He was a New Wave rocker who looked like a yeti. Now, the 52-year-old Scott Himelstein is singing a new song with plenty of riffs about reform.

He’s director of a local education think tank, a major player in state and local education politics and the public face of a high-profile movement with one mission: drastically reform San Diego’s public schools.

We profile the now-clean-shaven Himelstein, who wants to overhaul how the school board is chosen (there’s talk of pulling power away from voters) and provide stability in a district that’s had anything but a smooth time of it in recent years.

We also check in with his foes, one of whom says he’s “like the hired gun for the rich.”

In other news:

• A U-T story this week essentially accused city officials of offering weak sauce when they finalized a ballot measure that would impose new sales taxes in the city in return for fiscal reform at City Hall. The story implies that a councilwoman took a hatchet to the proposal under pressure from labor.

Is that true? Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that. As our City Hall reporter puts it, “the U-T’s story ignored crucial context for how the ballot measure changed from start to finish.”

• One more thing about the sales-tax measure. KUSI-TV reported that people can donate as much as they want to the campaigns for and against it.

In a city where political donations are often limited, can this possibly be true? Our Fact Check team is on the case and has reached a verdict.

• As we’ve reported, the county pension system wants to change the rules so it can pay its employees more money. Lots and lots more money: under one proposal, a consultant might take home as much as $886,000 a year.

Currently, salary limits keep the system’s employees from making anywhere near that much. In fact, no county employee makes more than $274,000.

A proposed California law would change the regulations to allow higher salaries, but two county supervisors want a local state senator to stand up against it.

• California is asking the federal government to let it change the way it distributes money for schools that perform poorly. The change could mean millions of dollars for a San Diego school that’s currently shut out and millions more for another school that’s already slated to get money.

• San Diego Explained, our video series in conjunction with NBC 7/39, takes a field trip to City Hall for a piece about the tax-and-reform measure on the November ballot.

• The San Diego People Project profiles an 11-year-old girl who’s a student in La Mesa. Shy kids are notoriously difficult to interview, but this one opens up after a bit and tells our photographer about a book she’s writing that relates the story of doubtful parents, a crush and a spaceship.

Hey wait a minute. She’s recounting the story of my life. Scamp!


• Is it feasible for the city of San Diego to keep its aging football stadium afloat, whether or not a pro football team calls it home?

You might think you could come up with an answer after a couple hours with a file of news clippings and a calculator. But if you’re familiar with how cities work, you realize that a lot of money needs to be spent to figure something like this out.

That’s why the city is planning to spend as much as $200,000 on a consultant report, the U-T says.

• CityBeat checks in with disgraced ex-Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham (or as the U-T’s Logan Jenkins insists on calling him, Randall Harold Cunningham).

Cunningham is in a federal prison in Tucson, where he’s hoping to reduce his sentence by helping prisoners get their high-school equivalency degrees. “During the morning and afternoon I teach GED students and 3 nights/wk teach adult education,” he writes to the paper, which asked him by letter how things are going. “It was a good fit, since I have taught in college and high school.”

He also says he’s seen the flawed justice system first-hand. “Maybe that’s why God put me here to bring about much needed prison reform,” he writes. “Millions of prisoners but 4x that in families are harmed.”

I’m such a cynic. I think God put him in there because he committed really bad crimes.

• Finally, this just in from the Department of You Must Be Seeing Things: KPBS looks into the history of appearances by UCSD’s unusual Geisel Library in TV shows and films (perhaps including “Inception.”) Among other things, the library shows up in the intro to the old San Diego-based private eye show “Simon & Simon.”

Some people swear that they saw the library in one of the “Star Trek” TV shows or movies. It does look futuristic. But UCSD says that appears to be an urban legend, since no one — not even a library employee/sci-fi buff — can point to a specific episode or movie.

UCSD says there’s another library myth, one that you may have heard. Despite what some people say, the university claims the library’s architect didn’t fail to account for the weight of the books when he designed the building.

Well, sure, OK. But would anyone — including the architect — admit it if it had actually happened? I’m going to remain skeptical, if only because I really (please please please) want this tale to be true.


Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga

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