The regional water agency and developer earned the honor for the Carlsbad Desalination Plant, which began producing drinking water in December. Because of the added supply, state water officials eased mandated conservation targets for San Diego-area water districts.
Other Golden Watchdog winners were the San Diego Regional Airport Authority for the new rental car center at Lindbergh Field, and the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department for using a special fast response squad that reduced response times in Encanto.
The city of Encinitas and two school districts were given Golden Fleece “awards” for costing the taxpayers money:
- The city of Encinitas for getting sued by developers who contend that state affordable housing regulations were violated.
- The San Dieguito Union High School District for approving a 12.5 percent pay increase for teachers and staff, and requiring its teachers to be the highest paid in the region.
- The Poway Unified School District for a series of problems that include accidentally releasing data on thousands of students to a parent and keeping the superintendent on paid leave pending an audit of his employment contract.
The taxpayers association also awarded a public-private partnership award to the San Diego City Attorney’s Office, Alpha Project and Urban Corps of San Diego County for their Community Justice Initiative. The program allows defendants in low- level crimes to plead guilty and volunteer for 16 hours for one of the organizations, after which the charges are dismissed.
According to the taxpayers association, the program saves the city money and allows prosecutors to concentrate on more important misdemeanor cases.
Lauryn Schroeder of the San Diego Union-Tribune earned the Media Watchdog award for a story that uncovered abuse of city overtime rules by some San Diego firefighters.
The taxpayers group also bestowed a “You’re Almost There” award to the California Public Utilities Commission for reopening the 2014 deal on how costs for the shutdown of the San Onofre nuclear power plant would be split between utilities and ratepayers.
“Our congratulations and thanks go out to the winners of tonight’s Goldens,” said Haney Hong, executive director of the taxpayers association.
“It’s gratifying to acknowledge those who are achieving better outcomes for citizens through effective governance,” Hong said. “To those who earned a Fleece, we hope to see you on the other side next year and are eager to engage with you to help make that happen.”
The dinner, attended by around 700 people, was held at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina.
— City News Service