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He’s San Diego’s soul-surfer — The Drifter, the ambassador, a throwback to another age.

Former pro surfer Rob Machado sat down with us at his Cardiff-by-the-Sea home for this week’s Q&A, and this is how Will Carless describes the 37-year-old:

“With his trademark mane of curly, blond-streaked hair and his easy, relaxed manner, Machado gives the impression that he has somehow tripped and fallen into the world of modern commercial surfing. In a sport where athletes ride limousines to sip champagne at award ceremonies and collect $100,000 checks for spending a couple of hours surfing, Machado’s humble, environmental ethos would seem quaint, if it weren’t also so marketable.”

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The State’s Educator-in-Chief

He might not be a soul-surfer, but one local politico thinks he looks like a movie star: New state Schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson answered our questions when he came to town this week. He didn’t veer far from his talking points, but he talked about the best ideas around, the albatross of budget cuts and how to give kids better care with less money.

How to Hang

This is the first San Diego Museum of Art big European painting exhibit in recent years. And boy is it a production. Dani Dodge goes behind the scenes at the museum to see the painstaking, meticulous work it takes to unpack and hang some massive paintings.

Are Pensions Fair Game in Bankruptcy?

Buried in a New York Times story about allowing states to file for bankruptcy is this little nugget relevant to our own municipal problems: “Unfunded pensions become unsecured debts in municipal bankruptcy and may be reduced.”

We’ve tried to get to an answer on whether San Diego could attack its pension problem through bankruptcy and it’s been more than murky. We’re hoping to find out more on it and report back. Also, you might see a familiar name in that report: attorney Paul Maco. He did this to San Diego.

What We Learned This Week

1. Chula Vista Politics Are Really Weird: The Union-Tribune sums it up nicely: “Last week it allowed its commissioner to be sworn-in as vice chairman in front of key political players across the county at the annual Port luncheon and then hours later voted him off the commission without so much as a word of warning.”

2. It’s About Time Someone Proves Whether Downtown Redevelopment Is Legit: There’s a major question hanging over San Diego’s downtown redevelopment: Was it legitimately given two more decades to spruce up and subsidize development? Either the city agency or its consultant have some documents that could go a long way to answering that question, but they aren’t coughing them up.

3. Something’s Up with This School’s Grades: The Met’s students boast stellar grades. Their test scores, however, don’t match up, according to a VOSD analysis. This is raising questions at a time when the school has been accused of grade-changing and, as Emily Alpert reports, also rustles up an even bigger conundrum: What do grades mean?

4. Old Farmers Are Worried About Their Future Subdivisions: It’s a scene that’s familiar across the country: A long-time farmer decides to hang up his plow, but has no kin who want to take over the farm. So he sells the land off to be subdivided and developed for a pretty penny. That whole scenario could be a lot more difficult for farmers if the county’s new blueprint for growth goes through as planned, as it would limit growth in the backcountry.

5. The Possibility of an LA Football Stadium Got Really Real This Week: Two things often get overlooked in this nearly decade-long push for a new Chargers stadium: a) No other city has ever put together a credible push to lure the Chargers away and b) the Chargers have never put together a complete proposal for either voters or politicians to say yes or no to.

Those dynamics shifted a bit this week when a billionaire entertainment magnate got Los Angeles to move fast on his idea of a downtown stadium.

Home Brews (Some finely crafted local concoctions to help you enjoy your weekend)

Music on the Brain: We’ve had a lot of fun exploring the nexus between science and art. Over the last week, arts editor Kelly Bennett has found a new thread for that conversation: An ongoing discussion about “beat.” It’s more than just music. It underlines how we walk. And talk. And local scientists are exploring how beat (and music) work in the brain.

Thousands of photographs have been sitting unseen in the San Diego History Center’s collection for close to 20 years. Now, the images of black community life in the Logan Heights neighborhood taken by commercial photographer Norman Baynard from the 1940s to the 1970s are getting to see the light of day. The History Center’s trying to figure out: Just who’s in all of these photos? Kelly visited the center with our media partners from NBC 7/39 and shared the story on Friday afternoon’s newscast.

The Buck Stops at Juarez: San Diego Unified is doing something unique this year: It’s letting individual schools make big-picture budget decisions.

Sounds like great autonomy until you realize that this is the hardest year in recent memory to actually be making those decisions. Emily Alpert has been spending a lot of time at Serra Mesa’s Juarez Elementary to illustrate how this is playing out. What she’s found: Sadness.

School employees know exactly who (Stephanie French and Nicole Bell) will go if teacher jobs get cut. Stress like that has turned Juarez into a pressure cooker.

Number of the Week


— The number of photographs of black life in Logan Heights taken between the 1940s and 1970s that the San Diego History Center was given almost 20 years ago and has begun to catalogue.

Quote of the Week

“Proposition 22 said we can’t rob redevelopment agencies anymore, but now the state is saying it is OK to rob them if we kill them first. They actually think murder is a loophole for larceny.”

— Redevelopment attorney Murray Kane, on the governor’s attempt to shut down redevelopment statewide, in the Los Angeles Times.

Bonus history quote: An addendum since it was Martin Luther King Jr. Day this week.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

— Martin Luther King, Jr.

You can reach me at or 619.325.0526. Follow me on Twitter: @AndrewDonohue.

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