The Starting Line

A week-day SDFP column by Doug Porter

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I read the Daily Fishwrap(s) so you don’t have to… Catch “the Starting Line” Monday thru Friday right here at San Diego Free Press (dot) org. Send your hate mail and ideas to DougPorter@SanDiegoFreePress.Org

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Thumbnail image for Indiana’s So-Called Religious Freedom Law: If It Walks Like a Duck…

Indiana’s So-Called Religious Freedom Law: If It Walks Like a Duck…

by Doug Porter 03.30.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter

For a while there I thought Republicans of the sane persuasion (a vanishing species) might prevail on matters relating to the legal status of gay and transgender people. One state after another was giving up on fighting same-sex marriage. 

What with “New Republicans” like Carl DeMaio emerging and the Log Cabin GOP caucus gaining legitimacy, I figured the party brass would leave it the hardcore to draw inspiration from the Obama Derangement Syndrome for the next year or so.. 

Then along came Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, signing a bill shepherded by lobbyists representing anti-gay rights organizations conflating freedom of religion with the right to discriminate. Voila! Now the Guns and God wing of the party has an issue to rally behind. 

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Thumbnail image for Voting Made Easier: Legislative Actions Aim to Make Elections More Accessible

Voting Made Easier: Legislative Actions Aim to Make Elections More Accessible

by Doug Porter 03.27.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter 

San Diego legislators at both the federal and state level are working to remove barriers limiting voter participation. 

California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) and California Secretary of State Alex Padilla are proposing to register every eligible resident who goes to a DMV to get a license or renew one, with the ability to opt out. In Washington DC, Congresswoman Susan Davis has introduced legislation ending constraints on voting by mail. 

Research recently published in the Oxford Political Analysis Journal indicates that as many as an additional four million Americans wanted to vote in the 2012 election , but were stymied by restrictions on voter registration. California currently ranks 38th out of the 50 states in voter registration. 

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Thumbnail image for Marijuana Commission Report, Polling Point to Legalization in California

Marijuana Commission Report, Polling Point to Legalization in California

by Doug Porter 03.26.2015 Business

By Doug Porter

California’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy is releasing an interim report today outlining issues needing to be addressed in any legalization measures going before voters in 2016.

The commission, led by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and including the ACLU, assorted academics, activists along with, law enforcement officials, will not officially take a position on legalization. Public forums in cities around the state will soon be announced as part of forming a policy road map towards legalization. Issues such as taxes, driving under the influence and a means for prohibiting access to minors are among those being considered.

The panel hopes to have its policy analysis completed by August.

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Thumbnail image for California Consumers Gouged for $550 Million at the Gas Pump in February

California Consumers Gouged for $550 Million at the Gas Pump in February

by Doug Porter 03.25.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter

The higher prices Californians pay for gasoline was the focus of a hearing chaired by San Diego’s Sen. Ben Hueso this week.

A report issued by the Consumer Watchdog group alleges consumers were gouged for an extra $550 million at the gas pump during February as the result of a strategy by refiners to keep inventories artificially low. The group came to this conclusion by calculating the difference between US and state prices and allotting for consumption.

Members of the transportation, housing and energy, utilities and communications committees questioned energy industry executives about recent price spikes in California. Earlier this week Californians were paying 84 cents more per gallon than the rest of the nation for their gasoline.

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Thumbnail image for Old Town Mobilizing to Save Historic Trees from City Project

Old Town Mobilizing to Save Historic Trees from City Project

by Doug Porter 03.24.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter

Old Town residents are scrambling to save aging California Pepper Canopy trees from removal along a corridor bordering State Historic Park and the City Golf Course.

Back in late August Mayor Kevin Faulconer and other city officials staged a press conference in Old Town to announce a major infrastructure project.

The Mayor proclaimed the Juan Street Replacement Project to be “…a perfect example of the city’s one dig philosophy….” In addition to replacing the water main, the street would be repaved and sidewalks would be  replaced

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Thumbnail image for Bible Lawyer Seeking ‘Death for Gays’ Initiative in 2016

Bible Lawyer Seeking ‘Death for Gays’ Initiative in 2016

by Doug Porter 03.23.2015 Columns

By Doug Porter

A decade ago Huntington Beach attorney Matt McLaughlin paid $200 and gained approval from the secretary of state’s office to gather signatures for the King James Bible as Textbook initiative, which would have amended the state Constitution to allow the Bible to be used as a textbook. 

McLaughlin and his six supporters failed to gather the nearly six hundred thousand signatures necessary to put the measure on the ballot in 2004. 

He’s come up with another $200, and given the poor voter turnout in the most recent election, he’s hoping his Sodomite Suppression Act can get the 365,000 signatures it needs to make it legal to summarily execute gay people in California. 

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Thumbnail image for The Uptown Battle for Safer Bike Routes

The Uptown Battle for Safer Bike Routes

by Doug Porter 03.20.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter

There’s a special meeting of the Uptown Planners next Tuesday (March 24) to discuss overriding the SANDAG Regional Bike Plan in Mission Hills and Hillcrest. Cycling advocates are expected to face off against various organizations and people opposed to proposed traffic changes in the area.

This meeting is, I think, symbolic of a larger battle going on over the future of transportation in the city. While all the organizations involved give lip service to the Climate Action Plan’s goal of 18% bike mode share in Uptown by 2035, there are individuals who come across as negative about actually doing anything to achieve the goal.

Despite a growing body of evidence contradicting what some small businesspeople assume about the negative impact of bike lanes, parking spaces and traffic calming measures, when it gets down to an actual plan, all they can say is “no.” (Kinda like the GOP on their alternative to Obamacare, I think.) 

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Thumbnail image for Here Come the Obama ‘Vote or Die’ Squads

Here Come the Obama ‘Vote or Die’ Squads

by Doug Porter 03.19.2015 Columns

By Doug Porter

Following a speech before the City Club of Cleveland yesterday, President Obama responded to a question about the influence of money in elections by talking about universal voting as a solution.

Cue the conservative outrage: “Obama calls for mandatory voting in U.S.,” screamed one headline. At UT-San Diego the headline was toned down to “OBAMA FLOATS IDEA OF MANDATORY VOTING IN U.S.”

This story is a really sad commentary on the state of American “journalism.” The President spends and hour and a half speaking about economic policy in front of a business group. This one quip is going to end up being passed around on the internet as something along the lines of ‘The Black Panthers Are Going to Force People to Vote.” There’s probably an email smoldering in my backup account as I’m writing this.

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Thumbnail image for Justice Department SDPD Report: Garbage In, Garbage Out

Justice Department SDPD Report: Garbage In, Garbage Out

by Doug Porter 03.18.2015 Columns

By Doug Porter 

The 85 page report released yesterday on the San Diego Police Department did exactly what it was intended to do: reassure the public that everything was under control. A constant stream of bad publicity and lawsuits resulting from accusations of police misconduct and lawlessness led the city to seek outside help a year ago and the Justice Department was glad to oblige.

The Police Executive Research Forum, paid for by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), conducted a review of management practices and made 40 recommendations. City officials told a press conference that many of those suggestions were already being implemented and others could be accomplished if funding was made available. 

UT-San Diego reported that a separate FBI investigation into alleged on-duty criminal conduct by officers is ongoing. Attorneys for victims who have already settled lawsuits against the city, along with community activists and civil liberties groups expressed dissatisfaction with the report, citing its narrow focus and failure to mention racial profiling. 

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Thumbnail image for Humane Prosperity or More Economic Inequality for San Diego? Debating Free Trade Agreements Like TPP

Humane Prosperity or More Economic Inequality for San Diego? Debating Free Trade Agreements Like TPP

by Doug Porter 03.17.2015 Business

By Doug Porter

Sometime this spring Senator Orin Hatch will ask the congress to vote on giving the President “fast track” authority in relation to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). What this means is that the terms of the treaty establishing ground rules for trade, intellectual property and corporate behavior around the Pacific Rim will be subject to a simple yes or no vote. 

Opponents of TPP and the companion Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) make a big deal out of the fact that the nuts and bolts of these deals are negotiated in secret. As a practical matter I don’t see how a complex agreement between nation-states and corporate entities could be negotiated in public. But we should have a right to know –beyond platitudes– what our government supports in negotiations.  

The crux of this matter is that we’re being asked to trust negotiators to create a mechanism along the lines of previous trade deals. Many of the people who negotiated those earlier deals now admit they failed to provide the promised economic benefits to anybody not owning stock in a multinational corporation. 

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Thumbnail image for Pushback on Civic San Diego Accountability: Here Comes the “Uncertainty” Ploy

Pushback on Civic San Diego Accountability: Here Comes the “Uncertainty” Ploy

by Doug Porter 03.16.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter

A showdown is in the works over community input on plans by Civic San Diego to absorb neighborhoods beyond downtown for permitting and planning development projects. For the moment we’re talking about Encanto and City Heights. I doubt it will stop there.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez has introduced legislation to clarify the ability of non-profit groups like Civic San Diego to perform permitting work for local governments, as it’s uncertain what legal authority in California law the organization has to approve building projects on behalf of the City of San Diego after redevelopment’s demise. Specifically AB504 calls for the City Council to have final say on projects.

The “uncertainty” defense is being rolled out on behalf of Civic San Diego (and the developers who love it) by former Mayor and Chamber of commerce CEO Jerry Sanders, along with Kris Michell, president and CEO of the Downtown San Diego Partnership by way of a commentary published earlier today by Voice of San Diego. Used with great success in previous campaigns to pull the wool over the eyes of San Diegans, this sort of effort is supposed to instill fear the local economy will be damaged if (fill-in-the-blank) happens.

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Thumbnail image for Have a Happy 3.14159265358979 Day (And Other News)

Have a Happy 3.14159265358979 Day (And Other News)

by Doug Porter 03.13.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter 

Yes indeedy. While some people are obsessing about Friday, the 13th, I’m busy getting ready to celebrate Pi Day. It is/was Albert Einstein’s birthday. And it’s a day that reminds me of how I struggled to get through what was then called “new” math. 

This year (2015) is a special year for Pi Day enthusiasts. In the mm : dd : yy format, the Pi Day, which is March, 14, ’15, will be written as, 3 – 14 – 15. These are the first 5 significant digits of Pi (3.1415). 

Lots of people use the day as an excuse to indulge in pies. One of the best places to celebrate would be Pie Town, New Mexico, an unincorporated area where US Route 60 crosses the continental divide. 

And, yes, there is some news to mull over… 

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Thumbnail image for Bonnie’s Law: San Diego District Attorney Makes Up the Rules

Bonnie’s Law: San Diego District Attorney Makes Up the Rules

by Doug Porter 03.12.2015 Business

By Doug Porter

In recent weeks there have been stories published nationwide about the San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis’ prosecution of people alleged to be gang members–not linked to any crime–for exercising their First Amendment rights; things like posting on Facebook and recording rap songs.

There was a paragraph here claiming the County DA’s office was refusing to process petitions for re-sentencing under the provisions of Proposition 47, which reduced penalties for drug possession and other minor offenses.  We have since learned that the source for this assertion was, at best, exaggerating. Since nothing ever truly goes away on the internet, we’ve left the headline up and hope to correct any false impressions that had been made…. back to the rest of the story

And just make sure her “message” gets out, the District Attorney has unveiled a public information website competing with San Diego County’s News Center which, according to a story at City Beat, operates with a $3.1-million annual budget and 11 full-time communications officers.

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Thumbnail image for San Diego Spring: Activism Breaking Out All Over

San Diego Spring: Activism Breaking Out All Over

by Doug Porter 03.11.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter

You know it’s a slow news month when two non-stories (Eghazi & #47Traitors) seem to dominate news coverage. And, while I’ll get to those, the rise of activism in San Diego seems to be a more worthy story.

In the coming days and weeks protests, petitions and organized participation in public hearings for causes large and small are popping up all over town. It’s an amazing amount of activism for a non-electoral year and deserving of your attention.

Today I’ll try to provide as much information as possible about what’s happening. Some days I find myself compelled to write about what the media is (mostly) not covering.

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Thumbnail image for Pot Wars: Congress Moves to Enable Medical Marijuana, Local Dispensaries Fight to Open

Pot Wars: Congress Moves to Enable Medical Marijuana, Local Dispensaries Fight to Open

by Doug Porter 03.10.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter

After years of quibbling, San Diego finally got around to enacting regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries last year. The first such entity to clear those legal hoops is slated to open in Otay Mesa this month.

Other licenses under consideration are being stalled by appeals based on environmental regulations filed by would-be competitors. And one location scheduled for a hearing this week is facing an appeal based on the statement “Latinos don’t support this” coming from the San Ysidro Community Planning Group.

Meanwhile, in Washington DC a bi-partisan group of Senators are introducing legislation today that would amount to federal recognition of marijuana used for medical purposes.

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Thumbnail image for March GOP Madness Tournament Underway

March GOP Madness Tournament Underway

by Doug Porter 03.09.2015 Columns

By Doug Porter

Having lost out on a Congressional attempt to derail President Obama’s executive orders on immigration and facing increasing grim news about the possibility of their Supreme Court challenge to Obamacare blowing up in their face, Republicans nationwide are amping up the crazy.

To help readers better understand this off-election year phenomena, I’ve organized the best of the worst stories from this past week’s reportage into four brackets, not unlike a certain annual basketball contest. Highlighting all 65 contenders in this contest of crazy would take more time and effort than it’s worth, so I’ve focused on a few efforts I think have the potential to make it to the April Fool’s Day championship.

The divisions are: You’re Not Worthy (Racism/Sexism), Not A Scientist (Science/Technology), BombBombBomb (Foreign Policy), ObamaScare (Everything Else)

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Thumbnail image for Face the Facts, San Diego, No New Football Stadium is Likely

Face the Facts, San Diego, No New Football Stadium is Likely

by Doug Porter 03.06.2015 Business

By Doug Porter

After more than a decade of studies and surveys, the most likely answer to San Diego’s stadium dilemma is that it ain’t happening here.

Let the finger pointing begin.

Both locations currently under consideration–Mission Valley and the east end of downtown–face legal and logistical considerations that make them non-starters. the mayor has declared that these are the only options on the table.

But the real reason is political. The Chargers’ preference for a joint use facility in as part of an expansion of the convention center is opposed by hotel and tourism interests. Each side considers the other’s proposal to be unfavorable to their own financial success.

And then there’s the matter of money.

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Thumbnail image for Many Battles Being Fought Over Climate Change

Many Battles Being Fought Over Climate Change

by Doug Porter 03.05.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter

The State of California Water Resources Control Board says residential water conservation is not working and there are rumblings about adopting permanent, rather than emergency water conservation measures.

Former Todd Gloria staffer Nicole Capretz has started a non-profit group to keep pressure on the City of San Diego as the Climate Action Plan moves from concept to reality. Activist groups, led by the local chapter of 350.org and the Environmental Health Coalition staged a rally in Balboa Park on Monday to urge local leaders to move decisively.

And a two-decade-long study by scientists with the University of Southern California offers up proof that declining air pollution is measurably improving children’s health.

There’s all this and much more in today’s news wrapup…

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Thumbnail image for Three Groups Vying to Buy UT-San Diego

Three Groups Vying to Buy UT-San Diego

by Doug Porter 03.04.2015 Columns

By Doug Porter

A report by media analyst Ken Doctor in Capital New York’s media column says UT-San Diego owner “Papa” Doug Manchester has been actively looking to sell for six months now.

The story indicates the Tribune Publishing, parent company for the Los Angeles Times, is close to making a deal with an estimated $80-90 million price tag, which will not include the company’s real estate assets. Questions surrounding UT-San Diego’s $60 million in pension obligations prevented the company from completing the sale during a short-term exclusivity agreement.

Two other groups are reported to be putting together financing to buy San Diego’s daily. A group led by philanthropist Malin Burnham and former Cox executive Bill Geppert told Doctor they’d raised about half the money needed to buy the company, which they’re proposing be run as a non-profit entity. Former UT-San Diego CEO John Lynch says he’s submitting an offer for the paper this week including its real estate assets for an investors group including venture capitalist Ron Burkle.

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Thumbnail image for Faulconer’s First Year: Mostly Doing Nothing, But Looking Good While Doing It

Faulconer’s First Year: Mostly Doing Nothing, But Looking Good While Doing It

by Doug Porter 03.03.2015 Battle for Barrio Logan

By Doug Porter

Unlike the women performing on the field at Chargers’ games, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer is getting paid for his cheerleading efforts.

The local daily paper ran a puff piece on Sunday, celebrating Faulconer’s first year in office, reporting on the “nearly unanimous praise” for making San Diego a “vastly different place than it was under the tumultuous tenure” of he-who-cannot-be-named-without-contempt.

Largely airbrushed out of history was former interim mayor Todd Gloria, whose reward for leadership following the fall of Filner was to get booted out of the position of City Council President, lest he actually accomplish any items proposed during his tenure.

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Thumbnail image for Not the News in San Diego: Homeless Human Shot and Killed (Video)

Not the News in San Diego: Homeless Human Shot and Killed (Video)

by Doug Porter 03.02.2015 Business

By Doug Porter

A shocking confrontation caught on video involving a mentally ill homeless man in Los Angeles who was gunned down as police tried to evict him from a street-side tent is getting nationwide news coverage.

The Washington Post, the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Seattle Times and of course the Los Angeles Times all covered the story. But you’ll have to dig to find it at UT-San Diego. It’s not in the today’s edition. (You can find it online if the paper’s search engine is working.)

This video cuts to the chase on three major issues facing this country; how we treat the mentally ill, our homeless population and the willingness of police to use firepower over brain power.

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Thumbnail image for The Right and the Righteous Aspire to Greatness at CPAC

The Right and the Righteous Aspire to Greatness at CPAC

by Doug Porter 02.27.2015 Activism

Infotainment for a Rainy San Diego Weekend

By Doug Porter

It’s time for that annual exercise in wingnuttery known as the Conservative Political Action Conference(CPAC), wherein activists of the far right persuasion gather in what Salon columnist Jim Newell calls the “fake shopping town of National Harbor, Maryland.”

Given that the biggest news around San Diego this morning appears to be anticipation about the arrival of rain (!) and possibly snow (!!) at the higher elevations, I’ll take the bait and share highlights from the annual gathering of the right and the righteous. 

It’s important to note that CPAC induces sympathetic craziness among the faithful who, for job-related reasons, are unable to attend during high profile sessions where CSPAN cameras may be turned on. This weekend is, after all, their turn to steal the spotlight from the liberal media’s endless praise of the Obama administration. 

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Thumbnail image for Environmental Lawyer Cory Briggs: Saint or Sinner?

Environmental Lawyer Cory Briggs: Saint or Sinner?

by Doug Porter 02.26.2015 Columns

“The case put forward to this point just doesn’t seem right, kind of like a badly fitted toupee on an otherwise well-dressed man.”

By Doug Porter

There’s no doubt about the fact that attorney Cory Briggs has made his fair share of enemies in San Diego. His actions in court have made Briggs the bane of corporate interests, providing what I believe to be a necessary counter-balance in a region where it seems as though the “people’s advocates” express concern about issues only after exposés appear in the press.

So it’s ironic that San Diego’s City attorney is now responding to an investigative series focused on Briggs. And the suggestion is being made that the source for these stories may have been somebody connected with the city’s legal offices, which have made no secret of their disdain for the attorney in the past.

Over the past few days inewsource  has published three stories questioning Briggs’ ethics. Liens filed by the attorney on properties may have been fraudulent efforts to shield assets. Briggs wife’s employment with an environmental planning company used by local governments may represent a conflict of interest, given the nature of many of the legal actions he has pursued against various agencies.

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Thumbnail image for Gas Prices Rise in San Diego as Refinery Strike Spreads

Gas Prices Rise in San Diego as Refinery Strike Spreads

by Doug Porter 02.25.2015 Business

By Doug Porter 

The average price of a gallon of regular gasoline reached three dollars in San Diego this week, roughly seventy cents more than a month ago. The primary cause of this steep increase is the largest refinery strike in 35 years, a walkout that’s continuing to spread as negotiations have stalled out. 

A total of 6,550 workers represented by the United Steel Workers are on strike at 15 plants, including 12 refineries accounting for one-fifth of U.S. capacity. The central issue in this labor dispute is safe working conditions for the USW members at more than 200 oil terminals, pipelines, refineries and chemical plants in the U.S. 

The American Automobile Association says the steep increase in prices comes on the heels of a record 123 consecutive days of declines. 

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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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