San Diego schools chief Terry Grier has a few words to say about his district’s failure to fully embrace reform. Not that he wants to “bash” anyone, mind you.

It’s just that the school board and teachers union have made mistakes, as the short-timer tells us in this weekend’s Q&A.

So why is Grier moving on to Texas? Houston kept calling and calling, he says, and people told him he’d be a better fit there. “The philosophical match, I think, was big,” Grier says, adding that “it’s not about money.”

One thing that definitely is about money: the proposed convention center expansion.

Earlier this week, the mayor’s task force on the project released a draft report, which criticizes a Texas professor who’s a leading critic of convention-center expansion.

Yesterday, the professor said he’s been “thoroughly mischaracterized.” A convention center spokesman, in turn, called him a “whack job.”

Don’t you love classy civic discourse?

Elsewhere, a Mississippi newspaper reports San Diego is getting a visit this weekend by former FEMA director Michael Brown, thought by many to epitomize the botched response to Hurricane Katrina.

Brown will speak a meeting of hazardous materials experts, where an official expects “yelling and screaming.” The appearance will garner him $10,000 whether he does a “heckuva job” or not.

A final note before we move on to the week’s highlights. The death of Senator Ted Kennedy, whose funeral will be held today, made me wonder about the three most famous Kennedy brothers and their relationship to America’s Finest City.

They didn’t call San Diego their “Lucky City” — that was their nemesis Richard Nixon — but they did spend time in our town.

JFK made at least one campaign stop here in 1960, calling San Diego crucial to “the building of American strength and American force and American vitality.”

Robert and Ted appeared at a local party on JFK’s behalf. One attendee, a teenager who’d made an impression by canvassing in conservative North County, recalled that “there wasn’t any question about who the boss was.”

Ted, “the extreme baby brother,” clearly had no “clout.”

JFK returned three years later to give the commencement at San Diego State College (now SDSU), where he said “no country can possibly move ahead, no free society can possibly be sustained, unless it has an educated citizenry.”

RFK made the most dramatic Kennedy visit during a campaign swing the day before he won the California Democratic primary in 1968. He rode through Logan Heights to chants of “Bobby! Bobby!” that evening and nearly collapsed during a speech at downtown’s El Cortez Hotel.

According to biographer Evan Thomas, RFK stopped speaking and sat on the stage with his head in his hands before being rushed to a restroom. But he returned to finish the speech with a familiar line.

RFK carried on and made it to L.A. — and catastrophe — on Election Day.

The Coffee Collection:

Hands Across the Border: You don’t need to yell to make yourself heard by people on the other side. We have a follow-up too, on the challenges of bilingual sign language.

Asked and Answered: You’ve wondered about the case for and against a convention center expansion. We’ve got what you need to know.

Quote of the week: “We need to set priorities and vision. There is none of this, obviously.” — Columnist Scott Lewis on the failure of San Diego leadership.


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