Every week we pose a question to our readers on Facebook in a video series called The Weekly Ask. Last week we asked:
What is one local government agency you’d like to know more about?
Many of you sent questions via email and Twitter. We’ve published some of them below along with our responses.
If you have a question about a government agency in San Diego County, leave a comment on Facebook or send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. To see the next Weekly Ask question, go here.
Now, let’s get to your questions.
When did San Diego’s Development Services Department change the way it is funded?
When the department collects fees for a permit that is canceled or expired, what happens to the development impact fees that have been collected for that project?
When the department’s Code Enforcement Division collects fines, where does that money go?
– Anonymous email
Since 1985, the city’s Development Services Department has been funded by enterprise funds. The majority of the department’s revenue, expenditures and activities – about 89 percent – comes from enterprise fees, a department spokesman said. The department includes two other divisions, the Local Enforcement Agency and the Code Enforcement Division, which both rely on grants and the city’s general fund for their operations. When the Code Enforcement Division collects civil penalties, those fines are deposited into the Code Enforcement Civil Penalties Fund.
With regard to the development impact fees, customers issue a request for a refund through the Development Services Department, which is then reviewed and authorized by the Planning Department. If approved, a refund is issued.
At one time, portions of the Planning and Development Services departments were combined, but they are no longer.
What does the registrar of voters do?
– @JSmithC5I via Twitter
Great question, especially given the midterm election in November. I called up county Registrar of Voters Michael Vu for a rundown of his responsibilities. Vu said he’s in charge of:
- Maintaining the list of registered voters (adding, deleting, updating).
- Recruiting and training up to 9,000 poll workers.
- Incorporating all of the political boundaries within the county so voters receive the proper ballot.
- Candidate filing.
- Verifying petitions.
- Being the filing agent and repository for all campaign finance disclosure statements for offices under the county’s jurisdiction.
- Identifying and securing accessible polling places on election days.
- Issuing mail-in and polling place ballots.
The registrar of voters is also responsible for conducting community outreach to federally required language communities – Spanish, Filipino, Vietnamese, Chinese in addition to the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation. For these communities, all of the voting materials – ballots, voting instructions, sample ballots and voter information pamphlets – are also translated.
Can you find out why they keep cutting the county Probation Department? Chief Probation Officer Adolfo Gonzales had his budget cut by millions of dollars, if not more.
– Francine Maxwell via email
You may hear more on this in the future. One of our reporters is looking into the county Probation Department. The department did experience decreases in staffing, expenditures and revenue in fiscal 2018. Here’s the explanation in the county’s budget for why they made cuts:
I would love to see some basic data on response times of police and of crimes that go unreported because citizens feel the police will not come in a timely manner.
– Lawrence Taylor via email
Our director of data and visuals, Brandon Quester, is planning to request data for law enforcement response times in San Diego County, in addition to fire and 911 call response times.
Last year, the Voice of San Diego reported citywide average response times for the San Diego Police Department.
As for tracking the data related to crimes that go unreported and unrecorded, that gets tricky. A National Crime Victimization Survey by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics that covered 2006-2010 tried to get at the issue of unreported crimes. The survey found one reason victims do not report a crime is because of a belief that police would not think the crime was important enough to address. The survey, however, does not specifically identify slow response times as a reason for crimes not being reported.
More recently, the National Crime Victimization Survey reported about half of serious violent crimes, including rape or sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault, were reported to police in 2016. In comparison, 42 percent of all violent crimes and 36 percent of property crimes were reported to police in 2016. The same report found that, overall in 2016, the rate of violent crime not reported to police was higher than the rate of reported violent crime, but the rate differs based on the crime.
I would like to understand what SPAWAR is.
– Danielle Weiss via email
Driving along Interstate 5, you’ve probably seen the sawtooth roofs of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific complex in Old Town. SPAWAR (pronounced SPAY-war) is a division of the U.S. Defense Department. According to its website, SPAWAR provides “the U.S. Navy and military with essential capabilities in the areas of command and control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR), cyber and space.” Basically, it’s in charge of the information and communications networks connecting the Navy’s sea, land, air, and cyber defenses.
A 2014 economic impact study found SPAWAR also plays a big role in San Diego’s economy, pumping more than $1.7 million into the regional economy. SPAWAR employs more than 4,000 people at its San Diego headquarters.
CORRECTION: An earlier version incorrectly said the city’s Development Services Department was funded by the general fund and that it was part of the Planning Department. The story has been updated.
We’ll let you know when big things happen.