The Morning Report
San Diego news and info
you need to take on the day.

You may not be familiar with sheriff candidate Jay LaSuer, but you’ve probably heard of his good buddy: Phoenix’s “Sheriff Joe,” the guy who makes inmates wear pink underwear and live in tents.

Depending on your political perspective, Sheriff Joe may seem like a non-nonsense tough-minded icon or a rights-shredding madman. Jay LaSuer thinks he’s the bee’s knees, and vice versa.

As the last in our series of stories about the sheriff race explains, “LaSuer is the campaign’s curmudgeon on the attack, the retired undersheriff who makes things interesting at debates by vigorously claiming his opponents are incompetent. He’s the ultra-conservative one touting a background that includes law enforcement and local and state politics. And he’s the candidate whose primary issue — illegal immigration — happens to be the center of a national debate.”

Speaking of LaSuer, he makes another appearance in our pages today in the San Diego Fact Check blog.

Is it true, as LaSuer said, that 20-30 percent of state prisoners aren’t from the United States?  Our post looks into it.

In other news:

• The former president of the downtown redevelopment agency sat in front of the San Diego Ethics Commission yesterday, listening as her former boss told of his betrayal by an employee he trusted.

“I do not believe that she was truthful,” the boss said about Nancy Graham, who faces as much as $170,000 in fines over ethics charges. Graham, who pleaded no contest to a criminal charge last year, is accused of influencing city decisions while knowing they could benefit her business partner.

The executive director of the ethics commission says this case is the most serious in its history. For her part, Graham said she would never have taken part in job negotiations if she’d had a conflict.

• Wanna be put in charge of something? It helps to do the job temporarily and be so good that you convince people you belong there full-time.

San Diego’s interim school superintendent may be very familiar with this strategy. He’s one of five finalists for the school district’s top job. But there could be more applicants: the deadline has been extended.

• New reading test scores are out, and San Diego’s fourth and eighth graders didn’t do much better in 2009 than in 2007. Poor kids and minorities, meanwhile, didn’t do much to close the gap between them and other kids.

The odd thing is that state test scores show San Diego students are doing better. What gives? The district’s testing czar has some answers.

• Also in education: San Diego schools, as expected, aren’t going to apply in the second round of Race to the Top, a federal grant program. San Diego was the largest district in the state to sit out the first round, a move that annoyed some community groups and parents.

• City voters next month will consider making the “strong mayor” form of government permanent. If it passes, city managers will officially be history: The mayor would continue to act as a the CEO of the city instead of a bureaucrat appointed by the City Council.

As columnist Scott Lewis notes, a mayoral spokeswoman pointed to an old U-T story that casts blame on a previous city manager for the city’s woes. Funny thing: the same article mentions a new mayor who “promised massive layoffs and salary freezes.”

Whatever happened to that guy? He’s still around: his name is Jerry Sanders. And what happened to his promises? Well, funny story. 

• You know the little town of Guatay, out off Old Highway 80? No? I don’t either, and I’ve lived here my whole life. (If I don’t know something, then nobody knows it. I’m just that knowledgeable, you see.)

But we aren’t letting that — or the fact that we’re not quite sure how to pronounce it — stop us from profiling the little burg near Pine Valley.

If you have tips about what our neighborhoods reporter should know before heading out there (directions back, maybe?), drop him a line.

Elsewhere:

• CityBeat had the scoop of the week yesterday: “Publicly, Lorie Zapf is campaigning for San Diego City Council on a platform of fiscal responsibility. Privately, however, the Zapf family has defaulted on a loan that could result in the foreclosure of their home.”

Zapf, who’s a high-profile candidate in the race to replace termed-out Councilwoman Donna Frye, didn’t talk to CityBeat, but her campaign manager did and appeared to take issue with a reporter’s contention that she and her husband are behind on payments.

One of her opponents is already going to town with this news.

• It’s aliiive! Well, sorta. Maybe. Genome pioneer Craig Venter, whose company has offices in San Diego and Maryland, led a research team that created, as Reuters puts it, “an artificial genome and used it to bring a hollowed-out bacterium back to life.” BBC calls it the “first synthetic living cell,” but there’s to be some dispute about the scientists actually created new life.

Nonetheless, people immediately started to freak out upon hearing this news yesterday. There are questions, NPR reports, about whether synthetic life forms could “escape from the lab and run amok.”

Personally, I wondered if this means Venter could now help me get an artificial life. Might be cheaper than getting a real one. But I digress.

• Five local hospitals have been dinged with major fines — several in the $50,000 range — over what the state considers to be preventable mistakes that put patients at serious risk. (U-T)

• Finally, the U-T reported the other day that San Diegans don’t rate high in “suntelligence” — knowing about the risk factors for skin cancer.

Really? It’s quite simple, people: Go outside, lie in the sun, turn red, then turn over. And repeat.

This message has been brought to you by your dermatologist, who’d really like to buy a mansion and a Corvette.

 — 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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