San Diego

EDITORIAL: BORDER PATROL AGENTS SABOTAGING WATER BOTTLES IN DESERT SHOULD BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR DEATHS OF MIGRANTS

 

By Miriam Raftery

January 19, 2018 (San Diego’s East County) – A new report by humanitarian organizations  reveals that Border Patrol agents  have been systemically destroying water bottles left in desert areas for undocumented immigrants in the Arizona desert, condemning people to die of thirst.  While its unknown if this is occurring in California, this article in Britain’s The Guardian hit home for me in a visceral way, reminding me of an experience that brought me to tears.

On the 4th of July In 2008, I rode alongwith Border Angels founder Enrique Morones. We discovered sabotage of water bottles his group had left in rugged locations--all slashed open, empty. My article, Dying to Come to America, was published in our very first edition of East County Magazine. Morones vividly described what it is like for people to die of dehydration – hallucinating, throwing off clothes and shoes. We saw the signs of this torment – a woman’s high-heeled shoe cast aside, a man’s crumpled shirt.  The heat was triple digits.

I went along to learn about experiences faced by people so desperate to come to America that they rely on water left by benevolent strangers to survive. I learned that coyotes, or human traffickers, often lie to the migrants, telling them it's just a short walk to freedom; some women dressed up to meet their husbands are unaware of the dangers. I choked up, imagining their pain. My story included photos of those slashed water bottles and graves of people--some so very young--who died crossing East County's rugged border mountains in their failed quest to find freedom.

EAST COUNTY ROUNDUP: LOCAL AND STATEWIDE NEWS

GRAND JURY ISSUES SUBPOENA IN CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION OF CONGRESSMAN HUNTER, UNION-TRIBUNE REPORTS

 

By Miriam Raftery

January 11, 2018 (San Diego) – A federal grand jury has subpoenaed documents from a local business as part of a criminal investigation into Congressman Duncan Hunter’s campaign finances, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported yesterday.

The newspaper’s award-winning journalist Morgan  Cook reports that the grand jury will hear evidence and testimony from a witness also ordered to appear in San Diego later this month.  Potentially, the grand jury could issue one or more criminal indictments, casting a pall over Hunter’s effort to win a primary race in June and reelection to Congress in November.

EAST COUNTY ROUNDUP: LOCAL AND STATEWIDE NEWS

January 11, 2018 (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

STATE

For excerpts and links to full stories, click “read more” and scroll down.

PIT BULLS WHO ATTACKED ELDERLY MAN REMAIN ON LOOSE IN COLLEGE AREA

 

 

Update January 9, 2018:  The dogs have been found and taken into custody by County Animal Control. No further details have been released pending investigation.

By Miriam Raftery

Photo courtesy ECM news partner 10 News

January 8, 2018 (San Diego) – A man in his 70s was attacked by two pit bulls last night around 6 p.m. in the 6200 block of El Cajon Boulevard near San Diego State University.

The man suffered non-life threatening bites to his arms and legs and was taken by ambulance to a hospital. Patrons of a barber shop assisted the victim. The bites were deep enough to expose bone,  10 News reports.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION PROPOSES OPENING COASTLINES FOR OFFSHORE DRILLING, INCLUDING SAN DIEGO

 

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Santa Barbara oil spill, 1969, dumped up to 100,000 barrels of crude oil off California's coast, killing 3,500 sea birds as well as marine mammals such as dolphins and seals. (Dick Smith Collection, University of Santa Barbara)

January 5, 2018 (Washington D.C.) – Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke yesterday issued a sweeping proposal to open up 98% of all outer continental shelf areas for offshore oil drilling -- including off San Diego’s coastline.  By contrast, drilling is currently allowed in only 6% of those areas.

The proposal, which also includes plans to drill in the Arctic, elsewhere along the west coast, the Atlantic coast and the Gulf coast, has drawn strong opposition from environmental groups and from California’s Attorney General.  View map of proposed drilling sites. The public will have an opportunity to weigh in however in public comments and public meetings to be held around the country.  A schedule of those meetings will be posted here.  Online comments at regulations.gov will be accepted starting January 8th.

HERE’S THE BUZZ: LEGAL POT DRAWS CROWDS IN SAN DIEGO

By Miriam Raftery

Photos by Rebecca Jefferis-Williamson

January 2, 2018 (San Diego)—Customers lined up before dawn at several of San Diego’s eight legal recreational marijuana shops that opened their doors January 1st.  The city was among the first places in California to permit recreational cannabis sales under Prop 64, which voters approved in 2016 and which is now in effect.

ECM reporter Rebecca Jefferis-Williamson visited the Apothekare in Mission Valley on New Year’s Day.  “No, I do not smoke, but I am a writer and always curious,” she posted on Facebook. 

She found a line wrapped around the building outside and snaking through the dispensary’s interior as well.  To gain access, customers had to be “buzzed” in through two areas with security guards.

JULIAN AND CUYAMACA TO LOSE PARAMEDIC ENGINE STARTING JAUNARY 1

 

By Miriam Raftery

Updated 12 p.m. to include comments from Pat Landis.

December 30, 2017 (Julian/Cuyamaca)—On January1st,  the full-time staffed San Diego County Paramedic Fire Engine serving the Julian and Cuyamaca areas will be permanently closed. The action leaves the communities to rely solely on volunteer firefighters and one ambulance for fire and life safety services, which could lead to long delays in medical services if that unit is transportation a patient to a hospital, critics contend.

The paramedic engine had been providing fire and emergency medical response services 24 hours a day, seven days a week under a temporary agreement between the County of San Diego and the Julian-Cuyamaca Fire Protection District. The CAL FIRE Firefighters that were assigned to the engine have been reassigned to other facilities within San Diego County.

The action comes after the Julian Cuyamaca Fire Protection District voted to reject consolidation with the County Fire Department and remain independent—the last remaining volunteer fire department in the County.  Cal Fire firefighters blame the board for the current problems, but a former board member faults the district's fire chief.

EAST COUNTY ROUNDUP: LOCAL AND STATEWIDE NEWS

SDG&E RESPONDS TO OUTAGE CONCERNS, BUT LEGISLATORS HUESO AND VOEPEL IGNORE INQUIRIES

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

Photo by Dennis Richardson

December 19, 2017 (San Diego’s East County) – SDG&E has responded to our inquiry seeking answers to questions raised by concerned readers during planned outages to 17,000 SDG&E customers due to last week’s high winds, which ECM reported on here and here.

Helen Gao,  communications manager for Sempra Energy,  parent company of SDG&E,  sent the following reply to our questions on topics including loss claims, factors that determine when to shut off power, people with medical needs, support for residents during outages in need of water and communications, adjusting bills to eliminate charges during outages, and what might be done in communities with repeated outages to reduce or eliminate that need in the future.

Below is her response in full, followed by comments from rural residents with contrasting opinions on the outages:

NEW SDG&E RATES WILL MAKE SOLAR COST MORE--UNLESS YOU HAVE A BATTERY BACKUP

 

 

Hear our interview with Daniel Sullivan, founder of Sullivan Solar, by clicking the audio link

By Miriam Raftery

Photo:  Battery storage unit on garage wall

December 18, 2017 (San Diego’s East County) – Many solar customers are unaware of new time-of-use rates that took effect December 1st. In an interview with ECM on KNSJ Radio, Sullivan Solar founder and president Daniel Sullivan explains that if you bought solar between June 30, 2016 and Dec. 1, 2017, your rates will be going up sharply after a five-year grace period. Rates for use during evening hours are doubling; a typical family will pay 143% more than in the past. If you buy solar in the future, your rates will also be higher, starting immediately.

But there is a solution:  buy a back-up battery, which will not only lower your rates, but also provide backup power to keep your electricity on during future power outages. Back-up batteries, with subsidies, can be financed out for only about $20 a month – and you’ll likely save $100 a month on your electricity bill, says Sullivan. Rebates end in June 2018, so there's a strong incentive to get a battery soon before the rebates run out.

Audio: 

HEAR OUR INTERVIEW: EMMA HIGGINS, GRID ALTERNATIVES

 

 

Company seeks donors to bring solar job training and installations for low-income homeowners to East County

December 18, 2017 (San Diego) -- Emma Higgins with Grid Alternatives in San Diego sat down with ECM editor Miriam Raftery on our KNSJ radio show recently to discuss how the nation’s largest nonprofit solar installer is offering solar installations free to low and moderate homeowners, saving 75-100% on their energy bills.

The organization also provides job training to qualified persons in need including veterans and refugees. Participants can earn an income while training and after completing the program, can make $19 an hour. 

Audio: 

SDG&E RESTORES POWER AFTER PROLONGED OUTAGES; RESIDENTS WHO SUFFERED STRESS AND LOSS WANT CHANGES FOR FUTURE

 

 

Residents angered at loss of water pumps, alarm systems, refrigeration, comunication and heat during outages up to a week in some areas that have suffered repeated outages

By Miriam Raftery

December 12, 2017 (San Diego’s East County) – SDG&E announced last night that it has fully restored power to all customers who were de-energized due to “public safety concerns” following a week-long red flag warning with strong gusty winds, low humidity and dangerous fire conditions.  An SDG&E media release states, “After crews inspected power lines all day in coordination with contract firefighters who were on hand to ensure a safe restoration process, power was turned on for all remaining customers. Field crews patrolled on the ground and in the air. Aerial inspections were completed by five helicopters in rural, mountainous areas."

Power remains out to 56 customers in the Lilac Fire zone in North County, where full restoration is expected early Tuesday evening. All 43 poles damaged in the fire will be replaced with fire-resistant steel poles and thicker, stronger wires, SDG&E indicates, adding, ““We understand that being without power, for any reason, is an inconvenience and we appreciate the patience we have received from our customers.”  For current information on outages and restoration times, visit sdge.com/outage.

Across East County,  many residents in rural, mountain and high desert towns have taken to social media to voice concerns over the prolonged outages.  Although SDG&E says it did provide advance notice to 170,000 customers of possible planned outages due to high winds and fire danger, before shutting off power to many thousands of homes, many rural residents say that’s not enough – and they want changes made. Below are highlights of residents' concerns and proposals.

LILAC FIRE HAS DESTROYED MANY STRUCTURES, 45 RACE HORSES KILLED

 

Update December 12, 2017  Now 95% contained, the Lilac Fire has destroyed 157 structures and damaged 64 more.  All roads are now open.

Update December 11, 2017:  The Lilac Fire is now 90% contained and all evacuation orders have been lifted.

By Miriam Raftery

Photo via Twitter

December 9, 2017 (San Diego) –The Lilac fire has destroyed 105 structures, injured at least five people and killed at least 46 thoroughbred race horses at the famed San Luis Rey Downs facility. 

Another 1,500 structures remained threatened today, Cal Fire reports. Firefighters are holding the fire at 4,100 acres, but full containment may take until December 21st.

The good news is that overnight, firefighters made good progress in increasing containment to 20 percent. Winds were calm this morning but picking up later in the day, with a red flag warning remaining in effect until 8 p.m. Sunday.

RESIDENTS VOICE ANGER OVER POWER OUTAGES

Photo, left: Map of outages in San Diego County as of 7:45 a.m. today.

December 8, 2017 (San Diego's East County) -- SDG&E has sent warnings to 170,000 San Diego County residents to be prepared for power shutdowns due to the high fire danger posed by strong Santa Ana winds. The utility has already shut off power to thousands of homes in communities across our region including portions of Alpine, Bonsall,  Boulevard, Campo, Cuyamaca, Descanso, Fallbrook, Jamul, Julian, Mount Laguna, Potrero, Ramona, Santa Ysabel, Vista and more.

The utility has warned residents that their power could remain off for several days until it can be safely restored. The shut-offs, meant to prevent powerline fires such as those that ignited the 2007 firestorms, are sparking concerns and outrage among some residents, particularly in rural areas. 

Electric well pumps don’t work with the power out, leaving no way to provide water for people or livestock.  Some rural areas lack cell phone service, leaving people with no way to learn about wildfires or other emergencies, unless they have a backup generator. Many residents are also shivering in cold temperatures dipping into the 40s at night, some left without electric heating.

GOVERNOR DECLARES EMERGENCY OVER LILAC FIRE IN NORTH COUNTY

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

Photo courtesy ECM news partner 10 News

Update December 8, 2017 8:45 a.m.:  Cal Fire reports the fire has burned 65 structures but remains at 4,100 acres. Evacuation orders now extend west to Camp Pendleton.  Four civilian injuries and two firefighter injuries have occurred. 

December 7, 2017 (San Diego) – Governor Jerry Brown has issued an emergency declaration over the Lilac Hills Fire, which has scorched over 4,100 acres in the Fallbrook-Bonsall area. The County has also declared an emergency.

The devastating blaze is burning southwest and is still zero percent contained.  It started at 11:15 a.m. west of I-15 and north of Lilac Road on the Pala Mesa.

By this evening, at least 20 homes have burned, County Emergency Services reports. That includes numerous residences in the Rancho Manserate Country Club community.  An estimated 5,000 more residences are threatened.  Two people suffered burns and have been taken to a hospital.

Dozens of horses have died including many at the San Luis Rey training center, Times of San Diego reports. In Bonsall, numerous horses were let loose, running wildly through billowing smoke, a photo posted by Horses so Fine on Instagram states, adding, “Pray for them.”  Community volunteers have come forward to help save many horses and the Del Mar Fairgrounds has opened facilities for livestock including horses.

WINDS TOPPLE TREES, TIP OVER TRUCKS

 

By Miriam Raftery

December 7, 2017 (San Diego) -- High winds roaring through San Diego County today have wreaked havoc. 

In Carlsbad, a tree fell onto an elderly man and killed him.  Santa Ana winds knocked a semi-truck and trailer onto their sides on I-8 east, shortly before high winds forced closure of I-8 east of Alpine.  A sign truck was nearly blown off the towering Pine Valley Bridge.  In Lakeside the community Christmas tree toppled over; Lakeside's Chamber of Commerce posted a photo on Facebook, vowing to restore it after the winds die down.

Strong winds also led SDG&E to shut off power to thousands of homes in communities across the region, with some slated to be without power for days.

RED CROSS OPENS EMERGENCY SHELTERS DUE TO POWER OUTAGES

December 7, 2017 (San Diego) -- The American Red Cross is opening two emergency shelters this morning at 9:00 a.m. in support of residents impacted by power outages. The shelters are in El Cajon and Escondido. ECM has contacted the County to ask why shelters have not been opened in mountain and rural areas, where many of the outages have occurred and ratepayers have been advised power could remain off for up to five days due to the high winds and extreme fire danger.

At this time, SDG&E reports more than 5,000 customers are without power. Extreme fire weather continues in San Diego County today.

Per County Emergency Services, here are the shelter locations:

SDG&E SHUTS POWER OFF TO 1,326 CUSTOMERS: MAY BE DOWN FOR DAYS

 

By Miriam Raftery

December 6, 2017 (San Diego’s East County) – Tonight SDG&E has shut off power due many areas across East County and North County due to “an extreme weather event with high winds and dry conditions,” according to SDG&E’s website, which warns, “Current conditions indicate that power may remain out for several days before it can be safely restored. If your power is out, please be sure you have adequate emergency supplies on hand for an extended period of time and check here for the most current information on expected restoration times.”

The action comes just days after the California Public Utilities Commission ruled that SDG&E cannot bill ratepayers for its uninsured losses from the 2007 firestorms, when state regulators found its power lines responsible for three major fires.

SDGE WARNS 170,000 TO BE PREPARED FOR POWER OUTAGES AS HIGH WINDS HIT AREA

Public urged to use caution to avoid infernos like those scorching Los Angeles and Ventura

By Miriam Raftery

Photo by Thirdiphoto: Skirball Fire created hellacious conditions that shut down the 405 freeway today near the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

December 6, 2017 (San Diego’s East County) – High winds fueling devastating fires in Los Angeles are set to hit San Diego County tomorrow, with gusts of 70 mph or more in some areas. Currently no fires are burning in San Diego County, though smoke from a fire in Mexico is visible near the border.  But the situation could turn perilous quickly if new fires start.  National Weather Forecaster Alex Tardy says Santa Ana winds could blow a fire in the inland area all the way to the coast.

RED FLAG WARNING: CRITICAL FIRE WEATHER

 

East County Wildfire & Emergency Alerts

Updated December 4, 2017

December 2, 2017 (San Diego) – The National Weather Service in San Diego is warning of prolonged, critical fire conditions in all areas of our county starting Monday morning through the end of the week. 

A red flag alert is in effect for coastal, mountain and valley areas through Thursday due to low humidity, above average temperatures and strong offshore winds.  A high wind warning has also been issued, with Santa Ana winds at 20 to 30 miles per hour and gusts up to 55 miles an hour forecast.

ALL LANES ON SOUTHBOUND I-5 CLOSED SUNDAY AND MONDAY NIGHTS

 

 

 

East County News Service

November 17, 2017 (San Diego) — Caltrans crews will close all southbound lanes of Interstate 5 (I-5) from the Interstate 805 merge to La Jolla Village Drive Sunday and Monday night from 9:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. the following morning for bridge work.

All motorists will be detoured to southbound I-805, to westbound State Route 52, to the SR-52/I-5 interchange.

Crews will be working on two separate bridge projects. One is the construction of the Gilman Drive Bridge project, the other is bridge maintenance at the I-5 Sorrento Valley Viaduct, this pavement work will take place on the main lanes of I-5.

THE STARS HAVE LINED UP FOR PERFECT MOUNTAINTOP CAMPING CLOSE TO HOME IN SAN DIEGO

 

A “Staycation in East County”

By Jack Riordan

Photo, left: The Desert View Trail at the Burnt Rancheria Campground is a very easy and dog-friendly one mile scenic loop through the campground to a rewarding view of the desert floor below.  Photo by Jack Riordan.

November 1, 2017 (Mount Laguna) -- Nestled in the pines, beneath a blanket of starlight, you’ll find Burnt Rancheria.  As part of the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area in the Cleveland National Forest, this lush east county campground sits at 6000 feet above sea level, offering dream-like mountain scenery, as well as an easy escape from the day to day life in the city.

HEAR OUR INTERVIEW WITH ANDREW ZELT, 50TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT CANDIDATE

 

By Miriam Raftery, East County Magazine

October 17, 2017 (San  Diego’s East County) -- Recently we sat down with Andrew Zelt, a Republican challenger running against Rep. Duncan D. Hunter in the 50th Congressional District. He’s a sergeant in the Sheriff’s Department, where he’s spent his career, and a resident of Rancho San Diego.

Zelt says he’s running because he can no longer support Hunter, who is under investigation by the Justice Department for  allegedly using campaign donations for personal use. (Hunter has denied wrongdoing but did repay his campaign around $60,000 for vacations, payments to his child's school, oral surgery, jewelry and other expenses.)

“My top priority is listening to the people, finding out what are some of the things that affect you, your day to day lives, and then expand on that to the nation," he says, adding, "What are some of your concerns about the way our nation is going?”

  Hear our in-depth interview at the audio link, which originally aired late this summer on KNSJ radio, or scroll down for highlights.

Audio: 

HEAR OUR INTERVIEWS: CHIDA WARREN-DARBY, SAN DIEGO VOICE AND VIEWPOINT EDITOR

 

East County News Service

October 13, 2017 (San Diego) – Recently,  we sat down for a two-part interview with Chida Warren-Darby, co-publisher of the San Diego Voice and Viewpoint newspaper. Chida is one of the youngest  black co-publishers in the U.S.

In part one, she discussed her experience as a survivor of domestic violence and her participation in “Walk a Mile in My Shoes”, a YWCA event to help domestic violence survivors.

In part two, she talked about issues impacting the African-American community in San Diego, from police use of force to the process for choosing a new San Diego Police Chief.

Audio: 

FATAL ELEPHANT TRANQUILIZER FOUND IN COUNTERFEIT PAINKILLER PILLS

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

October 11, 2017 (San Diego) – Carfentanil, an elephant tranquilizer drug 5,000 times stronger than heroin, is turning up in street drugs marketed as opoid  narcotic painkillers such as Oxycodone, as well as in tainted heroin.  

The drug is so deadly that just a couple of granules the size of salt crystals will cause death, even with medical intervention, authorities warn. It’s turning up in street drugs locally and nationally, including drugs sold by dealers and on the Internet’s dark web—and deaths are skyrocketing as a result.

CALIFORNIA SURVIVORS OF LAS VEGAS MASS SHOOTING CAN APPLY TO STATE FOR HELP

 

 

 Residents Eligible for Mental Health Treatment, Medical Expenses, Funeral and Burial and More

 The California Victim Compensation Board (CalVCB) is encouraging residents impacted by the mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival on Sunday, October 1 in Las Vegas to contact them at 1-800-777- 9229 for assistance, guidance and aid.  

The massacre killed 58 people and injured over 500 victims.  San Diego attorney Jennifer Irvine was among those killed; several other San Diego County residents were injured, NBC 7 reports.

Help is available for survivors of those who were killed, anyone who was injured and those in attendance at the concert, as well as their immediate family members.

CPUC TO HOLD HEARING SEPT. 28 LOCALLY ON PROPOSED DECISION REGARDING WILDFIRE EXPENSE REIMBURSEMENT FOR SDG&E

 

Update:  The CPUC has announced it will hold this agenda item slated for the Thursday morning hearing, meaning no vote will be taken on this agenda item.  Public comment will still be accepted before all five commissioners at the start of the mornng hearing .

Public comment will also be taken during an all parties meeting later in the day, but not all commisioners will be present at the later meeting. See more details at the end of this story.

By Miriam Raftery

September 26, 2017 (San Diego) –The California Public Utilities Commission will hold a public hearing Thursday at 9:30 a.m. in the Chula Vista City Council Chambers  (276 Fourth Ave., Chula Vista) on the CPUC’s proposed decision to deny SDG&E’s application to charge ratepayers $379 million for recovery of its uninsured losses related to the 2007 Witch, Rice and Guejito wildfires.  A similar request for $594 million was previously denied in 2012.

SDG&E sought to recover those losses through a Wildfire Expense  Memorandum Account (WEMA).  The proposed decision against SDG&E has drawn praise from some, including Supervisor Dianne Jacob, but concerns from others including a fire survivor and intervener in the case.  Some ratepayer advocates also warn that the CPUC could  change its mind on the proposed denial of SDG&E’s WEMA application or postpone action following ex-parte lobbying efforts by the utility company.

VOTER's WATCHDOG: CITIZENS OVERSIGHT FILES OPPOSITION TO AB-840, SAYS AMENDMENTS WOULD GUT ELECTION AUDITS IN CA

 

Watchdog group that won lawsuit says last-minute amendment inserted by election officials would allow 40 to 70 percent of ballots to be omitted from audits

By Miriam Raftery

September 1, 2017 (San Diego) --- Citizens' Oversight, a nonpartisan group that focuses on election integrity, announced today that it has filed written comments in opposition to CA AB-840, a bill which will make drastic changes to the one-percent manual tally of elections, which would omit 40% or more ballots from the scrutiny of this important audit process. Local Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher (D-San Diego) is a coauthor of the bill.

ECM asked Vu late Thursday for comments. Vu replied via email, “The amendment came through and is sponsored by the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials (CACEO) and is supported by the Secretary of State and the County."

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