As the debate over the uncertain financial future of San Diego continues, Mayor Jerry Sanders is still in the build-build-build camp. And as he reiterated in his second-to-last state of the city address last night, he’ll leave his job with the city in the black.

But first, he said, services will be reduced. Reforms — the ones that haven’t produced big savings yet — will need to work their magic. And, he says, the “destabilizing force” of pensions will need to be fixed, although one solution won’t help things for a while.

“I’m thinking about the taxpayers in 25 years, and the kind of city they’ll inherit,” he said. If he has his way, they’ll get a city with a new football stadium and an expanded convention center. A new library is already being built.

Why not follow the governor’s plan and take tax dollars out of redevelopment agencies and put them into city coffers? “To those San Diegans who would sell out our redevelopment agencies for pennies on the dollar,” he said, “I say that your thirst for quick cash will come at a steep price.”

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How have the mayor’s priorities changed since last year? We’ve created a couple “word clouds” to show you how his vocabulary has changed since last time. What’s new: a greater focus on services. Also: check out our speech photo spread.

Councilman Carl DeMaio has been floating one possible semi-solution to the pension mess: a kind of pay freeze for many city employees. The plan could eliminate annual four percent across-the-board wage increases. If city workers make less money over time, their pension payouts in years or decades will shrink.

Our Scott Lewis expects this idea will gain support. After all, the city attorney just said it’s legal, and not just the idea of controlling pay, which seems obvious. He thinks the city can decide what part of a worker’s salary counts toward their pensions and what part doesn’t.

Local Judge Takes on Loughner Case:

Larry A. Burns, a San Diego federal judge who has presided over several prominent local cases, will take over the case of the young man accused in last Saturday’s Tucson shootings. The U-T raises the prospect that proceedings may be moved to San Diego.

Big Layoffs at Alvarado Hospital:

The new owners of East County’s Alvarado Hospital have told a quarter of its employees that they are in danger of being laid off. The U-T previously reported that the new owners, Prime Healthcare Services, were under investigation by the state on allegations of fraud and poor care; the company denies the charges.

“Prime’s business model for running hospitals challenges convention,” the U-T reported. “The company often cancels contracts with HMOs when it takes over a hospital and renegotiates the deals so fees for patient services are higher. Insurers who refuse the more costly contracts may pay even higher rates if a policyholder goes to a Prime Healthcare emergency room anyway.”

Tracking Cuts at a Single School:

Some financial numbers are just too big to get your head around. The cutbacks in the San Diego school district certainly fall into that category: What does cutting $120 million — or whatever the final amount turns out to be — really mean? We’ve going to try to tell you by pulling away from the big picture to look at a small one: how a little school (Juarez Elementary in Serra Mesa) copes with cuts.

The 241-student school needs to take $125,000 out of its budget. It isn’t just a matter of crunching numbers. Jobs are at stake, potentially including that of an assistant who jotted down notes during a meeting yesterday. We’ll be following the school’s progress.

Investigation Looms:

A state agency will probe whether San Diego County Office of Education employee is illegally enriching her husband and herself. Education reporter Emily Alpert has been following this story for almost two years. As she put it in an earlier article:

“Michele Fort-Merrill, who oversees the agency’s human resources department, is married to William Merrill, a partner in Best, Best & Krieger, a San Diego law firm that frequently represents the county office. She has a financial interest in the firm of more than $100,000 annually through his income, according to state forms that disclose her economic interests.”

How Bad Was It, Exactly?

In the face of pending cutbacks and existing “brownouts,” the workload of the San Diego Fire Department is getting lots of attention these days. Last week, a deputy fire chief said the department’s calls spiked during days of heavy rain, jumping from 250 to 450. Is that true? San Diego Fact Check’s verdict: Barely. His numbers are off: the fire department actually responds to about 320 calls a day.

They Don’t Want You to Watch:

A few months ago, a comedian from Murrieta got pulled over by the CHP near Mission Bay. He ended up with a DUI arrest. A camera in the patrol car apparently captured the incident, but the city attorney’s office won’t let the video be released publicly, CityBeat reports, and it will be a stickler in the future too in similar cases.

Why? Because the chatter on the police radio may give away personal details like driver’s license numbers. But can’t someone edit out any private information?

Whatever the case, the whole issue of keeping the videos private seems headed to court.

‘Jeff & Jer’ Returning?

After being absent from the airwaves for about a year and a half, the morning radio team of “Jeff & Jer” (plus various sidekicks) are returning and will be on KYXY-FM/96.5 as of next month, reports. Their 2009 departure came during a period of shuffling when several highly rated (and highly paid) local radio personalities left the air; several of the others have since returned.

Maybe He Doesn’t Use the ‘Royal We’ Either:

As we told you in November, Rep. Darrell Issa talked to an online publication about his plans to go after the Obama Administration. The story referred to Issa’s odd habit of talking about himself in the third person.

Well, funny story: Issa did no such thing. The story’s author, well-known journalist Howard Kurtz, fessed up yesterday: he didn’t actually talk to Issa. In fact, Kurtz talked to Issa’s spokesman but wrongly thought the guy was Issa.

A Huffington Post writer provides a helpful guide to figuring out if you’re actually talking to the investigation-minded congressman: “If anyone from Darrell Issa’s office is on the phone with you, you may be getting subpoenaed for some reason. Take a second to ask yourself, ‘What have I done wrong?’ and ‘What high-level corruption am I a party to?’”

You could also ask yourself: does the voice sound like a car alarm saying “please step away from the car”? If so, that’s him. Seriously. Woop woop! Aoooogah!

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

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at and follow him on Twitter:

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