EAST COUNTY ST. PATRICK’S HALF MARATHON AND FUN RUN MARCH 12 TO BENEFIT LOCAL CHARITIES

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: FOLLYWOOD (HAIL, CAESAR!)

FIRST “FLOWERS IN THE MOUNTAINS” GARDEN TOUR BLOOMS MAY 7

ZIKA VIRUS IN SALIVA, MAY BE SPREAD BY KISSING

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: PARADISE IN DESCANSO

CROCS AND KINGS

VALENTINE’S OPEN RANCH AT ALPACAS OF SAN DIEGO IN DESCANSO FEB. 13

LOVE IS IN THE AIR AT LA CASA DEL ZORRO RESORT

WINDWALKER NOMINATED FOR GRAMMY: HEAR OUR INTERVIEW

ECM WORLD WATCH: NATIONAL AND GLOBAL NEWS

GOING TO THE DOGS: LA MESA ALLOWS FIVE PER HOME

DESTINATION EAST COUNTY: TOP FESTIVALS AND EVENTS FEB. 6-21

News

EAST COUNTY STORIES OF THE YEAR 2015

 

By Miriam Raftery, Editor

December 24, 2015 (San Diego's East County) --It’s been a tumultuous year around the world and also here in San Diego’s East County. 

These ranged from water woes to lawsuits over education and transportation.  East County residents rallied for refugees and protested land use projects ranging from a sand mine to a shooting range, as well as a casino, solar farms, a hotel highrise, and safety concerns after a plane crash near Gillespie Field.  Our coverage helped clean up illegal dumping in Cleveland National Forest and save free speech outside Supervisors' meeting place.  Other hot stories touched on fire safety, terrorism, police scandals, and winery regulations,  There was also some good news--Lake Jennings was spared, a new habitat for bears opened, local police stepped up efforts to protect pedestrians, and Supervisor Dianne Jacob led efforts to find a cure for Alzheimer's. 

Here are the stories and issues that captured the attention of our East County readers in 2015:

SNOW, ICY ROADWAYS IN MOUNTAINS

 

East County News Service

File photo: Snow in Cuyamacas by Grace Schleiser

December 28, 2015 (San Diego’s East County) – A winter storm is bringing snow, ice and fog to our mountain regions.

Chains are required due to icy/snowy conditions on the Julian-Sunrise Highway from State Route 79 to Old Highway 80, according to the County Department of Public Works. Caltrans reports icy conditions on I-8 at Mountain Pass as well as on State Route 76 at Palomar Mountain.

The Laguna Mountain Lodge reports on its Facebook page that snow is falling on Mt.Laguna.  Residents across East County report snow in the Lake Cuyamaca area, an iced over pond in Descanso and cold conditions across our inland region.

YOUNG TEACHER DIES IN FIRE AT HOME OWNED BY FOR ASSEMBLYWOMAN HORTON

East County News Service

December 28, 2015 (Bonita) - Vanessa DeLaCruz, a preschool teacher, died inside a burned home in Bonita that is owned by former Assemblywoman Shirley Horton.  Four other people were taken to UCSD Medical Center for treatment of smoke inhalation.

 

TAX THE RICH TO HELP THE POOR: BALLOT INITIATIVE GAINS GROUND

 Photo credit:  Sanfranman59 on Wikipedia

By Miriam Raftery

December 28, 2015 (Sacramento) – Nonprofit groups that help the poor are working to qualify the Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Act for the November 2016 ballot.  The Legislative Analyst has estimated that the measure could raise up to $7 billion by adding a property tax surcharge on properties worth $3 million or more.

 

NEW LAWS FOR CALIFORNIA MOTORISTS IN 2016

 

By Miriam Raftery

December 26, 2015 (Sacramento)--It will be illegal to wear earbuds or headphones while driving a bicycle or a vehicle starting January 1st, except for emergency vehicles and heavy equipment. If you have outstanding traffic tickets and missed a court appearance, you can apply for amnesty. Cities can now regulate electronic skateboards, and electric bicycles will soon be able to travel in bike lanes.

These are just a few of the new laws taking affect in 2016 that will impact drivers in California.  The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has provided this summary of the new laws, as well as key changes to existing laws:

UC SYSTEM DIVESTS OF HOLDINGS IN PRIVATE PRISON CORPORATIONS

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: A private detention facility run by Corrections Corporation of America at Otay Mesa for U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

December 26, 2015 (San Diego) – The University of California has divested over $25 million of its holdings in private prison corporations, in response to a resolution by the Afrikans Black Coalition, a student advocacy group.

“The goals of the private prison industry are to profit from the incarceration, labor and rehabilitative treatment of black and immigrant lives,” said Kamilah Moore, organizer with the coalition.  In an e-mail statement, she added  that by selling the shares, the UC system has sent a message that it is “against human rights abuses,” the Daily Bruin reports.

The rise of private prisons in modern times began in 1984 and has mushroomed since then. According to the U.S. Justice Department, by 2013, private prisons were housing 19.1% of all federal prisoners and 6.8% of state prisoners, reaping billions of dollars in revenues.  Private prison corporations also operate immigrant detention facilities, with over 23,000 immigrants currently behind bars. But serious questions have been raised about both racial injustice and failure to live up to promised cost savings.

PEDESTRIAN KILLED CHRISTMAS EVE IN EL CAJON

East County News Service

Update December 28, 2015: The deceased has been identifed as Corey Akren, 47, a transient, according to the Medical Examiner.

December 25, 2015 (El Cajon) — A pedestrian and a friend pushing a bicycle were struck by a red Toyota Tundra pickup truck while crossing Naranca Avenue at Second Street in El Cajon last night at 5:45 p.m.  The pedestrian was transported to a hospital where he was pronounced dead a short time later despite aggressive rescusciation efforts. The bicyclist, a woman, was also taken to a hospital with non life-threatening injuries.

HIGH WINDS, RAIN AND SNOW TO AFFECT HOLIDAY TRAVEL

 

East County News Service

December 24, 2015 (San Diego’s East County) – The National Weather Service has issued a high wind warning in effect from Christmas Eve through Christmas morning in San Diego’s mountain and desert regions.  Winds of 35-40 miles per hour with gusts up to 80 mph are forecast. 

A cold front is also moving across the region, bringing rain and snow down as low as 3,000 feet.

COVERT CANYON OPPONENTS APPEAL TO SUPERVISORS

 

"Arguably, the County will now be required to allow any such property owner to conduct commercial firearms training on an interim basis so long as a permit application is eventually submitted." -- Marco Gonzalez

By Miriam Raftery

December 23, 2015 (Alpine) –Attorney Marco Gonzalez has filed an appeal with County Supervisors on behalf of environmental groups and neighbors of Covert Canyon in Alpine. If the Planning Director's decision stands, he argues, it would set a precendent that could subject residents across vast areas of the County  to neighbors opening up similar commercial shooting ranges.

The appeal contends that it was illegal for the Planning Director to issue an order reclassifying the zoning ordinance defintion of “law enforcement” to include military and law enforcement firearms training at Covert Canyon, a mountain meadow surrounded by Cleveland National Forest, without reveiw under the California Environmental Quality (CEQA) Act. 

WRONG-WAY DRIVER SUFFERS FATAL INJURIES ON I-8

East County News Service

December 18, 2015 (Lakeside) --  A woman driving a silver 2002 Infinity on Los Coches Road drove onto an exit ramp and entered Interstate 8 east, heading in the wrong direction at 10:08 p.m. last night.  She collided with a black 2015 Jeep Patriot, which rolled onto its right side.

PLANNING COMMISSION GUNS DOWN APPEAL, ALLOWS COVERT CANYON TO CONDUCT MILITARY FIREARMS TRAINING

By Miriam Raftery

Photos: Covert Canyon owner Marc Halcon (left); neighbors Clark and Robin Williams (right)

December 17, 2015 (Alpine) – Testimony at the County Planning Commission hearing on Covert Canyon   on December 11th was heated, as concerned citizens and planners fired off concerns, which project backers sought to deflect.  At stake was an appeal filed by neighbors and environmentalists opposed to the Planning Director’s decision allowing commercial firearms training of military and police at the Alpine site, which is surrounded by federal forestlands.  Animal rights activists also protested live shooting of pigs for military medic training at the property in the past.  Here are some of the impassioned statements made:

“What the Planning Director has done is sign a death warrant for the national forest.” – Duncan McFetridge, co-chair, Cleveland National Forest Foundation

“I live in constant fear…it is extremely dangerous.” – Robin Williams, neighbor closest to Covert Canyon

 “Military ranges are overloaded right now. Post-911, demand is up…We live in a different world now; our law enforcement and first responders have to have training to respond.” – Marc Halcon, Covert Canyon owner

“You’re allowing an unlimited decibel ordinance for 14 minutes every hour. That’s no ordinance at all…How can a firing range not have substantial impact? It’s beyond my comprehension.” – Planning Commissioner Michael Beck

“This is the most tortured interpretation of the zoning ordinance I have ever seen…You’re going to get sued, and you’re going to lose.” – Attorney Marco Gonzalez, addressing County Planning Commission

“We all know about the global war on terror…Range time equals one of our biggest challenges in San Diego…this is paramount for the success of war fighters.” – Tommy Marquez, on behalf of Congressman Duncan Hunter

WHITE CHRISTMAS IN MOUNTAINS AS STORMS MOVE IN

 

East County News Service

December 17, 2015 (San Diego’s East County) -- A cold front moving through our region will bring showers and gusty winds late Saturday through early Sunday, with snow expected in the mountains above 5000 feet.

Looking towards Christmas time late next week, there are signs that there could be a wet storm system December 23-26 that could bring low snow-levels, rain and strong winds.  “This has the potential to be a high impact event that will affect holiday travel,” says Mark Moede, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Diego.

THREAT TO L.A. SCHOOLS INCLUDED SAN DIEGO AND OTHER CITIES

 

Fears of school violence spark concerns among parents

By Miriam Raftery

December 16, 2015 (San Diego’s East County) – On Tuesday, an e-mail that threatened bombings and shootings caused Los Angeles Unified School District to shut down and 1,500 schools, impacting 650,000 students. Searches proved the threat was a hoax. A similar threat was received in New York City, where the school district opted to remain open, deeming the threats not credible.

Today,10 News reports that the L.A. e-mail  also warned, “If you cancel classes, the bombings will take place regardless, and we will bring our guns to the streets and offices of Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Bakersfield, and San Diego.”   

The e-mail writer claimed to be a Muslim who had been bullied in L.A. schools and claimed to be working with “32 comrades” willing to die. The hoaxter claimed to have pressure cooker bombs hidden in backpacks to be detonated with cell phones as well as “nerve gas agents” set to go off at lunch time,automatic weapons and grenades to massacre students “mercilessly.”

LA MESA HERALDS END OF DOWNTOWN CONSTRUCTION, BUT SCALED-BACK CHRISTMAS IN THE VILLAGE LEAVES SOME RESIDENTS DISAPPONTED

 

Cutbacks raise key question: who should pay for security costs of festivals in La Mesa?

By Miriam Raftery

December 15, 2015 (La Mesa)—La Mesa Mayor Mark Arapostathis joined with students from Peter Pan Junior Theatre to sing carols amid holiday lighting in the downtown village at La Mesa Shimmers—a special event held December 9th to celebrate completion of the downtown streetscape construction project and reopening of the historic district.

The event was notably separate from the La Mesa Village Merchants Association’s  Christmas in the Village held December 11 and 12. This year, the merchants’ festival was dramatically scaled back due to lack of funds to shut down streets, leading some residents to ask why the city expects merchants to shoulder the full burden of police and security costs for celebrations that benefit the citizenry as well as local shopkeepers--particularly after construction hurt merchants' businesses for the past year.

COUNTY HOMELESS OUTREACH TEAM LAUNCHED IN EAST COUNTY

 

County News Service

December 16, 2015 (San Diego’s East County)--The family of three—a couple approximately in their 40s, and their 17-year-old son and pet dog—slept in sleeping bags and blankets behind a Santee gas station last week. They were dressed in layers and were huddled or lying down on the concrete ground close to the building with their belongings in a few small carts. The family has been homeless since last December. Because the father works there five days a week, the gas station owner allows them to sleep on the property on occasion.

SAN DIEGO GOES GREEN, ENACTS HISTORIC CLIMATE CHANGE PLAN

By Miriam Raftery

December 16, 2015 (San Diego)—By a unanimous vote, the San Diego City Council  on Tuesday enacted a plan to address climate change that may be the most ambitious in the nation. The plan sets a goal for the city to attain 100 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2035, also reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent in 2020 and 50 percent by 2035.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer told Councilmembers, “We are a city where the quality of the environment is essential to our quality of life.”  Faulconer said the plan will create jobs and preserve the city’s leadership in the clean-tech industry, also improving public health and air quality, reducing dependence on imported water, and increasing use of clean energy.

Climate Action Campaign announced the San Diego is the largest American city to commit to producing all of its energy from renewable resources.

LA MESA BANS MEDICAL MARIJUANA DELIVERIES, AFFIRMS PROHIBITION ON DISPENSARIES

 

By Mike Allen

December 15, 2015 (La Mesa)-Although it already prohibits such dispensaries, La Mesa won’t allow the growing, sale or delivery of medical marijuana in its city limits.

At its Dec. 8 meeting, the City Council approved two ordinances that re-affirm and confirm the city’s existing laws, also expressly banning delivery of medical cannabis. The actions were taken following the adoption of a series of regulations covering the sale and cultivation of marijuana by the state that were signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown earlier this year.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY TO ENLIST INMATES IN EL NIÑO RESPONSE

 

 

Source: County News Service

December 15, 2015 (San Diego)--County Supervisors on Tuesday agreed to seek rapid deployment of state inmate work crews if El Niño packs a punch in the coming months.

The board voted to approve Supervisor Dianne Jacob’s proposal to team up with Cal Fire and ensure that the region’s nearly 500 work crew inmates are quickly available to assist with flood prevention and cleanup.

EL CAJON COUNCIL HEARS BUZZ OVER BEEKEEPING PROPOSAL, SDG&E ELECTRIC VEHICLE GRID PLAN, AND ABATEMENT OF SUBSTANDARD HOUSING

 

 

By Janis Russell

Photo: ECPD Chief Jeff Davis is sworn in.

December 13, 2015 (El Cajon)-El Cajon’s City Council had a busy agenda last Tuesday, including the East County Performing Arts Center (ECPAC), SDG&E’s  plan for vehicle grid integration, a beekeeping buzz, and issues faced by residents ranging from a home overrun by rabbits to a residence where residents were displaced due to flooding and a collapsed roof.  The City also swore in a new Police Chief and appointed a new Interim Mayor.

BIRTH DEFECTS LINKED TO MOSQUITOES

 

By Miriam Raftery

December 14, 2015 (San Diego)--A rare but serious birth defect in Brazil has been linked to a mosquito—the Aedes aegypti species, which has recently been found in San Diego County.

This type of mosquito was already known to carry diseases such as Yellow Fever, dengue fever, chikungunya and the Zika virus.  But now the Zika virus is suspected of causing microencephaly, a rare neurological disorder that results in infants having small heads and underdeveloped brains, resulting in severe developmental issues. The mosquito bites an expectant mother, transmitting the disease to her unborn child.  Babies born with this illness are likely to die young and require constant care.

FEASTING AND MERRYMAKING PARTY WITH EAST COUNTY MAGAZINE SUNDAY: YOU'RE INVITED!

December 17, 2015 (Mt. Helix) -- Our holiday parties are legendary! Come join the fun Sunday, December 20 from 2-6 p.m. at our editor's home on Mt. Helix.

  • Delicious feast! Glazed ham and yams, cinnamon baked apples, beet/strawberry and eggplant salads from Baba al Hara,  pasta and salad from Olive Graden, desserts from New York Bakery
  •  Wine tasting with Grant James Vineyard and Pearson Bros. Winery, plus holiday beverages (21 and up.)
  • Live music (folk, rock, and holiday songs) with Paul Nichols, Cindy Burnham, Tim and Marijo Luranc,
  • Holiday games, prizes and surprises! Prizes include a mountain vacation,  wine lover’s baskets, dance lessons, silver jewelry, hand-woven shawl from Weaving Works in Santa Ysabel, California Wolf Preserve tour in Julian,  Passes and big-cat feeding for 2 at Lions Tigers &  Bears, dinner at Descanso Junction, Glamour Girlz gift basket, personal trainer for a month at CHN Fitness in Santee, yoga lessons at CHN Yoga, and much more. 

CAMPO ROAD/CASA DE ORO IMPROVEMENTS MEETING DEC. 17

East County News Service

December 12, 2015 (Spring Valley ) – Institute for Public Strategies invites you to the third community meeting on alcohol-related harm in Casa De Oro.  

At the last meeting in November, members decided to create a formal community group and will choose a name at the next meeting, which is set for Thursday, December 17 from 6 to 8 p.m.  The meeting will be held at the Young Actors’ Theater, 9628 Campo Road, Suite J in Spring Valley.

HEARING ON HOSKINGS RANCH POSTPONED TO FEB. 5

 

By Miriam Raftery

December 11, 2015 (Julian) – The County Planning commission today granted a continuance for a hearing on 24 homes proposed on the 1,000-acre Hoskings Ranch at Highway 78 and Pine Hills Road in Julian.  A request for continuance until February 5 at 9 a.m. was requested by both the developer and an attorney representing residents opposed to the project.

Over 250 people signed up for the Hoskings Ranch Subdivision Action and Resource group on Facebook within two hours of its being formed.  About 50 concerned residents met December 8th at Julian’s town hall.

HELIX WATER WINS TRANSPARENCY AWARD FOR GOVERNANCE, DROPS MEMBERSHIP IN GOOD GOVERNANCE ORGANIZATION

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

December 10, 2015 (La Mesa) – Helix Water District has received the “District Transparency Certificate of Excellence” from the Special District Leadership Foundation (SDLF), a nonprofit that promotes special districts that excel in governance and management.

Ironically, however, just one week after that announcement, Helix board president DeAna Verbeke asked staff not to renew the district’s membership in the California Special Districts Association (CSDA), which supports the SDLF and its goals.  The CSDA promotes good governance and improved local services for independent special districts(such as water and fire boards) that deliver public services.

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