Mayor Jerry Sanders gave this message to arts boosters yesterday: he’s on your side. And then he gave them some news they could actually use: the city won’t cut its funding for arts organizations — $6.4 million last year — that comes from hotel room taxes.

“No city can be a great city without a thriving arts and culture community,” he told a crowd at Balboa Park. A new city report, meanwhile, says the investment more than pays for itself.

At the same time, the mayor has proposed cuts to a different program that funds public art. No cuts here but cuts there: What’s the difference? “It’s a balancing act,” he tells us, adding that the public art cutbacks are “a gesture” considering that the city’s not in a building mode — one that would create a need for new public art — at the moment.

No Big Severance for Ousted Chief

Carolyn Y. Smith, the local redevelopment director who was ousted amid a scandal over clandestine bonuses, won’t get a hefty severance payment after all. A settlement means Smith, who formerly ran the redevelopment agency in southeastern San Diego, won’t get a $100,350 severance she was initially offered, nor will she get extra money from her retirement account. However, she will get reimbursed for $23,000 in legal fees she incurred while working at the agency.

Mission Valley’s Empty Feeling

Mission Valley’s housing boom (and its traffic boom, which you’ve seen if you’ve ever tried to go to Costco) continues. But there’s a funny thing about all the homes by the river: lots of them are empty. The census says 12 percent of them in the neighborhood’s core are vacant. Analysts, consultants and developers think the numbers are off because the Census doesn’t count vacancies the same way they do.

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Fix Yourself or Else

Two charter schools are on notice: the San Diego school district seems ready to shut them down unless they shape up. Promise Charter in the Chollas View neighborhood and Tubman Village Charter School in the College Area have been under investigation, and it sounds like the district officials have reached a can’t-take-it-any-more point regarding several accusations.

What’s that River in Egypt Called Again?

A legal firm is ending its representation of disgraced and imprisoned ex-Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham (or Randall Harold Cunningham, as a U-T columnist insists on calling him), CityBeat reports. An attorney says there’s been a “breakdown in communication.”

Cunningham recently sent a letter to a judge and the media saying, among other things, that his plea was “90 to 95% untrue,” adding: “I manned up to my errors in judgment, but I have also endured affliction for things I did not do, like other innocent souls, but somehow we carry on, believing as we must that truth will ultimately prevail with those who know our hearts.”

The letter did not come with a violin soundtrack.

CityBeat contacted a reporter who won a Pulitzer for uncovering Cunningham’s bribery to ask what he thinks. “After all this time in prison, Cunningham still sees himself as a hero and patriot brought down by the deviousness of inferior people,” reporter Marcus Stern said. “No surprise, I guess. He’ll carry that denial into the wild blue yonder, no doubt.”

Wonk the Morning Away

Join us bright and early on April 19 for the next forum in our “Wonks Unite!” series. A panel of experts will pore over new census data and examine the ongoing transformation of San Diego: How will having more minorities change the political power structure? Will more minorities be elected and push other minorities out of office? Where are the city’s new centers of power? And are we entering a permanent era of slower population growth?

Trains, Bikes and Automobiles

The San Diego Explained crew hits the streets — and even takes the bus — to explain the region’s $110 billion plan to improve transportation over the next four decades. That will all be moot, of course, if inventors develop the instant transport device that I just made up in my mind. Somebody get on that pronto, will ya?

Housing Market’s Good News, Kinda

“San Diego’s housing market is not exactly going strong, but it’s faring better than almost everywhere else,” writes Rich Toscano, who heads into his own transport device, a time machine — you can get just about anything on Amazon these days — and examines home price statistics from November, December and January. Toscano offers four charts and analyzes the Case-Shiller index, which is always a few months behind but offers a fuller picture of what’s going on. We’ve also got a new list of links to previous Toscano columns that will help you catch up on how he thinks. Or as he more grandiloquently puts it, his “longstanding analytical themes.”

Maybe It’s Where the Servants Get Their Pot

A medical marijuana dispensary in Del Mar, of all places, is refusing to shut down even thought the tiny city told it to scram by denying a business license, the U-T reports. The mayor says Del Mar “doesn’t strike me as a community that’s full of potential customers.”

Public Service Announcement

There is a band called Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. I just thought you should know. It was scheduled to perform at a show here last night, as part of its farewell tour. The band is breaking up.

So’s Your Mother

A Harvard professor has discovered that “modern members of Congress spend about 27 percent of the time just taunting each other,” the Washington Post reports. He bases his conclusions on the content of press releases and notes that representatives in the safest districts get on each other’s cases the most.

How do San Diego politicians stack up on the taunt-o-meter? Drop me a line with your perspective. I’d like to develop a “longstanding analytical theme,” if you know what I mean. (I sure don’t.)

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 and follow him on Twitter:

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