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As San Diego schools work to cut almost $100 million from their budget, a major player is a temporary employee who’s lived in a Mission Valley hotel room for three years and has a unique perspective on the painful cost-cutting process. It will take the district through “unknown territory,” he acknowledges. But by golly, it will be “fun.” Yes, that’s right: fun.

Um. Weee?

You might think this kind of cost-cutter would be unpopular among the school district’s troops. But, as we report in our story today, the school board’s independent budget analyst, Phil Stover, is “an unusual man with an unusual job” and some surprising supporters.

A colorful world traveler with a chipper attitude, he’s managed to win over many rank-and-file workers, union leaders and most of the school board. All this while providing helpful aphorisms like “The Joys of the Journey into the Unknown Are the Unknown Joys of the Journey!” (I’ll pause while you try to wrap your mind around that one.)

Stover isn’t universally beloved: he’s been plagued by disputes, talk that he’s a “shadow superintendent,” and errors, which he calls “point-in-time mistakes.” (I am totally writing that down and saving it for future use.)

In other news:

  • We’ve published another investigative report by California Watch, a non-profit watchdog journalism organization. This story examines who’s behind efforts to water down the state’s environmental rules.

    As the story puts it, “An organization representing some of California’s biggest carbon polluters is working to alter the state’s global-warming law, while claiming to represent several ‘green’ environmental companies that have since left the coalition after learning of its recent actions.”

    The coverage includes an interactive map pinpointing the state’s largest greenhouse gas polluters, including some local companies. (The data, by the way, is reported by the companies.)

  • Are local for-sale homes not only a good deal but a great, fantastic, can’t-miss deal? Not exactly, says real-estate columnist and prognosticator extraordinaire Rich Toscano. He deploys his usual charts (only two: it’s a slow chart day) to prove that homes aren’t underpriced or overpriced. They’re just stuck in the middle (with you).
  • And now, a quick programming note. At voiceofsandiego.org, we observe the MLK holiday so the blog posts might be light today but we’ll have fresh stories up this evening.

Elsewhere:

  • Its acronym is cool. Its name is not. I’m talking, of course, about Prevent Los Angeles Gridlock Usurping the Environment, or PLAGUE. The NCT reports that this group of Del Mar-area residents is stepping up its efforts to stop an expansion of Interstate 5.
  • A Carlsbad man has gone to federal court to challenge a French company’s patent on a special food for starving children. He runs a foundation that wants to create a similar food without running into a legal challenge. (U-T)
  • Finally: If you can handle thinking about the Chargers and the Jets again, check our collection of on-field photos from yesterday’s playoff game.
  • Don’t miss the blue-tinged fourth photo, an interplay of shadow and light. It has a timeless feel that suggests it could have been taken yesterday or, with a few minor adjustments, 40 years ago.

Unfortunately for Chargers fans, that’s about as close as we get to a time machine around here.

— RANDY DOTINGA

Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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