All politics are math. If you’re San Diego Unified, you believe your engineer’s estimate of $3.1 million for expanding a playground. Then you ask for bids in the $1 million to $5 million range.

When the lowest bid comes in at $2.7 million, you might make the leap that it could’ve been $1 million — the low end of the bid range — if only project labor agreements weren’t required. That’s what the construction industry lobbying group Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction has done.

What is a fair market value for expanding a playground? And how much do labor agreements affect the final price? Emily Alpert ran a few numbers: projects without the labor pact came in 14 percent under the engineer estimate, while projects with the labor pact came in 7 percent under.

• Almost a million dollars have been spent in the campaign for the City Council seat in District 6. A win by Lorie Zapf — apparently an issue-for-issue twin of Councilman Carl DeMaio, “scourge of organized labor” — would put the Republicans within sniffing distance of city control in 2012.

In the other contentious City Council race, the Union-Tribune has breaking news up that City Council President Ben Hueso, likely on his way to the California Assembly, “improperly funneled $25,000 in campaign funds to support his brother.”

• DeMaio still won’t release his plan for saving the city money until after next week’s election, but he has released a spreadsheet outlining more than $90 million in savings. However, as our Fact Check explains, it’s unlikely all of the savings could be realized by July, given the legal and political challenges they would face. Of course, politics are also brass: Propose savings that will never pass a council vote, so you can later put on a disgusted face for cameras and say, “I tried!”

• DeMaio is trying to present an alternative to Proposition D, the ballot measure that would raise the city’s sales tax after a series of reforms. Scott Lewis has a new post up exploring how Prop. D only has a chance to pass Tuesday because business and conservative leaders have not united against it and that’s due to one man, Vince Mudd, who won’t even say if he supports it.

Mudd led an important group of business leaders whose members are both skeptical of Prop. D and mum about their feelings on it.

• Who’s the biggest fibber when it comes to talking about Prop. D? We’ve run 17 Prop. D Fact Checks and find the average rating skews mostly true.

• Watch NBC 7/39’s live debate on Prop. D.

• Finally, a local restaurateur suggests that Prop. D is a really a funding bill for a really awesome downtown NFL stadium.

Also in the News and Elsewhere:

• Officer Christopher Wilson, killed early Thursday in a shootout in Skyline, is being profiled and remembered. The Union-Tribune editorial board puts it in an almost holy context: “He worked for you. And he died for you.”

Mayor Jerry Sanders, police chief from 1993 to 1998, choked back tears and his voice broke as he said, “It was routine for other officers to pay him the compliment by calling him ‘good cover.’ In other words, you always knew Officer Wilson had your back.”

• As the son of a former cop and a new San Diegan, let me also say thanks to Officer Wilson. I’ve been reading Bob Spichen’s 1993 nonfiction novel Baby Insane and the Buddha, which documents crime, gangs, and police work in San Diego, especially in the southeast during the 1980s. The book makes it plain: being on the job in San Diego can be a sacrifice of the highest order. (“Nonfiction novel” is not quite the oxymoron it seems: the book is gripping.)

Public safety beat reporter Keegan Kyle suggested that book to me, and I’m using it to school myself on San Diego’s history. San Diego Legends by Jack Scheffler Innis is also on my reading list, as is Under the Perfect Sun, by Mike Davis, Kelly Mayhew, and Jim Miller.

What else should I be reading to get to know San Diego? I’m particularly interested in the last 20 years — I’ve done plenty of reading about Junípero Serra and Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo already. A thousand thanks if your book recommendations aren’t just about the beaches and the zoo, which seems to be the slapdash San Diego formula publishers find easiest.

• Keegan, by the way, has a thorough two-part two-way Q&A with county supervisor candidates Ron Roberts and Stephen Whitburn.

• Chris Heuer, an associate professor at Gallaudet University, responds to our “Silent Journey” series about a deaf Burmese refugee. Heuer tells us about the deaf community’s conflict over whether it is better for the deaf to try to hear again — even if they’ll only ever hear imperfectly, or barely — or to try to learn how to communicate better while deaf.

• The La Jolla Symphony and Chorus will present Prometheus: The Poem of Fire, which includes a “color organ,” an instrument that plays colored light when the keys are pressed.

USD’s Index of leading Economic Indicators is down 0.1 percent in September, largely reflecting a month-over-month drop in authorized building permits for residential multi-family housing. It’s the first drop since March 2009. If there are three months of declines, it might be a harbinger of a double-dip recession.

• Porto Vista Hotel in Little Italy is auctioning off the entire hotel for a 24-hour New Year’s party. Bidding started at $1000 and is up to $160,000. With free shipping.

• The Sacramento Bee offers up a useful searchable voters guide. Plug in your home address, get a list of candidates for your district, then see how they compare on the issues.

• San Diego officials joined a statewide advisory committee organized to eradicate invasive pests, such as yellow star thistle weed and the European grape vine moth. According to an April report, more than 35 species have a high risk of being introduced into California. For more about the pests, such as the quagga, check out Aquafornia’s aggregation of articles about invasive species. Domestic cats, by the way, are considered invasive.

Please contact Grant Barrett at or (619) 550-5666 and follow him on Twitter @grantbarrett. Randy Dotinga is on vacation.

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