Ahmed Abdille understands the challenges facing Somali children who have moved to San Diego: he’s an immigrant from Somalia himself, a former linguistics lecturer who fled the violence two decades ago. Now he’s a translator for San Diego schools, serving as a bridge between teachers, students and parents.

Abdille has challenges of his own: translating technology terms, explaining bureaucratic procedures and convincing parents to become active in their children’s lives when things were done differently back home, he tells us in this week’s Q&A. Budget cuts may cut Abdille’s hours in half, and that would be enough to push him away: “There is no point in me staying in the district.” As it is now, he said, his calendar is packed, and children who need him aren’t able to communicate most of the time.

White vs. White

If you look at the racial makeup of National City, most people are white, black or Asian. But by ethnicity, most are Hispanic. Huh? It’s true. As Keegan Kyle explains, the census folks define race (biological features such as skin color) differently than ethnicity (heritage).

Behind the Freakout

Emily Alpert explores why the school district is so upset — it’s warning of even deeper cuts than planned — about losing tax income that it hadn’t banked on in the first place.

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Behind the Fury over Pensions

San Diego is “a revealing case study” of how pensions became “Public Enemy No. 1,” writes Roger Lowenstein in Bloomberg BusinessWeek. He’s the author of “While America Aged: How Pension Debts Ruined General Motors, Stopped the NYC Subways, Bankrupted San Diego, and Loom as the Next Financial Crisis.” (No, he’s probably not paid by the word for the subtitles of his books.)

In his new piece, he argues that there are good reasons to support public pensions despite what money woes have done to our quality of life. Perhaps taking a page from our coverage, he notes that “because trimming of the city’s 30,000 palm trees has been reduced, pedestrians face more risk of being knocked silly by a falling coconut.” (Do any palm trees in San Diego actually have coconuts? We’re finding out. For now, heads up!)

For more perspective on this piece, check our compilation of opinions.

Two Dogs and Lots of Yak Hair

We’ve got the numbers for San Diego Opera’s “Der Rosenkavalier,” the second production of its four-opera season.

Your Plane Here

Aerial shots of a runway at Lindbergh Field and a lush, dark Los Peñasquitos Marsh in Torrey Pines State Reserve mark the last photos in our series of pictures from above.

Also in images, we check out what’s on the walls of the local design and branding firm MiresBall, including a work by graffiti artist Shepard Fairey, a painted guitar and elk antlers from the 1800s.

He Sings for Your Supper

A 52-year-old Amtrak cafe worker sings to travelers on the train that travels from San Diego to San Luis Obispo, AOL Travel News reports, offering everything from California’s state song (bonus points if you know what it is) to ditties about menu items. “Most people like me, I guess,” he says. “The conductors seem to like my singing. Some people tell me they really enjoyed it.”

What I’d really enjoy would be for him to distract me from buying one of those trashily delicious and gut-busting Amtrak cheeseburgers.


What We’ve Learned This Week:

Up in Smoke: In a giant blow to people who use and sell medical marijuana, the City Council imposed strict new rules on pot shops that may end up keeping them out of the city limits for a year and cost them tens of thousands if they want to return to business. There’s some talk, however, that the city may not make it quite that tough for them to exist.

So how many medi-pot users are there? On a Saturday afternoon a few weeks ago, I visited the Hillcrest office of a doctor who provides medi-pot recommendations and renewals. (No, I wasn’t there to get one.) The clerk said 40-50 people had been there already that day.

Is This Thing On?: A surprising group is weighing in about the city’s budget problems: the City Council. In the past, only one council member — Carl DeMaio — has tried to take a stand on budget issues, but now others are floating their own plans.

Members Only: A bunch of city and community leaders are privately negotiating over a possible ballot measure to resolve the city’s giant pension problems, but plenty of major players — including almost all members of the City Council — aren’t part of the discussions.

Good News, for Once, for Some Teachers: The San Diego school board changed its direction and rescinded pink slips for hundreds of teachers, but hundreds more are still facing the loss of their jobs. The board wasn’t willing to find funding for teachers by going after redevelopment money, a potentially dicey move.

Speaking of redevelopment, you can now listen to the audio of our redevelopment forum this week.


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

How a Neighborhood Fell: Southeastern San Diego is full of empty storefronts, reminding residents how things used to be before the supermarkets and shops left town. We explore how things got to this point as a modern era of change — with new stores and a more diverse community — begins to set in.

Incoming! Other neighborhoods are seeing ethnic shifts, but not in the way you might expect. Sherman Heights, a neighborhood near Petco Park, is actually seeing an uptick in its white population, and it may be losing some of its traditional Latino flavor. We check in on the changes, which include restorations of Craftsman and Victorian homes.

Click If You’re ‘Here’: Kids are taking classes online, which is fine in theory, but it creates a conundrum for schools: how do you make sure that schoolchildren aren’t playing hooky? Local campuses are trying to figure it out while critics bash a system that only pays schools when kids show up.

Integration vs. Segregation San Diego schools are supposed to be bringing students of various races together by encouraging school choice, but that actually may be making things worse by bringing more segregation to poorer schools. What if every student just went to the school down the street or around the block?


Quote of the Week: “If you get a leg, you get an arm, a moose head, something like that, give us a call.” — Sgt. Christina Bavencoff of the Ramona Sheriff’s Substation, speaking to the North County Times about a rash of statue thefts.


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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