He’s just one councilman out of many, but Carl DeMaio’s big budget plan is getting plenty of attention. Now, the local arts community, which is facing big proposed cuts in the plan, is starting to awaken to the threat.

The message of one of the first parlays is that local arts are valuable and produce a big return on investments by taxpayers. As arts editor Kelly Bennett reports, DeMaio himself is sure to hear a mouthful from artfolk at a forum next week.  

Leaving the Mayor:

The mayor’s top adviser is moving on to a new job, as we reported earlier this week. So what? City Hall reporter Liam Dillon has answers. He dived into analysis mode and compiled five things to know about the departure of Kris Michell. 

Among other things, the mayor is losing a big link to the downtown establishment and a major player in negotiations with the Chargers. That’s important because the Chargers play hard ball, and past city officials simply didn’t make good deals: “the team essentially gets free rent and can leave town whenever it wants while the city bleeds tax dollars.”  

In a related story, I’m planning to ask the Chargers to negotiate my next raise. 

In another related story, the U-T says the Bolts are going to stick around through the 2011-2012 season. After that, no promises. 

A Good Day to Avoid North County:

Whether or not there’s a there there in Escondido, here’s some advice: make sure you’re not there today. The burn of the “bomb factory” house is scheduled to go on as planned. A judge refused to hold things up to allow the bombmaker suspect to build his defense by seeing the house before it goes up in smoke. 

Will homeowners insurance policies pay for the house itself and for any damage to neighboring homes? Why are they burning the house in the first place? (It sure sounds like a weird plan.) And who is the suspect? We answer five questions about the bomb factory with the help of other media and an insurance specialist.

By the way, yesterday we told you about San Diego’s long history of often-tragic explosions, bombings and bomb hoaxes.  A reader alerted me to a bit of sad history that I missed. Two eight-year-old boys died in Tierrasanta in 1983 when they went to play in a canyon and came across a live World War II-era shell. 

10News explored the problem of unexploded ordnance in a 2008 story, and the U-T has a story on yesterday’s evacuation and destruction of old ordnance in, yes, Tierrasanta.  

The Confusing World of Municipal Bankruptcy:

Our number-crunching contributor Vlad Kogan takes a deep look at the murky world of municipal bankruptcy in search of the answers to these questions: Is San Diego eligible to receive relief under the federal bankruptcy law?  Can a bankruptcy judge overturn labor agreements? Can bankruptcy judges overturn state laws?

“The bottom line is that bankruptcy remains a highly speculative option for San Diego, one that promises a highly uncertain outcome…” Kogan writes. “Put simply, regardless of what happens, bankruptcy will not provide a viable solution to the city’s short-to-medium-term budget problems.”   

If you want to delve in more, watch our recent San Diego Explained on municipal bankruptcy and don’t forget Scott Lewis’ “True or False?” list of bankruptcy explainers from a still salient breakfast panel last year.

In other city finance news, 10News and the Watchdog Institute report that “despite having more than 130 lawyers on staff, since July 2006, the city of San Diego has spent more than $34 million on private lawyers.”  

And the U-T says about 2,200 current and retired city workers “may be forced to accept significantly reduced pensions or pay a lump sum of as much as $50,000 to keep their current pension.”

A ‘Toxic Topic’:

The debate over teacher tenure makes everybody want to tear their hair out: teachers say critics don’t appreciate its value, while skeptics believe bad teachers get a free ride. In the latest edition of  San Diego Explained, schools reporter Emily Alpert breaks down one of the most divisive and emotional issues in education.

From Russia with Money:

You may have read about one of the more entertaining diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks: it vividly describes the grand and grandiose wedding of a Russian politicians son. As CityBeat puts it, “more than 1,000 guests attended, including a drunken Olympic wrestler, a nanophysicist and Ramzan Kadyrov, the controversial president of Chechnya, who allegedly wore a gold-plated automatic handgun and presented the married couple with a 5-kilo lump of gold.”

Turns out that the groom’s father has ties to San Diego. Lots of them: he owns a bunch of local properties, has paid for five Russian boys to attend the Army & Navy Academy in Carlsbad and gave the school — which isn’t part of the military — a big pile of money. And there’s more.   

From KUSI with Falsity:

TV station KUSI reported a few months ago that the pro-Prop. D folks had a stash of about a million dollars. We cast a skeptical eye on the claim and related political spin earlier. Now San Diego Fact Check has reached a final verdict: false.   

A Family Affair:

• If you’re like me, you haven’t updated your photo albums in a good decade or two. It could be worse: many people, of course, can’t afford cameras, photo albums or family portraits. That’s where a local non-profit come in: it organized an event last weekend to provide family portraits for those who can’t pay for them. 

Our arts blogger Will Parson was on the scene as a volunteer. He gives us an inside look at those who gave of their time and the families who were finally able to preserve themselves on film.  

Also in the photography world, photographer Sam Hodgson offers more views of the ballerina we profiled earlier in a story about how an artist makes ends meet

Law & Order Roundup:

• A Van Nuys company manufactures masks that are so realistic that authorities think they may be helping the Geezer Bandit look like an elderly man. (LAT) So much for my theory that he’s just a walking advertisement for sunscreen. 

• Former City Council candidate Felipe Hueso, brother of Councilman-turned-Assemblyman Ben Hueso, faces charges of drunken driving, the U-T reports. He was nabbed on Monday night.

• A retired San Diego FBI special agent is facing a murder trial in Nevada, accused of killing his son’s girlfriend with a hammer in Las Vegas. The agent, who raised bail and is under house arrest, testified at an earlier hearing that he struck back at the 31-year-old woman after she struck him. 

Snooper Patrol:

A UCSD team discovered that “dozens of websites have been secretly harvesting lists of places that their users previously visited online, everything from news articles to bank sites to pornography,” the AP reports.

Well, if they checked my browser history, they’d only see links to ultra-serious news stories and photos of kittens. Heh. (Note to self: erase all browser history immediately.)

What a Dummy:

Finally, someone has stolen the top half of a mannequin from the Fashion Kiss clothing store in La Mesa. 

“Franchesca, known around the neighborhood as the Deal of the Week girl, was last seen wearing a black wig, a gray/silver sweater with a black lace undershirt and a rhinestone bracelet,” the Reader reports.

It’s purely a coincidence that I’m wearing that same ensemble today. 

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

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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