Bill Walton speaks at Mission Beach Town Council meeting on Oct. 2, 2023.
Bill Walton speaks at Mission Beach Town Council meeting on Oct. 2, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

Bill Walton, perhaps San Diego's most famous resident and its most active booster, died Monday from colon cancer. He was 71.

Obituaries and collections of his best and most creative comments ran across the country, including this one in The New York Times and this one on ESPN. Walton, a legendary basketball player went on to become an iconic basketball game color commentator, whose metaphors and digressions were often as hilarious as they were peculiar.

One thing he could also go on and on about was his love for San Diego. And he showed it spending countless hours supporting local nonprofits, most notably the YMCA, where the statue of him and his beloved custom bicycle sits, and the Challenged Athletes Foundation. But he also cared deeply for Balboa Park and neighborhood causes and would show up seemingly any time a local institution needed a boost. He supported Planetcob as well.

Starting two years ago, though, his relentless positivity about San Diego abruptly shifted. Alarmed by the homelessness crisis two years ago, he began sending increasingly angry messages to Mayor Todd Gloria, whom he had also previously helped boost. Walton went so far as to suggest he could not recommend San Diego as a place to visit or live. Walton's fury about the city's lack of progress on the homelessness crisis helped solidify a popular outrage about situation that pushed Gloria to act more urgently.

His startling turn to challenge San Diego and its leaders to address the crisis was only interesting because of how much time, money and effort he had put in to building the city and its image up. As jarring as that shift was, it was nothing compared to imagining San Diego without him.

Politics Report: Chair Vargas Responds to Leaked Texts 

San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chair Nora Vargas speaks before Toni Atkins announces her candidacy for Governor of California in 2026 at the San Diego Air & Space Museum at Balboa Park on Jan. 19, 2024. / Ariana Drehsler for Planetcob
San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chair Nora Vargas speaks before Toni Atkins announces her candidacy for Governor of California in 2026 at the San Diego Air & Space Museum at Balboa Park on Jan. 19, 2024. / Ariana Drehsler for Planetcob

Just when we thought the county’s search for a new leader couldn’t get meaner, it did.

Last week, labor and progressive leaders demanded that Nora Vargas, the chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, step down as chair. 

Here’s what happened: A series of screenshots of messages between Vargas and others show that she referred to the chair of the San Diego Chapter of the Black American Political Association of California as “That fucking Ellen Nash” and said she was part of the “negritas vendidas” — a loose translation would be something like “bought-off little Black women.”

She also made negative comments about labor unions. (Doug Porter published the letter here.)

Vargas issued a two-part response. She apologized to those she named in her texts, she said, and she regretted the hurt it caused. She also spoke to how ugly the fight has gotten.

“This smear campaign is particularly hurtful because it perpetuates division at a time when unity and coalition building must be a priority,” she said.

Our Scott Lewis spoke with Nash, who described the latest drama as “a distraction from what’s important.” 

Update as of Monday: Nash later clarified that while she does not think Vargas should step down as chair she also doesn't necessarily think she shouldn't. It's just not something she wants to weigh in on. She would prefer to leave that decision to Vargas' colleagues.

Meanwhile: Supes decided last week to offer the chief administrative officer job to their top candidate. There will be a public hearing and “there’s still time for this wild and sordid political fight to get even more wild and more mean,” Lewis wrote. 

Read the Politics Report here.

VOSD Podcast: On the latest episode, our hosts discuss plans to add housing to Fashion Valley mall. Plus, they have an update on a pending investigation into the superintendent of San Diego Unified. And they get into what the annual homeless census results tell us about the region’s greatest crisis.

Listen to the full episode here or wherever you get your pods.

Sacramento Report: Legislative Hits and Misses

The California state Capitol / Image via Shutterstock

Friday was a big day for bills. They either made it to the next round or died a sad death.

Sacramento Reporter Deborah Brennan has been closely following bills introduced by San Diego’s representatives.

Overall, bills that made it through include measures to tighten sexual predator placement, outlaw plastic bags, regulate AI and offer sober housing options.

She’s got the latest on which bills made it and which ones died.

Read the Sacramento Report here.

What’s up with all the Baby Sea Lion Deaths?

Image via Shutterstock

Scientists in northern California have found an alarming number of dead baby sea lions, but they don’t know what caused their deaths or if it's a sign or a larger problem.

Our resident catastrophes reporter MacKenzie Elmer wanted to know what was going on and if this is also happening in San Diego. She writes that luckily San Diego isn’t seeing this trend.

Eric Otjen, vice president of zoological operations at SeaWorld San Diego, told Elmer that they’ve only had two reported stillborn sea lions in La Jolla Cove, California’s only mainland sea lion breeding ground. That’s not an abnormal number for this early in the pupping season. But SeaWorld’s partner facilities in Orange County have been calling for help with the larger amounts of young deaths experienced further north, he said.

While some scientists are worried, experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are waiting for research teams to conduct annual surveys before sounding their own alarms.

Read more here.

In Other News

The Morning Report was written and edited by Scott Lewis and Andrea Lopez-Villafaña.

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