EAST COUNTY ROUNDUP: TOP LOCAL AND STATE NEWS

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February 7, 2013--(San Diego’s East County)--East County Roundup highlights top stories of interest to East County and San Diego’s inland regions, published in other media. This week’s top “Roundup” headlines include:

LOCAL/REGIONAL

STATE

 Read more for excerpts and links to full stories.

LOCAL/REGIONAL

Local ACLU defends data critical of Grossmont HS District (Santee Patch)

January 30, 2013--The legal director of the local ACLU is defending the data used to accuse the Grossmont Union High School District of failing to provides services to 1,300-plus English learner students.

After the Grossmont district issued a statement blaming in an American Civil Liberties Union report, David Loy of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties told Patch: “The numbers we cited derive from data reported to the state by school districts themselves, including GUHSD.”

Somali terrorism trial gets under way (U-T San Diego)

January 30, 2013--Scores of recorded phone calls show that four Somali immigrants conspired in 2008 to raise money and send it to their homeland to assist the terrorist group al-Shabaab, a federal prosecutor said at the opening Wednesday of a terrorism trial in San Diego.

But defense lawyers for the four men countered that those phone calls, as well as other evidence, has been misconstrued and taken out of context by prosecutors, and that the funds sent were for humanitarian — not terrorist — purposes.

Judge Strikes Down Plaza de Panama Approval (Voice of San Diego)

February 4, 2013--A Superior Court judge struck down a years-in-the-making plan to remake Balboa Park’s western entrance Monday. Judge Timothy Taylor upheld his earlier tentative ruling that the city broke its own law in approving the project.

After hearing 90 minutes of arguments from the city, a group of philanthropists who proposed the plan and an opposing historic preservation group on Friday, Taylor opined that the city had abused its discretion to approve the project, because the land in question already has a “reasonable beneficial use” — even if it is a parking lot — without the Plaza de Panama project. In approving the project last July, the City Council had to make a finding to the opposite.

Helix Honors Veterans with Heroes' Garden(La Mesa Patch)

February 6, 2013--Helix Charter High School and The Mission Continues have established The Helix Heroes' Garden to honor veterans with ties to the school. A crowd of approximately 75 students, staff, and community members attended the inaugural ceremony, including La Mesa Mayor Art Madrid, La Mesa City Council member Kristine Alessio, Grossmont Union High School District Superintendent Ralf Swenson, Helix Executive Director Dr. Mike Lewis, and Helix Charter Board member Bruce Crenshaw. Thirty-two service members, nominated by family, friends, and co-workers, were recognized for their service. The garden is located directly in front of the school's administration building.  

School Board to fill La Mesa-Spring Valley vacancy on school board by appointment (La Mesa Patch)

February 5, 2013--Holding a special election to fill a vacancy on the La Mesa-Spring Valley school board would cost as much as $430,000, district Superintendent Brian Marshall says. 

So he’s recommending that the board appoint someone instead.

That’s the option the board may pick at its meeting Tuesday when members consider how to fill two years of Penny Halgren’s term in the wake of her sudden resignation last month.

Gregory Canyon pits water against trash (KPBS)

January 31, 2013--The new land fill proposed for Gregory Canyon in North County would be a replacement for the San Marcos landfill that closed back in 1997. Very few new landfills are being sited in California because they are so difficult to get permitted.

Gregory Canyon is east of Interstate 15 on Highway 76, next to the San Luis Rey River.

Video: Dynamite Brings Down Eyesore Power Plant, Sends Booms Across South Bay (Patch.com)

February 2, 2013--After 50 years in operation and 55 years on San Diego Bay, the South Bay Power Plant came down Saturday morning in an implosion that took less than two minutes.

With noises like rolling thunder or the beating of a massive drum, the 165-foot-tall building that weighed near 25,000 tons was taken down by hundreds of pounds of dynamite a few minutes after 7 a.m.

Thousands of people in Chula Vista, Imperial Beach, San Diego and Coronado watched the power plant come down.

Customer Advocates Accuse Regulators Of Capitulation In San Onofre Probe (KPBS)

February 1, 2013--Ratepayer groups are accusing California regulators of caving into utility pressure by narrowing their inquiry into the shutdown of San Onofre nuclear plant.

San Onofre was shut down one year ago this week after a tiny radioactive leak was discovered in a new steam generator.

An interview with Terry Weiner, Desert Protective Council (Canyon Country Zephyr)

February 1, 2013--Are the big green groups staying away from this battle about “alternative energy?”

The national so-called environmental organizations are not staying out of it: indeed a couple of them (NRDC and The Wilderness Society especially) are engaging in the planning process by sitting at the table and collaborating with the Department of Interior and the solar and wind developers to help them site projects on lands they refer to as “low conflict zones”. Instead of promoting and lobbying for policy changes to incentivize rooftop solar and distributed generation in the built environment, they are speaking in support of these remote large-scale solar and wind projects on public land; they are in some cases colluding in their development.

Man accused of setting Rancho San Diego Church on fire pleads not guilty (10 News)

January 31, 2013--A man accused of setting fire to a Greek Orthodox church in Rancho San Diego pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of arson, vandalism of a church and burglary.

Darin Wayne Williams -- held of $250,000 bail -- faces six years and eight months in prison if convicted.

Williams, 38, was arrested late Sunday morning, within hours of a fire that caused about $250,000 in damage at Saint Gregory of Nyssa Greek Orthodox Church.

Levy joins hospital construction oversight effort (La Mesa Today)

January 31, 2013--A third-generation La Mesa resident who holds the record for longest continuous service as a volunteer member of any of the City of La Mesa’s boards or commissions has joined a volunteer citizens group overseeing construction at Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa. Dexter Levy, a retired construction and labor relations executive, has joined the Independent Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee (ICBOC) as the group’s designated member with large-scale construction experience. Other ICBOC members have experience in finance or healthcare or represent various constituent groups, including labor or the hospital.

Sea turtles coming out of their shells (U-T San Diego)

February 3, 2013--Just before the holidays last year, a green sea turtle named Peanut tooled around San Diego Bay, swinging by docks north of the Sweetwater River, in a pioneering journey captured by satellite data.

What made Peanut’s jaunt remarkable was that it was the first time researchers had recorded one of the endangered turtles venturing that far north of its protected enclave in the extreme south bay.

Argument Between Ex-Housemates Blamed in Fatal La Mesa Shooting (La Mesa Patch)

January 31, 2013--A La Mesa man accused of shooting another man in the head Oct. 4 in a residential neighborhood must stand trial on murder charges, a judge ruled Wednesday after a preliminary hearing at East County Superior Court.

Antonio Garcia, 32, was arrested Oct. 8 at the home of a relative in National City. He is suspected of having shot and killed Josue (“Happy”) Rodriguez outside Garcia’s home in the 5800 block of Amarillo Avenue.

Thirsty farmers turn to wine  (Wall Street Journal –subscription required)

January 31, 2013--Faced with skyrocketing water prices and an uncertain supply, avocado farmers in San Diego County, long the nation’s top avocado-producing region, are uprooting their trees in favor of more water-efficient crops. Many are growing grapes and getting licenses to operate wineries. Others are replacing avocado trees with exotic flowers or specialty fruits that they can hawk at local farmers markets.

STATE

Report questions how Calif. schools managed lands (Sacramento Bee)

February 1, 2013--Researchers are questioning how California's schools have managed the more than 5.5 million acres that the federal government granted to the state when it joined the union, according the San Francisco Chronicle.

Analysts at Utah State University found most of the land given to the California school trust has been sold off, mismanaged or neglected, the newspaper reported.

Solar development absorbing Calif. farmland UT San Diego)

February 2, 2013--There's a land rush of sorts going on across the nation's most productive farming region, but these buyers don't want to grow crops. They want to plant solar farms.

With California mandating that 33 percent of electricity be generated from renewables by the end of the decade, there are 227 proposed solar projects in the pipeline statewide. Coupled with wind and other renewables they would generate enough electricity to meet 100 percent of California's power needs on an average summer day, the California Independent System Operator says.

Calif. quake warning system proposed (Sacramento Bee)

January 28, 2013--Californians could have critical seconds to seek safety or shut down important systems before the onset of damaging shaking under legislation introduced Monday to build an $80 million earthquake early warning system.

The bill, outlined by state Sen. Alex Padilla in a press conference at the California Institute of Technology's seismology laboratory, would make the project a state priority. It seeks to identify potential sources of state and federal funding, which Padilla said could be accomplished by August.

Second Snow Survey Shows Below Normal Conditions (KPBS)

January 30, 2013--California snow surveyors reported Tuesday that water content in the state’s mountain snowpack is below average for the date.

The manual readings this month confirmed what many water managers expected after a relatively dry January. The water content in the Sierra snow is ninety-three percent of average for this time of year.

Another state agency caught hiding funds (U-T San Diego)

January 31, 2013--The report that the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection withheld $3.6 million from the state general fund from 2005 to 2012 can’t be dismissed as a bureaucratic oversight.

Cal Fire paid a 3 percent fee to the California District Attorneys Association to hold the funds, which were obtained from legal settlements. The agency did so even though its own rules say the money should have gone to the general fund and even though auditors warned that the diversion was improper.

Stolen ancient rock carvings in Calif. found (Sacramento Bee)

January 31, 2013-- Five rock carvings that were sheared off and stolen from a sacred American Indian site in California's Sierra Nevada have been recovered but no arrests have been made, authorities said Thursday.

Authorities wouldn't provide details about the discovery, only that it was made this month after they received an anonymous tip in a letter. The tipster will be eligible for a $9,000 reward if the information leads to the arrest and conviction of the culprits.

State Abandons Algebra Requirement For 8th Graders (KPBS)

February 3, 2013-- California is abandoning an algebra requirement for eighth graders, a move already adopted by most states.

The San Jose Mercury News says the State Board of Education decided last month to shift away from a 15-year policy of expecting eighth-graders to take Algebra I.

Calif misses millions in federal money for inmates (U-T San Diego)

February 5, 2013--A study is blaming bureaucratic problems for California's failure to claim millions of dollars in federal reimbursements for sick prison inmates.

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office said in a report Tuesday that California is missing out on Medicaid money because a court-appointed receiver has not signed agreements with every county.


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