San Diego Unified school board President Richard Barrera says the decisions he’s faced have boiled down to this: either risk the education of children or risk the district’s financial health.

“[T]hat’s the situation we’ve been in, over and over and over again,” he says in an in an in-depth, back-and-forth conversation with our Will Carless over the district’s money mess.

Barrera blames the state for pushing the district to the brink of insolvency, though the district’s own gambles now have the very real potential to compound the problem.

Those gambles had to be made, Barrera says, or too much damage would’ve been done to basic education. “One, the impact it would have on the students throughout the district, in particular on the students in the highest poverty schools, and, two, the impact it would have on the success of stable teams of teachers that have been working so successfully in so many of those schools,” he says.

• Yes, that was a collective gasp you heard throughout the city as the San Diego Unified announced that dozens of campuses could close next year to deal with the financial mess.

Some schools on that list include Kensington’s Franklin Elementary, Marvin Elementary in Allied Gardens, Barnard Mandarin Chinese Magnet School in Point Loma, and Pacific Beach Middle. The district’s announcement stirred anxiety among parents and teachers. (Union-Tribune)

One of the district’s top finance guys says the community doesn’t trust that the district will actually go through with this because of so many big warnings and last-second solutions of the past. “This is serious,” he said.

School board member Scott Barnett agrees. “As a parent, I understand that where our kids go to school is a top concern,” Barnett said. “People have the right to be afraid. This is real, the district is in basic survival mode.”

The Diversity Gap

San Diego may be a more diverse nowadays, but white politicians still dominate the city’s landscape.

All of San Diego’s congressional delegation is white. San Diego’s mayor is white, as are the four major candidates vying to succeed him. Though the census showed most San Diego residents aren’t white, nearly all of its school, city, county and state representatives are.

Reporter Keegan Kyle analyzes how the region’s gotten more diverse, especially among the young, but the political power base has yet to shift.

The Bittersweet Conclusion of the Crowe Case

More than a decade later, a settlement has been reached in the high-profile Stephanie Crowe murder case.

The Crowe family, whose son was falsely accused by Escondido police of killing his sister, settled today with the cities of Escondido and Oceanside for $7.25 million dollars.

But it’s a bittersweet ending for mother Cheryl Crowe, who told KPBS she believes the Escondido police doesn’t regret the coercive interrogations, nor the arrests and jailing of their son and his two high school friends, Josh Treadway and Aaron Houser.

“They did it with malice. They knew what they were doing,” she said. “We were ready to go to trial to prove that. And they never admitted they did anything wrong.”

Massive University City Sinkhole Gets Fixed, Fast

The large sinkhole that damaged a well-traveled road and disrupted major San Diego businesses two weeks ago may be fixed within days at a fraction of the feared cost.

City officials worried repairs could cost $2 million and continue into December after the collapse on Oct. 6 made Campus Point Drive impassable for the Thursday morning commute and the three days that followed.

Now the bill is expected to be $750,000, and 312 feet of the ruptured 30-inch storm drain pipe that caused the collapse may be replaced with more durable pipe by mid-next week, a city spokesman told the U-T.

Preparing for Earthquakes

On Thursday, California had its Great Shakeout earthquake drill (which was then followed by two earthquakes in the Bay Area). And there are more preparations for San Diego’s inevitable “Big One” across the region.

In Escondido, state officials earmarked $15 million in grant money to help the city rebuild Lake Wohlford Dam, which was declared seismically unsafe during a 2007 federal analysis. The government found that a large earthquake could liquefy the earthen portions of the 115-year-old dam and city officials have been looking for ways to pay for the $30 million project. (NC Times)

South of the border, Baja is set to receive a quake detection system by next year. The U.S. is providing $500,000 in equipment and training, while Mexico is investing millions of dollars in a system to prepare for quakes and other disasters. (SanDiegoRed)

What We Learned this Week

The Differences Between Bob Filner and Nathan Fletcher At a debate on Wednesday night we learned that Filner wants to eliminate downtown redevelopment while Fletcher’s the one who recently extended its lifespan for two decades. It was a busy day in mayoral politics, as the Republican Fletcher also nabbed the police union’s endorsement, somewhat of a surprise considering Filner’s union cred and Bonnie Dumanis’ law-and-order background.

Another thing? The two candidates are definitely what Seinfeld would call “hand-talkers.” Check out Sam Hodgson’s photos of the debate and you’ll see.

If you’re wondering what happened to fellow candidates, Councilman Carl DeMaio and Dumanis, they didn’t show up to Wednesday’s debate, the second in two months they’ve skipped. Don’t expect to see them debating any time soon.

Bilbray’s Got Competition Rep. Brian Bilbray’s seat is going to be another election to watch. Scott Peters, a former city councilman whose now chairman of the port district, announced he’s running for the spot. He’ll be joined by fellow Democrats Lori Saldana and Bob Nascenzi in a district that will become friendlier to Democrats thanks to redistricting.

The Hidden Symphony’s Wish The San Diego Symphony is tired of hiding its beautiful, 1920s-era theater inside an otherwise bland downtown skyscraper. The organization is working with a pianist-turned-architect who has an unusual idea about making the building pop to passersby.

Along with our news partner NBC 7 San Diego, Kelly Bennett takes us behind the scenes on that journey. And don’t forget to check out her arts blog to see which version of the project you like best. (Go, red!)

Also, why can’t the ArtsTix booth find a home? What’s wrong with discounted theater tickets, Horton Plaza?

The Coffee Collection (engaging stories to savor over a latte)

Rob Davis wrote a disturbing story about the Otay Water District and how safely delivering water to 206,000 people from Otay Mesa to Jamul isn’t always routine.

During the last decade, it’s delivered sewage to drinking water taps, tried to squelch criticism with legal action and endured costly litigation from its customers, employees and board members.

Quotes of the Week

“Many, many of our kids rely on the schools literally for their only real meals that they’re going to get that day, their healthcare, and, of course, for their education,” school board President, Richard Barrera reflects on district’s poorest children who will be the hardest hit by the impending school closures.

“Childish and unethical conduct online is nothing new, but I am disappointed to see that my Republican counterpart and his party may have been behind it. The idea of Tony Krvaric posting as @JessDurfee is just creepy,” Democratic Party Chair, Jess Durfee on San Diego County Republican Party Chairman Tony Krvaric’s fake Twitter accounts.

Please contact Nina Garin at

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