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US Sand Sculpting Challenge and 3D Art Exposition Sep 01, 2014 Sand sculptors from all over the world will create huge pieces of art made from sand. There will also be live entertainment (big bands, singers and more), a sand box and rides for kids, a dozen gourmet food trucks, art and more. 32 other events on Monday, September 1
 
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How one case study could potentially transform City Heights
News
Desert Line leaseholder likely claimed fake asset
The Floating Library
What inspired me as I wrote my first novel
Arts & Culture feature
Second in a two-part series about how the county does and doesn’t support cultural organizations
News
County supervisors, oversight boards say they welcome a federal investigation

 

 
 
Home / Blogs / Staff Blogs / Last Blog on Earth
 
 
Last Blog on Earth | News 08.22.2014 9 days ago

Priorities unknown

City Attorney claims not to track types of crimes that flow through office

- By Joshua Emerson Smith

Of the thousands of cases referred every year to regional prosecutors, which get pursued and which get ignored? It’s a standard question that many crime journalists fresh on the beat start with. Veteran editors often tell cub reporters to request from an office a list of all referred, as well as prosecuted, cases categorized by crime type.

This way, reporters can see if any types of crimes are being ignored—especially tough-to-prosecute offenses that might mar an office’s statistics.

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at 04:13 PM | Permalink | Comments
 
 
Last Blog on Earth | News 08.01.2014 30 days ago

Top city planner Bill Fulton resigns

Abrupt departure raises question about the future of smart growth in San Diego

- By Joshua Emerson Smith

Confirming months of rumors, Bill Fulton, planning director for the city of San Diego, submitted his letter of resignation, according to a memo released Friday by Mayor Kevin Faulconer's office. Hired last summer by then-Mayor Bob Filner, the city’s top planner will step down Aug. 30 to take a position as the director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University in Houston.

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at 03:27 PM | Permalink | Comments
 
 
Last Blog on Earth | News 07.30.2014 32 days ago

'Hammer' Jones is reporting to prison today

An update on this week's cover story

- By David Rolland

Here's an update to this week’s cover story in CityBeat about Lorne "Hammer" Jones, written by the author of the story, Andrew Gumbel:

Lorne Jones, the convicted former customs inspector whose case is subject of CityBeat's July 30 cover story, is reporting to federal prison today, more than three weeks ahead of the self-surrender date of Aug. 22 imposed by the San Diego District Court, and will serve no more than one-third of the time to which he was sentenced in March.

“I’m tired of fighting,” Jones told CityBeat from Reno, an hour’s drive from the Herlong Federal Correctional Institution, where he has been assigned by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). “There’s things I could still do, but I just want this to be over.”

Jones said he believed he was innocent of the charges on which he was convicted. He was further upset that the BOP was assigning him to a medium-security facility when a sentencing agreement worked out with the prosecution last month—and since made public by the court in an amended judgment—specifically called for the low-security prison at Taft, in Kern County, which is several hundred miles closer to his family in San Diego.

The amended judgment is dated July 11, the date of the hearing that Jones and his lawyer were clearly preparing for, and it cuts his time from 90 months, or seven-and-a-half years, to 30 months, or two-and-a-half years. Technically, he’s now sentenced to serve 30 months on each of the two counts—conspiracy and attempted marijuana-smuggling—on which he was convicted, but the agreement makes clear the two sentences are to be served concurrently.

Jones said he expected to be out in less than two years, allowing for time served after his arrest and before he made bail, and assuming he wins credit for good behavior.

The reason why his sentence was abruptly cut by two-thirds, even though he waived his right to appeal, remains shrouded in mystery. Nominally, the reason for the reduced sentence was Rule 35 (b) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which refers to a circumstance in which a defendant offers “substantial assistance in investigating or prosecuting another person.” But a legal source familiar with the case told CityBeat the reason was something more unusual, “like lightning striking”—curiously, the very phrase the government used at trial to describe one of its strongest pieces of circumstantial evidence.

at 04:09 PM | Permalink | Comments
 
 
Last Blog on Earth | News 07.28.2014 34 days ago

What prompted advocates for juvenile detainees to file a complaint against San Diego County

Summaries of more than a dozen disturbing incidents

- By Kelly Davis
Dave Maass contributed to this post.

Earlier today, the San Francisco-based Youth Law Center (YLC) and a coalition of nine civil-rights groups announced that they'd filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice over pepper-spray abuses in San Diego County juvenile-detention facilities. The 34-page complaint, which follows CityBeat's reporting on the excessive use of pepper spray in county juvenile facilities, highlights dozens of troubling examples of the chemicalalso referred to as OC (oleoresin capsicum)—being used indiscriminately on kids who posed no physical threat to staff.

More than 70 percent of juvenile-detention facilities in the U.S. forbid the use of pepper spray on detainees. But, as we reported in a longer story on the complaint, "... probation staff sprayed youth at risk for suicide; youth who simply were disobedient; youth with respiratory, cardiovascular and skin problems; and youth being treated with psychotropic medication." The complaint highlights, too, probation's use of solitary confinement as a form of punishment—a practice that's been widely condemned by experts—as well as cases where suicidal female detainees were ordered to strip naked in front of male staff, a violation of the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act. 

The complaint asks the DOJ to conduct its own investigation of the probation department's policies and procedures governing the use of OC spray and require probation to "adopt policies that eliminate the use of OC spray in its juvenile facilities."

Through a public-records request, Youth Law Center obtained two years' worth of incident reports from county probation. Below, we've included, verbatim from the complaint, summaries of some of the more troubling incidents.

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at 03:30 PM | Permalink | Comments
 
 
Last Blog on Earth | News 07.24.2014 40 days ago

UC San Diego's Books for Prisoners downgraded to a storage closet

Student-run group has to move out of the space it's occupied for nearly six years

- By Kelly Davis


Volunteers with Books for Prisoners are trying to figure out how to cram dozens of boxes of donated books—tomes that had once filled more than 600 square feet of space—into a storage room one-sixth that size. The UCSD student-run group, which, since 2001, has provided prison inmates with free books, was told last month that they had to vacate the space they’d been using for almost six years.

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at 04:00 PM | Permalink | Comments
 
 
Last Blog on Earth | News 07.15.2014 47 days ago

San Diego's frozen funding pipe

Prop. A is preventing the city from accessing millions of state water and sewer dollars

- By Joshua Emerson Smith

It’s no secret that San Diego needs all the help it can get when it comes to repairing aging water pipes and sewer lines. With more than a billion dollars in unmet infrastructure needs, officials have been looking under every couch cushion to keep the disrepair to a minimum.

What might seem odd, however, is that the city has ostensibly given up access to tens of millions of dollars of infrastructure grants and loans provided routinely by the state. Despite warnings from Sacramento officials, in June 2012, San Diego voters passed a ballot measure, Proposition A, that’s in direct conflict with state law.

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at 05:08 PM | Permalink | Comments
 
 
Last Blog on Earth | News 07.09.2014 53 days ago

Affordable-housing compromise proposed

Housing Commission and business group to pitch plan to City Council committee next week

- By David Rolland

The San Diego Housing Commission next week will propose to the City Council's Smart Growth and Land Use Committee a new plan for funding affordable housing and making market-rate housing cheaper.

Here's a draft of the report that will go to the committee. CityBeat will follow up with some analysis of the details soon.

The proposal stems from a battle earlier this year: The City Council passed an increase to a fee that developers of commercial properties pay to help finance affordable housing, but opponents of the fee—calling themselves the Jobs Coalition—waged a successful campaign to get a referendum on the ballot to repeal the increase, and the City Council conceded defeat, repealing its own ordinance.

The plan is being billed as a compromise between the Housing Commission, which spearheaded the effort to increase the affordable-housing fee, and the Jobs Coalition, and Mayor Kevin Faulconer is on board.

“I promised to bring housing advocates and the business community to the table to work on a compromise and that’s exactly what happened," he said in an written statement provided by a spokesperson. "This deal strikes a fair balance that provides more funding for affordable housing without stifling economic development.”


at 06:46 PM | Permalink | Comments
 
 
Last Blog on Earth | News 07.09.2014 53 days ago

Bonnie Dumanis releases controversial letter, takes shots at the media

District attorney gives 'exclusive' to friendly KUSI

- By David Rolland

This morning, KUSI aired a live interview with District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, during which she discussed a controversial letter of recommendation that she wrote for the son of Susumo Azano, who’s been charged by federal authorities with making illegal contributions to Dumanis’ campaign for mayor of San Diego. Azano’s son was seeking admission to the University of San Diego.

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at 03:35 PM | Permalink | Comments
 
 
Last Blog on Earth | News 07.08.2014 54 days ago

Fighting human trafficking in secret

County advisory council has never followed open-government law

- By Joshua Emerson Smith

One of San Diego County’s most touted advisory groups has failed to follow state open-meeting laws.

Since its inception in June 2011, the San Diego County Regional Human Trafficking and CSEC (Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children) Advisory Council hasn't posted agendas or made its meetings known to the public, Steve Schmidt, spokesperson for county Supervisor Dianne Jacob’s office, confirmed Tuesday. No information about the advisory council’s meetings can be found on the county’s website; nor is any information listed on the "Committee Fact Sheets" web page.

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at 05:55 PM | Permalink | Comments
 
 
Last Blog on Earth | News 06.27.2014 65 days ago

Faulconer's 2015 budget included money for homeless 'triage beds'

'Critical component' of shelter system will keep going year-round

- By Kelly Davis
When the city of San Diego's homeless shelters close on Tuesday, July 1, gone will be 24 so-called "triage beds" where outreach workers—like Kelly Knight with Downtown's Clean & Safe program and the San Diego Police Department's Homeless Outreach Team—have been placing homeless folks temporarily until a more permanent bed can be found. The triage beds are reserved for people at risk of illness, injury or worse should they remain on the street.

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at 06:37 PM | Permalink | Comments
 
 

 

 
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