Last week, we were startled to see the superintendent and board president of the largest school district in San Diego County warn that their operation was taking its first steps toward insolvency.

Insolvency is a big word. When someone says it, from a position of authority like that, it’s a stark call to all of the teachers, parents and students in the district that something big has to change or they will lose local control of the system that manages the education of more than 132,000 students.

But what, exactly, happens with insolvency of a school district? Our Keegan Kyle took some time to find out and he explains it all here. There are several steps, but one of the first things to happen is the district’s superintendent, in this case Bill Kowba, would lose his job and the elected board that oversees his work would become only an advisory group to a fully empowered state receiver.

That might help explain why the board leader and superintendent are willing to sound the alarm so loudly — they’ll lose their jobs if something doesn’t change. If you want a refresher on how the district got in this position, turn to our three-step guide. And here’s a graphic Kyle did illustrating just how big the district’s deficit is.

Delivering Water and Scandal in Otay

In the last decade, the Otay Water District — the deliverer of water to more than 200,000 people in South County and the operator of the only water connection to Tijuana — has sent sewage to drinking water taps, tried to squelch criticism with legal action and endured costly litigation from its customers, employees and board members.

Recently, a standing-room only crowd filled the district’s chambers shocked that it would decide to enhance the retirement benefits of its current employees. This brought renewed attention to the beleaguered agency. In a collection of Otay’s greatest hits, Rob Davis brings you up to speed on the last 10 years of scandal and strife for an agency that attracts more than its share.

Today, the U-T offered another potential item on the Otay controversy menu, reporting that the district hired a company accused of bribery.

UCSD Academics Shine

• The top story in Sunday’s New York Times explains how families in Senegal are abandoning the practice of female genital mutilation. The piece highlights the role of Gerry Mackie, a professor at UCSD and a political theorist, who helped shape the innovative strategies of a group that has persuaded communities to reject the tradition. How those strategies came together is a moving tale of networking and empathy in search of progress.

• Friday, President Obama will award Shu Chien, a bioengineer at UCSD’s Jacobs School of Engineering, the National Medal of Science. The U-T reports that it’s in honor of Chien’s work “bringing together the worlds of biology, engineering and medicine to improve human health.”

New Library Sans Auditorium

You may have missed this story last week in The Los Angeles Times about the new downtown library and the remaining shortfall in its fundraising effort. In it, San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio is quoted saying there’s a “good chance” the library will never open. This was somewhat jarring. The library’s increased operations costs are guaranteed by a philanthropic pledge that’s already set aside.

In an email to me, DeMaio’s office confirmed that he thinks the risk to the library not opening is the construction shortfall. But in the LA Times piece, Mel Katz, the leading fundraiser, said the remaining shortfall was for a “side building, an auditorium.”

So, Andrew Donohue, our editor, asked the Mayor’s Office in a tweet whether it’s considering delaying the auditorium and opening the library without it. Rachel Laing, the mayor’s spokeswoman, said it’s “not as simple as it sounds.” We’ll let you know if this becomes more of a reality.

Pot Ads Polemic

Last week, San Diego’s top federal prosecutor Laura Duffy sent shudders through newspaper offices across the state when she railed against ads for marijuana collectives and sympathetic doctors. She said they were against the law.

It was all part of a crackdown on collectives Duffy’s helping lead in California (that links to a great overview of what’s going on and the vast implications by the Sacramento Bee). Here’s CityBeat’s take. Duffy’s office sent letters to distributors of the locally demanding they close.

Walking in Ocean Beach yesterday, I noticed the most prominent of collectives in the area, the Ocean Beach Wellness Center, had closed. It had been on a list of 12 the city attorney warned were too close to schools.

On Friday, though, Duffy backed off a little telling KPBS that the government was “keeping an eye” on the ads but going after the newspapers and advertisers were not the “primary focus of our current enforcement activities.”

Alex Kreit, the Thomas Jefferson School of Law professor who led the city’s medical marijuana task force, told me last week he saw the federal government’s movements to be more “bark than bite” but that the city attorney could really change the landscape for marijuana distributors in the city. We’ll have more on this week’s San Diego Explained, Wednesday night, 6 p.m. on NBC 7 San Diego.

Miramar College vs. High Speed Rail Authority

Planners drafting the route of California’s new high-speed rail system have decided to go under Miramar College as opposed to through or above it, potentially sparing newly constructed buildings, the Union Tribune reports.

Filner’s Prediction

The Union-Tribune’s editorial page editor, Bill Osborne, reported on Twitter that he bumped into mayoral candidate Bob Filner at a grocery store in Hillcrest and that the congressman, beaming, said he believes he will win and that one of the Republican candidates will bow out by Christmas.

This has been a persistent rumor rooted in the pre-campaign intrigue about whether District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis or Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher would run. Since they both decided to not defer to the other, the logical argument has persisted. It goes like this: The establishment would hate a Filner vs. DeMaio general election. So it will somehow push Fletcher or Dumanis to drop their bids and consolidate their constituencies.

It sounds logical, I guess, but I have a hard time picturing who exactly makes up this establishment. So, I’m asking you: Send me the top five names of groups or individuals you think lead the local establishment. I’ll post the best entries. Let’s try to draw up a profile.

Support Us

We’re in the middle of our Fall Fundraising Campaign. Please consider a contribution for however much you can. Every time we do this, not only do we get loads of donations and gratitude, we also receive a ton of complaints. This is good because, if I’ve learned anything, it’s that if you take the time to complain, that means you care about this service enough to help it be better.

And if do you care about this service, you should donate and become a supporting member. Show it matters to you whether this public service thrives and survives.

Last week, a man asked if he could send us just a few bucks. He’s struggling to make ends meet but loves what we do.

Absolutely, I told him. He’s also welcome to complain and will be able to do so in person. Donate now and you’ll be invited join us for our first Brews and News event for members Mission Brewery Nov. 16.

Thank you to all who donated so far as we march toward our goal of 125 new members.

I’m Scott Lewis, the CEO of You can contact me directly at or 619.325.0527 and follow me on Twitter (it’s a blast!):

Scott Lewis

Scott Lewis oversees Voice of San Diego’s operations, website and daily functions as Editor in Chief. He also writes about local politics, where he frequently...

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