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The people who run the San Diego Unified School District are warning of doomsday — potential insolvency and takeover — and pointing fingers at the state. But there’s more to the story: if things go as badly as some fear, the school board itself will deserve some of the blame for making a risky bet.

The school’s board put faith in the state’s rosy projections for the coming year. But, like school boards around the state, it has always known there was no guarantee of getting the state’s extra cash. And it has always known that if those projections were wrong, an already grim financial picture would grow even bleaker.

The district’s chief financial officer advised against the move, as did a consultant who works for school districts in the state.

“The board’s own decision to spend, not save, Sacramento’s imaginary money is one of a series of decisions that has helped move it towards that precipice of insolvency,” reports Will Carless.

Road Plans of the Mayoral Hopefuls

We’re digging deeper into how the major mayoral candidates hope to fix the city’s deteriorating roads. One hasn’t developed any detailed policy proposals and wouldn’t talk to us. We do know, however, a bit about what Councilman Carl DeMaio, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher want to do.

“DeMaio has by far the most comprehensive plan of the three,” our Liam Dillon reports. “But Fletcher and Dumanis argue their records and backgrounds show they are much better positioned to implement changes needed to the city’s repair process. All of them, however, face major questions about how they’ll pay for their proposals.

And guess what: none want to raise taxes to get their goals done.

• For a brief background, see our San Diego Explained production with NBC 7 San Diego, Why SD’s Roads Are So Bad, or get the full monty in our special report.

Habit for Humanity’s Money Mistake

If you’ve ever helped run a non-profit organization, you may have a pretty good idea about the definition of a restricted account. The money in it can’t be spent on just anything, possibly because the donor gave on the condition the money be spent only in certain ways.

San Diego Habitat for Humanity says money donated to help 2007 wildfire victims didn’t get restricted, the U-T reports, as it was supposed to. “There was no maliciousness here, but it was a complete lack of understanding on how restricted accounts work,” an executive told the paper. “Donor funds were not used for donor intent.”

County Supervisor Dianne Jacob remains miffed about the mistake, and it’s still not clear where as many as $400,000 in donations went. There have been questions about $700,000 in donations.

Another Candidate-Challenged Debate

As we politics junkies have noticed, there have been approximately 4,594 Republican presidential debates so far, with the first votes coming in January. Here in town, the mayoral primary election is coming up in June, but two of the major candidates continue to play a game of keep-away.

Councilman Carl DeMaio and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis skipped our debate last month and they won’t show up to tonight’s debate, either.

DeMaio seems to like a good political scuffle as much as anyone in town, but his spokesman tells the U-T that he doesn’t want to go to a debate that’s not neutral. (That sound you hear is local leftists gleefully running around saying “Chicken!”)

Dumanis wants to wait until election deadlines in March. (Leftists may have a harder time coming up with a zinger. “Hey, you person who’s waiting for an appropriate time to debate! You’re such a waiter! Yeah! Take that, why dontcha!”)

• The U-T did some fact-checking and says the people behind the pension reform initiative correctly claimed that they collected more signatures than for any other measure in the city’s history.

Mapping Your Neighborhood’s Nefariousness

It’s become easier than ever to get a geographical grasp on crime in your neighborhood or anywhere else in the region thanks to a free service that’s available at Our data guru Keegan Kyle has details about how you can put the crime-mapping service to work to figure out the hot spots for wrongdoing.

Among other things, you can check to see if assumptions have any basis in reality. For example, longtime residents assume that plenty of prostitutes call El Cajon Boulevard home. We’ve looked at the numbers back in 2009 and found that yup, it sure is: it’s ground zero for prostitution arrests. A new look at the data finds that things haven’t changed on The Boulevard.

Do You Get the Arts Report?

The Morning Report has a weekly friend, the Arts Report. Arts Editor Kelly Bennett rounds up the top arts news from around the county each week and sends it directly to your inbox. This week’s issue relates changes at the Old Globe and the Lyric Opera, relays “made in San Diego” stories, reports on the soon-to-be-missing ticket booth at Horton Plaza, and more.

You can get the whole firecracker in your inbox every week by signing up.

Join Our High School Journalism Forum

There’s still time to register for our High School Student News Workshop on Oct. 22. It’s free, and students, teachers and parents are all welcome to attend. Our staff and a San Diego State professor will talk about how to move news online.

News Blips

• ESPN highlights two books about the history of surfing, including one about the big wave site, Cortes Bank, far out into the Pacific off of Southern California, and another about a wetsuit pioneer.

• The state of corruption among American border personnel gets a look-see by the L.A. Times. Diagnosis: not good. We talked to Alan Bersin, commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, about that and other issues last year.

• The Xoloitzcuintles fútbol team and fans are featured in the November issue of San Diego Magazine. The Tijuana soccer club has had extraordinary success, moving up in the leagues and selling out home games.

Shaken by Mover

It seemed simple enough. A guy in San Diego decided to move to the United Arab Emirates, and he hires a moving firm to take care of his stuff. Some of his possessions will go to storage, and the rest will go to the Middle East.

But — oopsy-daisy! — the mover, Allied Van Lines, sent all his stuff to the United Arab Emirates, including a box of guns and ammunition that was never supposed to end up there.

This did not go over well. Read about the fascinating legal saga that followed.

Lucky You

Ronald Reagan liked to end his campaigns in San Diego, which he dubbed his “Lucky City.” (We weren’t so lucky for Richard Nixon, but never mind.)

Well, Reagan may have been onto something. We’ve been named the luckiest city in the country by Men’s Health magazine. “San Diego’s multiple jackpot winners, its low lightning strike count, and its low number of lightning-related injuries and deaths helped push it to the top,” an editor told Reuters.

It does sound like we’re mighty fortunate, at least when it comes to gambling and lightning. That’s why you should stay here right and never let yourself — let alone your firearms and ammunition — leave the house.

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at and follow him on Twitter:

Randy Dotinga

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

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