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Now here’s a campaign pitch: Vote to reform the city’s pension system for employees, and you’ll help save San Diego taxpayers as much as $2.1 billion over the next 27 years. Sounds great, right? There’s a problem, though: the claim is misleading.

The $2.1 billion number, promoted by supporters of a proposed ballot measure that would replace the pensions of most new city employees with 401(k)s, “relies on a faulty comparison that distorts the numbers to the supporters’ benefit,” Liam Dillon reports.

Sweetwater District Still Troubled

The district that runs the middle and high schools in South Bay recently got rid of its scandal-plagued superintendent, and now is taking care of other issues: it’s fixed altered grades at one high school and put three food service workers on leave amid a probe of possible wrongdoing.

At Fairmont and El Cajon, a Fork in the Road


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The rhyming jingle still rings in the ears of longtime San Diegans: “Pearson Ford, they stand alone at Fairmont and El Cajon!”

Now it’s the intersection that stands alone: there’s a big empty space where the car dealership used to be. It closed in 2009, setting off a debate about what to do with the space. A Trader Joe’s, maybe? The upscale folks to the north in Kensington liked that idea. Or an affordable housing complex or international marketplace, as City Heights residents proposed?

Then along came the YMCA, which was looking to renovate its 55-year-old facility in City Heights. Instead, it will now build a new facility at El Cajon Boulevard and Fairmont Avenue, potentially uniting three neighborhoods: Kensington and Talmadge, which tend to be white and wealthier, and City Heights, which is poorer and more ethnic.

UCSD Chancellor to Quit Job

Marye Anne Fox, who’s served as chancellor of UCSD since 2004, has given about year’s notice. She’ll step down next June and will return to the classroom.

Fox’s term featured growth for UCSD but also retrenchment thanks to state budget cuts and controversies over alleged racism on campus and free speech.

Behind the Supermarket Labor Woes

The lengthy Southern California supermarket strike of 2003-2004 ended up hurting both the affected grocery stores and the strikers themselves, although it helped independent grocers that got an influx of customers who refused to cross picket lines. Now, another strike is looming for the 60,000-member union that represents workers at Vons, Albertsons and Ralphs.

The main issue is healthcare benefits, for which the chain employees pay very little ($7 or $15 a week if they were hired after 2004) or nothing (if they were hired before 2004). That may sound like a tiny amount, considering that some Californians pay hundreds a month for health insurance. But the unions counter that the average grocer worker only makes $17,000 a year and faces a high out-of-pocket minimum.

Voiceofoc.org has more details: “The roots of the current situation can be traced to the strike settlement of 2004. That agreement created a two-tiered system for both wages and health benefits. New employees not only had to pay a share of their premiums but also had to wait as much as a year longer before they could put their families on the plan.”

The system worked for a while, as many workers declined to get insurance through their workplace. But that begin to change, putting more stress on the system, as did the lifting of some of the strict rules regarding coverage for new workers. Now, the supermarkets want workers to pay more.

Local Jobs with No Takers

Considering all the unemployed people in the county, you might assume openings for jobs like precision welder and machine operator would get snapped up quickly. But that’s not always the case. Companies say they’re having trouble finding qualified people for manufacturing jobs, a sign of a nationwide trend of labor shortages in that line of work.

Not Exactly Shipshape

A Navy combat ship called the USS Independence is “aggressively” corroding and is destined to spend time in San Diego dry dock for repairs. The ship’s problems are a sign of greater issues in the Navy, Wired News says: “The overall picture is one of poor planning, sloppy design and possible corporate infighting, and which has huge implications for the Navy as it struggles to build its future fleet.”

Debating the Value of Libraries

Visit any San Diego library and there’s a good chance you’ll find people waiting to get access to the Internet via the computers. The computer room at the downtown library, which has at least a couple dozen computers, is usually full. Many patrons appear to be down on their luck.

So is this a good reason to keep libraries open? Nah, says a local libertarian in a letter to the editor: “It’s sad to see library lovers flailing around for such silly reasons to justify not only maintaining but expanding public libraries.” He thinks the city could subsidize cafes and fast food restaurants to provide free Internet access, although he doesn’t examine whether they’d want influxes of people who can’t afford access at home and may not even have homes.

We’ve heard similar opinions and counter-opinions recently.

Zapped

Rain-filled clouds threatened central San Diego late yesterday afternoon while a cool breeze vanquished the mugginess and a rainbow appeared in Mission Valley. But the wet stuff never seemed to hit the ground. The backcountry, though, got smacked with 500-600 lightning bolts and almost an inch of rain in Descanso.

Dustup over UCSD Prof’s Research

Critics are going after the research of UCSD professor James Fowler, who’s gained national fame for saying divorce, loneliness and obesity are contagious. (We’ve contributed to his big media profile by twice interviewing him about his research and noting his TV chat with Stephen Colbert.)

Statisticians and a social-networking expert have challenged the work of Fowler and another researcher, with one saying the math behind it is “not coherent.” Now, a writer for Slate says the researchers “have been happy to race ahead of peer review,” the process used to gauge the worth of scientific findings.

The writer doesn’t devalue peer pressure, though: “We tend to form ties with the people who are most like us to begin with. The mother who blames her son’s boozebag friends for his wild behavior must face up to the fact that he prefers the fast crowd in the first place,” he writes. “We are all connected, yes, but the way those links get made could be the most important part of the story.”

“Boozebag,” by the way, is now my new favorite word. Why? Because all the cool writers are using it.

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com...

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