San Diego Reader
Does the City of San Diego Care How Much Water You Use? Print E-mail

20021003(San Diego Reader October 3, 2002)

In recent years, the 855 employees of the San Diego Water Department have faced scandals, alleged mismanagement, media scrutiny, and the rebuke of the City Council. All this began in 1999 when news stories appeared locally about water thieves and industrial hogs who didn’t pay their bills—accusations that proved true and forced changes in how the 100-year-old agency operates. Consequently, the department has new policies to deal with the press. Senior public information officer Kurt Kidman said that "10 years ago we might [have been] a whole lot more accommodating than we are right now." But today, he said, the department is "in a real difficult position. We’re definitely under the gun with Channel 10. When we breathe, they want to know how much it cost us." In 1999 KGTV/Channel 10 reported on how "big water customers are allowed to run up huge bills that go unpaid." In the "hidden meter" scandal, reporter Mark Matthews discovered one million dollars’ worth of unpaid bills, with "dozens of industrial water meters . . . recording only 10 percent of the water going through them."

Busy Being Born: On the Molecular Origins of Life Print E-mail

18kand_1-650(San Diego Reader September 12, 2002)

Ask evolutionary biologist Christopher Wills and organic chemist Jeffrey Bada, who are studying the origin of life on earth at the University of California, San Diego, to define life and both will answer, "an autonomous self-replicating system that replicates imperfectly via natural selection." Key for this pair is understanding how the abiotic or non-living world developed into the biotic one. Co-authors of The Spark of Life: Darwin and the Primeval Soup (2001), Wills and Bada believe life could arise only in optimal conditions and over a significant period of time.

Bada echoes Wills. "When I talk to the lay public about the origin of life, I’m talking about something that can’t be seen even with the best microscope."

I Have More Money Than We Could Possibly Spend In Our Lifetimes Print E-mail

20020418(San Diego Reader April 18, 2002)

Perched atop a flagpole at One Times Square sat the New Year’s Eve ball, ready for its traditional drop. For this drop, marking the end of the millennium, the famous orb had been sold to Waterford, legendary Irish glassmakers, and re-spangled. It was now the Waterford crystal ball. Such advertising was emblematic of the 1990s: From Tiger Wood’s hat to movie titles on NASA rockets, panoptic exposure seemed valuable at any price. Awaiting the Waterford’s fall, bodies had back-filled midtown Manhattan all day until, at 11:59, nearly one million gleeful voices began counting down the ball’s light-pulsing descent, synchronized to the (now-forgotten) "Anthem for the Millennium." In that moment, most revelers believed the Y2K scare was bogus and the new year would arrive intact, granting not so much a new age but, what was truly hoped, continuity with the one passing, its incontinent profits a testament to the prodigal investor. Everywhere people were betting that the American good life had another good act to go.

How Steam and Sun Can Light Your Life Print E-mail

20011206(San Diego Reader December 6, 2001)

Who among us has not twitched a little during this, the year of California’s power crisis, upon hearing Tales of the End Time of the Fossil Fuel. For more than a billion years, the planet’s organic matter has laid down its life to form combustible sumps of oil, gas, and coal. And now, petroleum engineers predict, the cache is dwindling—lo, accelerating its dwindling—as we dig and siphon more of that cache every day. Here is the prognosis again, in case you missed it. At present rates of consumption, recoverable world coal reserves will last no more than 1000 years. U.S. coal reserves will last us 275 years. Recoverable world oil and natural gas reserves will last between 100 and 200 years. U.S. oil and gas reserves between 50 and 75; that is, without Alaska and without West Coast offshore drilling.

Not Only the Man Down the Street: Unpacking Megan's Law Print E-mail

20010712(San Diego Reader July 12, 2001)

At the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, David Provost loads the Megan’s Law CD of California’s serious and high-risk sex offenders, all 86,000 of them—that is, all the convicted ones—into a computer. You (concerned parent, informed citizen) have requested to see the registry. You’ve brought in the names of a dozen Little League coaches, your ostensible purpose, and your real hope, to identify the man who lives down the street, whose hand you saw linger too long on the shoulder of your nine-year-old son. You have the man’s hair color and his approximate weight; your son mentioned a heart-shaped tattoo on his forearm, Cupid’s deviant. Though you don’t have the man’s name, you find the CD can be searched by Zip Code.

Swords Unsheathed: Donna Frye vs. Steve Danon Print E-mail

Donna_Frye_2004(San Diego Reader May 31, 2001)

Next week's runoff election in District 6 for the city council seat vacated by Valerie Stallings last January will close a match between first-time candidates Steve Danon—former chief of staff to Ron Roberts and frequent Republican campaign manager—and Donna Frye, a Pacific Beach environmentalist and founder of STOP, Surfers Tired of Pollution. Danon has accused Frye of courting "big labor's" endorsement, implying that out-of-town interests are directing her with money and more. For her part, Frye seldom brings up the identity of Danon's well-heeled donors.

The John Moores Exemption Print E-mail

20010412(San Diego Reader April 12, 2001)

Valerie Stallings’ guilty plea in late January to two state misdemeanors for not reporting gifts from Padres owner John Moores resulted in the payment of a $10,000 fine and her resignation from the City Council. And yet the revelations of Moores’ four-year gift-bounty to Stallings have some San Diegans in disbelief—fuming, really—as to why Stallings took the fall and Moores was exonerated, and why neither were charged with a federal offense after being investigated by the FBI. From 1996 to 2000, Moores gave—airline tickets, baseball memorabilia, cash, use of car and vacation home, access to a Neon Systems stock IPO, miscellaneous items (the total value of things that remain in her possession has not been reported, though estimated at $10,000)—and Stallings received.

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