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It really sounds just too good to be true: Downtown used to be threatened by a blob!

We’re talking about a massive underground plume of gasoline and diesel fuel under downtown that was once thought dangerous enough to pollute the bay or cause an explosion. As our latest urban legend Fact Check reveals, there really was such a “blob,” and there’s quite a story behind its birth and demise.

Meet the Unelected:

One spends at least five hours a week volunteering on education issues. Another spends about a dozen. A third is considered a kind of human encyclopedia on school issues. All are parents, and they — or their successors — may soon find themselves helping decide who gets to sit on San Diego’s school board.

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Under a ballot measure now being floated for city schools, a committee of nine people, with four parents, would appoint four members of the board. They’d join the five elected members and, reformers hope, pull the board away from influence from unions and business. (Even so, one member of the committee would be from the business community.) Critics say the idea is undemocratic.

Today, we take look at who’d hold the power to appoint.

Will Reform for Food:

The county government has a reputation as being unfriendly to the poor in terms of benefits and services, and our extensive investigation revealed there are indeed plenty of gaps in its safety net for those in need.

In particular, advocacy groups have long argued that the county — allegedly under the sway of its conservative leadership — made it too difficult for the poor to get food stamps. (Some conservatives nationally are big fans of food stamps.)

Now, the county may be changing the way it does things. The county board of supervisors has agreed to consider a list of dozens of suggested improvements to the food stamp program.

Domestic Un-Bliss:

San Diego Fact Check looks into a claim by DA Bonnie Dumanis that “we reviewed more than 6,000 domestic violence-related cases during 2009.”

It’s true but there’s more to the story. While there were more 17,000 reports of domestic violence in the county last year, only about 6,400 ended at the DA’s office for review. And of those, only 2,801 resulted in charges because it’s hard to prove what happens behind closed doors.

Parent Power:

• Think your local public school stinks? If you get support from 51 percent of parents, you can force the school to shut down, get a new principal or be taken over by a charter school operator.

In a word, that’s amazing. This is all courtesy of a new state law, and a Compton school has become the first to take advantage of it. Would you consider doing something similar here?

Nuclear Power:

The NCT says federal regulators say they “have recently seen an uptick in the safety consciousness and problem-solving abilities among workers at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, although some people pointed to several recent problems as proof that things are still not right at the seaside plant.” We looked at the power plant’s troubles in an extensive story last year.

Numbers Roundup:

• Census figures say San Diego is moving ever-closer to becoming a “majority minority” county. “The region would join a handful of other counties across the country with nearly equal white and non-white populations, including Los Angeles and Miami-Dade in Florida.”

Another interesting tidbit: “The Camp Pendleton area is the youngest with an average age of 21.6 years of age and Lake San Marcos is the oldest at 67.7.”

• The latest edition of Behind the Scene TV checks in with a local high school that’s blending digital arts and math by asking students to find the beauty, humanity and intrigue behind math in history, philosophy and the applied arts.

In one project, students looked at entropy: “How the universe tends toward disorder, and how the arrow of time always points toward the future.”

Now I have a great excuse for the next time I don’t meet deadline. Entropy happens!

Correction: This story was revised to indicate that four parents, not five, would be on the proposed committee that would appoint four members to the San Diego school board.

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at and follow him on Twitter:

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at

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