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Last year, when a task force appointed by San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders listened to hours of reports about why the city needed to drastically expand the Convention Center, the cost of the expansion was pegged at $750 million — the resulting bond payment could cost $50-$60 million a year.

But now, one official after another refuse to talk price. They say that earlier estimate is no longer feasible. And, as Liam Dillon explains, the new cost of the project may depend on how much money they decide is available for it.

The mayor assigned former Port maven Steve Cushman to be his special liaison for the project and it has been Cushman’s job to find out how much hotels, restaurants, the port and the city would be willing to put into it. Dillon points out something else: How much the businesses are willing to put into is a good way to find out how much the expansion is worth.

One potential source of money, of course, is redevelopment, which is also being eyed to fund dozens of other building projects the mayor and his allies say are vital, including a new stadium, a new City Hall and more.

• Such spending on construction efforts, however, depends on redevelopment continuing as is and being expanded downtown. And that’s not going to happen if the new governor has his way. He’s planned to eliminate redevelopment and the Union-Tribune surveyed the county to catalogue all of the redevelopment projects in the county and the arguments to keep them going or shut them down.

Minimum Wage Teachers

The reason the governor wants to shut down redevelopment is that the state is required to back fill the money redevelopment sucks away from schools. Schools would get their traditional cut of property taxes and the state’s required annual funding if the governor got his way (PDF — Page 168-173).

• But for now, schools across the state are struggling with nauseating imbalances and IOUs.

One of the arguments in support of charter schools is their flexibility to work with teachers when tough decisions need to be made. And at the San Diego Global Vision Academy, they are testing the limits of that flexibility.

The school is waiting for money it’s owed from the state and, as it waits, rather than cut programs, its teachers have agreed to work for only about half of the $44,000 salaries they expected. “Teachers say they were willing to sacrifice because they knew exactly what was at stake, what the numbers were, and because the CEO is there alongside them, taking the same paycheck,” writes Emily Alpert.

Yum!

We’ve seen a lot of indications of how the region’s major daily newspaper has changed in the last few years. But nothing illustrates how much things have changed as an editorial Sunday.

In 2006, the U-T’s opinion page ran a column from its editorial board with a simple headline: “Yuck!”

“Your golden retriever may drink out of the toilet with no ill effects. But that doesn’t mean humans should do the same,” wrote the paper. And so began a classic U-T editorial of the past, a bit of sophisticated argument mixed with haughty derision for people who disagree. The point: Recycling wastewater into potable tap water was neither fiscally prudent nor a good idea for our bodies.

Sunday, the paper had a new tone: “Similar efforts in years past were dubbed by critics, including this editorial page, as “toilet-to-tap” technology. But this editorial board has come to accept the latest science — and real-life experience — that says this water would likely be the purest and safest water in the system.”

Science might have had something to do with it. But new ownership at the paper and new leadership in its opinion department probably had a bit more.

If you’d like answers to common questions about water recycling, you can always turn to this explainer from Rob Davis.

Kudos to them. The project still faces significant hurdles and it will have to prove its worth it as this region struggles to secure a sustainable future. But changing your mind is hard and it was nice to see a major institution in town do it with confidence and humility.

A San Diego Spy Network

I know a bit about how hard it is to fund and pull together good reporting on San Diego City Hall. But imagine trying to report on international security issues using a network of spies?

That’s what a San Diego man apparently does while lounging next to his pool. The New York Times profiled Duane R. Clarridge, who uses private donations to fund his international intelligence effort.

His reports have been used by the military for armed strikes but his effort “also shows how the outsourcing of military and intelligence operations has spawned legally murky clandestine operations that can be at cross-purposes with America’s foreign policy goals,” writes the Times.

A Tagger Goes Big

You may remember a story last year about a prolific graffiti artist in Imperial Beach who had been held responsible for more than 200 acts of vandalism and went to jail.

The Union Tribune has a fascinating update about his transition from felon to featured artist.

“Now his art is selling for more than $400 apiece and is showing at venues such as the TapRoom in Pacific Beach and the Machine Shop Gallery in East Village,” writes the U-T’s Wendy Fry.

VOSD on the Radio

Every week, we host a radio show on AM 600 KOGO. It runs every Saturday at 7 a.m. but we’re hearing from more and more folks who just sign up for the podcast, which posts usually Friday. This week, with my colleague Andrew Donohue holed up on a project, I invited Port Commission Chairman Scott Peters to co-host.

Each week we talk about the week in San Diego public affairs, offer a couple of fact checks and our weekly Hero and Goat.

Peters and I have disagreed pretty regularly since 2005 but he was a good co-host. I cringed a bit when I let him pick the Hero of the Week (City Councilman Kevin Faulconer, who I have no problem with but Peters’ reason was that he was finally being a champion for downtown redevelopment, which I’ve criticized just a bit). You can download the show here or sign up for the podcast feed here (XML).

You can contact me directly at scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0527 and follow me on Twitter (it’s a blast!): twitter.com/vosdscott.

Scott Lewis

Scott Lewis oversees Voice of San Diego’s operations, website and daily functions as Editor in Chief. He also writes about local politics, where he frequently...

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