In an emotional meeting, a divided San Diego school board voted last night to send layoff warnings to more than 1,000 educators, nurses and other educators and eliminate jobs for more than 800 other employees.

The notices, which will go to one out of every eight educators, don’t guarantee that anyone will lose their jobs. But they give the district leeway to slash positions if an estimated $120 million deficit becomes reality.

“These layoffs are as unwarranted and divisive now as they were in 2008, 2009 and 2010,” a teachers union official told the board. “You know it. We know it.” But board members said their hands were tied.

“I don’t think this is right. I don’t think this is smart,” said school board President Richard Barrera. People in the audience shouted “Don’t do it!” and “Shame on you Richard!” But Barrera voted along with board members Jackson and John Lee Evans to warn the teachers and other employees of layoffs.

(You can relive last night’s board meeting through live-tweets posted by Emily Alpert to our @sdlivetweet Twitter account.)

Yesterday Emily answered frequently asked questions about the layoffs and explained how San Diego’s teacher salaries stack up to other districts in the county.

In general, teachers here make less in salary than their counterparts, but the district offers generous benefits. Really generous benefits: teachers pay no premiums on healthcare for themselves or their families, while an average California worker shells out more than $3,600 for a family.

Check out our chart, which compares San Diego teachers to others in the county. The maximum average in the county is $87,000, compared to $81,000 in the city, but city teachers get those plusher benefits.

Note the interesting comment from a retired administrator: He says San Diego schools boosted benefits because, as our story puts it, that’s “easier to sell politically than increasing salaries. The costs are less obvious to the public.”

Tsunami Warning

Tsunami warnings were issued for much of the Pacific coast of North and South America after a massive 8.9 earthquake struck Japan and caused horrifying loss of life and property, according to NBC San Diego and MSNBC. In San Diego, the result will likely be larger than usual waves, which may make familiar surf and swim spots unfamiliar, and therefore treacherous. NOAA says “currents may be hazardous to swimmers, boats, and coastal structures and may continue for several hours after the initial wave arrival.”

Hat, Meet Ring

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Nationally, the Republican race for presidential nominee in 2012 hasn’t even reached the starting gates, with not a single major candidate declaring a run. Locally, however, one Republican isn’t waiting around to declare her intentions in the race for San Diego mayor.

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis announced yesterday that she’ll run for the post, which will open up next year. We’ve called her the county’s most powerful politician, and she’ll surely be calling on influential allies who owe her favors (or might hope she’ll owe them some).

She isn’t going into detail about the city’s current financial mess for now. As for her friendly relationship with the current mayor, she’ll need to figure out how closely to ally herself with his policies and, by extension, his supporters.

Mouth, Meet Foot?

A mayoral spokesman found himself in a pickle when he decided to slam the man who leads a city task force and once again is warning of municipal doom.

“So Vince Mudd likes to question the courage of the mayor and city council,” the spokesman wrote in an online post. “It’s always nice to get a lesson in courage from a person who has made a career of selling office furniture.”

Not surprisingly, Mudd was not thrilled to hear about this below-the-belt jibe about his choice of business: “I don’t know what in the hell that has to do with anything.”

The spokesman said he removed the post at the mayor’s request. I’ll bet that was a request to remember.

A Very Good Year

A pension trade journal says the $5.2 billion San Diego city employee pension fund gained 15.6 percent in 2010. That’s not an unusual level of return: The S&P 500 (which is tracked by some index funds) gained almost as much last year — 15.06 percent — when dividends are included.

Reporter, Meet Pigs

San Diego Explained, our video series in partnership with NBC San Diego, takes a trip to a hog farm to show how the city ended up not charging many residents for trash collection.

You can read more about San Diego’s surprisingly fascinating history of garbage collection (and, occasionally, garbage non-collection) in my dispatch from last week.

A quick follow-up: I just took a look at the original 1919 ordinance which was passed overwhelmingly by voters. It does more than simply allow trash collection fees. It actually declares that “it shall be the duty” of city leaders to levy and collect a fee each year for the collection and disposal of refuse. City leaders didn’t bother to do that.

Green Does Not Mean Go

Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler weren’t on hand, but there were still plenty of judging, thrilled winners and crestfallen hopefuls at a Balboa Park museum. As Dani Dodge explains in a Guide from the Inside post, a judge chose paintings and sculptures that will appear in a regional show at SDAI: Museum of the Living Artist. A yellow sticker means yes, a green one means no. The artists get to watch the process if they wish, an unusual (and potentially devastating) opportunity to see a critique up close and very personal.

It’s Still Cheaper than Fancy Bottled Water

The Associated Press went national with a photo of a woman pumping gas at a station charging $4.32 a gallon for regular unleaded; last weekend, one survey found that San Diego had the highest gas prices in the nation (excluding perennial expensive spots Hawaii and Alaska).

It could be worse, as the AP notes: gas is more than $7.50 a gallon in much of Europe. But in OPEC nations, it’s generally under a buck.

Wait, I Thought I Was Getting a Snickers Bar!

CityBeat reports that two medical marijuana dispensaries have brought in something new: pot vending machines. They have touch screens and can be programmed to read fingerprints to prevent fraud. “It also makes things very discreet,” a collective manager says. “When you go into traditional dispensaries, there’s jars of stuff everywhere and you still have to buy the weed through a transaction that feels similar to the street.”

Talk about Nutty

A local mother is taking the manufacturer of Nutella to federal court, claiming that it inaccurately advertised the hazelnut spread as a nutritious food, the University of San Diego student newspaper reports. It’s actually “the next best thing to a candy bar,” the woman says in her lawsuit.

If she wins, I’m going to just have to find a way to sue Ben and Jerry. Twenty years’ worth of refunds, please!

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at and follow him on Twitter:

Randy Dotinga

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

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