Bill Craig, a 56-year-old city surveyor, may fall right through the city’s “donut hole” when he gets around to retiring.

He’s one of about 1,300 longtime municipal employees who might lose their retiree health insurance benefits. Some will be ineligible for Medicare because they couldn’t pay into it, potentially putting them in a pickle unless they have money saved, get another job or dip into their pensions.

That latter prospect is just fine with one councilman. And his vision may be technically possible: retiree benefits aren’t as protected as pensions are, and the city might go after them.

For now, it’s all up in the air during labor negotiations, but it doesn’t seem like the retirees will lose everything insurance-wise. “The city and its unions are expected either to reach agreement or break a deadlock by the end of the month,” Liam Dillon reports. “Both sides say they’re taking employees’ Medicare eligibility and nearness to retirement into account during talks.”

Time to Crack the Whip

You’re in charge of our City Hall reporter today: he’s accepting assignments from readers with any questions they have about San Diego’s budget.

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Our post about Dillon’s gig as our People’s Reporter includes a big photo of him looking very illustrious and hard-working. Don’t worry: since it was taken, he informs me that he’s finally done something with his hair. Other than lose it, that is. (A few of our other male staffers take up the slack in that department.)

Speaking of the budget, the U-T notes that councilmembers aren’t thrilled that the city pays what seems to work out to $555 an hour to the organist who plays at Balboa Park.

Prison for Inzunza?

Jailhouse threads could be in the future for a disgraced former politician. “Federal prosecutors want a judge to send former San Diego City Councilman Ralph Inzunza off to prison, six years after he was convicted of extortion, fraud and conspiracy,” the U-T reports. Check out our 2007 story for details on his long road to justice.

Emerald Proposes Big Redevelopment Redo

Councilwoman Marti Emerald is proposing big changes to the city’s approach to redevelopment, saying they’re designed to give a big boost to spending on affordable housing and focusing on new buildings that create permanent jobs.

Counting Those Who Died in Line of Duty

In a radio interview, the city firefighter union chief opposed a switch from pensions to 401(k)s for firefighters and said 36 of them have died on duty in the past. That number is actually debatable since there are different definitions.

Grocery Strike Looms

Local residents who’ve been here for a while surely remember the giant grocery strike of 2003-2004, when they had to figure out whether they were willing cross picket lines. The stores lost an estimated $1.5 billion in sales over 141 days. Now, a big grocery union has authorized a strike, the AP reports. There’s no date for it, though, and stores will get 72 hours notice.

Lights Before Action

Our series about the preparations for the San Diego Opera’s next production follows the lighting crew as it gets ready. Among other things, the crew looks for inappropriately glinting metal and figures out exactly how much shadow should go across a giant crucifix. You’ll also learn what a “light walker” does. And make sure to check out our brief post about the production’s head carpenter.

Eyesore Alert

San Diego Explained looks at the future of the South Bay Power Plant, one ugly eyesore on the bayfront.

Point Loma Nazarene’s Fuss Over Gay Student

The New York Times notes that gay students have sparked “battles for acceptance” at Christian colleges around the country. Earlier this month, a Point Loma Nazarene University student said he’d step down from his position in the student leadership after making waves by disclosing he’s gay, the school newspaper Point Weekly reported. In an email to students, faculty and staff, the university’s president said the church believes “a homosexual lifestyle is contrary to the Scriptures.” The student served as spiritual life director at the school.

Last month, a local Nazarene church banned a gay discussion group from meeting on its grounds, making for an eye-grabbing headline: “All God’s Children disinvited from San Diego First Church.”

A Whale of a Mess

The story about health benefits above includes a city surveyor’s memories of weird things ending up in the city landfill, including big old yachts and even the carcasses of beached whales. As a public service, we followed up with a video of a dead whale being dumped at the Miramar Landfill, plus a classic video of a whale in Oregon being creatively disposed.

By the way, this post was initially headlined “Giant Whale Dump,” but an editor came to his senses. It’s now headlined “Dumping of a Giant Whale.” Yeah, that’s a lot better.

Disposing of beached whales used to be more complicated — and profitable — as a 17th-century Dutch engraving shows. I came across it while reviewing a recent book about whales, whose oil used to light the world. Seems a shame that any whale would be landfill-bound, but what are you going to do?

Seriously, what are you going to do? If you have better ideas about how to dispose of beached whales, email me and I’ll report back on the best ones. After all, our landfills are full (and smelly) enough as it is.

Speaking of Unspeakable Waste

San Diego is home to the executive director of — and I’m not making this up — the Real Diaper Association. The AP quotes her in a story about the debate over cloth vs. disposable diapers; the association supports the cloth kind. “There’s a large silent population of cloth diaper users,” the executive director said. “People come to us almost daily and say I can’t believe I didn’t know about this before.”

See the silent diaper users and their loud little ones tomorrow at the Great Cloth Diaper Change 2011 at USD, San Diego’s part of a worldwide attempt to set a record for the largest number of cloth diapers changed at the same time.

You’ll see a different type of bums and their dirty laundry.

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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