Har Sin, a 24-year-old deaf refugee from Burma, never imagined he could convey those complex emotions only hinted at in his expressive eyes — about how he felt, what he feared, what his dreams were — to anyone but himself.

The refugee with no language came to the United States with one hope: that they could fix his ears.

He didn’t, but the remarkable story of how Har Sin discovered how to communicate will move you. Today’s installment is the first of two.

In other news:

• School board candidate Scott Barnett has hovered over local politics for decades, hop scotching from one gig to another. Best known for his stint the head of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, Barnett earned a reputation as a maverick boldly staking out positions that were incongruous with what might be convenient.

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But he also earned some questions about whether he is good at what he claims is his chief skill: His ability to understand a big budget — like the school district’s — and manage it well. His background has earned him support from an eclectic group ranging from unions to the conservative Lincoln Club.

In the first of a series of profiles of school board incumbents and candidates for office as we head toward the election, we find out why some say he was “asleep at the switch” when it mattered and others say he has admirably stuck his neck out time and time again.

• Local leaders are still trying to absorb the news from Friday morning about the late-night deal Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher pulled off that instantly negated months of debate and study about the future of downtown redevelopment. While scrambling to secure votes for California’s long-delayed budget, lawmakers agreed to include Fletcher’s bill lifting the cap on redevelopment spending downtown.

It paves the way for many more years of major public investment downtown for things like a potential new Chargers stadium, more hotels and condos, infrastructure and perhaps, even, a new Convention Center expansion. But it’s an investment that in many ways, the rest of the city, county and state have to make on downtown’s behalf. The county was negotiating with the city about the issue.

I got a hold of Walt Ekard, the CAO of the county of San Diego, Saturday. He would tell me only that the county did not know of the end-around their discussions until it was happening Thursday night. 

The late-night deal means San Diego reneged on a process to study whether this was needed and decide at a later date. It was a process that Mayor Jerry Sanders had called “transparent and open” and “important” and now critics are suggesting it is evidence you can’t trust his pledges. This, of course, right when that trust is sorely needed to pass Proposition D.

“If the stadium goes to vote city will need buy-in from public and council — two of the groups who were just steamrolled,” wrote Tony Manolatos, the spokesman for City Councilman Kevin Faulconer, last night on Twitter.

Fletcher and the mayor claim the deal will create thousands of jobs very soon.

The fallout has split traditional politics. The Labor Council is allied with the Republican mayor and Fletcher, hailing the investment in downtown construction and visitor industry for San Diego’s “economic engine.” The well-known conservative blogger on state politics, Jon Fleischman, has been hammering the deal, and mocking the taxpayer subsidy of a new Chargers stadium in light of the Chargers shocking loss to Oakland. Equally unimpressed is local right-leaning think tank leader Erik Bruvold. And, joining them is local firefighter union president Frank Declercq, who says CCDC must be abolished.

It has left groups like the Lincoln Club unsure how they stand. CEO TJ Zane told me Friday that he had a series of tweets deleted that might have given the impression that the Lincoln Club agreed with Councilman Carl DeMaio about his criticisms of the deal.

• Meanwhile, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was in the Bay Area yesterday stumping for a new stadium there and one in San Diego.

While the news about the cap on redevelopment in downtown San Diego being lifted was the best development in a long time for boosters of a new stadium here, potentially devastating news for the effort lurks on the horizon in the form of a football labor dispute.

• Not long ago, during a debate for the City Council candidates at San Diego’s Downtown Partnership, the two candidates were asked, simply, “Do you support expanding the San Diego Convention Center?”

Howard Wayne, the Democrat running against Republican Lorie Zapf to replace outgoing City Councilwoman Donna Frye, replied “no.”

But then last week, when we called him as part of a roundup of where candidates stand on major city building projects, he said he did, in fact, support the convention center expansion.


His rivals were incensed. So we called him again, and Wayne said he would not support the Convention Center expansion if it took money away from the city’s day-to-day operating budget. But he would support it if it didn’t.

This only further infuriated local Republican Party leader Tony Krvaric, who reports that Wayne “crapped on” the convention center expansion proposal again on KUSI’s “San Diego People” show Sunday. We’ll keep an eye out for that clip (but hold our noses).

I, for one, am shocked that a local politician (and veteran member of the California Assembly, no less) might try to have it both ways on a contentious issue. But alas, my virgin eyes have once again been sullied. As you try to understand his position, you might like an easy guide for what you need to know about Convention Center expansion. If so, review this explainer.

• Friday, Bank of America startled many when it announced it was freezing foreclosures across the country. Our housing analyst Rich Toscano explains in simple terms what’s going on and why it’s not necessarily good news for those hoping to watch home prices rise.

• The Sports Arena is changing its name to the Valley View Casino Center, according to this docket for the San Diego City Council. Ah for the days of a frothing real estate market and the iPayOne Center.

• We’re due for a round up of our recent Fact Checks:

A Carlsbad councilman and mayoral candidate says he’s unusually accessible, but one of the reasons he cites is incorrect. A county supervisor candidate bobbles a statistic about fire protection. We check into whether the Padres really pay less for their whole team than the Yankees do for their third baseman and shortstop, and find an error in an NCT editorial.

The latest one checks out the ballot argument in support of a new parcel tax for San Diego City Schools.


• In a bit of news that should please Qualcomm, last week the New York Times and Wall Street Journal both reported that Verizon wireless will sell a CDMA version of Apple’s iPhone. CDMA is the technology Qualcomm pioneered.

• Check out the online student news site Point Loma High School just launched: the Pointer News. I’m proud we were able to help a little bit. But the challenge has just begun. Creating a stream of conversation and information is a new thing for most high school journalism efforts. We’re going to try to help them as much as we can.  

• The U-T tells the story of the man accused of shooting two children at a Carlsbad elementary school on Friday and the men hailed for stopping him from hurting more.

• Finally, the LA Times has a story up about the Kangaroo Rat, an endangered species that has frustrated road, home and all kinds of other builders to no end. The story explains the challenge in relocating the rat and protecting it as nature itself makes it kind of hard.

“The U.S. government considers the rats a protected species; the coyotes consider them delicious.”

I’m going to go ahead and trust the coyotes on that.

Please contact Scott Lewis directly at scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0527 and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/vosdscott.

Scott Lewis oversees Voice of San Diego’s operations, website and daily functions as Editor in Chief. He also writes about local politics, where he frequently...

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