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The mayor’s former chief of staff, one of the most powerful people in City Hall, rarely said a word to the press. Now, Kris Michell is out and Julie Dubick is in. And she’s willing to talk.

In an interview, Dubick talks about the football stadium debate, women in the world of law and the idea that she scares people. (“Good,” she says. Wow. I like her already.)

Dubick also shows why she’s a company woman with a few words about her lame-duck boss, noting that “he is such a likeable person, and genuine man, he is very popular and he remains very popular. We have a natural ingredient in there. Then the second one is that he’s a natural leader. If you keep leading, you keep him relevant as long as possible.”


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Give that woman a raise.

Pay for Us Please:

Six former city pension officials who were cleared of criminal charges want the city to pay $6 million in legal fees. The city already paid $2 million in legal fees in civil cases. (Watchdog Institute)

No Strike After All:

National City teachers went to work Friday after opposing sides reached a late-night tentative strike-averting settlement.

Here and Gone and Here Again:

For a few months in the early 1950s, San Diego fluoridated its water supply. Then it stopped and didn’t begin again until this week.

What happened? How did San Diego become the nation’s largest city (and one of only a handful of the 50 largest cities) without fluoridation? What made fluoride OK for toothpaste but not for tap water? It’s a story of fear and legal battles and fluoride-unfriendly voters.

Contrary to what you may have heard, the fluoride debate wasn’t based entirely on paranoia about Communist plots. That did play a role, though, and was famously mocked in 1964’s “Dr. Strangelove”: “A foreign substance is introduced into our precious bodily fluids without the knowledge of the individual. Certainly without any choice. That’s the way your hard-core Commie works,” declares a crazed general in the film.

The fluoride wars aren’t over. A professor tells me that the debate is heating up amid breaks in the ranks of pro-fluoride dentists and the overall decline in tooth decay (and not just in fluoridated places). And now, the feds are telling communities to be careful of over-fluoridating their water.

How Soon They Forget:

Yesterday, the Morning Report linked to a report comparing city councils in 15 big American cities, including San Diego. It turns out that the report has a big error: it incorrectly says that no City Council members have been indicted or convicted in San Diego over the past 10 years.

That’s a whopper. As City Hall reporter Liam Dillon told me, in 2003, federal prosecutors indicted three sitting councilmen — Ralph Inzunza, Charles Lewis and Michael Zucchet — charging them with collecting campaign contributions in return for changing regulations at strip clubs. Lewis died while under facing charges and Inzunza and Zucchet were convicted in 2005. (Zucchet’s conviction was thrown out and he’s now the head of the city’s white-collar union. Inzunza’s case remains on appeal.)

The convictions were a central part of San Diego’s political turmoil in the last decade. Inzunza and Zucchet were convicted only days after former Mayor Dick Murphy resigned amid the pension scandal, leading to a surreal day when no one knew who was running the city, or could even lead a simple City Council meeting. (I was thinking of this a couple weeks ago when Tunisia went through a revolving door of rulers.)

The new report, issued by Pew Charitable Trusts, is also raising hackles in Detroit, where city officials are calling it misleading.

More than Football:

Arts editor Kelly Bennett rounds up this weekend’s events in the art world, including a Vietnamese New Year celebration, the beginning of San Diego Museum Month and a concert of contrasts.

She also points us to a new musical based on the hit film “Little Miss Sunshine,” which is being worked on at the La Jolla Playhouse. The playbill includes some Broadway heavy-hitters. Kelly stopped by a rehearsal this week with our news partners at NBC 7/39, and aired a sneak peek of the musical in Behind the Scene TV on Friday.

What the Rain Left Behind:

December’s rains caused an estimated $40 million worth of damage in the county, a local official says. The feds are offering low-interest loans to pay for repairs.

OK, sure. But thanks to the moist air, everyone got to be naturally moisturized for a few weeks. That must have saved millions in La Jolla alone.

•••

What We Learned This Week:

Caught in the Act: Emails and reporting show that a downtown redevelopment official fudged the truth during a showdown at a City Council meeting over what we’ve called the “porkfest” — the secret, late-night legislative deal that will allow downtown to get billions in tax revenue.

A Big Win for Walmart: Never mind that virtual ban on super-duper big-box stores in the city. It’s history.

CityBeat notices that Walmart recently made contributions to charities close to several City Council members. The paper says it’s not alleging influence-peddling. “However, we cannot help but note that the donations were made with campaign funds, while Walmart has other vehicles for philanthropy… the fact remains the donations went to these groups specifically rather than other worthy non-profit organizations.”

Chargers Departure Inches Ever So Closer: Not one but two football stadiums are in the works in Los Angeles, and one now has a big naming deal, suggesting that it’s well on the road to reality.

Our editor Andrew Donohue put it all into perspective: “If Gov. Jerry Brown succeeds in killing redevelopment, another San Diego stadium plan will be trashed. And, after a decade of searching here, that Los Angeles project would have to look pretty good. So good, in fact, that the competition might just shift from who can build the Chargers a stadium to which team can get to Los Angeles the soonest.”

Not a Good Time for Crime: San Diego’s crime rate is at the lowest level since 1963. We take a closer look at the numbers.

Is This Any Time to Gamble? San Diego schools are considering a way to avoid the annual “pink-slip blizzard” of possible-pending-layoff notices: they might bet that voters will approve the governor’s tax-hike plans. But if the plans fail, the district will be left in the lurch. Our commenters debated the idea with one offering his own budget-cutting proposal.

•••

The Coffee Collection (engaging stories to savor of a cup of joe)

No Bus for You: How did Caltrans manage to neglect an entire community of 100,000 people in southeastern San Diego when it made plans for an express bus route?

Little Schools, Big Fuss: Teeny schools cost more on a per-student basis due to economy-of-scale issues. So are they worth it? With budget cuts looming, San Diego schools are trying to avoid setting off fireworks by eyeing them as fodder for trimming. But they may not have a choice.

•••

Quote of the Week: “If you’re tired, it’s dangerous to keep working with a chainsaw.” — Alison Saar, a sculptor-in-residence at Lux Art Institute in Encinitas.

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com...

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