When school district budgets begin to dwindle, bean-counters turn their eyes to employees who don’t teach, such as school nurses. Now, as the district tries to hack away $120 million in expenses, 40 of about 140 nurses could be warned this week that their jobs are on the line.

Emily Alpert wanted to better understand what school nurses do so she visited La Jolla Elementary, where the two-day-a-week on-site school nurse position is in jeopardy. Lesser-trained workers may try to fill in — they can patch up scrapes and help diabetic kids count carbohydrates — but nurses and parents believe the district is missing the bigger picture. Nurses, they say, detect health problems before they become nightmares.

Meter Cha-Ching

The mayor, with input from neighborhood advisory groups, now has the power to end some free parking and raise rates at metered spots throughout the city. Meter fees could be allowed from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day (even Sundays and holidays) at up to $2.50 an hour, depending how in-demand a spot is. (U-T)

Is Downtown Rundown or Not?

Verdict: inconclusive. That’s our finding after our analysis of the downtown redevelopment agency’s aborted efforts to examine whether the city’s core is blighted.

Downtown’s downtroddenness is — make that was — a huge issue in the agency’s bid to continue taking a major chunk of property tax proceeds to improve downtown. The state legislature bypassed the need for a determination, and then the governor proposed to eliminate redevelopment entirely.

As for the public records that we pushed to get, “the data doesn’t provide any clarity on the still-open question of the legitimacy of the late-night state legislation,” Liam Dillon writes. “Nor does it explain why Keyser Marston’s preliminary study concluded downtown remained blighted if not enough work was done.”

A Boss from Afar?

Earlier, the county pension fund sought to bypass county limits on salaries and found a way to hire a key consultant. Now, the U-T has found another possible example of the fund’s unusual approach to doing business: “San Diego County rules prohibit outside contractors from supervising public employees, but a pension board consultant appears to be trying to do just that.” However, the pension board chairman says the consultant is not directly bossing around the staff.

Grow, Baby, Grow

New census figures are out, and they show that San Diego County’s population grew by 10 percent from 2000 to 2010. It’s now close to 3.1 million. Not too shabby, but the folks to the north of us have more to brag about (if bragging is the right thing to do) about population growth: Riverside County’s population skyrocketed by 41 percent. To the east, Imperial County is home to fewer than 175,000 people.

As for our other neighbors, Orange County has fewer people than us — it’s at just over 3 million — but not by much.

The Union-Tribune also has an in-depth look at the census data and profiles of some of the people who represent that change. Its San Diego Red sister site emphasizes that the county’s Latin population grew 32%.

Are you a number cruncher? We’ve got details on how you can download the census data yourself, or just check out this nifty interactive map.

When Trash-to-Trough Prompted a Rebellion

When you take out your trash from your San Diego home this week, chances are good that you aren’t paying a fee for someone to pick it up. How’d it get this way? In the latest History Man dispatch, I explain what hog farms and city elections in 1919 and the 1980s have to do with it.

I also write about how early San Diegans got rid of trash, dead animals and other really yucky things. They dumped them in the ocean (yikes) or, in some cases, in empty yards or on downtown streets, creating “cesspools of fever-germs.”

Board Member Told to Stay Away from Board

The peculiar politics of the hospital district that serves the Oceanside-Vista-Carlsbad area are getting even more bizarre. As the NCT reports, the district (which runs Tri-City Medical Center) has gotten a temporary restraining order against one of its own board members. She can’t attend board meetings except via phone and can’t go inside the hospital unless she needs emergency care. The district is also suing her over an alleged dustup with hospital security.

These Numbers Stink

A U-T letter writer says other beaches were closed more than Imperial Beach last year. (Local beaches are often shut down when sewage spills.) San Diego Fact Check finds that the claim is false: only one beach was closed more often in 2010, the one between Imperial Beach and the border.

‘Tainted’ Zoning, Fire Dept. vs. Fire Dept.

The latest edition of Voices, our commentary roundup, finds opinion-slinging about school reform, rookie teachers, the county’s zoning overhaul and a tale of two fire departments, one of which spends twice as much on health benefits as the other.

‘Tootsie Bandit’ Rolls Over

A 56-year-old man has pleaded guilty to being the “Tootsie Bandit,” a local bank robber who wore women’s clothing like the lead character in the 1982 movie. He’ll go to prison for a maximum of about eight years.

Thank goodness that’s over. I got worried looks at the bank the last time I celebrated Dress Up Like a Famous Dustin Hoffman Role Day.

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

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga

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