Tony Young joined the City Council after his best friend died unexpectedly. Politics was not fun then. And, as he tells us in an interview, it’s not fun now either, even as he steps into the council president’s seat.

He struggled in the wake of the death of Councilman Charles Lewis, who was also his boss. “My therapy when I ran for office the first time was to get over my friend’s death. I just walked and walked and walked and walked for hours and hours. That’s all I did for six months straight.”

“Going through that experience had to affect me in some way. I wasn’t the kid in school that ran for president in sixth grade. Politics is not a game to me,” he said. And as he knows more than most people, it’s about to become even less enjoyable.

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The city has tough financial decisions to make, but it hasn’t yet tackled the hardest choices. “I think this will be the year,” Young said.

One more thing about Young: he declared that the city’s general fund budget — the day-to-day operating fund — is $1.42 billion. San Diego Fact Check finds that he’s off, and not by a little: it’s actually $1.1 billion. Young acknowledges the error and blames it on a mistake by staff.


It was supposed to be a nice example of cross-government cooperation: A 1.4-acre field for public use at an elementary school in the Sherman Heights neighborhood. The problem: it’s locked after school is over. Both the city and the school are pointing fingers at each other. Meanwhile, kids who want to play soccer have found a solution: they pry open a fence.

Pension Roundup:

Southeastern San Diego’s redevelopment agency “is suing the Morgan Stanley investment firm, the city’s outside auditor and another local firm for allegedly bungling its pension plans,” the U-T says. As we reported in October, another suit accuses the agency’s former leader of turning “her agency’s retirement plan into ‘her tax-free “checkbook” from public funds.’”

After a investigation revealed a secret bonus system at the agency, top officials and board members left or were forced out, its relationship to City Hall was changed and a federal grand jury investigation was launched.

Also in the U-T: “For the first time in a dozen years city workers in Chula Vista will contribute money toward their pensions, shifting a burden that had until now been shouldered entirely by taxpayers.”

National City’s city manager said this is going pretty far: “We’re taking an incremental approach as other cities have taken. Chula Vista is taking an all-at-once approach.”

Remembering a ‘Brute’ Marine Force:

Forget squeaky wheel. Victor “Brute” Krulak was a squeaky tank.

From World War II through to Vietnam, the Marine lieutenant general had a habit of speaking his mind and raising a stink. He even challenged a president to his face, a move that may have sunk his hopes of advancing in the American military.

Krulak, who lived in Point Loma and became a local civic leader, died two years ago at the age of 95. Now a new biography tracks the life of a bold man who felt the need to embroider the past. The biography’s author tells us about Krulak’s career and ponders whether he really was involved in espionage from his perch at the Copley News Service.

Parent Power!

A new law allows parents to get together and close their local school or force other changes. It could play a role in a movement seeking more autonomy for schools in Point Loma, but not everyone’s a fan. Education reporter Emily Alpert takes a closer look at the law and hears from supporters and skeptical union leaders.

Debating Balboa Park’s Future:

KPBS discussed the simmering-and-soon-maybe-boiling debate over Balboa Park’s future yesterday with two major players: Irwin Jacobs (the former Qualcomm CEO who supports a plan to hand over the Plaza de Panama to pedestrians and build a parking garage) and Bruce Coons (director of the Save Our Heritage Organization, which opposes the way traffic would be redirected). They debated, and later KPBS’s commenters joined them. There will be a community meeting about the plans on Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon at the Balboa Park Club Ballroom, 2150 Pan-American Road West.

A Striking Photograph:

It’s hard to imagine there’s anything new to say about the long-standing controversy over the Mt. Soledad cross. But Associated Press photographer Gregory Bull did manage to find a unique way to shoot an image of the La Jolla landmark: he caught its reflection in a plaque honoring soldiers, juxtaposing a Star of David with the cross itself.

The Morning Report, by the way, has room for more than news stories. If you see a striking photograph or video that captures San Diego in a special light, drop me a line with a link.

Onward and Downward:

San Diego home prices fell in December, nullifying the last of the effects of the stimulus-driven spring 2010 rally and bringing home prices into negative territory on a year-over-year basis.

See How They’re Hung:

Arts blogger Dani Dodge tags along as San Diego Museum of Art employees get ready for a new show and start hanging paintings: how do they figure out where they go? In the first of a multi-part series, the museum’s boss explains one of her goals: “One of the most important elements she will be looking for is harmony. And through all the technical matters of color and lighting and hanging and the script about how the show flows from one place to another all must ‘project why this show is relevant.’”

A ‘Modest’ $172,000 Salary:

A couple weeks ago, a retired La Mesa schools superintendent defended his $216,000 annual pension, which is a bit more than his old salary, to the U-T: “It’s a very difficult job, a 60-hour-a-week job. None of us are rich from it. Some may think we are, but we are not.” So what is the definition of “rich” these days? (“People who make more than me” is not a good answer.)

The president has weighed in, setting off a debate about salaries: he said his departing press secretary makes “relatively modest pay” ($172,000). “For now, he’s provided fodder to a debate already roiling city halls and state houses and set to intensify in Washington as the White House and Congress prepare to debate future spending levels and find ways to cut back,” the Washington Post says.

What Awaits Mrs. Hefner:

Slate takes a peek at what the future holds for 24-year-old Crystal Harris — a former La Jolla High, SDSU and Mesa College student — who’s getting hitched to 84-year-old Playboy founder Hugh Hefner. A life of fun and frolic? Maybe not. “The Playboy mansion comes across not so much a prison as a singularly unsexy place of strict routines, tight curfews, and old movies. The visionary who popularized the idea of life as a nonstop stag party is, it turns out, a homebody with staid habits and old-school tastes.”

Old school indeed: “For his part, Hefner praises her devotion, saying they’re ‘soulmates’ and comparing their love to Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall’s.” Bogie and Bacall were married in 1945, four years before Hefner’s first marriage.

Let’s Put on (an Expensive) Show!

The artistic director of the San Diego Opera tells the NCT that producing opera is “like pirouetting on the edge of a razor.” About 300 people will help its newest opera, “Turandot,” appear on stage — “30 principal singers, the San Diego Opera Chorus, dancers, supers (extras), the San Diego Symphony, conductors, stage directors, scenic and lighting designers, wig and make-up artists, costumers, stage managers, electricians, follow-spot operators, carpenters and production assistants.”

The production is so expensive that the opera company will lose $1.2 million even if every ticket is sold. That’s where donations and grants come in. You know what they say: It ain’t over til the fat lady cashes her paycheck.

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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