EAST COUNTY ROUNDUP: TOP LOCAL AND STATE NEWS

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March 14, 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:

STATE

LOCAL/REGIONAL

Read more for excerpts and links to full stories.

STATE

Forest Service may let more fires burn (Sacramento Bee)

March 9, 2013--After coming in $400 million over budget following last year's busy fire season, the Forest Service is altering its approach and may let more fires burn instead of attacking every one.

The move, quietly made in a letter late last month by Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, brings the agency more in line with the National Parks Service and back to what it had done until last year. It also answers critics who said the agency wasted money and endangered firefighters by battling fires in remote areas that posed little or no danger to property or critical habitat. 

California pushes - some say too hard - to recover money for fighting wildfires  (Sacramento Bee)

February 17, 2013--The fire started with an anchor bolt on a hot October day at a Ventura County reservoir.

A laborer took his chop saw to the half-inch-thick piece of metal, creating a spark that landed on dry brush.

"This thing just took off like a bomb," recalled Manuel Mendez, whose family concrete business worked on a boat ramp that day at Lake Piru.

Editorial: Public’s right to know is too basic to risk (Sacramento Bee)

March 10, 2013--It should be a given: Local governments have to tell the public what's on the agenda for meetings and provide public records.

Yet like so many things in California, it can get very convoluted. While the core of the state's open government laws is beyond dispute, there's a fight over, what else, money – specifically, reimbursements from the state to local governments for the costs of some procedural mandates to make the laws work better.

Lawsuit balks at PUC 'stakeholder' meeting (UT San Diego)

March 11, 2013--The legality of a "stakeholder" meeting in San Diego between select members of the public and state utilities regulators is being challenged in court.

The March 20 meeting in La Jolla has been advertised as a chance for three groups of 20 people to meet with commissioners and staff of the California Public Utilities Commission about topics such as renewable energy and infrastructure. It takes place the day before a meeting that will be open to the public -- also in San Diego -- at which commissioners will consider granting permission for two new natural gas power plants in San Diego and Otay Mesa, among other matters.

Capitol Alert: Lawmakers scold California PUC for erroneous budget forecasts (Sacramento Bee)

March 6, 2013--The director of the California Public Utilities Commissionwas scolded by lawmakers today after conceding that his agency had committed errors in forecasting and other budget-related issues involving hundreds of millions of dollars.

A state Department of Finance audit found serious management, training and procedural problems in PUC accounting and forecasting procedures for special funds tied to programs ranging from low-income customer subsidies to telephone services for deaf and disabled individuals. The money stems from surcharges on Californians' gas, electric and telephone bills.

New Study Shows California's Local Road System In Crisis (KPBS)

March 6, 2013--A new study finds that aging infrastructure, rising construction costs and budget cuts have put California's local streets and roads system in crisis. Cities and counties own and maintain more than eighty-percent of all the roads in the state.

The needs assessment surveyed all 58 counties. It found the majority have road pavements that are at risk for failing. With the current level of funding, a quarter of the streets and roads will have failed in 10 years.

LOCAL/REGIONAL

ER wait times at Sharp Grossmont three times longer than national average (La Mesa Patch)

March 11, 2013--If you go to the emergency department at Sharp Grossmont Hospital, you are likely to wait up to three times longer than the national average before you receive care, according to a recently released federal report.

The average time a patient had to wait in the ER "before they were seen by a healthcare professional" was nearly two hours – 101 minutes to be exact, according to the report.

The state average is 33 minutes, while the national average is 30 minutes.

Filner, Supervisors Announce New Solar Initiative (KPBS)

March 8, 2013--San Diego Mayor Bob Filner and two members of the county Board of Supervisors announced today an initiative to improve energy efficiency in public buildings, and increase the government, commercial and residential use of solar energy.

The city, county and San Diego Unified School District are the first members of what officials call the "Solar Summit,'' and they hope to bring in additional cities in the region, along with more school districts and public agencies like water and fire protection districts.

Sex Offender Email Alert System Launching In San Diego County (KPBS)

March 6, 2013--The San Diego County Sheriff's Department is unveiling today an e-mail alert system to inform residents when a registered sex offender moves into their neighborhood.

Approximately 4,000 known sex offenders live in San Diego County, according to the District Attorney's office.

Uh, We Don't Have to Vote on Taxes Anymore (Voice of San Diego)

March 11, 2013--Let San Diego never be accused of being short on innovation: In order to build the things we want, we may have just figured out a way to raise taxes without a vote of the people, despite long-standing laws to the contrary.

A judge tentatively ruled Monday that the city could increase taxes on hotel-room stays to fund the Convention Center expansion. It was a blow to activists suing the city and to the Chargers, who hoped to be able to pick up where this tax failed and try to build a stadium that might satisfy the need.

Feds release confidential report on San Onofre nuclear plant (KPBS)

March 8, 2013--The long-awaited Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Report was made public today and it confirms what two lawmakers announced last month.

The report shows Southern California Edison was aware of design flaws with its replacement steam generators years before they were installed at San Onofre nuclear plant. It says Southern California Edison and Mitsubishi's joint team of experts knew the steam generators could produce what's called void fraction that would lead to thinning of the tubes inside the steam generators.

Lakeside’s Mile of Trees hopes to create urban forest (EC Californian)

March 7, 2013--Arbor Day is just around the corner, in mid-March. Most folks don’t know what that means, but in East County the Mile of Trees- Lakeside is trying to bring it back by planting more trees in the community, and they hope to create an urban forest in this hot, dry climate.

Two years ago the Mile of Trees enlisted the help of AmeriCorps to plant 25 jacaranda trees along Woodside Avenue in a vacant lot across the street from the Vons supermarket. The Lakeside Garden Club donated $400 to purchase trees and fertilizer. The Mile of Trees purchased small five-gallon trees, only three feet tall, with the hope that they would grow really fast. The weeds were taller than the trees.

Sprinter to shut down for up to 4 months (U-T San Diego)

March 8, 2013--Starting at midnight, North County's Sprinter light-rail will shut down for up to four months due to brake "maintenance issues," the North County Transit District said Friday afternoon.

The agency said the length of closure is unknown "but may last from 60 to 120 days."

During the closure, buses will be used to ferry the thousands of passengers who use the Sprinter along its Oceanside to Escondido corridor, the agency said. It said it had been developing such a plan "for the past week."

Say Shalom to La Mesa's Newest Holy Man: Rabbi Rafi Andrusier (La Mesa Patch)

March 6, 2013--La Mesa's newest place of worship is one-of-a-kind. Chabad of East County has opened its doors near downtown La Mesa, having relocated from a home in San Carlos, and in January became the city's only synagogue.

Started by Rabbi Rafi Andrusier, 26, in July, Chabad of East County drew 150 people to Grossmont Center for a menorah-lighting ceremony in December. The rabbi says that synagogue, located at 8691 La Mesa Blvd., will serve all of East County.

California Coastal Commission rejects Navy explosives training plan (10 News)

March 8, 2013--The California Coastal Commission on Friday rejected a Navy explosives and sonar training program off the Southern California coast that critics said could harm endangered blue whales and other sea life.Commissioners meeting in San Diego ruled unanimously that the Navy lacked enough information to back up its argument that the threat to marine mammals would be negligible.