The mayor who once derided the idea of purifying sewage into drinking water as “toilet-to-tap” isn’t entirely converted to the idea, but he kept the loaded term to himself yesterday and declared that “San Diego has elected to move beyond its fear and let science do its talking.” As part of a $11.8 million pilot study that started two weeks ago, the city will test a purified sewage system for a year and see how it works.

“If regulators sign off, San Diego could eventually emulate a large-scale sewage purification plant that opened in Orange County in 2008, capable of converting 70 million gallons of sewage a day into pure drinking water,” Rob Davis reports.

The mayor and a councilman, however, weren’t willing to ignore directions and drink from a beaker full of water that was “fresh from a tap, straight from a treatment process that made the water as clean as mankind knows how to get it: Stripped free of any pharmaceutical traces, of bacteria and viruses, of minerals and other potential impurities.” Why? Because regulators say they can’t.

Behind the 401(k) Plan-Plus

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You might think the proposed ballot measure that would convert almost all new city employees to 401(k) plans is about, you know, 401(k)s. In fact, the measure’s five-year freeze of the base pay of city workers is a much bigger deal cost-savings-wise, even though there are legal questions about such a move. A Q&A will help you understand the details.

Shh! 380-Ton Nuclear Generators to Skip Out of Town

Sometime in the next few weeks, four 380-ton steam nuclear generators will make their way out of San Diego County on their way to be disposed in Utah. But how? It’s all a bit unclear since the federal government is trying to remain mum about the route, although permits show that they may travel through Oceanside, Vista, San Marcos, Escondido and Temecula.

After News Reports, Another South Bay Official is Out of Job

The director of food services for South Bay’s high schools has quit her job after the U-T exposed how the district’s food courts sell brands that she markets. The director earlier said she made no money from the arrangement; a district spokeswoman said “information regarding the food services department was brought to our attention, and appropriate action has been taken.”

The food services director told the paper that her decision to resign “was largely due to personal reasons involving ill family members.”

The U-T also discovered that the director billed the district for $400 nightly hotel stays at a school nutrition conference. It’s not unheard of for school types to live high on the hog while traveling on the taxpayer dime. In 2009, we found that top San Diego school officials were charging the supposedly cash-strapped district for dinners of more than $57 each in Washington D.C. as they chowed down on venison, striped bass and the Japanese beef known as wagyu. The district had lifted its meal expense limits on the superintendent at the time, who gave us this classic foot-in-mouth quote: “Have you ever tried to eat on $25? I promise you it is very difficult to do.”

Vacancies Common, but Hotels Still Sell for Big Dough

Hotels are selling for record prices, but the gains aren’t keeping up with sluggish growth in the number of occupied hotel rooms, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. In other words, you may want to put a “no vacancy” sign on the brains of those who are buying during what may be a big bad bubble.

The magazine attributes the rise in the prices of hotels to “a surge in luxury-hotel transactions and more purchases by real estate investment trusts, particularly in large cities.” A partner in an investment company that bought the Courtyard San Diego Downtown this year says “on average, the market has run ahead of itself.”

Another local hotel makes an appearance in the story: A firm bought a majority stake of Hilton San Diego Bayfront hotel, valuing it at $475 million, although the property originally $350 million. Other recent local hotel sales include the Hotel Indigo San Diego Gaslamp Quarter ($55 million) and $566 million for the Manchester Grand Hyatt.

Hotel experts said at a recent meeting in Irvine said buyers of luxury hotels may have overpaid. But it may take a while to figure out how affected they are.

Controversial Sculpture Maker Back at It

You may remember the fuss a few years ago over a sculpture of colliding boats that an artist wanted to install near the convention center. While the U-T’s arts writer raved about the “marvelous proposal,” skeptics questioned why it made sense to install a “shipwreck” near the bay. The convention center board rejected the artwork, a La Jolla museum got it instead, and the sculptor decried a critic as “petty.” Goes to show you that everybody’s a critic — of those who dare to criticize their work.

The sculptor is still working, and we came across a peek at her work in progress in New York state. Meanwhile, San Diegans are still bashing her boat sculpture: one of our commenters says it should be a monument to boat safety. Sounds fishy to me.

• We’ve been seeing a lot of renegade art around town lately, from the famous illegal Surfing Madonna mosaic in Encinitas to the various cases of “yarn bombing.” In Behind the Scene TV, we look at how art and the law aren’t always in harmony.

Here’s an idea: Get legislators to outlaw the public art I don’t like. It’ll make for a better world for everyone who’s me!

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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