San Diego district officials keep pushing their smallest public schools away from the budget ax, but they’re still nearer to it than many parents and teachers would like. As education reporter Emily Alpert puts it, closing the little schools is “poisonously unpopular.”

And that’s not all: shutting down teeny campuses could backfire if miffed parents decide to dump the district entirely by enrolling kids in private schools, say, or charter schools.

But small schools cost more, per pupil, than big ones, making them a perennial target. We check out the scene at a school in Clairemont that costs the most to run on a per-pupil basis.

Grin and Bear It:

The city is finally starting to fluoridate its water today after a brief delay. Coronado, Del Mar and Imperial Beach will get fluoridated water, too, thanks to the city.

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The U-T discovered the fluoridation delay last month came after a senior supervisor warned the city was moving too fast to work out safety issues for workers. A compound used in the fluoridation process is “is every bit as hazardous [if not more] to employee safety as chlorine or ammonia … yet we have done no planning whatsoever on process hazard assessment, job safety analysis, or emergency response,” the supervisor wrote.

As the safety concerns suggest, fluoride can be a pesky little substance, and not only in the minds of critics — often mocked as crackpots — who oppose fluoridation. While it is a boon to human dental health, consuming too much can make teeth brown and consuming enormous quantities can be dangerous. (That’s why you’re not supposed to eat toothpaste.) Next month, research will be presented at a dental conference here suggesting that some fruit juice for babies is too high in fluoride and may damage teeth.

‘I Probably Wouldn’t Pass a Background Check’:

A gun show headed to Del Mar later this month got some bad publicity recently: investigators hired by the New York City mayor’s office found that they were able to buy guns at the show even though they didn’t pass background checks and helpfully declared that they “probably wouldn’t pass a background check.”

Better but Very Far from Best:

San Diego County still has the worst rating in the country among 22 urban areas when it comes to how many eligible people enroll for food stamps. Only 40 percent of those eligible took part in the program in 2008, according to a new report, but it is up from 35 percent in 2007.

A year ago, our Out of Reach special investigative report revealed that the county government’s historical resistance to providing help for the needy has left a gap between social welfare programs and eligible residents that is starker in San Diego than in any other major California county.

Refunds on the Way?

As we reported earlier, the city had no immediate plans to send refunds to people who owned property in downtown and were overcharged for special services like security officers on Segways. Now, it sounds like a city official is ready to ask the City Council to approve refunds going back to 2005.

How’d the mess happen in the first place? A city official says an independent engineering firm screwed up some number crunching.

As for those security folks tooling around on Segways: How do they find the energy to focus on their duties? I’d be too busy trying to figure out if I looked cool or dorky (or both).

Local Advance in Fight Against Destructive Disease:

UCSD researchers say they’ve made an advance in their understanding of the genetics of strange disease — named in part after a UCSD pediatrician — that makes kids turn violent against themselves and others. I interviewed the namesake of Lesch-Nyhan syndrome about the disorder in 2008. As I wrote, “Dr. William Nyhan’s young patients have slugged him, kicked him and thrown his eyeglasses across the room. But they mean him no harm: Defective genes rob them of control over their bodies, causing them to chew on themselves and hurt others.”

Many victims of the disease have short and violent lives. The condition is largely untreatable.

A Beginning and an End:

A new exhibit has opened at the San Diego Museum of Art, and that means our six-part “A Hanging at the Museum” series is finished. Arts blogger Dani Dodge chronicled the long process of getting the walls and floors ready for new paintings and more. We’ve complied a handy list of links to all the posts.

Less of a Drip:

Hey old-timers: Remember the drought and water restrictions of 20 years ago? Mayor Maureen O’Connor — “Mayor Mo” — refused to let the city go along with strict water regulations and got scoffed at by righteous conservation types. Then along came the deluge of “Miracle March” in 1991. “Heavenly intervention is where she’s one up on me. … If she pulls off one more miracle, I’m going to convert to Catholicism,” a former city manager told the LAT.

She may not have anything to do with it, but there’s been another miracle: the city, as San Diego Fact Check revealed last week, has reduced its use of drinkable water by 18 percent over the past 20 years even though its population has gone way up. Fact Check TV recaps this truthful claim and notes that a cheery claim about affordable housing downtown is false.

He’s Just Not Swinging Like He Used To:

The Washington Post checks the golf tournament at Torrey Pines and notes the obvious (Tiger Woods is getting older) and the maybe-not-quite-so-obvious (he’s losing his sense of ease): “The Natural didn’t look so natural anymore, compared to all those loose, sweet-swinging kids. He looked awkward. He looked confused. He looked like the game has gotten hard for him, and it’s not going to get easier any time soon.”

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

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