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Dear friends of inewsource,

As promised, here is the next edition of our weekly newsletter. We appreciated your feedback this past week and the new contributions that help make our in-depth work possible.

— Lorie Hearn, executive director, inewsource

Mello-Roos map caught your attention

Was it the provocative title (“Mello-Roos: The tax you choose”) that lured people to our interactive map last week? Or the irresistible opportunity to compare your bill with your neighbor’s? In any case, the map showing special tax payments — property by property across the county — was a hit. Our website analytics showed more than 10,000 pageviews beginning last Wednesday when we unveiled the map and a story explaining Mello-Roos. That’s a record for us.

The map and accompanying story were among the most popular stories of the week for one of our partners, KPBS. Another partner, KGTV, also known as 10News, aired our video, which also led many viewers to the new map.

There’s more to come. We’re already at work, digging deeper into Mello-Roos. Next up: an examination of how these fees can be imposed on future homebuyers through a vote of typically just one person — the developer.

If you haven’t had a chance to visit the map and click around, it’s not too late. This map will live on and be updated. So take it for a test drive and tell us what you think.

Good reads close to home …

Same surgery, different bills

A recent government report looked at the wildly different fees that different hospitals charge for the same services — the 100 most common inpatient services and 30 performed on an outpatient basis. If you don’t have time to search through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ highly detailed report, check out the explanatory story and sample charges published by Voice of San Diego.

The information is particularly useful for uninsured or partially insured patients who have to pay all or part of hospital bills themselves.

Perhaps this heavy dose of data should carry a warning label, though: “May cause head-scratching.” Even after reading explanations from hospital representatives about the difficulty of comparing individual cases, it’s perplexing why, for example, a permanent pacemaker implant costs an average of $139,344 at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, and $61,294 at UC San Diego Medical Center.

Pipelines and more pipelines

InsideClimate News Executive Editor Susan White took time out recently in San Diego to celebrate the organization’s first Pulitzer for national reporting.

The small nonprofit with a staff of seven won its prize for a seven-month investigation (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) of a little-known oil spill in Michigan in 2010. InsideClimate News had pointed out flaws in the U.S. pipeline system, raising important questions about would happen if a similar rupture occurred in the proposed Keystone XL pipeline extension. Contributing to the work by staff members Elizabeth McGowan and Lisa Song was a San Diego freelancer with extensive experience in investigative reporting, David Hasemyer.

There’s no rest for the celebrants, though. This week, InsideClimate News has a story out about another pipeline quietly being pieced together that would carry even more Canadian oil through the United States than the controversial Keystone pipeline.

Biggest donors get best Assembly jobs

Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, topped the charts in the Berkeley-based Center for Investigative Reporting’s comparison of how much legislators donated to the speaker’s targeted races in 2011-2012 and the plum committee assignments they received.

She was the top giver — donating $282,000 to those races so important to the Democratic Party — and she also got the nod from Perez to become the majority floor leader in the Assembly.

Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, thought that what mattered most for committee assignments was how hard legislators work, not how much they gave for important races. In his view, the hardest workers often turn out to be the best fund raisers, giving them more money to share with their party.

For more details on party donations and committee assignments, see the report by Lance Williams and Agustin Armendariz.

Lorie Hearn is the chief executive officer and editor of inewsource. She is a lifelong news-aholic who started her reporting career writing her Girl Scout newsletter at age 12. High school and college were filled with school newspaper work, and after graduation, she worked as a reporter for newspapers...