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A twentysomething with spiked hair and a soul patch, Rafael Ocampo has a look that appeals to the kids he counsels at San Diego’s Roosevelt Middle School. His advice is good too, at least to judge by the way students react when he walks by.

On a recent morning, a student called out “Listen to him!” when he pulled a girl out of class to talk about a dustup.

“Middle school is the Bermuda Triangle of education,” he said. “Either we get a hold of them — or we lose them.”

Ocampo has drama of his own to worry about too. Amid budget cuts, his salary may get slashed, and his job itself could disappear.

  • There are a lot of parts to our “Out of Reach” investigative series this week about the county’s safety net for the needy. In addition to two main stories and a series of side stories, we also have a series overview, an audio slideshow and ongoing mini-conversations online. This handy roundup will tell you what is where.
  • Also, we posted a story about a local state assemblywoman who’s challenging the county’s approach to social services. It’s no coincidence that she’s also preparing to run for county supervisor.
  • You may remember hearing about that unfortunate New York City museum visitor who fell through a Picasso painting last month. Oopsy! That got us to thinking: How do local art museums protect their paintings from patrons?

    We talked with a head honcho at the San Diego Museum of Art who identifies the painting that patrons most want to touch (we’ve got a picture of it too) and remembers when a visitor or two interacted with an exhibit.

    We also chatted with John Wilson, head of Balboa Park’s Timken Museum of Art, where paintings — even its Rembrandt — aren’t protected by Plexiglas unless they’re fragile. “Part of why we exist is to let people see great works of art,” he says. “Any barrier, even if it’s non-reflective glass, is still a barrier.”

  • Last weekend’s interview with the head of the downtown redevelopment agency sparked a discussion about the future of downtown. We’d like to keep the conversation going by hearing your thoughts about this issue: should downtown be the center of San Diego’s growth instead of suburban neighborhoods?
  • The Photo of the Day is an image of a woman whom our photographer thinks “might be the world’s sweetest lady.”

    The photo, by the way, is not of the photographer’s mother. Shhh! Don’t tell her she’s got competition as sweetest-lady-in-the-world.

Elsewhere:

Yesterday was a very busy day in the local news world.

  • Local Congressman Duncan D. Hunter (that’s the son of the former congressman), a Marine veteran, had this to say to NPR about gays in the military: “. . . there has to be a special bond there. I think that bond is broken if you open up the military to transgenders, to hermaphrodites, to gays and lesbians.”

    I couldn’t immediately discover if the military has a policy regarding service by hermaphrodites (it’s not uncommon for people to be what’s called “intersex” at birth, by the way). But it turns out that some transgendered people — those who were born male and changed their sex — are required to register with the Selective Service, although they can request to opt out of service during a draft.

  • An advisory committee thinks San Diego’s mayor and council members should make more money. A lot more money. But it’s only recommending 15 percent salary raises. (U-T)
  • A new audit says the city of San Diego’s only remaining bonus program, “available only to water and wastewater department employees, needs to be better implemented and managed to improve transparency and accountability.” (U-T)
  • The port district gave a thumbs up to a plan “to move ahead with a land swap needed for a hotel and residential development on Chula Vista’s beleaguered bayfront.” (U-T)
  • CityBeat says the city of San Diego may be on the cusp of regulating payday lenders and check-cashing businesses. There are many of them in Mid-City and Southeastern San Diego. But the city may not be able to do anything about fees as high as 460 percent a year.
  • A power plant in Carlsbad won’t harm people’s health, consultants and state representatives insist. (NCT)
  • Finally, the NYT looks at debarking surgeries for dogs, which are falling out of favor. The paper quotes a San Diego vet who still performs the procedure and says the pooches “don’t ever seem to notice any difference.”

Maybe they just think they need a lozenge.

— 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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