Editor’s Picks

Articles that our Editorial Board feel really stand out. We’re glad we didn’t miss them and want to make sure you don’t either!

Thumbnail image for The Origins of Institutionalized Racism – a System to Control Blacks … and Whites

The Origins of Institutionalized Racism – a System to Control Blacks … and Whites

by Frank Gormlie 02.27.2015 Culture

100 Years Before Lexington and Concord, Bacon’s Armed Rebellion of Whites and Blacks Forced Plantation Elite to Create System of Racial Slavery

By Frank Gormlie

Since the turmoil last year in Ferguson, Missouri, swept in a new civil rights movement, once again America is faced with the reality of its system of institutionalized racism. For Americans with conscience, understanding this system is key to changing it, and it cannot be understood without understanding its origins which trail back, of course, to colonial America.

Confronting a system that predates the very formation of the Republic itself necessitates understanding its raison d’etre – its reason for being. Why is there such a system that has a solid foundation and that has existed all this time, and is so deeply ingrained? Why is there institutionalized racism? If one accepts such a premise, that there is such a thing, then the most obvious answer is that it exists to control blacks, African-Americans. And to control other minorities, Mexican-Americans, Native Americans.

Yet this system is not meant to only control blacks – and other peoples of color – but it also meant to control white people.

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Thumbnail image for Why We’re All Becoming Independent Contractors

Why We’re All Becoming Independent Contractors

by Source 02.25.2015 Business

By Robert Reich

GM is worth around $60 billion, and has over 200,000 employees. Its front-line workers earn from $19 to $28.50 an hour, with benefits.

Uber is estimated to be worth some $40 billion, and has 850 employees. Uber also has over 163,000 drivers (as of December – the number is expected to double by June), who average $17 an hour in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., and $23 an hour in San Francisco and New York.

But Uber doesn’t count these drivers as employees. Uber says they’re “independent contractors.”

What difference does it make?

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Thumbnail image for The War on Terror Comes Home: Crime and Punishment in the 21st Century

The War on Terror Comes Home: Crime and Punishment in the 21st Century

by Doug Porter 02.24.2015 Columns

By Doug Porter

A report in today’s Guardian about a “black site” used by the Chicago police department to keep suspects off the grid for extended periods of time provides the starting point for today’s column. I’m going to weave three ongoing stories together to try to better understand what’s going on.

Yesterday’s Los Angeles Times says next to nothing is happening with a promised crackdown on the use of excessive force with the US Border Patrol. 

And the prison industrial complex in California is pushing back against reforms instituted through Proposition 47, which essentially decriminalized drug possession for personal use and reduced other petty crimes from felony to misdemeanor status. 

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Thumbnail image for A Close Encounter With a Coyote at Laguna Ojo de Liebre

A Close Encounter With a Coyote at Laguna Ojo de Liebre

by Lori Saldaña 02.24.2015 Culture

By Lori Saldaña

The moon was waning that night at Laguna Ojo de Liebre, and clouds from a freakishly warm winter storm still blocked the stars. The sunset was beautiful, but all day heavy rain had fallen in towns near the camp: roads near Vizcaino were flooded, Ejido Benito Juarez had mud running through its streets. Yet here at the water’s edge, only a few drops had made it to the ground.

For all these reasons- chance of rain, clouds blocking the stars- most of us camping near the whales went to bed early. We could hear the whales breathing across the lagoon, but the clouds made it impossible to see their backs shining in the moonlight and determine where the loud exhalations were coming from. Not much to see- good night to read in bed and get to sleep early.

I slept soundly the first few hours, then was awakened shortly after midnight by the jingle of the poodle’s dog collar. She was scratching, and restless, then scratching some more. Between scratches she panted, as if anxious or ….poisoned?

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Thumbnail image for Can Eve Get Elected?

Can Eve Get Elected?

by At Large 02.23.2015 Activism

We do not need a gun-toting warrior with a vagina

By Dr. Carol Carnes 

You may know her as Hillary or Carly or Elizabeth but her real name is Eve. All women carry that label in the subjective realm of our collective unconscious.

The allegorical tale of Adam and Eve has been misinterpreted, misunderstood and accepted as an irrefutable condemnation of the Feminine, which has resulted in the subjugation of women in almost every culture on earth. The rights of women were not included in the founding documents of America because we were considered creatures, not full humans.

Eve represents the bitch, the temptress, the siren that caused the Fall of Man (men). She listens to the serpent (the devil). She makes it impossible for men to control their impulses. Therefore, at the risk of oversimplification, she is the cause of her own rape. Some cultures will stone her to death for it while in the west she is humiliated, not believed and portrayed as a whore or a careless twit.

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Thumbnail image for The History of Neighborhood House in Logan Heights: The Lives of Girls

The History of Neighborhood House in Logan Heights: The Lives of Girls

by Maria E. Garcia 02.21.2015 Culture

By Maria E. Garcia

Families in Logan Heights faced grim financial hardship during the 1930’s and early 1940’s. Childhood entertainment and opportunities were limited. Neighborhood House provided classes, programs and outings that are remembered sixty and even seventy years later by the many people that I have interviewed.

While hard economic times affected everyone, there were different societal expectations about what were considered appropriate activities for boys and girls during this time period. Boys participated in the popular sports programs at Neighborhood House. Team members played in other parts of the city and even other parts of the country. Boys were also given a much greater freedom to explore their environs singly or with other boys.

Girls were raised in a socially conservative environment that emphasized marriage and raising a family. Their activities were often restricted or required a chaperone.

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Thumbnail image for Old Town Time Trip

Old Town Time Trip

by At Large 02.20.2015 Culture

By Nat Krieger

Late at night in Old Town it’s not hard to time travel. The cars lining the narrow streets have turned out their lights and gone to sleep. Human activity is reduced to three women walking together. They are wearing white blouses with multicolored skirts synced by a red sash.

If you don’t see the cars or buses or trolleys the women are heading for San Diego’s past clings to their rapid steps. With straight black hair and features that cover the distance between Cortez and the Kumeyaay the women are actors leaving a set where they have been playing the sartorial and biological roots of San Diego as imagined a century and a half later.

Along the eastern side of La Plaza de Las Armas in the heart of Old Town the thick adobe walls of Casa Estudillo release the heat of the day into the night, as they have for 185 years. The casa’s tall wooden doors are shut and the courtyard garden within, visible only through a skeleton key shaped hole, dreams again of the corn and beef flavored smoke that once poured from the outdoor clay oven.

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Thumbnail image for Whites Fighting Racism: What It’s About

Whites Fighting Racism: What It’s About

by Source 02.20.2015 Activism

By Ricardo Levins Morales  / Ricardo Levins Morales Art Studio Blog

Note: I was asked by SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice – a group which organizes white folks against racism) to write a few paragraphs offering a perspective on white solidarity. It was to open a national organizing conference call. What I wrote follows:

White people are taught that racism is a personal attribute, an attitude, maybe a set of habits. Anti-racist whites invest too much energy worrying about getting it right; about not slipping up and revealing their racial socialization; about saying the right things and knowing when to say nothing.

It’s not about that. It’s about putting your shoulder to the wheel of history; about undermining the structural supports of a system of control that grinds us under, that keeps us divided even against ourselves and that extracts wealth, power and life from our communities like an oil company sucks it from the earth.

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Thumbnail image for It Was Syrian Kurd Leftists Who Kicked Islamic State Out of Kobani

It Was Syrian Kurd Leftists Who Kicked Islamic State Out of Kobani

by Frank Gormlie 02.18.2015 Editor's Picks

By Frank Gormlie / OB Rag

In international news, the recent liberation of the Syrian city of Kobani from the control of Islamic State (ISIS) fighters by Syrian Kurd rebels was a little reported story which popped up briefly for its 15 minutes on the mainstream media roulette wheel of fame. Then it disappeared. But the under-reported little story – a story with a huge irony – deserves retelling.

The story – which can be pieced together from a number of media reports – involves the identity of the major fighting force that kicked ISIS out of Kobani, a city of 200,000 mainly ethnic Kurds in north Syria, a stone’s throw from the Turkish border.

It turns out it was a group of Syrian Kurd leftists who kicked ISIS’ ass, if you forgive the vernacular, after 4 months of intense house-to-house fighting, at times room-to-room, and pushed them out of the city entirely. It was the People’s Protection Units, a local leftist organization, and its affiliate, the Women’s Protection Units, that have collective command structures and believe in the equality of women, and – in fact – have numerous women commanders in the fighting units.

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Thumbnail image for Racism Matters: Why We Do This Thing

Racism Matters: Why We Do This Thing

by Doug Porter 02.16.2015 Columns

By Doug Porter

This week the San Diego Free Press is taking a bit of a pause from our usual routine to focus on Race and Racism. Previous thematic efforts include War and Peace back in November and Guns in the week following the second anniversary of the sandy hook shootings.

While this daily column normally concerns itself with reviewing what other media are covering, I’m taking a minute out to encourage readers to join us on this journey of reflection and discussion. (And, yes, there is other news further down in the column.)

We’ve got an array of perspectives to share with readers this week. Today, Susan Grigsby and Jim Miller are looking into race & racism history, both nationally and locally. Looking into the drafts already completed for the week there are essays on the impact of racism on young black girls, inside looks by several writers on their developing racial consciousness, a late night tour of Old Town along with the ghosts of Cortez and the Kumeyaay and a terrific piece by Ricardo Levins Morales on whites fighting racism.

And there’s more… I hope you’ll read, comment on and share what we’re posting this week. Racism Matters is more than a slogan for us; it’s a core value.

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Thumbnail image for Talking about Race and Racism in San Diego

Talking about Race and Racism in San Diego

by Anna Daniels 02.16.2015 Activism

By Anna Daniels

The San Diego Free Press editorial board invites you to participate in our examination of race and racism throughout the week of February 16. This past year has revealed how deeply fraught and painful our national conversation on that topic has become.

In May of 2014, months before the shooting death of unarmed Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri, before the choke-hold death of Eric Garner and the shooting death of twelve year old Tamir Rice, journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote “The Case for Reparations” which appeared in the The Atlantic.

He observes that Americans talk about “race” but not “racism” and makes the case that “Whiteness and blackness are not a fact of providence, but of policy—of slave codes, black codes, Jim Crow, redlining, GI Bills, housing covenants, New Deals, and mass incarcerations.”

A discussion of race and racism in San Diego requires a broad lens, given our history as well as current events.

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Thumbnail image for San Diego’s Racial Unconscious: History is the Narrative that Hurts

San Diego’s Racial Unconscious: History is the Narrative that Hurts

by Jim Miller 02.16.2015 Battle for Barrio Logan

…the insistence on what one might call “San Diego exceptionalism,” the notion that our city is somehow free of the same troubled history as the rest of the country, is at the heart of our city’s failure to truly serve the needs of all San Diegans. 

By Jim Miller

Last week, leading up to this week’s special focus on race and racism, the San Diego Free Press posted a story about a new report released by the Equal Justice Institute (EJI) that notes how, “Capital punishment and ongoing racial injustice in the United States are ‘direct descendants’ of lynching, charges a new study, which found that the pre-World War II practice of ‘racial terrorism’ has had a much more profound impact on race relations in America than previously acknowledged.”

This hidden history of racial terrorism in America is far more influential than many of us would prefer to acknowledge. As EJI Director Bryan Stevenson observes, “I also think that the lynching era created a narrative of racial difference, a presumption of guilt, a presumption of dangerousness that got assigned to African Americans in particular—and that’s the same presumption of guilt that burdens young kids living in urban areas who are sometimes menaced, threatened, or shot and killed by law enforcement officers.”

And if a lack of awareness or outright denial of the significance of our racist past is a problem in the United States at large, San Diego is certainly not immune though our civic religion—banal self-promotion by the tourism industry—would have us think otherwise. But underneath the official ahistorical pastiche of styles and fantasies designed to aid commerce and nature-packaged-as-spectacle there is another story.

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Thumbnail image for Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina Promises Civic Engagement

Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina Promises Civic Engagement

by At Large 02.16.2015 Editor's Picks

By Barbara Zaragoza

Ask an Imperial Beach resident, such as Jessica Hogan—small business owner of the Wave Café on Seacoast Drive—what she thinks about Serge Dedina and she’ll give you the optimism that comes with new promises and visions: “I love our new mayor. I have high hopes for our new mayor.”

Serge Dedina took office on December 10th after he won the elections by 43 votes. He gave his first State of the City Address on Monday, February 9th to a packed audience at the Boys & Girls Club. Members of the Fire Department, the Women’s Club and even Chula Vista Mayor, Mary Salas, attended.

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Thumbnail image for The History of Neighborhood House in Logan Heights: Three Women Who Worked at Neighborhood House and Became Part of the Community

The History of Neighborhood House in Logan Heights: Three Women Who Worked at Neighborhood House and Became Part of the Community

by Maria E. Garcia 02.14.2015 Activism

Miss Gertrude Peifer, Mrs. Wilfreda Brackett and Miss Julie McClure

By Maria E Garcia

Last week I wrote about three women who shaped the direction of Neighborhood House from the 1920’s to World War II. The leadership of Mary Snyder, Rebecca Halley and Anita Jones reflected the influence of the newly recognized profession of social work and the progressive era’s spirit of social reform.

There are three more women during the same time period and into the early 1950’s who deserve recognition for their contributions to Neighborhood House and the Logan Heights community.

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Thumbnail image for San Diego Group Gets Award to Expand Solar Power Use at Condos and Apartments

San Diego Group Gets Award to Expand Solar Power Use at Condos and Apartments

by John Lawrence 02.10.2015 Economy

By John Lawrence

Everywhere in San Diego you see solar panels being installed atop single family homes and large businesses. But hardly anywhere do you see them going in on the large number of local apartment buildings and condos.

Now the Department of Energy SunShot initiative has made a $712,000. grant to San Diego’s Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE) to study the reasons and do a pilot project to implement solar in such projects.

Condos and apartment buildings represent a huge amount of rooftop real estate which could be gathering in the sun’s rays to provide energy to the occupants within.

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Thumbnail image for Dispatches from the Class War (On You)

Dispatches from the Class War (On You)

by Jim Miller 02.09.2015 Columns

By Jim Miller

Last July, after the Harris v. Quinn decision took the first step toward gutting the power of public sector unions in America I noted that case “pretty much guarantees that we’ll see more cases brought to the high court aiming to send American labor into a death spiral.”

As legal observers commented at the time, this Supreme Court usually moves in a two-step process, starting with a narrow decision that then sets the precedent for a broader and more extreme move to the right in a subsequent decision.

Well, the case that will provide the pretext for that radical step has made its way up the food chain and will likely be heard by America’s highest court.

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Thumbnail image for The History of Neighborhood House in Logan Heights: Social Workers and the Progressive Era Spirit of Reform

The History of Neighborhood House in Logan Heights: Social Workers and the Progressive Era Spirit of Reform

by Maria E. Garcia 02.07.2015 Activism

Mary Snyder, Rebecca Halley and Anita Jones, the early years

By Maria E. Garcia

Women had a great deal of influence and contributed to the work at Neighborhood House. A number of them did so as members of the newly recognized profession of social work. Settlement Houses originated in England and by the 1880’s they had become established in the United States. Neighborhood House came into being as part of the settlement house movement.

Settlement houses were usually established in poor urban areas and provided a variety of services to the community. Those services included cooking classes, adult education, craft and sewing classes. They also did crisis intervention and provided home health care and daycare for working mothers. The settlement house movement evolved in parallel with the social worker movement in this country. Both were unique agents of social reform during the Progressive Era from 1890-1920.

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Thumbnail image for Jazz Pianist Josh Nelson at Croce’s Park West

Jazz Pianist Josh Nelson at Croce’s Park West

by John Lawrence 02.07.2015 Culture

By John Lawrence

A rare night out on the town took Judy and me to San Diego’s premier jazz supper club, Croce’s Park West, at 2760 5th Avenue, to hear Los Angeles pianist Josh Nelson and his trio for a tribute to the great American composers – Cole Porter, Harold Arlen and the Gershwins.

Arriving there we decided to use the valet parking since Judy is ambulatorily challenged. For $5 it was cheaper than a lot and within 10 steps of the door. What a deal! Croce’s has a music room separate from the noisiness of the bar area, full of comfortable seating, warm ambiance and great sight lines. The non-amplified music was gentle on our ears.

Josh was running a little late having had a harrowing day. His car carrying himself and drummer Dan Schnelle had broken down in Long Beach. Fortunately for him and for us, there was a rental agency nearby. It was a miracle that he made the gig at all.

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Thumbnail image for Anti-Vaxxers Immune To Debate, Shaming

Anti-Vaxxers Immune To Debate, Shaming

by Doug Porter 02.05.2015 Activism

California Legislators Move to End Personal Exemption

By Doug Porter

The most recent outbreak of measles appears to be abating, and that’s good news. Sadly, the “debate” over the “rights” of parents who chose to opt out of vaccinations continues. Debate is all well and good, but this is clearly a case where government needs to intervene to protect the public.

Yesterday a bicameral group of legislators announced they were proposing legislation eliminating the personal belief exemption for vaccinations in California. State Senators Dr. Richard Pan and Ben Allen along with Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) say they will move to require immunizations in all school age children with exceptions allowed only for medical reasons.

Dr. Pan told reporters he was open to discussion about keeping the religious exemption.

What we’ve learned over the past few weeks is that characterizing those opposing standard childhood vaccinations as right or left wing is really just a distraction. Data dumps by well-meaning public health officials and public shaming aren’t getting the job done.

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Thumbnail image for Show’s Not Over at Che Cafe at UCSD – Its Fate Likely Rests on Students

Show’s Not Over at Che Cafe at UCSD – Its Fate Likely Rests on Students

by At Large 02.04.2015 Activism

By Andrea Carter

The struggle continues to keep the historic CHE Café facility open on the University of California San Diego (UCSD) campus. This battle over a rare public, all-ages arts, food, and music venue should concern us all as it represents the canary in the coal mine for additional onslaughts of this nature to follow.

Undergraduate and graduate student government councils, respectively the Associated Students (AS) and the Graduate Student Association (GSA) are set to soon issue reports and recommendations to the University as to the CHE Café, its facility and the other cooperatives at UCSD concerning the lease issues, upgrades and dispute resolution. Recently, the councils moved in favor of adopting a joint resolution rather than two independent ones. In the coming weeks then the councils will be synthesizing their input and accepting more from students on these issues as well as from the CHE and other cooperatives.

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Thumbnail image for Community-Owned Energy: How Nebraska Became the Only State to Bring Everyone Power From a Public Grid

Community-Owned Energy: How Nebraska Became the Only State to Bring Everyone Power From a Public Grid

by Source 02.03.2015 Business

In this red state, publicly owned utilities provide electricity to all 1.8 million people. Here’s how Nebraska took its energy out of corporate hands and made it affordable for everyday residents.

By Thomas M. Hanna / Yes! Magazine

In the United States, there is one state, and only one state, where every single resident and business receives electricity from a community-owned institution rather than a for-profit corporation. It is not a famously liberal state like Vermont or Massachusetts. Rather, it is conservative Nebraska, with its two Republican Senators and two (out of three) Republican members of Congress, that has embraced the complete socialization of energy distribution.

In Nebraska, 121 publicly owned utilities, ten cooperatives, and 30 public power districts provide electricity to a population of around 1.8 million people. Public and cooperative ownership keeps costs low for the state’s consumers. Nebraskans pay one of the lowest rates for electricity in the nation and revenues are reinvested in infrastructure to ensure reliable and cheap service for years to come.

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Thumbnail image for How Much Do You Know About Black History?

How Much Do You Know About Black History?

by Source 02.02.2015 Culture

By Denise Oliver Velez / Daily Kos

Carter G. Woodson, historian and the father of “Negro History Week,” died in 1950, and did not live to see Black History Month, which started at Kent State in 1970 and was signed into law by President Gerald Ford in 1976.

Woodson chose February as the month in which to celebrate because it contained both the births of abolitionist Frederick Douglass and of President Abraham Lincoln. One wonders what Woodson would think of the commemoration today.

I would guess that he would be proud to see it has become a part of the nationwide curriculain schools, and the focus of events celebrated by government agencies and community groups across the nation, but that he would also criticize the lack of progress we have made in erasing the continued stereotyping and denigration of both Africans on the continent and their descendants in the diaspora.

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Thumbnail image for San Diego Labor Goes Green: New Environmental Caucus Formed

San Diego Labor Goes Green: New Environmental Caucus Formed

by Jim Miller 02.02.2015 Columns

“Let’s be clear, climate change is the most important issue facing all of us for the rest of our lives.” –John Harrity, President of the Connecticut State Council of Machinists

By Jim Miller & Micah Mitrosky

We are facing a historic environmental crisis that threatens our present and future survival. Think Progress pithily summarized the conclusions of last year’s United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, noting that:

The world’s top scientists and governments have issued their bluntest plea yet to the world: Slash carbon pollution now (at a very low cost) or risk “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.” Scientists have “high confidence” these devastating impacts occur “even with adaptation” — if we keep doing little or nothing.

A short list of the many catastrophic effects that unchecked climate change may bring includes severe drought, dangerous wildfires, increased disease, threatened food systems due to Dust Bowl-like conditions, ocean acidification, more global conflict over resources, economic collapse, and mass extinction.

In short, the overwhelming majority of serious scientists as well as governmental agencies such as NASA and even the U.S. Defense Department are warning of a grim future if we fail to address this issue.

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Thumbnail image for Stories from Young Minds Taking the Stage

Stories from Young Minds Taking the Stage

by Ernie McCray 01.27.2015 Arts

By Ernie McCray

The Playwrights Project has been producing plays written by dramatists, under age 19, for 30 years.

It all begins with the California Young Playwrights Contest, a statewide competition.

This year there were 581 entrants, way more than usual, and the stories of eight extremely talented writers made it to the stage – at the Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre at the Old Globe, no less.

Four of the plays earned full production and four are performed as staged readings – and I mean “staged,” because the Playwrights Project has no bounds when it comes to creative performances.

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Thumbnail image for Water Main Breaks Cause Major Problems in San Diego and Nationwide

Water Main Breaks Cause Major Problems in San Diego and Nationwide

by John Lawrence 01.27.2015 Editor's Picks

By John Lawrence

In the best of all possible worlds water main breaks would not happen. Local government would replace old water mains with new ones on a regular basis. That means that money for this and other infrastructure needs would be allocated systematically and appropriately.

If we had our priorities straight, money for infrastructure would take precedence over money for football stadiums and convention centers. But in San Diego and in fact throughout the US this rational approach is to be seen rarely if at all.

The Romans gave their citizens bread and circuses to keep them in line. Here in fact only circuses seem to be necessary.

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