Things have not gone swimmingly for San Diego’s firefighters over the past year or so. First, their warnings about drastic lapses in fire protection didn’t help push last year’s Prop. D over the top last November. Second, they were left in the lurch — unlike city cops — when proponents of a proposed pension reform initiative figured out which new employees they think shouldn’t get pensions like their predecessors.

Now, firefighters are in a battle to kill off the initiative.

“The recent losses are a contrast from the days before the pension fallout, when the firefighters union… was as influential as anyone around City Hall,” Keegan Kyle reports. “At one point years ago, firefighters had a hand in electing each member of the City Council. Even Republican candidates for mayor and council sought and won their prized endorsement…”

Still, the firefighter union’s president says his troops still have plenty of mojo in the community. “They say we’re second to only Jesus Christ,” he said. “I walk neighborhoods and people say, ‘Who are you supporting because that’s enough for me.’”

Questioning the School District’s Labor Claim

In 2010, the San Diego school district had this to say in a financial disclosure statement about labor negotiations with its teachers: “Either party can reopen in future years for those articles pertaining to Health and Welfare and Wages.”

San Diego Fact Check finds the claim is false. Earlier this year, the district tried to renegotiate its contract with its teachers, but the union refused.

City Funds Went to Gospel Fest

The ACLU is not pleased that City Council President Tony Young spent $10,000 (and a total of $28,000 over four years) on a gospel festival, saying taxpayer money can’t support a religious event, the Union-Tribune reports. A city attorney’s office spokesman said the funding has been “conceptually approved” because it’s mainly “a community-oriented event featuring not only gospel music, which is rooted in culture, but also educational and family-friendly entertainment.”

New Review Sought in Coronado Death

The boyfriend of the woman found dead in a Coronado mansion has called on the state attorney’s office to look at the case, the Union-Tribune reports. Jonah Shacknai, a pharmaceutical industry mogul, doesn’t question the law enforcement verdict that Rebecca Zahau killed herself, but wants to end the “unrelenting and often vicious speculation and innuendo in certain media outlets” that “continue to bring further pain to everyone who has been touched by these tragic events.”

Zahau’s death has been a sensation in the tabloid world amid speculation about how she died.

UCSD’s Lefty Enclave Faces Closure

UCSD’s Ché Café, which leans so far left that it’s amazing it doesn’t fall over, has long been a hotspot for radical politics and underground music. During my time at UCSD, I best knew the cafe — which sat out at the edge of campus next to other rag-tag outfits like the student newspaper — as the place where hippie types hung out and ate vegetarian food.

Now, it’s in danger of closing due to money problems linked to the cost of liability insurance, the U-T reports.

The difficulties began when its insurance lapsed two years ago. “The person who was supposed to pick up the mail just stopped picking it up, so we stopped getting the bills,” a cafe representative told the paper. Fundraisers are being held to keep the doors open.

Minkow, Disgraced Once Again, on to Prison

Barry Minkow, the scamster who wasn’t as reformed as people thought, is heading to federal prison today, the L.A. Times reports. Minkow, who previously served a prison term in connection to an elaborate Ponzi scheme launched in his teen years, until recently worked as a fraud investigator in San Diego and served as pastor of a church. (I interviewed him in 2009, back when he seemed to have converted into a do-gooder.)

But he got in trouble in connection with claims he made against a Florida company. He’ll serve a five-year term, starting at a prison in Kentucky that isn’t the kind of minimum-security facility he preferred.     

Filling in for a New Bride

Our Scott Lewis filled in on KOGO radio last week for newswoman LaDona Harvey, who got married a couple days after this month’s power outage. (After covering the blackout on the air, she left the KOGO studio with wedding dress in hand.)    

You can listen to Lewis talk to guests including: Will Carless (one of our reporters) about his and Andrew Donohue’s recent story “The Ticking Time Bomb in School Finances.” Rich Toscano (our economy/real-estate guru), who had a jarring take on local jobs. Roger Bailey (director of the city’s public utilities), who explained why sewage spilled when the power went out and how we could avoid that in the future. And U-T reporter Matt Hall, who talked Chargers stadium search.

High Tide for Tidbits

• In the aftermath of Greenpeace’s protest against a locally based tuna company, featuring an inflatable airship above La Jolla emblazoned with the words “Chicken of the Sea: Carnage in a Tuna Can,” a New York Times blogger ponders whether another tuna boycott is in the works. Greenpeace wants the company “to abandon fishing practices that maximize bycatch — the ‘accidental’ catch of non-targeted fish — and deplete dwindling stocks.”

• The Morning Report spends much of its time being jealous of the Arts Report, which is younger, cuter and better-moisturized. This week, all is forgiven! The most awesome Arts Report ever leads with two stories I wrote last week about Balboa Park’s Timken Museum of Art, including a close look at a striking 1530 portrait that shows how wealth was displayed in an earlier bling-friendly era. “Boy that woman in the green dress has got ATTITUDE!” wrote a commenter. “Love it!”

Also in the Arts Report: Liberace! Bjork! Duckman! It’s like the dinner party of your dreams (or nightmares).

• CityBeat has a follow-up on the bingo cards that it passed out at Politifest last weekend (if you missed photos of the event, they’re here). Several people won by linking words that were spouted during the event’s mayoral debate, like “firefighters,” “roads” and “recession.” CityBeat cautioned against overexcitement, however: The cards directed people to not yell out “BINGO!” or “MAYOR!”  

I was out of town and didn’t get to play. That’s probably for the best. I would totally have gotten confused and yelled out “Yahtzee!”

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

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