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In stark black and white, with every wrinkle and blemish in high relief, a newcomer to town has captured dozens of images of San Diego’s homeless as part of a portrait project. We’ve got several of the photos for you to see and an interview with the photographer, Bear Guerra.

Why black and white along with blank backgrounds? “I wanted there to be as little between the viewer and subject as possible,” he said, “so that people will really be focusing on the person in front of them, and not thinking about where the image was made, or what lights I used, or things like that… I just wanted to strip all the possible distractions away.”

We may never know if the photos will have any actual impact on the lives of these men and women or the rest of us. Still, Guerra said, “One guy mentioned to me the other day that he recognized some of the people portrayed, but that he had never really looked at them. I think that making that connection is the first step.”

For more about the homeless, check out our recent stories about a physician who treats their illnesses and an inspiring young woman who was homeless and is now headed to Harvard.

The Mayoral Portrait Project: Ex-Judge Bonnie Dumanis on the Bench

We’re continuing our series of photographs of the leading mayoral candidates, all taken at settings in the city of their choosing. The goal is to offer a familiar, relatable side of politicians who can seem to live in separate worlds from the rest of us.

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis poses on a park bench in Rancho Bernardo that’s dedicated to her father. “It was a very special place for me and my dad,” she said, where they would talk while she sat with him and the dog just about every weekend.

Candidates, Fraud Allegations and a New County Map

• Leading and not-so-leading mayoral candidates have responded to our question about how they’d deal with unemployment in the city.

• A campaign treasurer accused of fraud allegedly moved $40,000 from the account of a politician to that of local Rep. Susan Davis. (Union-Tribune)

• The county board of supervisors has given initial approval to redrawn boundary lines for the districts they represent; for the first time, minorities will be the majority in one of them. Whether they use their power to elect one of their own, however, is far from certain since the majority is a slight one and only of voting-age people. The board has been all-white and all-Republican since 1995. (NC Times)

The Chargers and LA Dreams

San Diegans fear they may lose the Chargers to a place “regarded with a mix of trepidation and disgust,” the L.A. Times reports. That place, of course, is L.A. (Huh. I didn’t feel any trepidation about L.A. before reading the story, and I still don’t after looking the word up. As for disgust, well, yes.)

The newspaper says San Diego has lost its cozy and insular way of doing things politically, and now “there is no plan on the table” for a new football stadium to keep the Bolts in town. Even though, as one booster puts it, “it is indisputable that most people in San Diego, whether football fans or not, want the Chargers to stay.”

Really? Commenters on our Facebook page are tackling the question of whether that guy is right. “I am a native San Diegan, and I do not care if the Chargers stay or go,” writes Susan Martha. “However, I will vigorously lobby against the city or county spending one penny of taxpayer money on a new stadium.” John Joe Schlichtman, meanwhile, says he’s “never seen such sports lethargy. The average person might not want them to go, but would not even know if they left.”

Wait, who’s he talking about again?

Lisa Sullivan Hamann, however, wants to keep the Chargers in town and calls for a public-private partnership.

Questioning the Value of Public Libraries

A rip-roaring debate about the value of libraries has erupted in the comments regarding my Q&A interview last weekend with city librarian Deborah Barrow. She said it’s the job of public libraries to be free and defended the construction of a big new downtown library that’s expected to have limited hours due to budget problems.

“We have advanced technologically to the point where libraries are pointless,” writes Jim Jones, who says he hasn’t entered a library in 20 years. “Continuing them for the benefit of homeless and a small library social cliche (sic) is a poor use of the taxpayers money.” Donald Kimball, meanwhile, wonders if library statistics are being manipulated.

I usually observe these online dust-ups from afar, muttering “for cryin’ out loud!” to myself while silently cursing everyone who dares disagree with me. (The nerve!) But this time, I couldn’t help getting in on the you’re-wrong/no-you’re-wrong commenter action by giving the library critics a big piece of my mind.

I also note some statistics, including this one: the number of library borrowers in the 2009-2010 fiscal year was 639,402, equivalent to almost half the city’s population.

Libraries are dear to my heart — yup, I actually use them — and their decline is a disgrace for this city. It’s especially disheartening to hear that our neighbors to the north in L.A. didn’t put up with severe cutbacks to libraries. In the wake of an alternative newspaper article that exposed the cuts under the headline “City of Airheads,” voters rebelled last March.

For our part, we’ve accepted cuts, some of them similar to those that Los Angelenos overwhelmingly rejected. Our City Council has only acted to stop them from getting worse.

Attendance Rates, Test Scores and a Community Claim

The San Diego schools superintendent told a TV audience that district attendance rates were just at a five-year high. San Diego Fact Check finds his claim is true.

Fact Check TV also analyzes claims about rising San Diego school test scores and the growth of the local Asian-American community.

So Splashy

• Spirit Airlines is making a debut in San Diego with regular flights to Las Vegas, and the airport is celebrating today with a “traditional water cannon salute,” the U-T reports. Now about that drought…

In a Pinch, Brits Call on UCSD Conductor

Things just were not going well in Glasgow. Five orchestras backed out before one finally agreed to take on a four-hour avant-garde orchestral work. Then the conductor got sick right before performances were set to begin.

That’s when UCSD professor and contemporary percussionist Steven Schick — who’s appeared several times in our pages — came to the rescue. As the New York Times explains, the “accidental conductor” did such a good job under pressure that he’s been asked to conduct the work again in New York this month.

Schick talks about not dumbing things down when it comes to adding challenging modern works to the performances by the La Jolla Symphony and Chorus. It can be “anesthetizing” to an audience to “be given the explicit or inferred message that ‘you’re probably not up to this,’” he said.

Yeah, OK, but the article doesn’t say anything about what I really want to know: Is the best part of conducting when you get to sternly tap the podium with your baton? Maybe nobody asked because getting to do that is just so obviously awesome.

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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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