishnan broke the news this week that the board is considering following Orange County’s lead and jumping into a lawsuit between the Trump administration and the state of California – on Trump’s side. The lawsuit is over the state’s sanctuary policies that limit police cooperation with immigration enforcement. The supervisors will meet in closed session to discuss that issue, and another fight Trump and California are having over the 2020 census. Also on the podcast, our hosts discuss an interesting move being made by one of the Board of Supervisors candidates in District 5. Jacqueline Arsivaud is banking on the idea that residents are anti-development, and is tying her candidacy to the Safeguard Our San Diego Countryside initiative on the November ballot, which would force a public vote on developments that don’t fit within the county’s zoning plan. If passed, the initiative would be a harsh blow to developments that have been pushing for the board’s approval for years. Also on the podcast: Lewis and Andrew Keatts interview Christian Ramirez, who is running to represent District 8 on the San Diego City Council. Ramirez was at one point diagnosed with lymphoma – which he attributes to growing up in a pollution-heavy San Diego neighborhood where industry and residential homes sit next to each other. As an adult, Ramirez says he still suffers from health issues, but now he wants to do something about it. “I have a 4-year-old kid now and I want to make sure that he grows up in a healthy, clean environment,” he said. “And that's really the reason why I am running for office.” Prior to joining the race, Ramirez worked in Washington D.C. on border and immigration policy issues for Alliance San Diego, an organization that advocates for social justice. He says he returned home because he wants to represent San Diegans who have been underserved for decades. “It’s shameful that 40 years later, Otay Mesa, Logan Heights and Barrio Logan are among the most polluted communities in the county of San Diego,” he said. “All in District 8.” Beyond environmental issues, Ramirez is looking to take a firm stance on other issues that affect local minorities, something he says Councilman David Alvarez isn’t doing. “I think David has done as much as he could for District 8. I think that often times political ambitions may have gotten in the way of reaching agreements that we needed in the Council to improve the quality of life of District 8,” Ramirez said. “That’s not what I’m about.” Hero of the Week Our hero this week goes to Cali Brown, who was named California's Deputy First Dog earlier this week. She's a two-month-old bordoodle — a mix of a poodle and a border collie  — and will assist "First Dog Colusa Brown in herding staff at the State Capitol," the governor's office announced. Goat of the Week 97.3 The Machine gets the goat this week. San Diego's new sports radio station faced a big-time backlash after one of its hosts, Kevin Klein, posted a tweet that joked about suicides at the Coronado Bridge. The Padres, which had just announced a partnership with the station, aren't happy and urged the station to change direction.

Media Files:

Potcast: Training the Next Generation of Budtenders

Wed, 28 Mar 2018 18:37:45 +0000

An Encinitas-based company that connects marijuana companies with workers got media attention recently when it posted an advertisement for a “420 product tester.” The stories practically wrote themselves, revolving around the same theme: Get paid to smoke pot. But the legal industry is much bigger than that. Local recruiters are also looking for marketers, purchasing directors and, of course, budtenders, the people who walk the floors of dispensaries answering questions about strains and potency and whatnot. With these and other job skills in mind, Christine Fallon has created a course at the San Diego Community College District’s Cesar Chavez campus. It’s broken into three sessions that cover horticulture, pharmacology and the law, with an emphasis on the permitting process. Fallon hopes to expand on these lessons and turn the course into a certification program, giving marijuana workers a greater base of knowledge for things like pesticides. "It's the industry that needs to demand it," she told the Voice of San Diego Potcast. "It's us, it's the customers. We need to go into the dispensary and say, 'Hey, are you getting your buds tested?'" For the time being, Nathan Lou, a health and wellness consultant who teaches the session on horticulture, said the course provides a lot of information in a short period of time without overwhelming the audience. "After the class, we leave students with a very broad scope of understanding about how the field could work," he said. "But of course with more knowledge comes more awareness that you need to know more details out there.” Not all the jobs pay well. Some budtenders and deliverers are lucky to get $15 an hour. The same goes for some security guards. Marijuana is becoming a retail trade like any other, and whether it can sustain good careers — or devolve into the fast-food model — is still an open question. Morlan and I also talked about one of my recent stories. The California Bureau of Cannabis Control has sent cease-and-desist letters to at least 375 illegal operators of marijuana in the San Diego region in recent weeks, as part of a statewide crackdown. The city of San Diego has only 12 legal dispensaries. Those numbers suggest that the black market is doing just fine, and some local law enforcement is skeptical that bad actors are going to willingly leave the industry. Last week, District Attorney Summer Stephan suggested that pot wasn’t high on her list of priorities, especially if it meant fewer resources for murder or domestic violence or child abuse cases.

Media Files:

The DA Takes All Our Questions

Sat, 24 Mar 2018 00:50:55 +0000

The number of prescription drug and other opioid-related deaths in San Diego County are on the rise. Human trafficking has long been a problem in San Diego. Those are two of the big issues that have the attention of the district attorney’s office. In this week’s podcast, District Attorney Summer Stephan sat down for an in-depth interview with hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts to talk about her priorities as the region’s top law enforcement official, and to answer a wide range of questions. Stephen, who’s running to keep her seat, talks about her approach to plea offers and who should benefit from them. She shares her thoughts on an impending endorsement from an influential reform-minded political action committee, discusses her distaste for partisan politics, shares her her ideas about keeping immigration enforcement separate from the work the DA does, explains her shift on marijuana enforcement efforts and more. And in the most detail she’s provided to the public yet, Stephan explained why she recused herself from the investigation of City Councilman Chris Cate for his disclosure of a confidential city attorney’s memo related to the SoccerCity proposal to redevelop the stadium site in Mission Valley. Stephan said while she felt her office could have conducted the investigation fairly, she passed it to the attorney general since there could have been a public perception of conflict for a few reasons. The biggest issue, she said, was that her campaign treasurer April Boling has been an outspoken proponent of the SoccerCity proposal. “I look at it as are people going to have confidence in this decision,” Stephan said. “Are they going to have trust? Are they going to think about it? And that’s one of the things that I considered in addition to talking with the attorney general’s office. And I think we both reached the conclusion that that was the right decision.” Also on the podcast, Lewis and Keatts talk about the difference between bikes and homeless people. If homeless people block public sidewalks with their stuff, they can get ticketed by police officers. But the fleets of shareable bikes being left in the public right-of-way don’t suffer the same fate. A recent report by VOSD’s Lisa Halverstadt brings up a valid question: What is the legally defensible distinction between bikes and homeless people? If officers are giving encroachment citations to homelessness people, shouldn’t the bike owners be ticketed, too? And a quote in Lewis and Keatts’ Politics Report by former Navy SEAL Josh Butner, a Democrat running to represent California’s 50th District, caused quite a stir. In it, Butner said military service should be a prerequisite for running for political office. A U-T reporter picked up on the comment and ran a story. Other journos followed suit. Hero of the Week Michael Turko is retiring. He’s our hero this week. After 20 years at KUSI, where he became known as a reporter who stood up for the little guy and investigated cases in which San Diegans felt they’ve been wronged, Turko announced his retirement this week.  Check out this interview we did with Turko on the podcast. Goat of the Week The local cities that can hardly wait to delete their records are the goat this week. California law requires cities to keep emails for a minimum of two years, but half of the cities in San Diego County delete most of their emails from city servers in much less time. That ain’t right.

Media Files:

Trump Came and Didn't Even Get a Taco

Fri, 16 Mar 2018 19:52:40 +0000

Talk about an epic clash of worldviews. When President Donald Trump came to San Diego to kick the tires of the border wall prototypes, he used the opportunity to trash California. "The place is totally out of control," he said. "You have sanctuary cities, where you have criminals living in the sanctuary cities." The thing is: San Diego is really safe. Last year, crime rates were the lowest they've been in 49 years. Trump's comments turned hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts into San Diego boosters this week. In the podcast, they put aside their usual criticisms of the region and its issues and instead talked about how things are pretty good here. Also in the show, Lewis and Keatts discuss the conflicts and nuances between federal immigration policies and California's SB 54, which limited the ways local law enforcement can interact with federal immigration officials. And they talk about the big power shifts happening with local labor unions. Also, how about that solid Politics Report open rate, eh? People are really digging Lewis and Keatts' new Sunday email newsletter. Fighting for District 8's Fair Share Antonio Martinez wants to replace Councilman David Alvarez in representing Barrio Logan, San Ysidro and the rest of District 8. In the second half of the show, Martinez joined Lewis and Keatts to talk about why he's running. He complained that San Ysidro, his neighborhood, is disconnected from the city. He said people in there, and in other parts of the district, deserve more services and better representation. "I really want to make sure we get our fair share," he said. "District 8 has been short-changed by the city of San Diego, historically." Hero of the Week San Marcos Unified School District is the hero this week. Most of the time, we fight government agencies for public records, but this time we're fighting alongside San Marcos Unified School District for public records related to sexual harassment and misconduct complaints. Some school districts and their attorneys want the records to remain private. They argue the identity of employees reprimanded for wrongdoing should remain secret, but San Marcos Unified said the records should be disclosed. Goat of the Week This is a little wonky, but the goat this week is the San Diego Unified school board elections. Two trustees in the upcoming election are running unopposed. The system is set up to discourage people from running for the school board. Reform is needed.

Media Files:

Potcast: Entrepreneurs with a Sense of Morality

Wed, 14 Mar 2018 19:00:47 +0000

They work in an all-cash business and get taxed multiple times on the same dollar. Most are forced into the parts of town where the adult-entertainment shops go. The products on their shelves remain illegal under federal law. Given the incredible risk and cost, why would anyone operate a marijuana dispensary in San Diego? On our second episode of the Voice of San Diego Potcast, Kinsee Morlan and I consider the difficulty of steering an industry that still has one oar in the prohibitionist era. The podcast is a semi-regular endeavor, and its goal is to make marijuana culture and politics accessible to the average citizen. Before opening storefronts in Kearny Mesa and Mission Valley, Rocky Goyal worked in commercial real estate. He said he discovered the medicinal qualities of marijuana after his mom got sick. Alex Scherer also worked in real estate and began looking for his next endeavor after the market crashed. He came to cannabis with a social justice perspective, founding the Southwest Patients Group in San Ysidro. “Cannabis has impacted communities of color disproportionately,” he said, “and now that it's legalized, I'm hoping to see a lot of relief for those communities. Overall, it's just an exciting thing to be a part of.” They see themselves both as businessmen and advocates — entrepreneurs with a sense of morality. Scherer also founded the United Medical Marijuana Coalition, a trade group that played a key role in writing San Diego’s regulations. Later in the show, we talked to our colleague Maya Srikrishnan about the implications of a growing market for California-grown marijuana in Mexico. Some wealthier residents of Tijuana, she recently wrote, cross the consume marijuana products in San Diego. Others are openly driving supplies through checkpoints and getting away with it, because Mexican border agents busy looking for green baggies and joints; they don’t know how to spot oils and edibles. Not all bud is making its way across the border illegally. A Poway-based company is permitted to sell CBD products — which are non-psychoactive — to Mexicans who have a doctor’s prescription. There’s now a push to legalize medical marijuana in parts of northern Mexico. When and if that happens is anyone’s guess, but the influence of Proposition 64 is undeniable. Send your suggestions, for future guests and questions, my way. Check out the first episode about independent delivery services.  

Media Files:

San Diego Dems Ascending

Fri, 09 Mar 2018 20:42:40 +0000

San Diego Dems are gaining steam. Shifting demographics are driving the region further away from its traditional Republican roots. In this week's show, Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts talk about how Democratic leaders and labor unions are wielding their growing influence. Dems have used some of their momentum to push reform of several local government agencies – powerful institutions that have a big impact on regional planning, land use and governance. Keatts broke the news this week that Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher is proposing legislation to put the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority back under the Port of San Diego's umbrella. She says the move would make for a more cohesive approach to regional planning. Meanwhile, the Airport Authority's chairwoman says they're doing just fine. Reforming the Airport Authority is just the latest move by the Democratic leader. Gonzalez Fletcher also joined labor unions in the effort to revamp Civic San Diego, the downtown redevelopment agency that's now in the midst of a major overhaul, and she wrote the bill reforming SANDAG, the regional agency mired in scandal last year. And earlier this year, Democratic Councilwoman Georgette Gomez became the Metropolitan Transit System’s board chair, yet another example of Democrats ascending. Also on the podcast, Lewis and Keatts discuss how neither of the proposals to redevelop the Mission Valley stadium site include solid guarantees to voters, according to a new city attorney memo, and the co-hosts narrow down the list of local politicians who might want to greet President Donald Trump when he visits the border wall prototypes in Otay Mesa next week. Finally, The Kept Faith, a VOSD Podcast Network show, produced a hilarious parody episode, which we sample in the show. Hero of the Week The hero this week is Nathan Page. When a special education student was sexually assaulted by a classmate at Lincoln High, Page, a teacher there, pushed unsuccessfully for a more stringent response to the incident. The school's response tormented him and he's since died of an apparent suicide. Goat of the Week The San Dieguito High School Academy administration is the goat. After San Dieguito math teacher Donn Boyd was reprimanded last May for inappropriate behavior with students, he was allowed to finish out the school year and returned to the classroom for a new year in the fall.

Media Files:

Chaos at Civic San Diego and Ken Malbrough

Fri, 02 Mar 2018 20:16:06 +0000

Downtown redevelopment has survived scandals, the death of the state's tax-funded redevelopment program and strong opposition from labor unions and others who don't like how the city's redevelopment agency operates. Now a lawsuit alleging misconduct at Civic San Diego could be the thing that brings the downtown redevelopment agency down, or at least inspires major reform. On the podcast, Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts discuss the ongoing turmoil at Civic San Diego. None of the accusations against Civic San Diego have been proven, and Civic denies all of them. The agency is tasked with regulating private development downtown and in surrounding neighborhoods. Its mandate has been to get development deals done more quickly than city staffers. A lawsuit filed by Murtaza Baxamusa, a former Civic San Diego board member affiliated with the county’s largest construction workers union, has unearthed a collection of concerns from four current and former Civic San Diego employees. The accusations don't compare to the criminal behavior that plagued Civic San Diego's predecessors, but allegations over the agency's contracting process created enough tension at the agency that Civic president Reese Jarrett abruptly announced his retirement this week. Also on this week's show, VOSD invited Mayor Kevin Faulconer to roast us at a donor event last week and he delivered some brutal blows, including some slams at the podcast. And with President Trump on his way to San Diego to visit the border wall prototypes, Lewis and Keatts ask listeners to check out the Voice of San Diego Podcast Facebook group and join a discussion about which local politicians might join him.  Former Public Servant Runs for Public Office Ken Malbrough is a retired deputy fire chief who's running for a San Diego County Board of Supervisors seat. In the second half of the show, Malbrough talks to Lewis and Keatts about why he entered the race. "I'm in a community that needs changes," he said. "I don't think there's enough people at the table to help make those changes and I want to be there." If he wins, he said he'll push for more county participation in reducing the homeless population, building affordable housing and investing in disaster preparedness. Hero of the Week The hero this week is a Michael Rosenblatt, an artist who's leading an effort to fill Lincoln Park and other neighborhoods in southeastern San Diego with murals. Goat of the Week The Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute gets the goat for its experimental fish breeding that has failed to help restock the ocean with white seabass, according to a new report by an independent panel of scientists.  

Media Files:

Political Jockeying in the 49th and Fayaz Nawabi

Fri, 23 Feb 2018 23:13:59 +0000

Hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts consider the Democratic response to Rep. Darrell Issa's departure and talk to Fayaz Nawabi about his bid for the San Diego City Council. ... All eyes are on the 49th Congressional District. The 49th — which includes parts of San Diego's North County and southern Orange County — has long been a Republican stronghold. But Rep. Darrell Issa’s announcement in January that he would not seek re-election, plus anti-Trump sentiment, has motivated a wave of Democrats to join the now-crowded race. On the podcast, Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts talk about the political scuttle. In California primaries, only the top two candidates advance to the general, regardless of party. And a new poll suggests a possibility that none of the current pool of Dems will advance to November. Given the sense of anxiety on the left, a recent move by Doug Applegate has raised eyebrows. Often considered the Democratic front-runner, he changed his primary residency from San Clemente to Oceanside, which opened up the possibility that he could run for the San Diego County Board of Supervisors’ 5th District. Also on the podcast, it turns out that ReserveCalifornia, the new online system for booking stays at state parks, isn't as dysfunctional as Lewis first thought. A Trump Reaction Run in D6 When it became clear that Donald Trump had won the presidential election, a flustered Fayaz Nawabi grabbed his surfboard. "I started surfing at night time," he said. "And I'm just laying on my board, and I'm really upset at how could people vote for this person that is openly saying bigoted things?" In that moment, the recent San Diego State graduate decided he had to quit his teaching job and get into politics. Now Nawabi is running for the District 6 City Council seat, hoping to unseat Chris Cate. On the second half of the podcast, Lewis and Keatts talk to Nawabi about the issues central to his campaign, including homelessness and affordable housing. Nawabi said his family got Section 8 affordable housing voucher support when he was growing up, so he knows how important housing programs are for San Diegans. "It was instrumental in protecting, or giving me some stability growing up," he said. "We just could not afford living in San Diego, and this is a reality many families in San Diego are dealing with right now and I really want to work to remedy this issue." Hero of the Week This week's hero is a retroactive award. It goes to former San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, who was leading the city when DecoBike was selected as the private operator of the city's bike-sharing system. Not many people are using DecoBikes, but luckily the exclusive agreement the city signed with the company was written in a way that has allowed the city to usher a new dock-less bike-share technology that appears to be attracting more riders already. Goat of the Week Bonnie Dumanis gets the goat. The former district attorney and county supervisor candidate came under fire recently when the San Diego Union-Tribune revealed that her lawyers were looking into the legality of accepting both a pension and a salary should she win. Dumanis said she never intended on actually collecting both, and she shunned the practice of double dipping. But it turns out Dumanis has in fact collected a salary and a pension in the past.

Media Files:

Special Potcast: What Next for Independent Deliveries?

Wed, 21 Feb 2018 22:21:45 +0000

Sam Humeid has seen many sides of the marijuana industry. He ran a medical dispensary in Los Angeles at a tumultuous time. He later relocated to North County, where he counseled patients and delivered product directly to their door. But on Jan. 1 — as the state’s regulatory system officially got off the ground — he was forced to stop operations. Cities across the region have either banned marijuana outlets or required that drivers work for licensed retail shops. In the meantime, Humeid has been lobbying local city councils as part of the San Diego Cannabis Delivery Alliance and educating its members about the patchwork of regulations. “Moving forward, it's not so much that we're looking to have pot-slingers running around the city,” he said. “It’s very much still a cannabis-therapy-practitioner kind of business, where independent retailers have their core group of 30, 50 or 100 patients that they know intimately.” He joined us for the launch of "Voice of San Diego Potcast," a new, semi-regular podcast series we're trying out that will work to demystify the world of marijuana culture and regulations and bring regular folks into the discussion. Kinsee Morlan and I also talked to Humeid about the prevalence of illegal shops, pending ordinances in the South Bay, the problem with an all-cash business model and more. At the end of the show, we also heard from our friend and photojournalist Vito Di Stefano, who scoured the internet for two interesting marijuana-related stories. A California winery is converting into a Wonka Factory for weed. And is North Korea really awash in marijuana, as some media outlets claim? It’s all part of an occasional segment in the show we’re calling “Puff Piece.” Send your suggestions, for guests and questions, my way.

Media Files:

Dumanis' Take on Double Dipping and Geneviéve Jones-Wright

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 22:36:17 +0000

Bonnie Dumanis' more than three decades of public service have earned her a hefty annual pension of $268,800. The former district attorney is now running for a County Board of Supervisors seat, and last month The San Diego-Union Tribune uncovered that she had hired a legal team to look into whether she could continue collecting her pension even if she wins a seat on the county Board of Supervisors, where she could earn a sizable salary as well. Dumanis' political consultant told the U-T that despite the inquiry, Dumanis never intended to accept a county supervisor salary. But records obtained by the U-T did not mention that she planned to decline her salary. Lawmakers had largely banned "double dipping" — simultaneously earning a public pension and a government salary — but the practice is back for most elected officials in California, thanks to laws passed quietly in two recent budget bills. On Wednesday, Dumanis held a meeting with reporters where she again said she will not accept a salary if elected. On this week's podcast, hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts discuss Dumanis' strange explanation for why she didn't say she wouldn't collect a salary on top of her pension while her lawyers were fighting for her right to collect a salary on top of her pension. She said it's because her official campaign – which everyone thought was officially announced in September  – doesn't begin until March. "I have not announced formally yet," she told KUSI. "But I have always intended to not take the salary of a supervisor and just keep my pension, which I have earned after 35 years of service." Also on the podcast, Lewis is seething over ReserveCalifornia, California State Parks' new online system for reserving camping and lodging reservations. He says it's the worst. Pushing for a Different Kind of DA's Office Geneviéve Jones-Wright, a Democrat and public defender running for district attorney, joined the podcast this week to discuss her reform-minded campaign. She said the district attorney's office needs to shift from its tough-on-crime mindset and instead spend some resources on building community trust and preventing crime. "The district attorney's office should be looking at other ways to address public safety," she said. "I think that when you're constantly focusing on convictions, you don't have the right focus." Jones-Wright had harsh words for former Dumanis and the County Board of Supervisors. She called the way in which Dumanis stepped down and promoted a preferred replacement, whom the board appointed to the interim position, a corrupt succession plan. "This is a democracy," Jones-Wright said. "This is not a monarchy. We don't have a queen who sits on the throne and says you know what, this is the person that's going to succeed me, this is how this is going to happen." She also talks about her stance on the prosecutorial and prison reforms in initiatives like Prop. 57 and Prop. 47, her take on the death penalty and more. Hero of the Week This week's hero is the San Diego Unified School District, which this week reversed course and will no longer send debt collectors after parents who are late to pay their children’s school bus fees. A recent Voice of San Diego story revealed that in the 2014-2015 school year alone, the district referred 380 parents to a collections agency. Goat of the Week The city's water department gets goated for its initial dodging of responsibility for overblown water bills received by many residents, a problem the city later acknowledged was likely its fault.

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U-T's New Owner and Lori Saldaña

Fri, 09 Feb 2018 19:56:50 +0000

Later, Tronc. This week, Los Angeles billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong bought The Los Angeles Times and The San Diego Union-Tribune from Tronc, a Chicago-based media publishing company that owns papers across the country. On a new episode of the Voice of San Diego Podcast, hosts Andrew Keatts and Lisa Halverstadt discuss what the paper's new owner might mean for San Diegans. The U-T has changed hands several times over the last decade. Each new owner has made big shifts at the paper, changes that were often most visible on the editorial pages, or with the investment in its staff and coverage areas. There seems to be a wave of cautious optimism washing over the city as Soon-Shiong takes the reins. So far, the billionaire has talked about the important role that strong, local journalism plays, and he's signaled that he intends to let the papers preserve their missions and independence. Also on the podcast, Halverstadt and Keatts talk about pot, and how the legalization of it is disrupting local government and playing a role in this year's top law enforcement races. Saldaña Push for a Progressive County Vision In the second half of the show, the hosts talk to Lori Saldaña, who's running for the San Diego County Board of Supervisors' Fourth District, about the issues motivating her. Saldaña talks about her change from an Independent to a registered Democrat after her outspoken criticism of the local Democratic Party's handling of the sexual harassment allegations against former Mayor Bob Filner. She also offers her take on the turmoil in the local organized labor movement surrounding sexual harassment allegations against Mickey Kasparian and gives her thoughts on affordable housing, homelessness, public health, the county's cannabis ban and more. She also addressed how she would handle being the lone progressive on the county board if she wins. She said she's confident she can get buy-in from the rest of the Republican supervisors on issues like clean energy and affordable housing. "What I intend to bring forward is not just policies that will be voted down by colleagues," she said. "I can find some common ground. Not a hundred percent of the time, but certainly on some issues that are important." Hero of the Week This week's hero is VOSD contributor and freelance journalist Kelly Davis and the attorneys at Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton who represented her pro-bono after she was hit with a demand from the county to give up notes, interviews and recordings linked to a series of investigative stories about the stunning death toll in San Diego-area jails. Goat of the Week The city's water department gets the goat this week. Residents facing exorbitant water bills have recently inundated the city with complaints, and the city's handling of the issue has been lackluster at best.

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Bonus Podcast: SD’s Next Police Chief

Wed, 07 Feb 2018 21:53:08 +0000

San Diego's new police chief says he has a new approach to building community trust. Selected last week by Mayor Kevin Faulconer to succeed retiring Chief Shelley Zimmerman, Assistant Chief David Nisleit will take the helm of the San Diego Police Department next month. Nisleit sat down in the podcast studio with co-hosts Andrew Keatts and Scott Lewis to discuss the status of the department's staffing shortage, his plan to engage the community in a conversation on racial profiling and his hopes to recommit to community policing. Along with hiring more police officers who are native to the region, Nisleit plans to focus his efforts on building trust with community members. One of the main areas of focus surrounds growing concerns of racial profiling. The San Diego Police Department recently faced backlash after a San Diego State University study found some evidence of bias in the department towards Hispanic and Black drivers who were three times more likely to be pulled over. But records later obtained by Voice of San Diego showed that a draft copy of the study was far more aggressive than the one presented to City Council on November 2016. Zimmerman has previously said that enhanced training will help police officers ignore their natural biases, but Neislet wants to take it a step further. "We're going to be very transparent about it," Neislet said. "We do need to look at this and if there's a way we can improve that perception or improve that reality for folks, then it's my job to make that happen." He said he took the findings of the SDSU study seriously and looks forward to new data the department will collect as required by a new state law taking effect on July 1. "We're doing a lot of training, and the whole areas about cultural diversity, implicit bias, non-bias policing, procedural justice," he said. "I'm very aware of the disparities especially when it talks about searches and so some of the variables that we need to look at is to kind of get more into depth of of how that came about."

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Lorie Zapf and Another Bananas Ballot

Fri, 02 Feb 2018 22:26:04 +0000

The November 2018 ballot is going to be packed. On this week's podcast, hosts Andrew Keatts and Lisa Halverstadt discuss some of the proposals that will likely be put in front of voters this year. Next week, a City Council committee will hear a pitch from the San Diego Housing Federation to put a $900 million bond measure on the ballot. The Housing Federation wants to raise property taxes to fund roughly 7,500 subsidized apartments for homeless people and other vulnerable, low-income populations. That many new units won't solve San Diego's housing crisis. But if the measure passes, it could house a significant portion of the city's chronically homeless population. A measure to hike the hotel tax to fund a Convention Center expansion, homeless services and road repairs will also be on the November ballot. Halverstadt talks about potential opposition to the pitch from two construction groups that could make passing the measure a challenge. Also on the podcast: Keatts and Halverstadt note that half of Voice of San Diego's staff is sick, which makes running a news website interesting, and chat a bit about the new chief at the San Diego Police Department. Plus, Keatts is still trying to get used to the fact that City Council races are no longer decided in June thanks to last year's Measure K, which requires a November runoff between the top-two vote-getters in the June primary. Zapf: Prop. 47 is a Problem and the Stalemated Vacation Rental Debate San Diego City Councilwoman Lorie Zapf is running for re-election in District 2, which includes Point Loma, Ocean Beach, Bay Ho and Bay Park. In the second half of the show, Zapf joined Keatts and Halverstadt and shared her thoughts on home sharing, homelessness, the city's possible redevelopment of its Sports Arena land, density in Bay Park and more. Zapf  had a lot to say when it comes to Proposition 47, legislation passed in 2014 that mandated downgrades of certain misdemeanor crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. She said the passage of Prop. 47 correlates with the city's increase in homelessness, and has also caused an increase in crime and open drug use on the streets. She said there are a few fixes, including tweaking the law so that chronic repeat offenders can more easily face jail time. On the City Council's failure to pass policies regulating vacation rentals in San Diego, Zapf, who's pushed for strict regulations on home sharing, said she thinks the issue may have to be taken to the voters in order to get anywhere. "On that particular issue, it seems to be a stalemate," she said. "But what's happening is our neighborhoods are just completely falling like dominoes. And there are turnstiles of tourists living in single-family residential neighborhoods." Hero of the Week Former San Diego Padres general manager Kevin Towers is our hero this week. He helped lead the team to many victories, and died of cancer this week. Goat of the Week San Diego's business subsidy program gets goatted this week. The city doesn't track it well, or have a good system of determining who deserves special assistance, and the benefits rarely go to the city's poorest communities.

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City Hall’s Leadership Change and Why Scott Peters Would Like to Be Mayor

Sat, 27 Jan 2018 02:27:01 +0000

Something's up with San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. He kicked the year off with a tenacious State of the City speech where he acknowledged the city's shortcomings on homelessness. A week after, he showed up at the Metropolitan Transit System’s board meeting to support Democratic City Councilwoman Georgette Gomez’s successful bid to be the new chair.   And just a couple of days ago, Faulconer tapped political guru Kris Michell as the city's new chief operating officer. Although Michell is no stranger to San Diego politics, her new position marks a major change for the role, which has generally gone to technocrats rather than political operators.   On this week's podcast, hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts discuss the big changes at City Hall.   "The mayor is really trying to infuse the operations now with more of his priorities, with more of his will," Lewis said. Scott Sherman also joins the first half of the podcast via telephone to discuss his new proposal to appoint San Diego City Council presidents by seniority. Scott Peters Might Run for Mayor Rep. Scott Peters is not a fan of President Donald Trump. "The Trump administration is eviscerating everything," he said. The third-term congressman, who's running for reelection in the 52nd District, stopped by our podcast studio this week to talk with Lewis and Keatts about Trump, net neutrality, the Convention Center expansion, marijuana policies, immigration and more. He called Trump's proposed border wall "boring and a waste of money," and he also discussed the possibility of running for mayor of San Diego. "I'm totally considering it," he said. "I've been working really hard on this town. I love the town. It's my home. I care a lot about it. And in Congress, it's my mission to serve San Diego as much as it is to serve the country." 

Media Files:

Bonus: The Mayor Comes In

Sun, 21 Jan 2018 00:13:19 +0000

Something's going on with San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. He had that whole "different approach" in his big State of the City Speech last week. And Friday, he visited the Voice of San Diego podcast studio to record a special interview. Here it is. In his words, this is what's happening: "Look consensus is important, results are more important. I am choosing results over consensus," he said. We got as much in as we could from him on everything from homelessness, to the Convention Center expansion, to the future of Mission Valley and short-term vacation rentals. But we had to start with the big news of the week: the new leadership on the board of the Metropolitan Transit System. Georgette Gomez, a member of the San Diego City Council got the votes. She wasn't the only one who wanted the job, though. And she got it largely because of Faulconer, who, out of character, showed up at MTS. If it was a poker game, Faulconer pushed a big stack of chips onto the table everyone else folded. We asked him why he would do that for such a progressive Democrat. "I like working with her," he said. "I probably shouldn't say too many nice things, because you know then I'll ruin her cred with the progressive community. But, look, she's a fair, determined, direct individual. I think you want that on boards like that." On SoccerCity vs. SDSU West: We asked if he was still as supportive of SoccerCity as he was when he endorsed it. "I am," he said. Is there any shot at the two sides negotiating again? "There's a shot. You know this is politics, this is the art of the possible." More immediately: He also addressed the ongoing negotiation between the city and SDSU about where the university can play football. The lease is up this year and it seems like the university wants the city to extend the lease and keep operating the stadium. But the city loses about $7 million a year operating the stadium and there is pressure to shut it down. Faulconer insisted he was only going to make a deal for the short term. "But for the short term, 'How do we have something that makes sense puts the city in a financially better position?' and I'm confident we can get there." About the Convention Center and hotel-tax hike: The mayor says this is the most important issue before voters this year. We talked to him about how much the measure has changed and asked why it got so much more flexible. He acknowledged that the reason that the hotel tax hike was going forward as a ballot initiative was to perhaps take advantage of the recent California Supreme Court ruling that seemed to indicate citizens initiatives do not require the same two-thirds threshold for approval of new special taxes that normal ballot measures do. And that hotel behind the Convention Center?  The partnership that controls the land called Fifth Avenue Landing on the bay side of the Convention Center is planning a hotel. If it is approved, then the long-planned design of the expanded Convention Center can't be built. We asked the mayor how that would be settled. "That's a subject of a lawsuit. I would just phrase it this way: resolving lawsuits are always of benefit."

Media Files:

State of the City Breakdown and Bryan Pease's Battles

Fri, 19 Jan 2018 20:38:15 +0000

When Mayor Kevin Faulconer gave his State of the City speech last week, he acknowledged some hard truths. On homelessness, he confessed he and past leaders let the problem fester far too long. "We pursued universal consensus while homelessness continued to rise," he said. "We tried to please everyone at the risk of helping no one. Those days are over." In this week's podcast, Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts analyze the mayor's State of the City speech. Faulconer recognized his own role in the type of not-in-my-backyard politics that makes it hard to get things done, saying everyone wants to housing and services for homeless people, but no one wants those things in their own neighborhoods. And the mayor drew a line in the sand in support of the city's ongoing effort to clear the streets of homeless encampments, saying the city would "no longer tolerate the use of a sidewalk, a riverbed or a tarp as a home." Also interesting was what the mayor didn't say. Faulconer barely brought up the search for a new police chief or the future of the former Chargers stadium site. Lewis and Keatts also sat down with the mayor Friday for an in-depth interview that will appear in the Voice of San Diego Podcast feed soon. Stay tuned. Bryan Pease is best known for his animal rights activism. An environmental attorney, he's been in the national spotlight for his work to protect seals at the La Jolla Children’s Pool. More recently, he made headlines as one of a group of protestors arrested in Barrio Logan when then-presidential candidate Donald Trump came to town. In the second half of the show, Lewis and Keatts talk to Pease about his City Council run to represent District 2. The attorney has run for political office before, but those failed campaigns were short and less serious. This time, he says he's for real. He said he supports rent control, a revamped Section 8 housing voucher program, better tenant protection, banning whole-home vacation rentals and increasing both the amount of affordable housing developers are required to include when they build a new project. "There's also obviously a huge homelessness and housing crisis in San Diego and San Diego City Council has been really dragging its heels on implementing some very basic tenant protections and policies that other, similarly situated cities have," he said. Pease also thinks it's time to talk to marine biologists and other experts about the best way to handle SeaWorld's captive orcas. "I'm in favor of whatever is best for the orcas," he said. Hero of the Week The hero this week is David Hilton, a Scripps Institution of Oceanography scientist and researcher who died from cancer earlier this month. Hilton was a renowned geochemist. Goat of the Week The Union-Tribune's Greg Moran this week revealed that the San Diego County Sheriff's Department spent nearly $900,000 to provide security while President Donal Trump's border wall prototypes were built in Otay Mesa. The federal government is the goat this week for forcing the Sheriff's Department to spend so much money protecting eight slabs of concrete.

Media Files:

Nathan Fletcher and the GOP Scramble in the 49th

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 22:25:13 +0000

Congressman Darrell Issa’s sudden announcement Wednesday that he would not be seeking reelection was a doozy. It sent Republicans scrambling to propose possible stronger GOP candidates for the 49th District, largely viewed as the most vulnerable Republican seat in the country. In this week's Voice of San Diego Podcast, hosts Scott Lewis and Ry Rivard talk about Issa's big news, and what might come next for the congressman. As it turns out, Issa might not be ready to be put out to pasture quite yet. The Hill reported that the congressman has been mulling the possibility of running in the neighboring 50th District, which includes Alpine, Ramona, Valley Center and other cities in northeast San Diego County. Much of the area was part of his district in the past. The 50th is currently represented by embattled Rep. Duncan Hunter, who's under federal investigation for questionable campaign expenses. "So there's a seeming plan, or possibility of a plan, that Hunter is going to implode and Issa, who was about to implode, is going to come into the implosion and, I don't know, save the day?" Rivard ponders. Rivard and Lewis also discuss the details of the new push to expand the Convention Center and the startling things District 2 City Council candidate Jennifer Campbell said about homeless people. Fletcher's Meandering Political Path Nathan Fletcher is running for County Supervisor. In the second half of the podcast, Lewis and Rivard talk to the former two-term California State assemblyman about his two failed mayoral bids, and how he left politics after that only to return again. Fletcher said he wanted to become a businessman, but when he tried, he would wake up thinking about needle-exchange programs and mental health services for veterans. He said getting back into politics felt like something he had to do. Fletcher also talks about his stance on policy issues like pensions, unions and more. And Rivard and Lewis can't help but revisit Fletcher's infamous switch from Republican to Democrat, and the flack he continues to get for it. Fletcher said there are very few vestiges of conservatism left in him. "I was scarred by my time in the legislature in the sense of having to deal with $42 billion dollar budget deficits," he said. "I'm always going to be fiscally responsible and want to have prudent reserves and those types of things. But I don't think there's anything in the Democratic Party that's out of line with that with that type of change." Hero of the Week Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher is the hero this week. After Voice of San Diego contributor Kelly Davis revealed the San Diego Police Department's practice of taking DNA samples from minors without convictions, Gonzalez Fletcher sponsored legislation to ban the practice. Goat of the Week Councilwoman Myrtle Cole is the goat. She was one of five local elected officials who appeared at an event with local labor leader Mickey Kasparian, 10 months after he was accused of sexual harassment, sexual assault and gender discrimination. Cole said she was not aware of the allegations against Kasparian when she attended the meeting, even though the allegations have been covered heavily in the news and discussed intensely by local Democrats.

Media Files:

Weed is Legal

Sat, 06 Jan 2018 01:57:03 +0000

A cannabis-driven cultural shift is upon us, folks, and in this week's podcast, hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts sort out its significance. The two talk about taxes on pot, the City Council's regulation and permitting of the budding industry so far and ponder what California's new law means for medical marijuana, the black market and delivery services. And yes, Lewis and Scott also discuss the big pot memo. Weed people panicked this week when Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the “Cole Memo,” an Obama-era rule that instructed U.S. attorneys to mostly be cool to the states that have legalized marijuana despite it still being illegal under federal law. It isn't yet clear how Sessions' nixing of the memo will play out. Whether U.S. Attorneys will crack down on dispensaries in San Diego and other California cities that have implemented legal marijuana is still a big question. It's also in the realm of possibility that Congress could take up the issue. And then there's the potential financial effects. "I think the most immediate impact might be on the investment world that's still dabbling, and still a little worried about federal law," Lewis said.  Campaign Interview Kickoff The 2018 ballot in San Diego is taking shape. Along with the list of confirmed and  potential local ballot measures, a handful of seats are up for grabs. We'll do our best to interview many of the regional candidates in the Voice of San Diego Podcast this year. Up first is Jordan Beane. The 33-year-old is running for the City Council, trying to unseat Councilwoman Lorie Zapf and represent District 2, which includes Ocean Beach, Bay Ho, Pacific Beach and other coastal communities. Beane spent nearly five years working for the Chargers when the team split. His pivot to politics was something that had been in the back of his mind for awhile. Beane said one of his key areas of focus is the housing crisis, and what a sitting Council member can do to help solve it. He said allowing faster and easier permitting to increase the housing supply and incentivizing housing diversity is an important step. And in District 2, a coastal region known for its hardcore NIMBYism and dislike of density, he said "gentle density," or building infill development on empty lots or possibly building two townhouses where there used to be one single-family home, could make increasing density more digestible. And in terms of the city's homelessness issue, Beane said he'd want to change the city's strategy of ticketing people who are homeless and using police force to keep them from congregating on downtown streets and sidewalks. "You are not going to solve this issue with sort of leaf-blower lower justice by moving these folks around to different areas of the city and hoping that the problem goes away," he said. "We just need the will to do it – to build permanent housing." Hero of the Week This week's hero is Martin S. Lindsey, an illustrator and designer who's working to document San Diego and Tijuana's most interesting culinary history. Goat of the Week Councilman Scott Sherman gets the goat. Sherman didn't like losing his chairmanship of the City Council’s land use committee. It was a political decision made by City Council President Myrtle Cole, and it's fine to be upset about that. But Sherman's proposal this week to start talks about changing the City Council president selection process to an annual rotating leadership selection process based on seniority is clearly motivated by his ange[...]

Media Files:

Revisiting the Biggest Conversations of the Year

Fri, 22 Dec 2017 00:41:45 +0000

We try – and fail – every year to convey to all our readers one basic truth about our annual Voice of the Year feature: It is not an award. We are not endorsing the views expressed by any of the people we include, nor are we declaring anyone a hero or a champion (though some of them inevitably reach the list by doing something heroic or award-worthy). We produce the list to chronicle who piped up and led important civic conversations throughout the year. Some people are in positions where leading major public discussions is their job; others are forced into it and would probably rather not have to (as was the case this year, when the family of a daughter who was brutally murdered years ago became a major voice in deciding the county’s next district attorney). For the podcast this week, we highlighted several of the people who appeared on our latest Voice of the Year list, including many who’ve appeared on the show over the last year or so. City Attorney Mara Elliott at one point came on the show and laid out her vision for a city attorney who no one notices much. Once elected, she was anything but, disrupting and shaping virtually every major policy debate in town. That’s why we named her the 2017 Voice of the Year. We’ve also pulled highlights from earlier shows featuring housing and refugee advocate Ramla Sahid, homelessness activist Mike McConnell and Loxie Gant, who went on the record this year to describe unwanted touching from a teacher at La Jolla High School, revealing the extent to which the school was aware of the problem but never told parents about it. It was also a big year nationally and locally for journalists to grapple with why we do what we do, and for the public to reassess its relationship with us. Scott Lewis was feeling pensive this week and wrote down some thoughts he had on the question, and shared them at the top of the show.

Media Files:

San Diego Out-San Diego'd Itself With Vacation Rental Vote

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 21:05:57 +0000

There's a leadership vacuum in San Diego, something that was made painfully clear this week when absolutely nothing was decided after a 10-hour City Council meeting Tuesday that was supposed to provide clarity – finally – on vacation rentals. Hundreds of people showed up to voice their support or concerns about vacation rental regulations in San Diego. Almost everyone expected something to happen at the meeting. But in the most San Diego move ever, the City Council punted the issue yet again, leading Councilman Chris Cate to release a scorching statement afterward that read in part, "We cannot govern." On this week's podcast, hosts Sara Libby and Andrew Keatts discuss Tuesday's epic vacation rental regulation failure. "Was that the most San Diego thing to ever San Diego?" Libby asked.    "It was incredibly San Diego," Keatts said. The hosts also talk about the implications the Lilac Fire should have on elected leaders' decisions about whether to allow developers to build right at the so-called wildland-urban interface, where fire danger is highest. Ellen Montanari joins Libby and Keatts in the second half of this week's show to talk about how the election of President Donald Trump turned her into an activist. Montanari has focused her attention on unseating Republican Rep. Darrell Issa from the 49th Congressional District. She has been organizing weekly rallies outside the congressman's Vista office since last year. "The momentum is still going," she said. "I never would have expected this many months into the year that people would still be out in front of his office. But they are." Hero of the Week We're giving the nod this week to the new women who have come forward to talk about their experiences of unwanted touching by a now-retired teacher at La Jolla High School. Goat of the Week Customs and Border Protection gets the goat this week. The Union-Tribune is out with a story about a whacky $297 million hiring contract with a private company. The terms of the agreement are such that the federal agency will pay about $40,000 per new agent hired.

Media Files:

The Great Vacation Rental Debate

Fri, 08 Dec 2017 19:34:37 +0000

Sue Hopkins lives in a part of Clairemont that's filled with vacation rentals. She said raucous weekend weddings, late-night conversations and the sound of roller suitcases on the sidewalks outside her home are persistent nuisances. But before the City Council votes Tuesday on how to regulate the short-term vacation rental industry in San Diego, she said city leaders need more data. "Why has the City Council just not spent any time or energy?" she asked. "I mean, at best it's overwork or laziness, if I'm going to be charitable. And at worst, it's willful ignorance of the facts." On this week's podcast, Hopkins joined host Scott Lewis for a roundtable discussion about vacation rentals. Also in the studio were John Anderson and Belinda Smith, founders of the Short Term Rental Alliance, which advocates for homeowners' rights, and Tom Coat, founder of a new group advocating for clear regulations on home-sharing called Neighborhoods for Residents. Voice of San Diego this week published a new analysis by Host Compliance, a San Francisco-based company that’s provided rental data to dozens of other cities, and finally pinned down the elusive number of vacation rentals in the city. According to the data, there are nearly 9,000 whole-home rentals in the city. That number represents a tiny percentage of the city’s overall housing inventory, but Hopkins said city leaders need to look closely at the data and consider other numbers, too – like the region's low vacancy rate, or the small number of rental properties available. She said other cities with similar housing crunches have instituted outright bans or severe regulations on short-term vacation rentals. Smith said she agrees that the City Council should work harder to collect more information, but that strict regulations that infringe on personal property rights are not the answer. "Home ownership is the American dream," she said. "And me being able to do what I want with my home is a big part of my happiness – my prosperity, my life – and I get concerned when people start trying to draw that line and deciding for me what's OK what isn't." Also on the podcast, Myrtle Cole was re-elected City Council president this week, and Lewis, Sara Libby and Andrew Keatts dig into the politics behind the decision. The City Council president sets the meeting agendas and appoints Council members to sit on various committees. It could be an extremely powerful post, but Cole has yet to wield her power in a noticeable way. And San Diego's hepatitis A crisis continues to make its way into national headlines. Lewis, Libby and Keatts talk about how writers outside the city can't help focusing on the perception of San Diego as "America's Finest City," or a shiny tourist destination filled with fish tacos and no grit. We got grit, folks. Hero of the Week When we recorded this week's podcast, Shohei Ohtani, baseball's most sought-after free agent, had so far not said no to playing for the Padres. For that, he was our hero. Sadly, though, he did not end up picking the Padres. Goat of the Week The city of San Diego's sidewalk policy gets the goat this week. The policy makes property owners responsible for sidewalk repairs, but puts the liability for folks injured by tripping on damaged sidewalks on the city. The problem with the policy came into full focus this week when the city awarded $85,000 to a former San Diego mayor's wife in a lawsu[...]

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VOSD Podcast: East Village's IDEA District Now More Than Just an Idea Itself

Sat, 02 Dec 2017 00:32:01 +0000

East Village is exploding with growth. Dozens of projects are planned or under construction in the neighborhood just east of downtown, some of which are part of an area dubbed the IDEA District – envisioned as a home for innovation, design, education and the arts. Conceived by David Malmuth and Pete Garcia six years ago, the IDEA District has long been just an idea. But this week, the developers celebrated the grand opening of IDEA1, their new development on the corner of F and 13th streets. It's the first new mixed-use apartment project built in the IDEA District since the concept was dreamed up. On this week's podcast, hosts Andrew Keatts, Scott Lewis and Sara Libby talk to Garcia and Malmuth about their vision for the IDEA District, its growth so far and some of the challenges that stand in its way. One big hurdle is the fact that the IDEA District isn't an official city initiative. None of the principles in the plan are codified anywhere in city code, and there aren't any subsidies or other city perks offered to developers who do build projects that fit the IDEA District concept. Malmuth and Garcia said it will be harder to successfully continue building out the IDEA District without the government tools that come with city-sanctioned programs, but it's not impossible. "It is what it is," Garcia said. "You either whine and complain about the fact there there's no subsidies and you don't do anything, or you go out and do it with a lot of tenacity and hardheadedness." Also on the podcast, Libby, Lewis and Keatts discuss San Diego State University's new plans for the stadium land in Mission Valley, they explain confusion over unsigned newspaper editorials and more. Hero of the Week Our hero this week is state Assemblywoman Marie Waldron. At a hearing this week, Waldron raised good questions about the California Legislature's handling of sexual harassment cases. Goat of the Week San Diego Unified gets goatted yet again this week. The district has 100 special education aide vacancies, which has led some parents to keep their kids from school out of fear of what may happen to their child without the needed supervision aides provide.

Media Files:

La Jolla High's Open Secret Finally Came Out

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 19:28:25 +0000

Our country is experiencing a moment of reckoning. The sheer number of sexual harassment and abuse allegations now coming to light would be astonishing if it wasn't for that fact that, at least for many women, the bad behavior has long been an open secret. Locally, the rising wave of victims feeling emboldened to tell their stories helped Voice of San Diego reporter Ashly McGlone uncover a sexual harassment story she's been trying to nail down for years. Four women who attended La Jolla High School between 2002 and 2013 shared their stories with McGlone. They said they were groped or touched inappropriately by Martin Teachworth, a longtime physics teacher at the school who retired earlier this year. On this week's podcast, McGlone sits down with VOSD's Scott Lewis to talk about how the story came together, how the school's handling of the sexual harassment accusations failed the women who came forward and the impact the story has had so far. "There's a lot of reflection going on," McGlone said. "It is getting shared within the La Jolla community, especially [among] the graduates there, and there's not a ton of surprise. People have described it as sort of an open secret." Loxie Gant, one of four women who says Teachworth harassed her, also joined the podcast to talk about her experience, and why she wanted to get the story out now. Gant recently became a mom herself, and said it pushed her to reach out to McGlone. "We're faced with the idea of buying a house in that neighborhood and sending our child to that school," Gant said. "It hit me really hard that there's a lot of parents that aren't aware, and they're trusting the school district and the La Jolla High school system in order to protect their kids, and there's something wrong. There's just something missing here." Also on the podcast, Lewis, Sara Libby and Andrew Keatts discuss the wave of sexual harassment stories in the news, including a new accusation against former Mayor Bob Filner. The trio also breaks down a scathing ruling against activist Mark Arabo. A San Diego Superior Court judge ruled this week that Arabo accrued improper compensation when he ran a trade group of independent corner stores called the Neighborhood Market Association. The judge questioned the credibility of Arabo and many of the witnesses called to testify on his behalf, and ordered Arabo to repay the association $248,000. Hero of the Week The heroes this week are the former La Jolla High School students who talked to Voice of San Diego about the sexual harassment they experienced. Goat of the Week The Public Utilities Commission gets the goat this week. KPBS reported that court documents show that the commission "used public money to try to block search warrants in an ongoing investigation into possible collusion with Southern California Edison over the premature closure of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station."

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Big Week for Pot and Politics

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 00:13:24 +0000

The winds could be shifting when it comes to the district attorney's hardline stance on pot. The DA’s office has long come down hard on the cannabis industry. One case filed against medical-marijuana entrepreneur James Slatic got national attention for being so tough. Slatic and his business partners were charged with a slate of felonies, including money laundering and obstruction of justice, and the DA also charged Slatic's lawyer, Jessica McElfresh, with crimes, which sent shock waves through the legal community. This week, though, the DA's office ended its two-year battle with Slatic, who ended up pleading guilty to just two misdemeanors. A statement from DA spokeswoman Tanya Sierra to the Union-Tribune suggests the district attorney's attitude toward pot has changed. “This settlement takes into account the changing focus of the new district attorney administration, which allows companies to apply for a state license to legally sell marijuana,” Sierra said. Also on the podcast, hosts Sara Libby, Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts round up the latest news in politics, including City Councilman David Alvarez's decision to run for the race for San Diego Community College District Board of Trustees and the rift between local labor unions and the county’s Democratic Party. Plus, Bardis Vakili, a senior staff attorney for the local American Civil Liberties Union chapter, stops by to discuss some of the biggest cases and civil rights issues impacting San Diego, including a police watchdog group's recent dismissal of 22 death cases, SDPD's handling of juvenile DNA and how immigrants are treated inside local detention centers. Hero of the Week This week's hero goes to San Diego County for its focus on curtailing elder abuse. The Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote an in-depth story that hails San Diego's approach as a model for how the rest of the country should go after those who target the elderly. Goat of the Week San Diego County Supervisor Bill Horn gets goatted this week. After our Lisa Halverstadt fact checked whether the county has more than $100 million in mental health funds sitting in the bank (it does), Horn went on a long tirade against reporters — decrying their typewriters and insisting they'll go away soon enough. Horn himself will be gone soon enough, as his term limit is up.

Media Files:

Behind San Diego's Pitch to Amazon

Fri, 10 Nov 2017 23:12:44 +0000

San Diego has thrown its hat in the ring to become Amazon's second home. Last month, more than 200 cities in the country submitted proposals to host Amazon's second headquarters, where the company plans to create 50,000 jobs and invest $5 billion. San Diego offered multiple options – including Mission Valley, downtown and Chula Vista — and highlighted the region's diverse community and proximity to the U.S-Mexico border. The city of Chula Vista even threw in a $400 million incentive package to sweeten the deal. On this week's podcast, hosts Andrew Keatts, Scott Lewis and Sara Libby demystify the Amazon bidding war by talking to Mark Cafferty, CEO of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, the nonprofit that took the lead on putting together the proposal. Cafferty discussed what goes into a proposal like this, San Diego's strengths that got touted in the pitch (we've got an educated workforce and California is nice and sunny) and the region's admitted weaknesses, like our mediocre transit system and a high cost of living. Cafferty also said winning the bidding war and having Amazon open in San Diego would be good, but that it could come with some major strings attached. “Whoever gets this is going to have to be putting in decades worth of urban planning around it," he said. "How would you accommodate 50,000 people, and how would you build a much better, if not a world-class transit system?" Also on the podcast, Libby, Lewis and Keatts talk about how some local families are spending $500 a year or more on San Diego Unified school bus fees. And if they don't pay, the district refers them to a collection agency. Hero of the Week Our hero this week is Pat Finn. After years working at KPBS and organizing the public radio station's Roundtable news segment, Finn is leaving her full-time gig, but will still do some freelance work. Goat of the Week El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells gets the goat this week after claiming that nearly all homelessness is linked to drug or alcohol abuse. We fact checked his statement and found it false.

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The New Voice Disrupting SANDAG

Fri, 03 Nov 2017 21:59:12 +0000

Despite representing different geographic areas and coming from different parties, the SANDAG board often votes in lockstep even on the most controversial issues. Many board members say that's because they rely on the SANDAG staff to lay out issues and recommendations. But that doesn't always go well. At a SANDAG board meeting in December 2016, for example, the transportation agency's staff admitted it had been relying on a faulty economic forecast, resulting in a massive revenue shortfall. One might expect the board of directors to have a lot to say to staff about that, or at least something to say. But instead – crickets. Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey, who sits on the SANDAG board, says that needs to change and that it's as much an indictment of board members as it is of SANDAG staff. He joined Andrew Keatts, Scott Lewis and Sara Libby on the podcast this week to talk about how the SANDAG scandal has spurred him to ask more questions and become a more vocal and active member of the board. "There have been many instances where the board essentially rubber-stamped what staff put in front of them," he said. "It's been difficult for the board to really understand the magnitude of the [forecasting] error because we have to rely so much on staff. So over the past several weeks, I have been raising a lot of these questions." Bailey also talks about his push for a suicide barrier on the Coronado-San Diego Bay Bridge. Also on the podcast, Keatts, Lewis and Libby discuss recreation councils, and the current push to overhaul the process that lets city money flow through the independent nonprofits. Plus: the never-ending feud over vacation rentals and how to regulate them. Hero of the Week Our hero this week is Diana Ocampo, whose story was featured this week on VOSD's I Made it in San Diego podcast. At the top of her career, Ocampo was diagnosed with cancer and ended up losing the business she built. But she didn't stay down for long, and instead built a new successful business. Goat of the Week This week, Bonnie Dumanis gets the goat The former district attorney claims she didn't know Mexican businessman José Susumo Azano Matsura was a foreign national despite meeting with him on several occasions. Azano has been sentenced to three years in federal prison for illegally donating to her mayoral campaign, and other local campaigns.

Media Files:

The Upcoming Rush to Raise Taxes

Fri, 27 Oct 2017 22:16:12 +0000

Next year's ballot might be bananas. The California Supreme Court made a bombshell ruling a few months ago that could lead to a bevy of tax increase proposals floated during the 2018 election. The ruling suggests that if a group of citizens in California gathers enough signatures to get a tax measure on the ballot, it requires only a simple majority to pass, not two-thirds of voters. That was how many people read the ruling, anyway. Yet some were skeptical. This week, though, the San Francisco city attorney issued the first memo on the ruling from a city official that we've seen, and his take was that the ruling indeed lowers the bar for voter-initiated tax measures. On this week's podcast, Lewis and cohosts Sara Libby and Andrew Keatts discuss how the California Supreme Court ruling could open the floodgates for local citizens initiatives seeking to raise taxes for things like an expanded Convention Center, homeless services, funding for Balboa Park, a boost to the San Diego Unified School District's budget and more. As Keatts points out, though, this could be a fleeting opportunity – a temporary loophole in the law that could be closed if someone takes the issue back to court, or if the Legislature changes the law. Also on the podcast, an important discussion about mascots, including the San Diego Chicken and Point Loma Nazarene University's Roary the Sea Lion, who is not in fact a sea lion, but rather an actual lion with seaweed on his head. We also have a bonus episode in the Voice of San Diego Podcast feed this week about a new documentary on San Diego's homeless, and a recap of what's happened during San Diego's hepatitis A outbreak. Hero of the Week Our hero this week goes to Poway Unified School District. The district, which is under new leadership, voluntarily handed over damning documents to their lawyers, the district attorney and our Ashly McGlone that showed how some district officials had been receiving special retirement pay without evidence that the board ever approved the payments. Goat of the Week This week, Mayor Kevin Faulconer's office gets goatted. The mayor and his staff held a press conference this week giving themselves a pat on the back for progress reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In reality, however, a lot of the things the city is claiming credit for are thanks to federal and state laws requiring decreases in carbon emission reductions.

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Bonus Podcast: The Struggles of Life on San Diego's Streets

Fri, 27 Oct 2017 18:26:17 +0000

As a homeless man living in downtown San Diego, Tony Rodriguez says he gets hassled constantly by police officers who tell him and his girlfriend to move along. As part of San Diego officials' response to the deadly hepatitis A outbreak, which has hit the homeless community the hardest, police officers have ramped up homeless enforcement and are keeping people off downtown streets and sidewalks to facilitate cleanings. Rodriguez says he understands the city's actions, but that not being able to stop and rest anywhere has been stressful. "It's got to the point where you develop a kind of phobia," Rodriguez said. "You just know that at any moment [the police] could stop and say, 'You're camping here, we're going to take you in.'" An interaction between Rodriguez and police officers who tell him to pack up his things and clear out is one of the scenes captured in "Tony - The Movie," a new documentary that looks at life on San Diego streets. In a bonus episode of the Voice of San Diego Podcast, I talk to Rodriguez and Dennis Stein, the director and producer of the film. "Tony - The Movie" goes beyond simply putting a face on San Diego's homelessness crisis. Stein and Rodriguez also explore long-term solutions to ending homelessness by going to cities like Houston, where leaders have successfully housed a large percentage of people living on the streets. Stein said the process of making the film has caused him to advocate for the Regional Task Force on the Homeless' plan to end homelessness, a document that lays out a strategic framework for ending homelessness in San Diego County. Stein even brings copies of the plan to the many screenings he's been holding around town. Also in the podcast, I talk to Lisa Halverstadt, who's been covering the hepatitis A outbreak as it's unfolded. She lays out the hep A timeline and describes the behind-the-scenes bureaucratic fumbling that prevented a faster response to the outbreak. Halverstadt also talks about what's happened since county and city officials kicked into gear, and some of the questions she'll be asking moving forward. "I'll really be looking to see: What are the long-term solutions to this problem to make sure that we don't have a crisis like this again?" she said.

Media Files:

The DA's Bizarre Handoff

Fri, 20 Oct 2017 21:47:21 +0000

The case of a confidential city attorney memo on SoccerCity that was leaked to a developer by Councilman Chris Cate has taken another weird turn. This week, interim District Attorney Summer Stephan announced that she's passing the case to the California attorney general — but she declined to outline why she was conflicted or might appear conflicted on the issue. On this week's podcast, hosts Sara Libby, Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts discuss the significance behind Stephan's decision to recuse herself from the Cate memo drama. Also on the podcast, Libby, Lewis and Keatts talk about the new developments in the neverending short-term rental dilemma. City leaders were set to move forward vetting plans to regulate short-term rentals. But at the last minute, City Attorney Mara Elliott voiced concerns about the legality of one proposal written by found Council members, which caused City Council President Myrtle Cole to cancel the hearing. "This is one of those moments where the city is literally incapable of solving this problem," Lewis said. "The whole things is this dysfunctional cartoon." Hero of the Week Our hero this week goes to the women who wrote a letter documenting their sexual harassment experiences while working in the California Capitol. Goat of the Week San Diego Unified gets goated yet again this week. Voice of San Diego got a hold of documents that show the district counsels struggling students to leave for other schools, something it has vigorously denied doing.

Media Files:

It's Beef Week

Fri, 13 Oct 2017 23:27:32 +0000

San Diego leaders did a lot of feuding this week. City and county officials have been squabbling over who should foot the bill for ongoing efforts to stem the hepatitis A outbreak, City Attorney Mara Elliott and Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman disagree over SDPD’s approach to testing rape kits, the long-standing fight between the Metropolitan Water District and the San Diego County Water Authority rages on and local leaders of rural cities and larger urban ones don't agree on the dramatic shift in power happening at SANDAG thanks to a bill signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown. On this week's podcast, Scott Lewis, Andrew Keatts and Sara Libby give a quick rundown of all the big beefs (or is it beeves?) brewing among San Diego leaders. Also on the podcast, Kim Kilkenny from the Friends of SDSU Steering Committee joins the show to discuss an initiative in the works to redevelop the Chargers' former stadium. "We would create a university campus that would have tremendous economic benefits to the whole of the region," Kilkenny said. Hero of the Week Our hero this week is French artist JR. After building an art installation depicting a young boy looking over the U.S.-Mexico border fence, the artist held a picnic where community members from both sides of the border shared food and drinks. Goat of the Week This week, the prototypes of President Donald Trump's border wall get the goat. Some of them look like silly, gigantic combs.

Media Files:

The City's Clearing the Streets and Chris Cate's Conundrum

Fri, 06 Oct 2017 21:16:40 +0000

San Diego's homeless crisis isn't new. Swift action directed at addressing the homeless crisis, though — that is new. For a long time, there was a lot of talk about solving homelessness by our elected leaders, but not a lot of action. Committees were formed, speeches were made, plans were proposed. But then came hepatitis A — in particular, the revelation that officials were fumbling with bureaucracy as people were dying — and things changed. Local leaders have deployed hand-washing stations and placed public bathrooms across the city, there are solid plans to open a city-run homeless camp in Golden Hill and three temporary tents are coming online soon. On this week's podcast, Voice of San Diego's Sara Libby, Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts talk about how the urgency to address San Diego's homelessness crisis should have come well before the hep A outbreak forced elected leaders' hands. "Hepatitis A did what nothing else could do over the last several years," Lewis said. Also on the podcast, the VOSD crew breaks down the legal issues surrounding a leaked SoccerCity memo after Councilman Chris Cate admitted to being the culprit earlier this week. Hero of the Week The hero this week is Councilwoman Lorie Zapf, who opened up about her mother's struggles with homelessness and mental illness, and how the experience has shaped her policy-making. Goat of the Week Our goat this week goes out to San Diego County government. Rather than keeping its nice, new Waterfront Park bathrooms open for 24 hours in the midst of the hepatitis A outbreak, the county instead decided to install a port-a-potty right next to the bathrooms.

Media Files:

Our Driverless Car- and New Arena-Filled Future

Fri, 29 Sep 2017 22:32:54 +0000

The future of the former Qualcomm Stadium site is taking up a lot of bandwidth these days, but there could be another big sports arena proposal on the table soon. Earlier this week, Voice of San Diego's Scott Lewis got a polling call filled with questions about the coastal height limit and other zoning issues. The big question on the poll, though, was a potential proposal to build a new, privately funded arena in place of the Valley View Casino Center, which most people still refer to as the San Diego Sports Arena. The lease is up in 2020, and it's on public land, so San Diego voters could be looking at a vote in coming years to change height requirements and do other things that would clear the way for a new development project there. On this week's podcast, Lewis, Andrew Keatts and Sara Libby speculate about who's behind the potential project and the various ways in which it could move forward. Also on the podcast, Keatts sits down with Colin Parent, a member of the La Mesa City Council and interim director of Circulate San Diego, to talk about the future of autonomous vehicles and what it means for city planning, public transportation and infrastructure. "If we keep things status quo and you add autonomous vehicles, yeah, you're going to see more vehicle miles travel," he said. "That's all the more reason to be thinking critically about whether or not we should be spending as much money on, say, roads, or instead dedicating more funds to non-car infrastructure for public transit." Hero of the Week Our hero this week goes to the hospitals in the region that are providing nurses to give out hepatitis A vaccinations amid the deadly outbreak. Goat of the Week The San Diego Water Authority gets goated this week. The water agency lost a major legal battle against the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which it says charges too much to deliver water to San Diego. The state Supreme Court declined to take up the case, leaving a lower court ruling siding with Metropolitan in place.

Media Files:

Maienschein's Big Vote and Vacation Rental Plan Lands

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 21:23:37 +0000

San Diego's lack of affordable housing has been looming over the region for quite some time. That's why Sen. Toni Atkins introduced SB 2, a bill that would raise funds for affordable housing by adding a $75 fee to certain real estate documents. Last week, the bill passed the state Legislature with the help of Assemblyman Brian Maienschein, a Republican who previously served as the commissioner on homelessness in San Diego. On this week's podcast, Voice of San Diego's Sara Libby and Scott Lewis sat down with Maienschein to discuss his crucial vote on the bill. "I didn't go up there to vote for a political party," Maienschein said. "I went up there to represent my constituents and do what was right." Also on the podcast, Lewis, Libby and Andrew Keatts go over the new vacation rental proposal backed by City Councilmen Chris Ward, Mark Kersey, Scott Sherman and David Alvarez. Hero of the Week Our hero this week is Fernando Hernandez, principal of Perkins K-8. Teachers and staff at the Barrio Logan school are adapting their teaching strategies as they face a surge of students struggling with homelessness. Goat of the Week The long-simmering feud between San Diego lifeguards and the San Diego Fire Department gets goated this week. The latest dispute between the two groups managed to politicize the national tragedy of Hurricane Harvey.

Media Files:

The 'Temporary Bridge Structures' Are on Their Way

Fri, 15 Sep 2017 20:41:06 +0000

San Diego's recent hepatitis A outbreak gave the city a rude awakening, and now local officials are scrambling to combat the public health crisis. Earlier this week, Mayor Kevin Faulconer pushed forward a homeless shelter plan that's languished for months. It involves pitching three temporary tents – in Barrio Logan, Midway and East Village. The tents, though, are just a temporary fix, and details about how the region plans on finding permanent sources of housing remain hazy. On this week's podcast, City Councilman Chris Ward sits down with hosts Scott Lewis and Sara Libby to explain the city's new shelter plan and what officials mean when they call the tents "bridge structures." "Buildings don't build themselves overnight, so what do you do in the meantime?" Ward said. "We need to do something more immediate, and this is one of those solutions." Also on the podcast, Libby and Lewis take a look at the city's new marijuana supply chain regulations. Plus, several people, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, have been trolling the Chargers as the team starts its first season sans San Diego, and it's hilarious. Hero of the Week Longtime Union-Tribune columnist Dan McSwain, who recently announced his departure from journalism altogether, is our hero. McSwain was a voice San Diego most definitely needed, one that was willing to call for accountability. The VOSD family wishes him the best. Goat of the Week This week's goat goes to the San Diego Unified School District. Again. The district's communications director Maureen Magee bragged on Twitter that the district has been improving its response rate to pending public records request. But there are still many requests that haven't been answered — including some of our own that are approaching 200 days with no answer.

Media Files:

How Gross Is Hep A? And It's Go Time for Marijuana Regs

Fri, 08 Sep 2017 20:14:58 +0000

ate last week, San Diego County health officials declared a local state of emergency on the recent outbreak of hepatitis A. The disease, which has already claimed the lives of 15 people, has predominately affected the homeless community. A lack of access to public restrooms and sanitizing areas has left many exposed to the virus. Local officials recently began deploying hand-washing stations across the city after Voice of San Diego revealed that the response to the crisis for months had been mostly hand-wringing and bureaucracy. So how exactly is Hepatitis A passed around? It all has to do with poop. On this week's podcast, Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts are joined by Sara Libby to discuss how the Hepatitis A outbreak spread throughout the city. Also on the podcast, the group takes a look at the marijuana regulations up for consideration at the Sept. 11 City Council meeting. Although lawmakers won't be discussing issues associated with storefront business, decisions are set to be made on whether to allow the manufacturing, cultivation, testing and distribution of pot. Hero of the Week Our hero this week goes to the Los Angeles Unified School District for providing basic data about their staffing numbers. San Diego Unified still hasn't provided the same information six months after Voice of San Diego first made the request. It took L.A. Unified just under two weeks. Goat of the Week This week, Iftin Charter School gets goatted. The school faces a series of accusations ranging from issues with special education to improper hiring practices, as Maya Srikrishnan reported this week.

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VOSD Podcast: The Ruling That (Maybe) Changed Everything; Plus: Lacrosse

Fri, 01 Sep 2017 21:56:00 +0000

A recent state Supreme Court ruling just made passing local tax hikes a whole lot easier. If a tax increase is proposed by a citizens' group instead of local government, it might now require only a simple majority to pass, not two-thirds. It's hard to get support from two-thirds of voters, so many tax hike proposals over the years have been stymied by the requirement. On this week’s podcast, Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts discuss Monday’s bombshell ruling and the impact it could have on some of the city's biggest issues — from the proposed Convention Center expansion to the the future of the Qualcomm Stadium site. Also on the podcast, Keatts sits down with Steve Govett, president of a new professional lacrosse franchise in San Diego. They talk about how the departure of the San Diego Chargers has opened up opportunities for other professional sports teams and more. "For those people that are pissed off that they lost something in their lives, give us a shot," Govette said. "You may get something else." Keatts also listens to a band I told him about, and admits that Japanese pop music mixed with hardcore metal is good. Hero of the Week This week’s hero goes to the firefighters from San Diego County who were sent to Texas to help victims of Hurricane Harvey. Goat of the Week Local city and county officials get the goat this week for their lackluster response to the current Hepatitis A outbreak. So far, 15 people have died in San Diego.

Media Files:

SDSU Prof's Startling Smartphone Stats

Fri, 25 Aug 2017 20:07:08 +0000

For a while now, millennials have been the butt of all jokes relating to the effects of smartphones on our everyday lives. But right before our eyes, a new generation that's been exposed to iPhones and iPads since the day they were born has sprung up. The iGen generation — a term used to identify kids born between 1995 through 2012 — heavily relies on smartphones and social media networks to communicate with friends throughout the day without physically seeing them. It's caused a series of problems that researchers say changes the way kids develop into adulthood. On this week's podcast, Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts sat down with SDSU professor Jean Twenge to discuss her research into smartphones and their effects on youth and mental health. "It's not just being on the phone six to eight hours a day like the average teen is," Twenge said. "It crowds out time for that social interaction, for sports and exercise, for all these that we know are linked to better mental health and more happiness." Also on the podcast, the guys break down concerns about the search for a new San Diego police chief. The city announced earlier this week that it will not release the names of the candidates for the position nor the people who make up the hiring committee. Residents and local leaders voiced frustration, arguing the process is not transparent enough. And finally, there are plenty of fish in the sea, but can Scott Lewis catch just one? Listen to this week's podcast to find out. Hero of the Week This week's hero goes to Mayor Kevin Faulconer. The mayor has made an effort to highlight his support for a strong relationship with Mexico amid tensions regarding the U.S-Mexico border. Goat of the Week Our goat this week goes to San Diego County’s Civil Service Commission, which occasionally reinstates fired Sheriff's Department deputies despite evidence they're not cut out for the job, and despite pushback from the sheriff.

Media Files:

When the Presidential Circus Drowns Out Local News

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 20:43:25 +0000

It’s been a crazy week for news. The scandals unraveling from the White House seem to be never-ending and constantly evolving. Does anyone even have time for, or care about, what's happening locally? Since the 2016 election, folks have been eager to become more informed on a variety of issues swallowing up national headlines. On this week’s podcast, Andrew Keatts and Sara Libby discuss how big new events around the country have affected the way folks digest local news. Plus, VOSD's Mario Koran joins the podcast to discuss a stunning revelation made by the San Diego Unified school board president as part of our ongoing look at how the district achieved its unprecedented graduation rate. Also on this week’s podcast, Lynn Reaser, chief economist at Point Loma Nazarene University, calls in to explain the NAFTA negotiations and what's at stake for San Diego's economy. “If we start to raise barriers on areas of traditional trade … or other kinds of import restrictions, that would misaddress this focus on the trade deficit," Reaser said. "It’s really to look at more, hopefully, at these areas that have been neglected in the past.” Hero of the Week This week, our hero is the city of San Diego. City officials quickly removed a Confederate-friendly monument from Horton Plaza Park downtown. Goat of the Week Our goat this week goes to San Diego Superior Court Judge Gary Kreep. He received a “severe public censure” by the state’s Commission on Judicial Performance – the worst penalty apart from being removed from the bench. Kreep faced 29 charges of misconduct, including making misogynistic comments about female lawyers.

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All Things Marijuana: The Green Rush Is Coming

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 20:09:01 +0000

Lawmakers are scrambling to come up with regulations after Californians voted to legalize marijuana across the state last year. Cannabis entrepreneurs are eager to get some clarity so they can set up shop and start making money. But right now, the laws are still hazy, and it's starting to cause some problems. On this week’s podcast, hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts discuss the local issues surrounding the legality of the marijuana business. The city of San Diego, for instance, has said it’ll start cracking down on the illegal delivery of pot, but folks in that industry say the city has yet to provide a proper path for legality. Meanwhile in Lemon Grove, day care centers have been getting some strange offers from some business owners who hope to open marijuana shops. And a shocking new case calls into question attorney-client privilege in the marijuana community. Also on the podcast, John Hueston from Hueston Hennigan, the law firm that conducted an investigation of the San Diego Association of Governments, joins Lewis and Keatts to discuss some of the firm's most interesting findings. The firm looked into the faulty economic forecast numbers the public transportation agency put in front of voters in its sales-tax hike measure last year. One of the main questions Hueston looked into was whether SANDAG employees intentionally misled the public. “Instead what I found was a series of very unfortunate lapses in judgment, which range from negligence to questions of competence with respect to the leaders and each one of them," he said. Hero of the Week Our hero of the week goes to Bridge Collaborative for Suicide Prevention, a group that's been working to prevent suicides on the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge by advocating for the installation of a safety barrier. Suicides at the bridge have been skyrocketing in the past few years. Goat of the Week This week, five San Diego City Council members get the goat: Chris Ward, Chris Cate, Georgette Gómez, David Alvarez and Lorie Zapf. They all voted not to repeal the Child Protection Act despite legality concerns from City Attorney Mara Elliot.

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VOSD Podcast: The Big SANDAG Report Came Out and Wowzer

Fri, 04 Aug 2017 21:30:17 +0000

The investigation of the San Diego Association of Governments that came out this week is a doozy. On this week’s podcast, hosts Andrew Keatts and Scott Lewis read excerpts from the independent investigation of the regional transportation agency and break down its most shocking findings. The investigation of SANDAG was spurred by a series of stories by Keatts, who found that the agency knowingly misled voters by using a flawed economic forecasting model. Also on the podcast, Lewis and Voice of San Diego’s Ry Rivard talk to Randy Record, chairman of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, about the organizations' legal battles with the San Diego County Water Authority. “We've decided to stick with the facts and stick with what the court says and let it play out,” Record said. “But it is extremely frustrating when public agencies litigate each other. There’s no way that the public wins.” Hero of the Week This week’s hero goes to Tony Diaz, a homeless man who fought false claims made by a San Diego Police officer. Body camera video showed the officer lied when he cited Diaz for sleeping in the back of his truck. Goat of the Week SANDAG gets the goat this week.  The agency has yet to accept responsibility for the economic forecasting problem.

Media Files:

San Diego Gets Its Perfect Motto

Fri, 28 Jul 2017 20:26:23 +0000

The plan to hold a special election in November to decide on a plan for the future of Qualcomm Stadium failed at City Council, but the people behind the SoccerCity initiative aren’t giving up. They hope the Major League of Soccer won’t either. On Monday, the developers behind SoccerCity came up with #WaitForSD to keep MLS interested until voters have the final say in the November 2018 election. On this week’s podcast, co-hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts explain why #WaitForSD fits like a glove on San Diego. Also, San Diego City Councilwoman Georgette Gomez joins the podcast to discuss the details of her affordable housing plan. Gomez has come up with a seven-point plan that focuses on increasing the affordable housing stock in the city, preserving the current regulations and housing in place and put together an affordable housing tax measure for the November 2018 ballot. She would not say what kind of tax she preferred. Come for the laughs and stay for the explanation of what floor-area-ratio is. Gomez knows she might get some backlash. “This is going to be controversial and I'll probably get some pushback from some of the residents because for a lot of the residents, the fear of higher density is real,” she said. “But we have a crisis, we need to develop more housing. The way that we're zoning our communities isn't going to get us there.” Hero of the Week Brooke Binkowski writes Voice of San Diego’s weekly Border Report newsletter, but she’s also the managing editor at Snopes. This week, the fact-checking site faced legal issues and a possible shutdown, but supporters were able to help them raise $500,000 in one day. Goat of the Week San Diego Unified School District has made it clear that it will start deleting emails older than one year, but what remains blurry is exactly what will happen to the public records requests currently pending. The district said it will fulfill those requests but has yet to give a clear timeline.

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Special Podcast: Introducing I Made it in San Diego

Tue, 25 Jul 2017 22:50:03 +0000

From its factory in Spring Valley, Deering Banjo Company has made more than 100,000 banjos since the business launched in 1975. In the debut episode of I Made it in San Diego, a podcast illuminating the stories behind the region's businesses and entrepreneurs, I talk to Greg and Janet Deering about how they grew their small family business into a company that's made more banjos than any other instrument-maker in existence. Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes and Stitcher, or sign up to get an email every time a new episode airs. Musicians all over the world now play Deering banjos and the business continues to grow, but finding success wasn't easy. The Deerings said they barely squeaked through some of the recessions, and describe how one early business partnership fell apart and forced them to start from scratch. Their eventual popularity was powered, in part, by Deering banjos' appearances in pop music and on "The Price is Right." Even in the toughest times, though, Greg Deering said he always knew Deering Banjo Company would work. Early on, he made a pact with his wife that they'd never give up, no matter what. That stubborn confidence paid off, and now Deering is the largest manufacturer of banjos in the country. "It was this underlying sense of certainty that I can't explain," he said. "There were times when we didn't necessarily know where the rent or the groceries were coming from, but somehow we always managed."

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Inside Tijuana's Taxi Showdown

Fri, 21 Jul 2017 20:06:37 +0000

Yellow cab drivers in Tijuana have historically been among the first to greet people right as they walk cross the U.S.-Mexico border. For decades, yellow taxis had first dibs on tourists, and they had little in the way of competition. But the rise of ride-sharing companies like Uber has disrupted the taxi industry there, and the yellow cabs aren't happy about it. On this week’s podcast, Andrew Keatts and Kinsee Morlan sit down with Derrik Chinn and Alejandro Torres from the tour company Turista Libre to discuss the Tijuana taxi cab turf war and how it connects to Tijuana politics. Early this month, a video surfaced that showed a flock of cab drivers harassing and possibly physically assaulting a man for opting to take an Uber instead of a taxi. This kind of harassment has been happening for months, say Chinn and Torres, but the yellow cab company's political power stopped city officials from doing anything about it. City leaders did finally step in when the video started getting lots of views and publicity and removed the cabs from their spot at the border, but the situation is still far from settled. Torres said when tourists have more options, they often get to see a better side of Tijuana, a city that's long struggled with a reputation for being dirty and dangerous. “For the longest time, the cab drivers in Tijuana were the original and first wave tour guides, and I think in a lot of ways that has led to this misunderstanding of what tourism in Tijuana is really about,” Torres said. “They're taking you to mediocre places ... so of course Tijuana has this image problem because look who's promoting it.” Also on the podcast, Keatts talks with Montgomery Monica, a candidate for the San Diego City Council's District 4. They discuss her background as a criminal justice advocate and what she hopes to accomplish if she gets the job. Hero of the Week This week's hero goes to San Diego County Board of Supervisors who decided to invest more than $1.1 million for body cameras for San Diego County Sheriff's officers. Goat of the Week Interim District Attorney Summer Stephan gets the goat this week. Recently, Stephan has tried to distance herself from the role she played as a prosecutor in the gruesome murder case of 12-year-old Stephanie Crowe. Our very own Ashly McGlone spoke with key players in the case and found Stephan was no bystander.

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Airbnb Honcho on the Short-Term Rental War, Plus SANDAG's Latest Stunner

Fri, 14 Jul 2017 23:21:00 +0000

The short-term rental war is still raging, at least in some parts of San Diego where they're most concentrated. Ocean Beach residents complained about them to City Attorney Mara Elliott at a town hall meeting back in March. Elliott later declared short-term vacation rentals illegal in the city of San Diego, but Mayor Kevin Faulconer said there are no plans to step up enforcement against them – yet. Airbnb has been trying to put out similar fires in cities across the country by assuring residents that the company complies and works alongside city governments to ensure the needs of local residents are being met. On this week's podcast, Scott Lewis sits down with Chris Lehane, head of global and policy affairs at short-term rental giant Airbnb, to discuss some of the concerns from local residents. He says the company has already found successful agreements with other cities in the U.S. "If you look at what has gone on in all of these other cities, once you actually put in place a regulatory structure that makes sense for that particular city, the issue disappears," Lehane said. Also on the podcast, Andrew Keatts explains his latest SANDAG revelation. It turns out that the agency knew TransNet — the 2004 tax increase passed by voters to pay for transit projects — knew for a full year before the election that the measure wouldn't raise $14 billion, but it put that number on the ballot anyway. And finally, does San Diego have an official beer now? Candice Eley, PR director for the Tourism Authority, joins the show this week to explain. Hero of the Week Our hero goes to the founder and CEO of Modern Times, Jacob McKean. He decided to give his employees 30 percent stock ownership of his company last week. Goat of the Week SANDAG gets this week's goat. Three times now, the regional transportation agency either knowingly overstated how much money it could collect to pay for transportation projects, or understated how much projects would cost.

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So What's This New Housing Plan Anyway?

Fri, 07 Jul 2017 21:59:24 +0000

In the first half of the show, hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts talk about the undying Chargers saga, give a quick Mara Elliott and SoccerCity update and discuss potential SANDAG reform.   In the second half, Keatts is joined by David Graham, deputy COO of neighborhood services for the city of San Diego, to discuss the mayor's new housing plan.

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Special Podcast: The Untold Story Behind the Sweetwater Schools Scandal

Mon, 03 Jul 2017 17:03:31 +0000

“The culture of the district was basically based on retaliation, intimidation. Those are the two words that I can think of,” said former Sweetwater school board member Bertha Lopez. Exactly six years have passed since Sweetwater schools superintendent Jesus Gandara was terminated at 2 a.m. on June 21, 2011 following seven hours of closed-door meetings. A raucous crowd of 500 people gathered in a high school gymnasium the evening before to attend the Sweetwater Union High School District board meeting, many to demand better from their school district leaders. Some hoped Gandara’s departure would close a dark chapter in the district’s history dominated by stories of malfeasance. But what was supposed to be the end was only the beginning for leaders of California’s largest secondary public school district, which spans from the city of San Diego to the U.S.-Mexico border. An investigation of Gandara’s activities, as well as the Sweetwater school board and contractors by the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office would last a few years and end in various criminal charges, including felony bribery and conspiracy. A couple Sweetwater leaders landed behind bars. Much has been written about the DA’s case, the outcome and the troubling decision-making that occurred on Gandara’s watch. But there is a story behind all those stories that has yet to be told, about the six individuals who set the whole thing in motion by demanding accountability from their local school leaders and going to the district attorney for help. “I felt like if we didn't do it, nobody else would, and these folks would continue to get away with crimes,” said parent Stewart Payne. “The public has more power than they think that they do,” said parent Maty Adato. “Did I think justice was served? No. Not only no, but hell no,” said grandparent Kathleen Cheers. Payne, Adato and Cheers were part of a group of mostly parents and concerned community members who spent years faithfully attending public school board meetings, scouring documents and sounding the alarm when students were shortchanged by district leaders. To mark the six-year anniversary of Gandara’s termination, we put together a special podcast to allow them to share their story, their motivations, challenges and the sacrifices made along the way. They also have advice for others who want to see change at their local government agency

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A ‘Crime’ at City Hall, the Hunt for Leakers

Fri, 30 Jun 2017 23:09:23 +0000

Things got tense at City Hall this week. Earlier this week when four San Diego City Council members asked Council President Myrtle Cole to docket a discussion about declaring the land under and around Qualcomm Stadium “surplus” land. FS Investors, the group behind the SoccerCity initiative, then released a statement quoting a memo from San Diego’s City Attorney, Mara Elliot which warned city leaders not to campaign against the measure using city resources. City Attorney Mara Elliot did not take that well and even accused whoever leaked the document of committing a crime. On this week’s podcast, cohosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts breakdown the City Hall showdown over the continued SoccerCity initiative debate. Also on the podcast, a fact check of San Diego Unified Board member Sharon Whitehurst-Payne’s claim the district increased staffing even though enrollment was going down. (She was right). Hero of the Week San Diego Unified's Board of Education who did not accept the district plan of deleting emails after just six months. They also decided to create a committee to evaluate the district’s progress with graduation rates. Voice of San Diego has tried to understand what went into an especially impressive rate last year. Goat of the Week San Diego Association of Governments whose bet on interest rates swaps backfired and now taxpayers face a big potential liability.

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Sorting Through the SoccerCity Wreckage

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 22:42:12 +0000

The City Council might have voted against holding a special election in 2017, but SoccerCity isn't dead. Instead of outright approving the proposal to redevelop the Qualcomm Stadium site, the City Council chose this week to put the plan on the 2018 November ballot. FS Investors, the private investment group behind the initiative, aggressively pushed for a November 2017 special election, saying it was the only sure way San Diego could be awarded a Major League Soccer expansion team. But now that the proposal is set to go in front of voters in 2018, many wonder whether MLS will be willing to wait another year after all. The MLS timeline isn't the only thing standing in SoccerCity's way; supporters of the plan will also have to overcome opposition from labor unions, San Diego State University and other big local developers who've joined forces to oppose it. On this week's podcast, co-hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts discuss all the hurdles standing in SoccerCity's way. Also on the podcast, our weeklong series on the South Bay's hidden homelessness crisis continues with a special episode by Gabriel Ellison-Scowcroft, who reports on the role schools play helping students and their families who struggle with homelessness. Deborah Morris, coordinator of integrated services for the Sweetwater Union High School District, says students see school as much more than just a place to learn. "It's more of a relief than it is a place of learning," she said. "I think they see the value in school, but there's so much more going on at home that school is the escape from the stress of their daily lives. It's awful." Hero of the Week This week's hat tip goes to South Bay educators and employees like Mirinda Quillopo, Veronica Medina, Molly Ravenscroft and Pamela Reichert-Montiel who helped with our investigation and who are also stepping up to the plate to help students and their families. Goat of the Week A big ol' goat goes to San Diego Padres fans who demanded retaliation after Cubs player Anthony Rizzo roughly collided with Padres catcher Austin Hedges at last Monday night's game. Tradition or not, violence is never the answer, folks.

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Michael Zucchet's Redemption

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 22:23:28 +0000

In the first half of the show, Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts discuss urban design in Germany, the power change and struggle in San Diego politics and the seemingly ominous fate for SoccerCity. In the second half, Lewis and Keatts are joined by Michael Zucchet, new to the Port Commission, about the FBI raid and court trial, the rebuilding process, and his goals for his new job.

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The Overlooked Ballot Measure That Blew Up City Politics

Fri, 09 Jun 2017 22:29:58 +0000

San Diego learned this week about the incredible power of the mayor. At a City Council meeting Monday, the mayor's proposed budget included $5 million for a special election in November. Voters would potentially weigh in on two big land-use issues – the expansion of the Convention Center and the future of the Qualcomm Stadium site. Although the City Council stripped the special election funding from the budget, the city attorney's office explained that Mayor Kevin Faulconer can veto specific changes and add in what he wants. And to override the mayor's changes, City Council need a supermajority of six votes, not just a simple majority. On this week’s podcast, hosts Andrew Keatts and Sara Libby explain what this means for the proposed special election and San Diego politics as a whole. In the second half of the show, Michael McConnell, a local homelessness advocate, joins the podcast to talk about a new poll he commissioned that found voters are far more likely to approve a hotel tax hike focused on solving homelessness than Faulconer’s plan. Even though there are still discussions about the different ways homelessness can be handled, McConnell says data has already found the best solution — permanent housing — and now the city just needs to fund it. “The debate’s over, and I think we could really come together and agree that we need to get people in permanent housing,” he says. “We just need to have a real will to do it.” Andrea Guerrero, executive director of Alliance San Diego, also stopped by the podcast to talk about how Measure L  – which voters approved last year, sending most citizen's initiatives and referendums to November general elections – is currently taking center stage in the special election debate. “We should be making these big decisions … when the most people are participating, not when a small fraction of the voters are participating,” she said. Hero of the Week Voice of San Diego's very own Maya Srikrishnan, who will be playing violin in Mainly Mozart’s “San Diego Makes Music” community collaboration concert Sunday at Balboa Park, is the hero this week. Goat of the Week The folks who got involved in the all-out brawl at the Observatory North Park during a concert are not cool.

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Special Election Hits a Wall

Fri, 02 Jun 2017 20:33:42 +0000

Mayor Kevin Faulconer wants to hold a special election in November, but this week opposition to the idea came out in force. The special election ballot would likely include the mayor's proposal to hike the hotel tax to pay for a Convention Center expansion and increased homeless services and road repairs, plus the SoccerCity proposal to redevelop Qualcomm Stadium. One this week's podcast, hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts talked about the seemingly insurmountable challenges standing in the way of the two proposals. Just over the past few days, City Council members Chris Ward, Barbara Bry and David Alvarez all explained why they don't think either proposal meets the requirements for holding an expensive special election this year. (Councilman Scott Sherman, meanwhile, affirmed his support for a special election.) Measure L, which voters overwhelmingly passed in November, set a high bar for calling a special election, essentially saying city leaders shouldn't ever put a measure on the ballot outside of a general election unless there's an extraordinary exception. More people show up to vote during general elections, so opponents of a special election say the mayor's pitch goes against the will of San Diego voters. "It's fascinating watching this happening right in front of our eyes," Lewis said of Measure L's impact. "This is literally the tip of the spear right now." An Engaged Citizen Runs for Office Omar Passons is a local attorney who, for years, has been engaged as an activist and thought leader who often publicly voices his opinions on some of the region's biggest political issues. He joined the podcast this week to talk about his transition to political candidate — he's running for a seat on the County Board of Supervisors. Passons detailed his decision to run as a Democrat, his personal background and said he's championing "universal access to high-quality child care and preschool for every child in San Diego County." Passons also said the county could be doing more to tackle the region's housing crisis. He said county supervisors should be more actively involved in building subsidized, affordable homes. "That's an example of something where, if we are going to address homelessness in a meaningful way, part of what we need to do is to is to actually spend the money as an entity on building some of those modest homes," he said. Also on the podcast, Lewis and Keatts bemoan the lack of politicians willing to boldly champion the legal marijuana movement, they give an update on Lincoln High School's search for a principal and[...]

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The Rise of Mara Elliott and a Change at the Port

Fri, 26 May 2017 21:23:30 +0000

Past attempts to expand the San Diego Convention Center have failed over the years – so what's stopping the mayor's newest expansion endeavor from flopping? Bob Nelson, a longtime public relations maven and former Port of San Diego commissioner, joined hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts on the podcast this week to offer his insights on the storied Convention Center expansion saga. As a Port commissioner for six years, he has an insider's view of waterfront development deals since the Port is essentially the landlord and custodian of the region's tidelands. Nelson said Mayor Kevin Faulconer's proposal to hike the hotel tax to fund the expansion will be a hard sell, but  he thinks it has a solid chance, even with early opposition and other hurdles in its way. "I think it has a reasonable prospect of winning," he said. Nelson said there are a couple ways the mayor can get around one of the biggest obstacles – the fact that the land needed for the expansion is currently leased by someone else. "I think it's going to get down to whether or not they can make a deal with the mayor to somehow either join their interests ... or find a way to buy their lease out," he said. Nelson also talked about the relationship between the Port and city leaders, why he took on the Port commissioner role and why he's leaving now. Mara Elliott's Powerful Opinions When a new city attorney is elected, the political tides can change dramatically. Lewis and Keatts pointed out how City Attorney Mara Elliott has swiftly demonstrated the incredible power of her office to flip and form debates about local public affairs. In March, for example, Elliott wrote a memo declaring short-term vacation rentals illegal under city code. She recently told Lewis that she thought the memo would shake things up and spur enforcement. But it didn't. "It landed on deaf ears," she told Lewis. This week, Elliott issued another memo, this one throwing shade on SoccerCity, the private proposal to redevelop the Qualcomm Stadium site into an urban development with a professional soccer stadium. The memo pointed out there's no guarantee the developers would be required to build a public river park, something that's been one of the initiative's big selling points. Hero of the Week A group of parents at Gage Elementary who are pushing the district to be more transparent and responsive get the accolades this week. Goat of the Week Rep. Duncan Hunter gets a big fat goat this week for his response to a question about the assault of a reporter by a congressional can[...]

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The Case for Bro-ing Out at SANDAG

Fri, 19 May 2017 21:25:36 +0000

Meetings of government agencies can be intimidating and unwelcoming, especially for a place like San Diego where people wear flip-flops without shame. So says Serge Dedina, the laid-back mayor of Imperial Beach. Dedina joined the podcast this week to talk to hosts Scott Lewis and Sara Libby about the importance of political "broing out." He said politicians could learn a thing or two from the casual community conversations that happen among surfers and other folks at the beach. He said he's been working on making Imperial Beach's city meetings more inviting and welcoming so he can get more of his working-class constituents to feel comfortable getting involved. He also sits on the SANDAG board, and said the regional transportation agency should do more to make its meetings feel more welcoming. "We need to bring some of that down-home San Diego bro-out culture back to our institutions so people feel like they have ownership," Dedina said. Dedina also talked about the poverty that plagues Imperial Beach, common misconceptions of the life on the border, his thoughts on the SANDAG reform bill and water quality, an issue that's especially important to the mayor. His other job is executive director of Wildcoast, an international nonprofit that works to conserve coastal and marine ecosystems and wildlife. Dedina stepped into the national spotlight recently after a huge raw sewage spill from Tijuana poured into the ocean and stunk up Imperial Beach and other coastal communities. Trash and sewage from Tijuana has long been a problem, but Dedina said this time the spill could have been as much as 250 million gallons of raw sewage, so large and stinky that there's finally a serious bipartisan coalition working to come up with solutions. "It's just just magnified the horribleness of what we'd experience before," Dedina said. "It was really, really abysmal." The new coalition is pushing to get Tijuana's aging sewage system upgraded, and to build infrastructure on the U.S. side of the border that could act as a backup and help mitigate the flow of sewage into the ocean. Also on the podcast, the shocking ease with which students cheat in online course recovery classes, the SoccerCity vs. San Diego State University statement showdown, "Papa" Doug Manchester's possible new role as "Papa Bahamas" and more. Hero of the Week Parents and students at Lincoln High are the heroes this week for organizing and speaking out against the prolonged search for a new principal. Goat of the Week Gompers Preparato[...]

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Inside the Local Labor Turmoil

Fri, 12 May 2017 18:25:09 +0000

There's dissension among the ranks of local labor groups. This week, national AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka announced he placing the San Diego Imperial-Counties Labor Council in a receivership, ousting its leader Mickey Kasparian. In turn, Kasparian announced that several local unions, including two of the largest, were leaving the Labor Council to form a new coalition called the San Diego Working Families Council. The news comes months after allegations of sexual harassment surfaced against Kasparian. Brigette Browning, president of the local chapter of Unite Here, a labor union that represents 6,000 workers in San Diego's hotel and hospitality industries, joined podcast hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts this week to shed light on some of the issues behind the turmoil plaguing local labor. Browning explained why her union left the Labor Council in 2014. "I felt that the culture at the Labor Council had really changed, that you were no longer entitled to your own opinion and there was no real collaboration," Browning said. "And if you were prepared to accept directives, I felt like you were really treated in an unfair way, especially me as a woman. I felt like I was treated in a much different way than other people who took similar positions to me." Browning said her union is now ready to rejoin the Labor Council. Browning said she didn't think the new San Diego Working Families Council will hold much power, that the City Council should exert more oversight over Civic San Diego and she talked about Mayor Kevin Faulconer's proposed ballot measure to hike the hotel tax to pay for a Convention Center expansion, homeless services and road repairs. Browning said she favors a private project already planned for the plot of land where the Convention Center would be expanded over the mayor's plan. "I think the Fifth Avenue Landing project is a better project," she said. "I believe in keeping the park as open space is really important because I know that many of my members enjoy that park. I thought it was never really forward-thinking the way they developed the Convention Center expansion. I've thought for a long time it really should come over Harbor Drive rather than going back towards the water. The mayor hasn't even spoken to us, and we're the biggest union at the Convention Center. We represent 500 members there. I don't think he really intends to form a real coalition. I don't think he cares if it really passes." Also on the podcast, Keatts talked abo[...]

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Why You Should Care About Electricity Contracts

Fri, 05 May 2017 21:51:43 +0000

There's a big debate over who should buy electricity for San Diego. No other political decision on the city's horizon, in fact, will more dramatically alter public affairs than this one. San Diego Gas & Electric currently buys and supplies power for huge swaths of Southern California. But the power company's monopoly could be broken up if San Diego and other California cities decide to start buying power for their residents through a government-run agency known as a community choice aggregator, or CCA. In this week's podcast, hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts explain why the conversation about electricity contracts is so important. The biggest component of San Diego's ambitious Climate Action Plan is getting all electricity from renewable resources by 2035. SDG&E currently relies heavily on burning natural gas. If the city does step up to take the lead on buying power, though, it's not as simple as just flipping a switch. There are some big issues to work through. One of those dilemmas, as Voice of San Diego's Ry Rivard explained this week, is the fact that California allows companies like SDG&E to keep making people pay for power even after they no longer use it. Another Hat in the Ring for Interim DA District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis is resigning in July to consider entering the 2018 race for the County Board of Supervisors. Dumanis has tapped Chief Deputy District Attorney Summer Stephan as her preferred interim replacement. But the Board of Supervisors has the ultimate say, so now former San Diego prosecutor Adam Gordon has thrown his hat in the ring for the interim DA gig. Keatts talks to Gordon about his reasons for wanting the job. Gordan said his main goal is to level the playing field when it comes to the 2018 election, which will determine the full-term district attorney. Gordon said if he's named the interim DA, he won't run next year because he thinks anyone who fills the role will have a huge unfair advantage. "To me, the moral principle behind this is having the voters be the people who decide," he said. "Because the incumbency is so strong." And special this week in the VOSD podcast feed is an in-depth interview with Summer Stephan. Also on the podcast, Lewis and Keatts parse the mass shooting in San Diego Sunday night and question why the San Diego Police Department was so quick to dismiss race as a motive, Keatts talks about the pending arrival of his baby boy and Lewis discusses why he makes his daughter,[...]

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Special Podcast: What Makes Summer Stephan Throw Up

Fri, 05 May 2017 17:51:19 +0000

An interview with Summer Stephan, the leading candidate to replace District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.

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Why We Stood and Delivered Grad Rate Reporting

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 20:53:27 +0000

When students' stellar test scores are called into question in the 1988 movie "Stand and Deliver," actor Edward James Olmos, playing a real-life high school math teacher whose success story the move is based on, calls out the racial motivations behind the investigation. "Those scores would have never been questioned if my kids did not have Spanish surnames and come from barrio schools, you know that," Olmos says in the movie. San Diego Unified School District board trustee John Lee Evans invoked that same racial sentiment when calling into question Voice of San Diego's series of stories looking into the district's impressive 91 percent graduation rate. "We've had a lot of criticisms and questions about it," Evans said in a recent board meeting. "How is that possible? How is it possible with an urban district with such a diverse population could produce this level of graduation? I'm reminded of the movie that some of you may have seen, 'Stand and Deliver.'" On this week's podcast, hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts dig into Evans' accusation and explain the basis for VOSD's reporting on the district's stunningly high grad rate. There were 8,745 kids when the class of 2016 entered the district as freshmen, yet the number used when calculating the 91 percent graduation rate was just 6,428. (Editor's note: the numbers Lewis uses in the podcast aren't quite right; the ones listed here are the correct numbers.) VOSD's Mario Koran simply asked where the students missing from the final grad rate number went. He found that many struggling students were pushed to charter schools, which helped put the 91 percent graduation rate into context. Craft Beer Bubble Not Bursting Anytime Soon Last year, 21 new craft breweries opened in the county, and San Diego Brewers Guild's president Jill Davidson said the region's on pace to open even more this year. Davidson, who's also the sales manager for Pizza Port, joined the podcast this week to talk about San Diego's craft beer scene. She discussed a few government regulations, at the state and local levels that breweries are up against, and also put to rest any concerns about San Diego's craft beer boom. "We are now a mature industry," she said. "That doesn't mean a bubble is bursting. ... It just means you have way less room for error as a business owner. It means you need to focus first and foremost on quality, because that is always what has di[...]

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The Harrowing Story of Hugo Castro

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 23:10:36 +0000

Activist Hugo Castro was propelled into the spotlight after he posted an unsettling Facebook Live video from the side of a freeway near Mexico City. In it, he said his life was in danger. After he shot the video, Castro disappeared for nearly five days before he was finally found, wounded on a street in Tlalnepantla de Baz, a city in the state of Mexico. KPBS border reporter Jean Guerrero has been keeping a close eye on the story. She had recently followed Castro, the volunteer coordinator for nonprofit Border Angels, as he bought and delivered supplies to migrant shelters in Tijuana. Guerrero joined podcast hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts this week to talk about the harrowing details of Castro's saga. She said she had just talked to Castro's partner, Gaba Cortes, who said she wanted to get Castro to a hospital in the United States as quickly as possible because she's concerned about his safety. Guerrero also offered some insight into who might be behind Castro's ordeal. There's still a lot of uncertainty at this point, but she said organized crime in Mexico could be to blame. "Migrants are one of the main sources of income for drug cartels who have, over the past 10 years, largely diversified into things like human trafficking and kidnapping," Guerrero said. Also on the podcast, Lewis and Keatts discussed District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis' announcement this week that she's stepping down from her post in July so she can possibly run for a seat on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. She's already hand-picked her successor. The two also talked about Ry Rivard's story about how Emerson-Bandini Elementary School's plumbing needs were held up to voters as one of the reasons they should approve tax hikes to fund school repairs, yet those repairs still haven't happened. In the meantime, alarming levels of toxic chemicals have been found in the drinking water at Emerson-Bandini. Hero of the Week Castro earned the recognition this week for his work on behalf of migrants. Goat of the Week The latest census of San Diego’s homeless population makes clear that the issue need more attention than ever. While there is some urgency building around the homeless problem, it isn't enough and city and county leaders must do more.

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What a 91 Percent Graduation Rate Doesn't Tell Us

Fri, 14 Apr 2017 19:18:22 +0000

When the San Diego Unified School District announced its official graduation rate this week, it did something unusual. It also released a page of "important facts" about what goes into graduation rates, organized into a series of questions a concerned citizen might ask about the numbers. It was intended as a response to the last few months of reporting by our Mario Koran on the things that are and aren't included in the news that the district had a 91 percent graduation rate in 2016. The district doesn't mention VOSD or Koran directly or indirectly, but it's pretty clear. On the podcast this week, Sara Libby and I go through some of Koran's most significant findings, and break down how the district chose to obliquely respond to them. It was an interesting maneuver, to say the least. We also broke down Ashly McGlone's latest findings in her months-long investigation into FieldTurf, the company that makes artificial turf fields that a bunch of local schools have purchased. The fields have been failing way ahead of schedule, and upgraded fields that schools bought to avoid those problems are now having their own problems too. Plus, the lead proponents for and against San Diego's major pension reform initiative from 2012 joined the show to break down this week's big from a state appeal court upholding the city's reform plan. Michael Zucchet, head of the city union that challenged the initiative, and April Boling, a lead proponent of the citizens' initiative, joined the show to analyze the ruling and game out its implications. Hero of the Week: Steve Fisher, who retired as the San Diego State University's head basketball coach this week after an 18-year career in which he transformed the program into a national player. Goat of the Week: the city of Oceanside, for seemingly backpedaling on a plan to pursue a road diet on Coast Highway. We gave the city hero status a year ago for the same project, but promised at the time we'd make the city a goat if it lost its nerve. We had no choice.

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The Case for a Convention Center and East Village's Boom

Fri, 07 Apr 2017 21:56:57 +0000

Ready or not, a special election is on its way in November. On the ballot will be Mayor Kevin Faulconer's proposed hotel tax hike to fund a Convention Center expansion, and help pay for road repairs and projects or services to alleviate San Diego's homelessness crisis. The bulk of the money raised through the tax hike would go toward the estimated $650 million bay-front expansion of the Convention Center. Gil Cabrera, vice chair of the San Diego Convention Center Corporation, joined the podcast this week to make the case for why voters should care about the size of the facility. He told hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts that a bigger Convention Center means more money for the city. Cabrera said the center has a huge economic impact, but because of its current size can't host two big conventions concurrently, which means lost revenue. "As more and more of these high-value conventions drop off the rotation for San Diego, you're going to have a full center that makes less money and that's the fear if we keep it where it is today," he said. Plus, he said, since the money would be pulled from the hotel tax, tourists would be paying for the expansion while residents would reap the financial rewards (if that sounds familiar, it's because the Chargers used the same argument when they tried to get voters to build them a new downtown stadium). Cabrera also addressed some questions about the plan, including the issue with a plot of land called Fifth Avenue Landing that's currently leased by two businessmen whose plans don't include a Convention Center expansion. Keatts and Lewis also dug into the mayor's lack of a plan for how, exactly, the city will spend the new tax money on homelessness. Right now, there is no real plan, but the mayor's office is pushing that as a plus, not a minus, since it will allow for flexibility. East Village's Remarkable Moment East Village is in the middle of a historic building boom. Keatts is currently living in East Village and he said with the cranes in the sky, the construction holes in the ground and the homeless encampments covering the sidewalks, it's truly a surreal moment for a neighborhood undergoing such rapid change. Also on the podcast, Lewis and Keatts talk about how the 2018 election field is already starting to take shape and the two give a status update on Ass[...]

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Mayor Crafts a Tax Hike, Here Comes a Special Election

Fri, 31 Mar 2017 18:44:56 +0000

We thought we might have a year to breathe after the great Ballot Measure Blizzard of 2016. We were wrong. San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer this week submitted his official request to the City Council to put up a special election in November. His primary concern is a hotel-room tax increase to fund the expansion of the Convention Center. The bulk of the money would go to that. However, it's expected that a much smaller amount would fund road repair and homeless services. As we discuss in this week's podcast, this seems dangerous. While the Convention Center and streets effort have clear goals, the homeless funding does not. The mayor and council are playing with fire if they push hard for a tax for homeless services without identifiable goals and an exact plan for what the money would fund. If the new revenue stream passes, but the city doesn't make any significant dent in the homeless crisis playing out in the streets, it could poison future discussions on the need for new tax revenue to alleviate the problem. The mayor is essentially saying: We know we need a tax increase, we're just not sure what for right now. Cynically, it almost looks like it's meant to make sure the Convention Center expansion has a better shot. We'll see what the City Council does to clarify things. It also seems clear that the November ballot will include the SoccerCity plan. The measure would allow a development group to gain control of the city-owned land at Qualcomm Stadium and clear permitting obstacles for a large development of homes, an entertainment district and a riverfront park. Oh, and a stadium. We previously did an in-depth interview with Nick Stone, one of the leaders of the proposal. We pushed him on a number of the specifics. The group announced this week that it had gathered enough signatures and submitted them to the city for verification. If they're valid, the city can decide either approve it outright, or give voters the the chance to decide by pushing it to a special election. It's looking more and more likely that it ends up going to a special election. On this week's show, we also looked into Attorney General Jeff Sessions' warning to cities about cooperating with federal immigration enforcement efforts and heard out State Sen. Joel Anderson's views on SB 54, the bill law enf[...]

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The Soccer, Homeless, Convention and Roads Ballot

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 18:46:09 +0000

The Qualcomm Stadium site is up for grabs, and it's looking more and more like SoccerCity and San Diego State University are facing off over it. The group of private investors who floated the SoccerCity ballot initiative have hired a flock of signature-gatherers working to get voters' support. Meanwhile, SDSU this week presented Mayor Kevin Faulconer and the city with its list of needs and wants for the Qualcomm Stadium site, including the university's desire to buy a big part of it for use in 30 to 50 years. On this week's podcast, hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts dove in to what SDSU's big announcement means for the SoccerCity plan. The school hasn't exactly come out against the initiative, but school officials did make it clear their not satisfied with what's on the table. Aside from possibly weighing in on the merits of the SoccerCity initiative, which, if it's not approved by City Council, could go to a special election, San Diego voters may have another big decision to make come November. Lewis and Keatts talked about Faulconer's plan to ask for a special election so the city can try to pass a tax hike to fund an over $600 million bayfront expansion of the San Diego Convention Center. The tax hike would also be used to pay for homeless services and road repairs, but Lewis and Keatts think it's a risky political move since San Diegans who vote yes will likely expect to see big, quick visible improvements in roads and homelessness, and so far the city does not have one clear plan for how to get more people housed. What Is a Good California Republican? Where does a good Republican stand on issues like free trade and cross-border commerce? It's an interesting time for Republican politics, especially in California, where right-leaning politicians seem more disconnected from the mainstream party line than ever. Ron Nehring, former head of both the county and state Republican Party and spokesperson for Sen. Ted Cruz's presidential campaign, joined the podcast this week to talk about the current state of San Diego and California's Republican Party. He said the party needs a big booster shot in the form of a strong and likable Republican candidate for governor. "That governor candidate has to define our party and communicate in a way that a[...]

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Your Vacation Rental Is Now Illegal

Fri, 17 Mar 2017 20:20:24 +0000

San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott says anyone running vacation rentals in San Diego isn't allowed within the city's current zoning rules. In a memo released this week, Elliott clearly states that short-term vacation rentals are not allowed in residential or commercial areas. Her city attorney predecessors, however, said things weren't nearly as black and white. Councilman Chris Cate joined hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts and shared his reaction to the big short-term rental shift. He said he was taken aback by the opinion, partly because it was so blunt in saying the use is illegal without much attempt to explain why Elliott's two predecessors were wrong. A City Council committee will meet next Friday to discuss short-term rental rules, and Cate shared details of his proposal, which, among other things, would separate whole-home rentals and home-sharing and allow them but require permits and  fees that would help pay for enforcement. "Even if you ban them, you're still going to need the enforcement because otherwise they're going to go underground," he said. Gonzalez: Time to Reform SANDAG Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez joined the podcast this week to talk about the details of her SANDAG reform bill. Gonzalez introduced AB 805 after Voice of San Diego revealed that SANDAG leadership knowingly overstated how much money a sales tax hike would bring in and understated costs of transportation projects voters approved in 2004. The bill proposes sweeping changes to how the region's transportation planning agency makes decisions and would also change who audits the agency. Gonzalez said the VOSD series on SANDAG hammered home the need for a new leadership structure at the agency. "Where's the accountability here?" she said. "It's time to reform it. It's time to take it on and not pussyfoot around." Also on the podcast, the density battle over building new homes around new trolley stops rages on, and Lewis shared a story about his friendly beach encounter with local Syrian families, some of whom left the war-torn country just months ago. Hero of the Week The San Diego Hall of Champions sports memorabilia museum gets the nod this week for agreeing to move to Petco Park to make room for the new Comic-Con museum. No g[...]

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The Other Thing SANDAG Hid

Sat, 11 Mar 2017 01:09:35 +0000

SANDAG's faulty economic forecast system, which the agency knew about but didn't acknowledge until after Andrew Keatts revealed the problem, isn't the only thing that's been obscured from public view. This week, Keatts reported that the agency in charge of regional transportation projects also hid the fact that the cost of the projects it promised to voters in the TransNet program have risen by about $8 billion. It's now clear that SANDAG's revenue projections were far too high and its estimated project costs far too low, which means there's now a $17 billion funding shortfall. In this week's podcast, hosts Scott Lewis and Keatts talk about SANDAG's botched numbers and what it could mean for the future of transportation in the region. SoccerCity Proposal Numbers and Its SDSU Problem The investors behind the SoccerCity proposal want to turn Qualcomm Stadium and the parking lot surrounding it into a mixed-use development that includes a joint-use Major League Soccer and San Diego State football stadium, housing, an entertainment district and a big river park. Among the plan's detractors is Carl DeMaio, a radio host who's been talking about how the plan would mean a measly $10,000 payment to the city for the Qualcomm Stadium site. Lewis looked into that claim, and found that while the $10,000 number is indeed in the plan, it's listed as the minimum amount the mayor could determine the land is worth. Keatts and Lewis also talked about the plan with Beau Lynott, who runs Kabeer Thirty, a website covering San Diego State Aztecs football. A big part of the discussion surrounding the proposal is focused on SDSU's desire for a bigger stadium than the one envisioned in the plan. "San Diego State can probably kill this if they walk away from this completely," Lynott said. Also on the show: Kirby Brady and Mark Cafferty of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation discuss their recent report that says SoccerCity will give the region a $2.8 billion economic boost. Lewis also talked about his problem with news organizations that claim to be impartial and objective, and the hosts analyze a recent tiff between city attorney Mara Elliot and a few City Council members. Hero of the Week The c[...]

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Mortgage Rates Are Low and Murder Rates Are Getting Higher

Fri, 03 Mar 2017 20:49:47 +0000

Home prices in San Diego are high, but that doesn't mean we're in the middle of a bubble that's about to burst – it's more complicated than that. Rich Toscano, a financial adviser and housing market analyst, joined hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts to explain. He broke down the strangeness that's happening in San Diego's housing market right now. "The especially interesting twist this time around is the interest rates are very low," Toscano said, "rendering monthly payments actually pretty reasonable." Toscano dug into the historically tenuous relationship between interest rates and mortgage rates and answered everyone's burning question when it comes to the housing market: Is it a good time to buy? Spoiler alert: There's no easy answer, but Toscano does get down to brass tacks. While prices are indeed a bit higher than they should be, it's not absolutely nuts to buy a house right now. Murders in San Diego Up Again Murder rates in San Diego are up for the third straight year in a row. Exactly 100 people were murdered in San Diego last year, a number that's been climbing since 2014. San Diego Union-Tibune reporter Lyndsay Winkley joined the podcast to talk about her story that puts the alarming numbers into context. For one thing, she said it's worth remembering that San Diego is still pretty darn safe, especially when compared with other cities its size. "San Diego still has the lowest murder rate among the top 10 biggest cities," she said. Winkley also explains that the number is confusing since other violent crime in the city has gone down. She added that crime statisticians are always quick to point out that the numbers don't always point to a trend. Also on the this week's podcast, Lewis reacted to a letter sent by the local YMCA that said the organization would be raising membership prices due to the hiked minimum wage. Keatts and Lewis also talk about the SoccerCity plan that seeks to remake the Qualcomm Stadium site. Hero of the Week The California Supreme Court ruled this week that public business conducted by government employees on their own private cell phones or from personal email accounts is still subject to public record requests. It's a big win[...]

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The Three Challenges to SoccerCity and the District's Budget Mess

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 22:04:15 +0000

Details of the SoccerCity plan have been unveiled, and pieces of it are already being scrutinized. Nick Stone, partner with FS Investors, the group that wants to replace Qualcomm Stadium with a new joint-use soccer and San Diego State football stadium and develop new housing and entertainment on the adjacent land, joined podcast hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts this week to dig deep into the proposal. Lewis laid out three main groups likely to oppose the SoccerCity plan: NIMBYs and environmentalists, rival investors who want the same plot of property and political institutions with concerns about how the public land is developed. Stone addressed each potential challenge and answered big questions like why the deal is a long-term lease versus a purchase. He also addressed concerns about density, whether the deal is a public land grab and other issues that have come up, including SDSU's apprehensiveness. Stone said it's hard for him to see the SoccerCity deal as anything but a gift to SDSU. "What we're doing is giving them a stadium," he said. "They come out of that owning their game day revenues, minus their game day expenses, but only half of the operating cost, because we're staying on the hook for the other half. It is functionally exactly a gift." San Diego Unified's Struggles  San Diego Unified has to slash $124.4 million from next year's budget. As details of the cuts have emerged, the district has been doing a big public relations push to try to explain why the cuts are happening. In a recent interview with NBC 7 San Diego, district Superintendent Cindy Marten characterized the budget cuts as a "long-term structural deficit." Lewis and Keatts analyze that claim, plus question whether the proposed cuts are, in fact, the type of permanent fixes that would solve the district's structural problems. Also on this podcast, Lewis can't get over these pictures of Rep. Darrell Issa serving coffee at a local Starbucks. Hero of the Week Discovering new planets is cool, which is why UCSD physics professor Adam Burgasser and his team at the school's Center for Astrophysics & Space Sciences get a big thumbs-up for their role in spotting s[...]

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Real Fake News and Fake Protection of Immigrants

Fri, 17 Feb 2017 23:00:56 +0000

The term "sanctuary city" is a dangerous misnomer. Living in a city that's named itself a sanctuary city does not, in fact, mean undocumented people are safe from deportation. On this week's episode, hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts explore what elected officials in California are saying about sanctuary cities and what's actually happening in the places where it sounds like undocumented people are shielded and protected. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's San Diego Field Office, for example, deported 23,729 people last year. Of those, just 10,872 had criminal convictions. San Diego's been called a sanctuary city, yet clearly the term is quite misleading for those who actually have to worry about being deported. Six Degrees of Fake News Lewis offers his hot take on the whole fake news thing, breaking down six different categories of fake news. There's real fake news that's actually been purposely fabricated, then there's real news stories that people are simply labeling fake, but there are a few stories that fall somewhere in between. Journalists make mistakes, for example, but those stories, which are later corrected or retracted by the original source, can quickly spread across the internet like wildfire, taking the falsehoods along for the ride. Trickling Down From Trump President Donald Trump tapped Alexander Acosta as his new pick to head the Department of Labor. The announcement came just a day after Andy Puzder withdrew from consideration. Clare Crawford, the executive director of the Center on Policy Initiatives, and Peter Callstrom, the CEO and president of the San Diego Workforce Partnership, also joined Lewis and Keatts this week to talk about the ways in which San Diegans could feel the impact of major idealogical and philosophical changes at the Department of Labor, a federal organization meant to protect workers. "It's a new day," Callstrom said. "We'll see what the new nominee brings, but we need people who are fighting for workers ... to help people go from where they are to where they can be." Also in the podcast, Lewis talks about the joy and hilarity of coaching tee-ball and the city gets a [...]

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Fri, 10 Feb 2017 19:59:22 +0000

The San Diego Association of Governments knowingly misled voters with its Measure A ballot proposal. Earlier this week, Andrew Keatts uncovered revealing emails from SANDAG's chief economist that showed the agency's executives knew about a problem with their forecasting model almost a year before they put Measure A, a sales tax hike to fund transportation projects, on the November ballot. Rather than taking the problem to SANDAG's board, the agency's management kept using the $18 billion number they now admit was way off. That $18 billion number is important, by the way, because SANDAG used it to come up with the long list of transportation and open space projects it dangled in front of voters in November. Keatts gets super fired up in this week's podcast as he and cohost Scott Lewis distill the big SANDAG news. Nonprofit Exec: San Diego Leaders Aren't Doing Enough for Refugees There's a lot of new energy and interest related to San Diego's refugee population since President Donald Trump's controversial travel ban. But Ramla Sahid, executive director of the nonprofit Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans, said San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and other elected local leaders have yet to react to the refugee ban as passionately as other people in the community. "We don't see folks like Kevin Faulconer stepping up to the plate and saying, 'These are our neighbors, these are our community members,'" Sahid said. "As a city we [should make a] commitment to protect and ensure that they feel welcome. I think that's a missed opportunity and we just need to call that out." PANA is a relatively new nonprofit that serves refugees through research, public policy and community organizing. Sahid joined Lewis and Keatts this week to talk about the issues facing the estimated 82,000 refugees who've resettled in San Diego since 1975. Also on the podcast, Lewis has become the go-to "cannabis forum moderator guy." He said his jaw drops when he looks out in the crowd at these forums and sees the economic mania surrounding the budding industry as potential investors try to ensure they get their[...]

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Oh Good, a New Stadium Debate

Fri, 03 Feb 2017 22:47:16 +0000

The dust the Chargers kicked up on their way out of town has barely begun to settle, but San Diego has already moved on to the next big thing: soccer. The new pitch for the future of the Qualcomm Stadium site has something for everyone – a joint-use soccer and San Diego State football stadium, an entertainment district, housing and a huge new riverfront park. What's not to like? On this week's podcast, hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts come up with a few things folks should consider before the city green-lights selling a giant swath of city land to a group of private investors. They also play some clips from a talk they had with Mike Stone, one of the principals of the investment group behind the pitch. Stone explained the role his investment group will play. Part of what they'll be doing, he said, is leasing parts of the land to other developers. "We'll serve as the very high-level master developer," he said. "But there are a lot of guys out there who want to develop parcels on this, so we're going to entitle them and allow people to compete for that." Also on the podcast, Lewis attempts to defend his controversial take on tomato-less sandwiches, and the duo discusses their rationale behind giving goats a bad name. Hero of the Week Fifth Avenue Books in Hillcrest gets the honor this week for hanging in as long as it did. The bookstore has been in business for 30 years, but it's closing its doors at the end of the month. Goat of the Week San Diego Unified gets the goat yet again, this time for missing local hiring targets.

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The Super Bowl and the Plight of the Lady Football Fan

Wed, 01 Feb 2017 16:21:33 +0000

VOSD Managing Editor Sara Libby and Annie Heilbrunn of the Union-Tribune discuss the Super Bowl and the plight of the lady football fan.

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City Council Odd Couple in the House

Fri, 27 Jan 2017 22:19:36 +0000

San Diego is in the middle of a housing crisis, and an unlikely pair has emerged to do something about it. Democratic Councilman David Alvarez and Republican Councilman Scott Sherman disagree on many issues. But when it comes to housing – and San Diego's need for a boatload more of it – the two said they're batting for the same team. Hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts sat down with Alvarez and Sherman to talk about the odd couple's new housing plan. The two hosted a summit this week to kick off a major housing push, but Lewis and Keatts wanted to know how they plan to take the issue beyond a conversation and create actual solutions, especially since some of Mayor Kevin Faulconer's actions haven't moved the needle much when it comes to new housing in San Diego. Citing a 2015 study by researchers at  Point Loma Nazarene University that found 40 percent of housing costs in the region are driven by government regulations, Sherman said one way to get more housing built is to remove red tape. "We're going to move to streamline some of those processes," he said. "We're going to start trying to allow certain things to be done and be permitted by right ... and reform different obstacles that get in the way a lot of times of these types of development happening." Both Sherman and Alvarez said they are committed to push as hard as they can on housing in the next few years. "The willingness is there now," Alvarez said. "There's never been a moment like this while I've been on the Council where it just feels like it's the right time to do it." Also on the podcast, Keatts and Lewis get all anti-science about growing human organs in animals. They talk about the two executive orders signed by President Donald Trump this week that could impact the San Diego region bigly. And, of course, they touch on the new idea floated for the Qualcomm Stadium site, and discuss what it means now that the city has cleared a huge hurdle in its push toward a waterfront expansion of the Convention Center. Oh, and the Chargers are[...]

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Padres Boss on the Vacuum the Chargers Left and East Village's Future

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 20:55:53 +0000

Hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts talk to Ron Fowler, the executive chairman of the group that owns the San Diego Padres, about a post-Chargers San Diego and other big citywide issues.

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Special Podcast: Women on the March

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 19:48:37 +0000

You know how when you experience a traumatic event, folks will tell you to just keep putting one foot in front of the other? That's what thousands of women across the country plan to do on Saturday, including many in San Diego. In this podcast episode, I talked with Alex Zaragoza and Eboney Steward, two organizers of the San Diego Women's March, about what's going down at the march and beyond. We discussed their efforts to recruit a diverse group of women to lead the event, questions from men about whether they're invited too (yes, duh!) and, for some reason, "Grey's Anatomy" (just go with it). Steward said her motivation for the march goes beyond just the election of President Donald Trump. "Donald Trump winning wasn't the first thing that made me want to get up and do something. As a woman of color, I've been dealing with this kind of thing for as long as I can remember. ... No one else is going to fight for your seat a the table, so if you're not there to claim it, you're going to get passed over," she said. Poster-making parties have been happening across the city in advance of the march. VOSD’s Kinsee Morlan dropped in on one of them in City Heights and talked with a handful of women who were depressed about the Donald Trump presidency, but empowered by the act of sharing their sentiments. She also dropped by the “Nasty Women” art show that’s opening in a Bankers Hill gallery after the march and talked to one of the organizers, ceramic artist and professor Sasha Koozel Reibstein.

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Why the Chargers Left and, Yeah, That's Over

Fri, 13 Jan 2017 22:11:41 +0000

The Chargers are done with San Diego. Hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts unpack that huge, city-shaking news in this week's episode. There's a lot to go through, especially considering the fact that Lewis has been covering the Chargers saga since 2003. A lot of people thought the Chargers would never actually move to Los Angeles. In hindsight, of course, it should have been clear exactly two years ago that the team's move to L.A. was close to inevitable. Back then, though, city leaders and fans alike dismissed Chargers chairman Dean Spanos' talk about leaving as mere leverage to move along the stadium deal the team so badly wanted. The city played Spanos' game and lots of public money was spent on stadium-related reports and consultants over the past few years. Ultimately, the city lost, but the real losers are the teams' die-hard fans. "This is not good for the city," said Keatts. "No matter what a policy wonk you are out there who has determined that these subsidies are bad, the way the NFL does business is unethical, that there is better uses for our finite city land, that this sucked up too much oxygen in our political discussion – all of that can be true, and it can also be true that this is just sad. There are a lot of San Diegans who lost something they care about." The good news is now the city has over 150 acres of land in Mission Valley that could be used for something big. Also on the podcast, Lewis and Keatts talk about previous State of the City addresses and the progress of some of the mayor's past promises. We also air the first episode of Season 2 of Culturecast, Voice of San Diego's podcast covering arts and culture in the San Diego region. Hero of the Week Chicano Park was named a National Historic Landmark. Congratulations to the artists and community members who have done a bang-up job keeping the park beautiful and helping get its historical significance recognized. Goat of the Week Chargers chairman Dea[...]

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VOSD Podcast: The Hot Messes Facing the Chargers, SANDAG and Stormwater Regulations

Sat, 07 Jan 2017 00:19:31 +0000

California's stormwater system is a toxic mess. Voice of San Diego reporter Ry Rivard joined the podcast this week to discuss his three-part investigative series on stormwater pollution and the flawed system that polices it. Rivard talked about the history behind stormwater regulations and the thousands or more industrial businesses across the state that don't comply with the rules. Businesses that do follow the law open themselves up to lawsuits from environmental lawyers who've taken it upon themselves to police the system since the state doesn't have the resources. The current system is largely viewed as unfair, and there's a debate about what to do about it. "There's a bunch of different things we could decide to do," Rivard said. "We could decide to give the government all the resources it needs to actually enforce the law so that private environmental groups don't have to, or we could figure out a different way to clean up water, or we could loosen the regulations, or we could make the decision that any business that pollutes should be immediately shut down." Environmental lawyer Wayne Rosenbaum also called in and said something needs to be done to fix the system. "I think regulators would agree that it leaves a bad taste in everybody's mouth," Rosenbaum said. "I think this is an issue the state water board and the regional water boards have to address." Podcast hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts also offer their analysis of this op-ed by County Supervisor Ron Roberts, who addressed VOSD's reports on the San Diego Association of Governments' seriously botched income projections. Roberts addresses many of the questions brought up by our stories, including whether SANDAG knew the revenue forecast for Measure A, last year's proposal for another sales tax hike to pay for a bevy of transportation projects, was likely way off, too. Lewis and Keatts also parse the latest attempts to keep the Cha[...]

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Lincoln High and the Challenge of School Turnarounds

Fri, 30 Dec 2016 14:59:57 +0000

How far does a school district’s responsibility extend when it comes to turning around a struggling school – and what’s a parent to do when the district doesn’t fix the problems? That’s the question Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn take on this week, in the latest episode of our education podcast, Good Schools for All, which we’re airing in our weekly VOSD Podcast feed. They look at the question through the lens of Lincoln High School in southeastern San Diego. Subscribe to Good Schools for All on iTunes or get the RSS feed here.

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Voice of the Year

Fri, 23 Dec 2016 15:29:27 +0000

On this week's podcast, hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts discuss VOSD's decision to name downtown homeless people the 2016 Voice of the Year. In the second half, Lewis and Keatts speak with Mark Cafferty, CEO of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation.

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What to Pay Politicians and How to (Not) Clean a Creek

Fri, 16 Dec 2016 22:55:27 +0000

When politicians vote to raise their own salaries, it's awkward. News of salary increases for public officials is almost always met with outrage. That was the case this week when the Union-Tribune broke the story about four of the five County Board of Supervisors quietly voting to raise their salaries by $19,000. County Supervisors Greg Cox, Dianne Jacob, Ron Roberts and Bill Horn voted for increase. Dave Roberts was the only one to vote against it. On this weeks' podcast, hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts give the Supes' pay boost an extended "Goat of the Week" entry, knocking them extra hard since they voted for it in a way that didn't allow for public input. Rep. Scott Peters calls in to the show to say we need a conversation that goes deeper than just knee-jerk, across-the-board opposition to all pay raises for public officials. "We just never have a conversation about what the right answer is and all the coverage of salary for public officials just seems to be negative," he said. "We need the engagement of the community and the press to help the local electeds find the right answer." Without defending the County Board of Supervisors' raise, which Peters said seemed a bit aggressive, he said it's important to keep politicians' pay competitive and come up with an automated way to increase salaries based on economic benchmarks and inflation without making officials vote on the raises themselves. Chelsea Collier, founder of Digi.City, also stopped by the podcast studio to talk about how cities can use technology to revolutionize the way they serve citizens. Collier recently penned an op-ed for VOSD urging leaders to ready the city for a 5G wireless broadband network. A Crippled Creek In the 1990s, regulation passed that said toxic metal levels in Chollas Creek were too high. A pricey plan was put into place to [...]

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The Council President Showdown

Fri, 09 Dec 2016 21:20:00 +0000

Three new San Diego City Council members will be inaugurated next week. The new Council's first big decision will be a tense one: Who will be the next City Council president? In this week's podcast, hosts Andrew Keatts and Scott Lewis talk about the behind-the-scenes vote wrangling between Councilman David Alvarez and Councilwoman Myrtle Cole to become the next leader and the interesting split it's caused among two of the city's most powerful progressive institutions. The San Diego Building and Construction Trades Council is backing Alvarez, while the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council just announced its support for Cole. Lewis and Keatts dig deep into why the groups are divided and why it matters. Taking a Stab at Solving San Diego's Biggest Problem The affordable housing crisis is one of the San Diego region's gnarliest problems, but that's not stopping one new coalition. Mary Lydon, the former executive director of the local Urban Land Institute chapter, is part of a new project called Housing You Matters, a group of urban planners, environmentalists and community leaders who have ambitious plans to first understand the housing problem, and then roll out recommendations for policy changes or other possible answers to the growing problem. Lydon joined the podcast to discuss the group's goals and its strategy. "There's no doubt that we're growing," she said. "Our populations are growing. We all have children. Where are they going to live? The great opportunities now are in the big cities ... so we have to figure out how to accommodate that. But here in the state of California, we have some constraints." Lydon said the city's Climate Action Plan is one local policy that's caused more restraints when it comes to building affordable housing. She also said her group is currently focusi[...]

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Todd Gloria's Exit Interview and the Homeless Shame

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 23:12:39 +0000

Todd Gloria has served eight years as city councilman, but in a few short days he'll leave for the state Assembly, where he's replacing Toni Atkins in representing District 78. Gloria joins hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts this week to talk about his time with the city, which included stints as City Council president and interim mayor. He shared his thoughts on City Hall battles over issues like minimum wage, the city's aggressive new climate plan, the failed Barrio Logan community plan update, affordable housing and more. Gloria said the reason his City Council presidency was cut short was the packed progressive agenda that he pushed during his tenure, which didn't always go over well with his Republican cohorts. "Some would say that was part of my undoing," Gloria said. "That I was too aggressive in trying to push an agenda ... but life is short, the job is actually quite hard and there are some downsides to these gigs, so if you're going to do one, make the most of it." Gloria said despite the pushback, he'll be taking much of the same progressive agenda and aggressive approach to Sacramento. He said one big thing he learned as a councilman was the huge impact of money on politics in California, where anyone with a big enough bank account can take issues directly to the voters. "What I certainly miscalculated is what unlimited money in politics can do," he said. In one of the more revealing moments, Gloria talked about what it was like to work with former Mayor Bob Filner, who resigned amid accusations of sexual harassment. Lewis asked if he felt like Filner was bullying him. Gloria said yes and described a few of his interactions with the former mayor. San Diego's Homeless Population Is Far From Hidden Lewis and Keatts summarize Lisa Halverstadt's recent cove[...]

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The School Board's Bizarre Retroactive Legal Bill

Wed, 23 Nov 2016 19:02:58 +0000

When questions began to arise about former San Diego Unified board trustee Marne Foster after a series of reports by VOSD education reporter Mario Koran, the rest of the board opened an investigation into them. They capped the probe at $40,000 and said they'd provide a public report within 30 days of the investigation's launch. Neither of those things happened, though, and as Koran uncovered, the cost ballooned to $228,000 and the district says there's no report. Koran joined the podcast this week to walk hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts through all the wacky details he unraveled in his reporting. "There's a lot of stuff going on in this story," Koran said. "But there are three issues that I see that are really kind of weird. They made promises they didn't keep to ... There were some questions about the way the contract was approved ... and then you have to take a step back and say, what was this all for? Why did we pay $228,000 and we have nothing? The public has absolutely nothing to show for that." Also on this week's podcast, Lewis explained that a beard-trimming snafu forced him to shave the whole thing off, which made him unrecognizable and freaked out his kids and pretty much everyone else who has to look at his rarely seen jaw and chin. Hero of the Week The attorneys at the San Diego law firm Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP get the honor this week for waiving their attorney fees in the fraud lawsuits against Trump University. President-elect Donald Trump agreed to settle the lawsuit for $25 million. Lawyers don't often waive their fees, but when they do it means the millions of settlement dollars go directly toward the plaintiffs who filed the lawsuits rather than paying legal costs. Goat of the Week FM 94.9 morning show [...]

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Barbara Bry's Policy Plans and Four Big Stories in San Diego

Fri, 18 Nov 2016 20:38:33 +0000

Barbara Bry is ready to put some of her campaign promises into policy. The councilwoman-elect will officially represent San Diego City Council District 1 after she's inaugurated in December. She joined hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts this week to talk about what she plans to do. Bry said right out of the gate she'll be focusing on public safety, small business support and the short-term vacation rental war that continues to rage in her district, which includes communities like La Jolla, University City and Carmel Valley. She said she's been consistent throughout her campaign about where she stands when it comes to residents who want to rent out their homes via sites like Airbnb. "I'm fine if you rent out a room in your house as much as you want as long as you're on site to supervise," she said. "I'm also fine if you rent out your house when you're on vacation or during Comic-Con as long as it's your primary residence where you live most of the year. What I'm against is when houses essentially become mini hotels in residential neighborhoods." She also said she's still solidly against providing public funds to build a new stadium for the Chargers and shared other thoughts on long-running city controversies. And yes, the never-ending Children's Pool saga gets brought up. Also on this week's podcast, Lewis and Keatts discuss the city's forward momentum on the revamp of Balboa Park's Plaza de Panama and some of the hurdles still standing in its way. They also parse the city's long-awaited approval of the Uptown community plan and question why it doesn't allow for more housing and development. The two also review Ashly McGlone's stunning four-part series this week on a Canadian company that installed defective tur[...]

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So, What Happened?

Fri, 11 Nov 2016 16:31:45 +0000

San Diego’s election results didn’t look much like the rest of the country. Democrats in the county won a bunch of races and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton beat President-elect Donald Trump by 17 points among county voters. We dissected those results on the show this week, with two political operatives who played a key role in local races. Carol Kim, political director for the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council, and Jason Roe, a local Republican political consultant who was an outspoken Trump critic throughout the election, helped us break down what the results taught us about San Diego’s political direction. We skipped handing out our usual hero and goat of the week so we could concentrate instead on a full analysis of the election results.

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The Great Vacation Rental Fail

Fri, 04 Nov 2016 20:08:01 +0000

Residents packed a City Council meeting this week where the city considered a broad ban on short-term vacation rentals. In the end, it was a wasted trip, as the only Council members who supported the aggressive move were the two who proposed it, Sherri Lightner and Lorie Zapf. Everyone else voted against it. On the podcast this week, we broke down the odd, failed political gambit and took a closer look at the neighborhood discontent that drove their decision. The biggest topic in the short-term vacation rental debate is what to do about neighbors who suddenly find themselves living next door to loud, regular parties from different visitors every weekend. But that isn’t the only issue on the table. The city is also being asked to regulate a new type of behavior – neighborliness – and policymakers are finding it a tough job. We also invited local pollster John Nienstedt, of Competitive Edge Research & Communication, to tell us a bit about what he expects Tuesday’s electorate to look like, and what that might mean for the results of the many, many measures facing us on the ballot.

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The Convadium Becomes the Innovadium: the Turducken of Civic Facilities

Fri, 28 Oct 2016 20:01:45 +0000

This week on the podcast, Andrew Keatts and I grappled with the news that the Chargers' vision for a new convadium downtown now includes "the region’s first diversity-focused start-up incubator and accelerator." That's right, the convadium is now the "innovadium." We may or may not have come up with other things they might try to include in the project as we hit the home stretch to Election Day. We also discussed Keatts' boffo story this week that SANDAG's projections about how much money a previous tax increase would generate are coming out wildly inaccurate, threatening some of the transportation projects the agency has pledged to voters. The same forecasting assumptions are being used to project that Measure A, a half-cent sales tax increase on the November ballot, will generate $18 billion in revenue for use on transportation and open-space projects. That number is now highly questionable after Keatts' reporting. Finally, we also had Mason Herron on the show. The East County political consultant pulls together a daily report in the days leading up to Election Day on how early voting is proceeding. He had some interesting insights and pointed out this portal, where you can see just how early voting is going in San Diego and other parts of California.

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The Convadium Goes National and a Ballot Rundown

Fri, 21 Oct 2016 18:41:06 +0000

There are a whopping 12 citywide measures and two countywide measures on this year's totally bananas ballot. On this week's podcast, hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts go through the local measures one by one, presenting the arguments for and against each proposal and explaining everything as clearly as they can. For folks looking for help with the rest of this year's massive two-card ballot; Ry Rivard and Sara Libby tackled the 17 statewide measures in their elections podcast, San Diego Decides. Lewis and Keatts also break down the etymology of the term "convadium," the word that's come to represent the Chargers' proposed joint-use stadium and convention center annex. It's an important piece of local lore now that the word made it on the national stage via sports columnist Bill Simmons' weekly HBO show, "Any Given Wednesday." Simmons' segment urges people to vote no on Measure C, and in laying out an argument it makes one big mistake: The Chargers are credited with coining "convadium." But Lewis actually conjured up the word back in 2011, and it's since been adopted by just about everyone in San Diego, including the Chargers themselves. Lewis says he's conflicted because, while he's proud of inventing convadium, the HBO segment mocks the word and makes it a big punchline — Simmons even recruited famed skateboarder and San Diego native Tony Hawk to trash-talk the term. So, really, that whole portion of the critique should have been directed at Lewis, which is why he's kinda sad, but also pretty happy that the word is now officially famous. Also on the podcast, Keatts and Lewis do a lot of laughing[...]

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The Money Pouring Into Local Races

Fri, 14 Oct 2016 22:10:15 +0000

There's a handy app that makes searching through San Diego campaign contributions easy. It was created by Joe Yerardi, a data reporter at inewsource, who joined hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts this week to talk about some of the things he's learned by following the election money. Yerardi summarized who's supporting the yes and no campaigns of many of the local measures, including Measure A, a proposal from the San Diego Association of Governments that would levy a half-cent sales tax to fund transportation, infrastructure and open space projects throughout the county. "So Measure A is really sorta interesting because traditionally you've got Republicans and Democrats who will break down yes one way, no the other way," he said. "But the thing that's really interesting about Measure A is that you've kind of got this split on the left side of things, so a lot of liberals ... are coming out against Measure A. They say it's not really effectively pro-environment enough and it focuses too much on sort of old notions of transit." Yerardi also breaks down the money flowing into the yes and no campaigns behind the Chargers' convadium pitch and a proposal to build the controversial Lilac Hills Ranch development. Lewis and Keatts also talk about the heated convadium debate happening in VOSD's op-ed section. The latest is a fiery piece by Chargers adviser Fred Maas, who takes on some of the points architect Rob Quigley laid out in an opinion piece earlier this month. They touch on the two studies that tell very different stories about the economic impact of the proposed stadium and[...]

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Measure A Debate - Politifest 2016

Wed, 12 Oct 2016 16:00:00 +0000

Measure A would raise the county’s sales tax and use the money to invest in freeways, transit and open space preservation. Moderated by Voice of San Diego’s Andrew Keatts, City Councilman Todd Gloria and County Supervisor Ron Roberts argued in support of the measure and Nicole Capretz, executive director of Climate Action Campaign, Oceanside’s Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery and Tommy Hough, president of the San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action, argued against it. Before and after the Measure A debate, Keatts took an informal poll of the audience, and lots of audience members actually changed their minds with an overwhelming shift to “yes” by the end of the conversation. For more background, check out: Independent Oversight Promised With Last SANDAG Tax Hike Not So Independent Fact Check: North County Wants Its ‘Fair Share’ of SANDAG Tax Inside the Fight on the Left Over SANDAG’s Big Tax The Line Between Education and Advocacy on SANDAG’s Tax Proposal Fact Check: Will a Sales Tax Hike Relieve Traffic Congestion?

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K Is for Kutthroat - Politifest 2016

Tue, 11 Oct 2016 16:00:00 +0000

Politifest’s most raucous debate was over Measure K, a local ballot measure that would require mandatory runoffs in city elections. Voice of San Diego’s Andrew Keatts, who moderated the talk, said right from the beginning that he was going to let both sides argue quite a bit throughout the debate, and boy did they. Supporting Measure K was former state Sen. Steve Peace and labor leader Mickey Kasparian. Republican consultant Ryan Clumpner and City Councilman Chris Cate oppose the measure. For more background, check out: Labor, Dems Want to Stop Letting Candidates Win Outright in Local Primaries Op-Ed: The Democrats Can’t Hang on Election Day Op-Ed: San Diego’s Undemocratic Primaries Are Ripe for Reworking Op-Ed: San Diegans Deserve a Thoughtful Collaborative Effort on Election Reform City Councilman Chris Cate on Why He Opposes Measure K Former Assemblyman Jeff Marston on Why He Supports Measure K

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The Great Stadium Debate - Politifest 2016

Mon, 10 Oct 2016 17:27:35 +0000

One of the biggest crowds at Politifest was at the debate over Measure C, the Chargers’ plan to build a convadium in East Village. City Councilman Chris Cate, architect Rob Quigley and former San Diego Economic Development Corp. CEO Julie Meier-Wright argued against the measure; while Chargers adviser Marcela Escobar-Eck, the San Diego Stadium Coalition’s Jason Riggs and Save Our Bolts’ Thomas Powell made a case for it. For more background, check out: A Chargers Loyalty Test Courses Through San Diego Business Community, Lands at Mayor Op-Ed: The Urbanist Case Against a Downtown Convadium Op-Ed: The Convadium Is an Opportunity for San Diego to Do a Big Thing. We Should Take It. Padres Chairman Lays Out Concerns with Chargers’ Plans Op-Ed: The Convadium May Just Be a Con A Hotel Tax Hike Has Been in the Chargers’ Playbook for a Long Time East Village Developers Say an East Village Stadium Would Ruin East Village Assembling the Properties for a Downtown Convadium Not Nearly the Obstacle It Seemed

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Reihan Salam at Politifest

Mon, 10 Oct 2016 16:57:47 +0000

Reihan Salam kicked off Politifest with a Q-and-A with Voice of San Diego’s Scott Lewis, where they talked about the presidential race and the future of the Republican Party.

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DeRay Mckesson at Politifest

Mon, 10 Oct 2016 16:46:29 +0000

DeRay Mckesson closed out Politifest discussing the wave of police killings across the country, and called for better police training.

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The Best of Politifest

Fri, 07 Oct 2016 22:56:23 +0000

Raging debates about changing the way city elections work, intense talks about the future of San Diego's downtown, brutally honest conversations about race and the gaping political divide – Politifest happened two weeks ago, but can you blame Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts for bringing it up again? In this weeks podcasts, the hosts piece together some interesting moments from Voice of San Diego's all-day political affairs festival that went down at San Diego State University on Sept. 24. Measure K was by far the most fiery debate of all. The proposal would change the way the city of San Diego's elections work by requiring races to go to runoffs in the November general election. A lot less registered voters show up to cast their votes in June Primaries than in November. Those opposing it say they're not against changing the election, but they're against the process that was used to decide on how to change it and they're not sure this particular change is the best solution. "We should have had a public discussion to talk about whether this is the right system for San Diego," said Councilman Chris Cate. Labor leader Mickey Kasparian, who's in favor of Measure K, said arguing about the process misses the point. "First and foremost it should be about democracy and full voter participation," Kasparian said. "Why would we want the smallest amount of voters to decide the people who lead us? It makes no sense at all." You [...]

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Making Sense of the El Cajon Shooting

Fri, 30 Sep 2016 21:39:00 +0000

On this week’s podcast, we tried to get a sense of the little bit of information that’s come out about the shooting of an unarmed man in El Cajon that’s led to days of protests. This was before the El Cajon Police Department’s mid-Friday release of video footage of the shooting, after previously releasing only a still image from the video. Plus, we went over a debate between competing economic consultants from the tourism industry and the Chargers over the reasonable expectations for what a new convadium might mean for local hotels, and the tax revenue it translates to for the city. There’s no interview this week, as we try to pull together some of the best clips from last weekend’s Politifest for a wrap-up show next week. Instead, we’ve included the latest episode of the San Diego Decides podcast, our weekly show on everything you need to know about the overstuffed November ballot. Our hero this week was all the volunteers who showed up and made Politifest a screaming success. The goat this week was the San Diego State University athletic department, which lost a wrongful termination suit brought by former women’s basketball coach Beth Burns. The court determined the real reason for her firing was retaliation for her complaints about possible Title IX violations.

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The Haunting Case of the Gaslamp Rape Gang

Fri, 23 Sep 2016 22:40:31 +0000

Brandy Zadrozny's Daily Beast story about a rape ring in the Gaslamp Quarter and he shady pickup-artist industry behind it all is shocking. Zadrozny joins hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts this week to discuss some of the issues the story unearthed. She describes how men have turned picking up women into a money-making pyramid scheme, and explains the role of the so-called "manosphere," a corner of the internet where the philosophies and strategies of pickup culture are touted. In her story, Zadrozny notes that since 2010, the San Diego district attorney has only filed charges of rape by intoxication just 28 times, rejecting 80 percent of all the cases that have come across her desk. She says it's a stat that's likely similar in cities across the country. It's a hard crime to prosecute, she says, but that doesn't mean law enforcement officers should be let off the hook. "This did become not only a look at this crime, but also a look at the pickup industry," she said. "And then moreover, a look at the way that San Diego – an it's not unique in this way – but the way that San Diego handled rape by intoxication charges in the report, which is to say it doesn't handle them very well, and it doesn't do much of an investigation and when an investigation is complete even then most of those cases aren't ever prosecuted." Also on the podcast, Lewis and Keatts go t[...]

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