When Maria Cortez was 29, bulldozers razed a City Heights neighborhood to make way for a freeway. A transit line was supposed to make it up to residents by helping them get to work. Now, the bus may finally be on its way, more than a quarter of a century later. Cortez has reached her 50s.

She and others have a message: they don’t want to see this kind of thing happen again. But they think the county’s $200 billion transportation blueprint for the next four decades will leave transit in the lurch.

It may be too late to do anything to stop the plan. Still, “we’re sending a message that someone is watching,” said an affordable housing advocate.

Cortez’s voice joins those of activists and the state attorney general, who criticize the San Diego Association of Governments for prioritizing freeways over transit and being secretive in its planning.

Former Councilman in Hunt for Congress

Democrats have been eagerly eying the congressional district of Rep. Brian Bilbray, which will become more friendly to Dems in next year’s elections thank to redistricting. But it looks like they’ll have a fight on their hands before the November general election: Scott Peters, a former city councilman who’s now chairman of the port district, says he’s running, the U-T reports.

That will pit him in the primary against ex-Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña and software industry executive Bob Nascenzi.

Homes-for-Homeless Effort Pays Dividends

Last year, local officials announced their plans to find 125 of the most vulnerable — and costly — homeless people on the city streets and try to get them help. Now, officials say they’re in touch with 123 of the 125 people they identified, and 101 are off the streets. (KPBS)

Five years ago, The New Yorker spotlighted the cost of the most sickly transients, who often don’t get coordinated help, by chronicling the story of Reno’s “Million-Dollar Murray.” He was a homeless person who repeatedly went to the hospital at taxpayer expense. “It cost us one million dollars not to do something about Murray,” one cop said.

If the State Takes Over Schools

San Diego school district officials have been issuing doomsday warnings about how finances are so bad that the state may have to take over. For insight into what might happen if that’s the case, we look into how the state takeover of Oakland schools unfolded in 2003. And the state appointed a familiar name as head of the district: he’s now the chief of the County Office of Education, San Diego Unified’s financial overseer.

• Amid budget problems this year, the district decided not to reverse the layoffs of about 300 teachers to keep class sizes for its youngest students small. The Union-Tribune goes inside the district’s poster child for small-class sizes, Central Elementary, to examine the debate over how student counts impact learning.

The City Heights school has posted impressive gains on its test scores, and its principal, Cindy Marten, got VOSD Radio’s Hero of the Week last week.

Bankruptcy Looms for Lyric Opera; Old Globe Chief to Leave

Two players in the local theater scene made big announcements:

• Lyric Opera San Diego, which owns the Birch North Park Theatre, plans to file for bankruptcy, the U-T reports. A year ago two members of the opera’s board of directors said the company was in a “cash crisis” and would be “unable to continue” if it didn’t receive $200,000 in donations.

• The Old Globe Theater’s CEO Lou Spisto announced that he’s leaving to work as a producer after a nine-year stint. The theater has boosted its budget from $12 million to $20 million during his tenure.

Spisto tells the U-T that his departure has nothing to do with a last-minute mess that erupted before the opening date for its new “Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show” production.

At Last, Hope for Troubled Senior Housing Complex

Residents of a problem-plagued senior housing complex in downtown are hopeful that a new owner will put things right, CityBeat reports. The paper earlier revealed that the owner of the building, on city-owned land, had disputes with residents over things like a mostly empty parking lot they couldn’t use.

The complex owner “inexplicably put up a nine-year fight to keep tenants from using the lot, going so far as to enlist the help of former San Diego Mayor Pete Wilson and threatening to put Wilson on the stand should the city sue,” CityBeat reports.

Mayoral Rivals on the Decline of Community Plans

Thanks to budget cutbacks, the city isn’t devoting much attention anymore to community plans, the blueprints that try to set the future for San Diego’s neighborhoods. We asked the mayoral candidates, including the many underdogs, what they would do about out-of-date community plans that cost time and money.

Councilman Carl DeMaio wants the city to update each community plan (there are 52 of them) and supports making planning and redevelopment more efficient. District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis hopes to find federal and state money to update the plans that most need help. Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher was more vague, saying the city needs an efficient planning department.

Behind the City’s Road Repair Backlog

As we’ve reported, the city has left a legacy of broken promises regarding its efforts to repair deteriorating roads. We asked Lawrence Pierce, a retired civil engineer who’s overseeing an effort to grade all the county’s infrastructure, about how he sees things.

Our Liam Dillon summarizes his thoughts this way: “Repairs take time. Politicians and regular San Diegans need to manage their expectations. Politicians also shouldn’t overpromise.”

“There’s competing interests,” Pierce said. “The interests of the elected officials versus reality sometimes.”

Teacher’s Past

Picture this scenario: You’re the legal counsel for a school district where a teacher has been accused of fondling a third-grade girl. The cops have been called and the teacher, after being placed on leave, has quit.

What do you do next? Here’s one option: give the guy $16,000 and tell him you will “not to share the contents of his file to a potential employer.” That’s just what the Carlsbad school district did.

Was it a terrible move? An attorney representing girls who are suing the district tells U-T columnist Logan Jenkins that it reminds him of a Catholic diocese passing around a pedophile priest.

Jenkins, however, digs into the complicating factors and finds the district’s dicey decision to be understandable.

The Gays Have It

Is San Diego State only the second college in the country to offer a major in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender studies? Yep, San Diego Fact Check finds.

On TV, the Ex-Mayor’s Bogus Claim

San Diego Fact Check TV delves into how former Mayor Dick Murphy earned a rare and extremely uncoveted “Huckster Propaganda” verdict for a claim about a whistleblower in the city’s pension scandal.

There’s no word on whether Murphy’s publisher had to buy barrels of extra ink to print the title of his new book, “San Diego’s Judge Mayor: How Murphy’s Law Blindsided Leadership With 20/20 Vision.”

Nyah Nyah!

Another VOSD motto suggestion has come in, and it would be a bold one: “We’re Way Wonkier Than You Are.”

Sounds about right. If you think you’re wonkier, let us know. Perhaps we could pretend like it’s high school and go outside for a rumble! Just wait until we’re done with the Chess Club meeting.

License Plate Confessional

The other day I was driving home from the Apple Store (yes, I’m one of those people, or can’t you sense my superiority?) when I spotted an SUV with an unusual personalized license plate: “SYNCOPE.”

That’s a medical word for fainting. Maybe the driver always feels a bit woozy? Or perhaps he or she is so gorgeous that everybody can’t help but swoon.

My bet is that it’s a minister who can’t spell. It’s “sin,” people, not “syn!”

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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