Thermometers, carpet cleaner, petroleum jelly, tongue depressors, and exercise balls aren’t directly connected to education for needy kids. But some San Diego schools spent federal money on them anyway, diverting the funds from a pot designated to help disadvantaged students.

A review found that more than $3,500 in purchases that were paid with dollars that were supposed to go elsewhere, raising questions about the district’s ability to keep track of its money. One school planned to use the funds on workout DVDs called “Dancing With the Stars: Latin Cardio Dance.”

“The problem is bigger than a small glitch and more important than just the bottom line,” Emily Alpert reports. “The federal funds are meant to close the achievement gap. Schools are bound by complicated rules to avoid letting the dollars get sucked up for basic costs that school districts should be shouldering themselves.”

So what does the district say for itself? The schools that misdirected funds provided a variety of responses, with some admitting error and one even defending the practice.

Small Towns, Big Benefits

Small California cities with part-time elected leaders get many of the state’s most generous healthcare benefits for City Council members, the LAT reports.

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San Diego County veers a bit from the norm. Chula Vista, the second largest city in the county, pays the most in average healthcare benefits at $14,000.

Next is San Marcos at $13,800 and Carlsbad at $11,100. In contrast, Del Mar pays nothing for healthcare for City Council members.

Tri-City’s Weird $18 Million Non-Escape Clause

In the annals of strange goings-on at the hospital that serves a big chunk of North County, the latest bizarreness really takes the bedpan. The elected board that runs Tri-City Medical Center agreed to a deal that would have required it to cough up $18 million for a property in case of certain events like the departure of the CEO. The hospital district has since deleted the requirement.

“I wasn’t going to do business with a board that is always at each other’s throat,” the developer behind the unusual agreement told the U-T. “I wouldn’t park my car here. If he (the CEO) and his team left, I told them I was gone, buy me out.”

Sophisticated Shoplifters on the March

Shoplifting isn’t a small-time crime, the LAT reports, thanks to organized thieves who are bringing sophistication to store pilfering. “In San Diego, a group would pre-sort sizes and position merchandise to facilitate theft. The thieves would routinely target malls in different parts of the county to avoid being spotted, and they stole $1 million worth of merchandise before being caught.”

A New State of Republican Hopes

Back in the day, a big chunk of Virginia got ticked off about its support of the Confederacy during the Civil War. And away it went: the state of West Virginia was born. Now, a county supervisor in Riverside County named Jeff Stone is ticked off about all the dysfunction in Sacramento. So… guess what he wants to do?

No, he doesn’t want a West California, silly. He wants a new state of South California. But without Los Angeles, thank you very much. His new idea — which has gotten national attention over the last few days — is to detach counties like Riverside, San Bernardino, Imperial, San Diego, Orange and several stragglers all the way into central California like Fresno and Inyo.

What do almost all these counties have in common? They’re Republican-dominated, and possibly amenable to Stone’s attempt to secede from “the liberal arm of the state of California.”

The reaction has been a bit tepid. “A secessionist movement?” asked a spokesman for the governor. “What is this, 1860?” A colleague on the Riverside county board had this riposte: “The temperature has gone up in Riverside County and it seems Supervisor Stone has gotten too much sun recently.”

But an economist noted this: “I am a Northern Californian by birth. No one I know in Northern California would oppose getting rid of Southern California.”

A Secessionist-Friendly Road Through San Diego?

Speaking of secession-related matters, a Georgia newspaper profiles the Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway, which went all the way to San Diego, at least in the minds of United Daughters of the Confederacy in the early part of the last century. The history of the highway’s name is murky: plenty of people outside the South ignored it, and it may not have been officially approved. But a highway named after the president of the Confederate States wouldn’t be too out of place here: San Diego County was actually sympathetic to the South during the Civil War.

They’re With the (New) Band

A guitarist, a bassist, a drummer and a photographer walk into a bar… and it’s no joke. Our cameraman Sam Hodgson captured the preparations for the first gig of a band called Ghostline and tagged along its members played cards and played music. Loud.

All’s Fair in Love and Lost Items

A zebra-striped pair of very high heels, dozens of eyeglasses and keys and wallets, more than 150 cell phones and an oxygen tank: they’re all waiting for their owners at the county fair’s lost-and-found department.

No word on whether they still have my stomach from the time I went on the Tilt-a-Whirl back in ’88.

Everybody’s a (Wine) Critic

Saturday’s Morning Report told the story of a man whose alleged drunken driving and speeding didn’t amount to much in the way of judicial punishment. A specific detail grabbed the attention of a reader who offered a wisecrack in the comments: “The guy should have done time just for drinking white zin.”

Sheesh. What’s next? People saying we shouldn’t drink wine out of boxes?

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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