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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.