Madison may have nothing on our city. Councilman Carl DeMaio wants to turn us into a version of the the nation’s hot spot for labor strife: “Are you ready to make San Diego the Wisconsin of the West?” he asked a crowd the other night, according to the conservative blog.

He’s not talking cows or breweries. DeMaio is itching to take on the city’s municipal unions to a greater extent than ever before. As Liam Dillon reports, there’s even talk among Republicans of turning their proposed pension-to-401(k) switchover into a national model.

In DeMaio’s world, meanwhile, there’s talk of something else: 401(k)s for cops, the one group of city employees that would be exempted from the pension switcheroo in the GOP’s proposed ballot measure. (Keep in mind that the measure would only affect new city workers.)

He told us this week that he thinks cops will eventually lose their pensions and get 401(k)s like everyone else. That is, of course, if the ballot measure passes and a future City Council decides to include police officers.

One voice remains to be heard in this whole debate: that of District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, a high-profile candidate for mayor. She’s Republican and would be expected to support the measure for that reason. But, as Scott Lewis notes, there are plenty of complications: She’s opposed 401(k) plans for public safety workers in the past, her political consultant has worked for a firefighter union (potentially dicey if Dumanis wants to pull pensions for new workers), and she has her own big pension of at least $216,000 a year.

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Lewis writes: “if she signs on to the plan to eliminate pensions for all city workers, she’ll join that awkward group of public employees arguing both that future employee pensions are unaffordable and that theirs are just fine. Don’t touch them!”

Taking On Sacramento

Shelia Jackson was among those school board members who voted last night to take back money from “redevelopment people” in order to stave off desperate cuts. San Diego Unified will try to use use more than $7 million in redevelopment money to help cancel some planned layoffs for teachers and counselors, a move that city redevelopment officials argue is illegal.

This vote comes as an already desperate school district waits to find out if it will face $55 million in new cuts on top of the roughly $120 million in cuts it has already planned for.

Those cuts are unthinkable to Jackson, who said that even if they are demanded by the state, San Diego Unified should refuse to make them.

“The state will not have enough balls to take over this district,” Jackson said. “You tell them I said it!”

The $100K+ Pension Club Has 487 Members

Nearly 500 former city workers make pensions of more than $100,000, DeMaio announced in a new report, the U-T says. One made more than $300,000 in 2010 alone.

In other City Hall news in the U-T, the City Council released suggestions about how to cut more than $30 million from the city budget, including savings from staff furlough days, reduced health benefits for management and fewer cell phones for city workers. As the U-T notes, council members have gotten criticized for not being leaders on budget issues.

We explore why the budget gap this year is different than in the past.

Cuckoo over Coconut Risk

In the first paragraph of a San Diego-focused story about pensions, financial journalist Roger Lowenstein wrote this about our city: “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.”

That made me wonder whether any palm trees are likely to drop a coconut on somebody’s unlucky head. Like, say, mine, for instance. Armed with my query, Adrian Florido took another look at the risks posed by palm trees for San Diego Fact Check. He’d earlier written about how budget cuts have hacked away at palm tree maintenance, putting people and property at higher risk from falling tree debris. The city’s paid out almost $200,000 for palm tree related damage since 2007.

It turns out there’s almost no chance of getting hit on the head by a falling coconut in San Diego. Coconut-bearing palm trees typically can’t survive in San Diego’s climate, which gets too nippy and too dry for their taste. (There is one at the zoo, though.) So the coconut claim is, well, a bit nutty.

The Past and Planned Parenthood

If you’re like me — if so, see a doctor if it lasts more than four hours — the only thing you prefer to remember about the year 2000 is your weight. (Oh, those were the days.) Now, local Democrats have something else you’d like to recall from that year: Rep. Brian Bilbray’s support of Planned Parenthood.

Back in 2000, the Republican Bilbray said he favored Planned Parenthood and its continued federal funding, CityBeat reports. Now he’s against the federal funding and wrote to a constituent that “it should not be the position of the federal government to fund abortions.”

A Bilbray spokesperson says the constituent message has errors and contends that the congressman is more concerned about the budget than abortion politics: “He doesn’t have a personal vendetta against Planned Parenthood, which seems to be permeating on the hill.”

No Shuttle for Us

Knock this one off your wish list: San Diego won’t get a used space shuttle of its very own, the Daily Transcript reports.

Da-da-da-da-da-daaaa! LAWSUIT!

You’ve heard the cheer that people sing at sports games that goes something like this: “Da-da-da-da-da-daaaa! CHARGE!” (Technically, I think it’s more like “Duh-duh-duh-DUH-duh-DUUUH,” but that’s just me. The NCT goes with “da da da DUM da da.”)

Now, a former San Diego Chargers musical director is suing the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, saying it licensed his song without permission (and without paying him).

The cheer, or chant, or “ditty” (as Yahoo Sports calls it) has been around since at least as early as 1978, which happens to be the year a different fellow told the Associated Press that he came up with the fanfare in 1946.

My Dial-a-Psychic Lady Totally Saw This Coming

A UCSD researcher and colleagues “have created a way to place a call on a cell phone using just your thoughts,” Technology Review reports. “Their new brain-computer interface is almost 100 percent accurate for most people after only a brief training period.”

Impressive! Now if they can just figure out how we can use only our brains to make a call and send a crucially important message to the person on the other end. Like, say, “hold the anchovies.”

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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