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Here’s the morning’s problem for Ken M. Clark: An orthodontic lab is trying to export dental impressions to the Middle East and it needs some help.

Yikes. Where do you even start? I’d make a “brace yourself” pun and then suddenly find a very important reason to have to deal with something else.

But Clark, who counsels people who are trying to run or start small businesses, doesn’t have the option of running away. He is, quite literally, here to help.

In this weekend’s Q&A feature, we talk to Clark about the questions he answers, the craziest business ideas he’s heard and the future of San Diego’s economy.

In other news:

• We have updated numbers on how many San Diegans owe more on their mortgage than their house is worth. It doesn’t look good but there are signs it may improve.

• The school board forum we hosted Thursday night was a hit. We’ve got follow-up thoughts and a summary of some of the highlights, which included a discussion of unused cafeteria food (yes), seniority for teachers and property tax.

• The New York Times turned to our reporter Liam Dillon for an update about San Diego’s pension mess. His post is one of several that examine pension problems from various angles.

Dillon writes that the city’s pension fund was a bit less than two-thirds funded in 2004. Then, “the city adopted an aggressive pension repayment schedule, passed a charter amendment that requires voter approval for any pension increases and created a more austere pension plan for new city employees.”

The result? “This year, the city’s pension system is 66.5 percent funded, the lowest level since 2004.”

• Now here’s something you don’t see every political season: The National Rifle Association has jumped into the sheriff’s race. It’s accusing incumbent Bill Gore of having anti-gun views, and Gore’s campaign is firing back.

• Our readers are chiming in with thoughts about why San Diego’s test scores only grew slightly on a national test but did better on a state one. Testing specialists have theories too.

• In fashion, one day you’re in, and the next day you’re out. Just ask the Photos of the Day.

Elsewhere:

• People working at a Carlsbad elementary school want testing to take place to see if remnants of pesticides are making people sick. The school has apparently had an unusual number of illnesses and deaths among staff and former students; there’s a wider concern about a “cancer cluster” in Carlsbad. (KPBS)

As we reported last year in a story about a possible cancer cluster at San Diego State, it’s difficult to determine whether unusual numbers of illnesses in a location are purely random or caused by an actual hazard.

• Finally, a 48-year-old San Diego homemaker named Erin Willard gets quoted in an AOL News story about Sunday’s series finale of “Lost.” She writes a daily blog feature based on tweets about the show and is getting ready for it to end.

“I expect on Monday, I’ll feel really crummy and I’ll have a giant headache,” she said.

Can you imagine being so attached to “Lost”? It’s crazy, I tell you. Crazy like Danielle Rousseau after her daughter Alex was kidnapped by Ben and The Others, so she had to live in the jungle all by herself until she kidnapped Sayid.

Not that I watch the show or anything. I just, uh, read that somewhere.

•••

What We’ve Learned This Week

He Got By with a Little Help: Or so say the feds, who are charging a Bay Area escrow officer with helping Jim McConville launch a scheme that allegedly orchestrated straw buyers to purchase hundreds of condos throughout California. McConville has been indicted too, as have several others.

As you may recall, we uncovered the scheme — we called it a “Staggering Swindle” — last year.

Restrictions Be Gone!: A federal court ruling could allow unlimited spending by political parties on this June’s City Council races. You could give a party $100 million, for example, and it could give it to a candidate. City officials are trying to figure out how to put limits back in place before it’s too late.

Community Powers, Activate!: Residents in the Greater Logan Heights community — made up of several neighborhoods south of Golden Hill and north of Barrio Logan — are pushing for more influence over the city decisions that affect them. Their challenge is to figure out how to move past apathy.

We’ve also got an extensive look at redevelopment in the Greater Logan Heights neighborhood. A local redevelopment agency, as we report, “wants to dramatically restructure its boundaries in order to bolster lagging tax revenue, a move that comes amid questions about the agency’s solvency.” The proposed new boundaries would take in Greater Logan Heights.

Wrong, Wrong, Partially Wrong and Wrong: Those are the verdicts of the San Diego Fact Check blog this week, which examined claims regarding supposedly sky-high tuberculosis rates, supposedly slumping student achievement, the South Bay Power Plant’s supposed closing and supposed giant numbers of illegal immigrants in state prisons.

•••

Unpaid Debt of the Week: If you’re running for City Council on a platform of fiscal responsibility, it can’t help your case to default on your mortgage. But will CityBeat’s revelation about the tangled mortgage situation of Lorie Zapf, a leading candidate for City Council, actually damage her campaign? CityBeat’s readership is small, so it may depend on whether bigger local media like the U-T jump on the story and keep it alive. Or her rivals could spread the news themselves.

Mystery Man of the Week: A local resident bought a century-old portrait of a bearded man at an estate sale a while back and heard the painting’s subject was an early settler of San Diego. We’re trying to figure out who the man in the portrait was. Can you help? (No, he’s not a founder of ZZ Top, wise guy.)

•••

The Coffee Collection (well-written stories to savor over a cup of java):

Probing the Pasts of the Would-Be Sheriffs: We profiled all three sheriff candidates this week and discovered interesting tidbits about all of them.

One shot a guy to death during a bank robbery while his fiancée, another FBI agent, was in danger nearby. Another grew up in a household where it was nothing unusual for his dad to spend some father-son quality time by taking him along to accident scenes. And the third successfully fought a local ban on Saturday Night Special handguns.

Quote of the Week: “The city is not in the business of having candidates bought by political parties.” — Dick Semerdjian, an attorney representing San Diego, on the current lack of restrictions on what political parties can spend to try to elect City Council candidates.

— 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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