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The San Diego City Council has some pretty harsh words for the city’s road-repair system.

“This is a very sick patient,” declared Lorie Zapf.

“There’s no oversight. There’s no real management,” complained a David Alvarez.

“It’s a little embarrassing that we’re sitting there approving all these things and they’re not happening,” griped Marti Emerald.

Now comes the hard part: putting the pedal to the pothole-ridden pavement. That certainly hasn’t happened in the last few years. As our special report recently detailed, tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure money has sat around unspent due to red tape. That’s left promises unfulfilled and the city unable to keep pace with the decay of its infrastructure.

Council members want a better idea of how things will improve before they approve hundreds of millions of dollars more. They’re planning two hearings to tackle the city’s mammoth infrastructure problems over the next couple of weeks.

To get up to speed on the road mess, check our special report and our San Diego Explained.

But be careful about getting too up to speed on all this. Drive too fast around here and the city’s bad roads will eat your tires for lunch.

Your Questions on School District’s Big Gamble

Over the last several weeks, we’ve been exploring how the San Diego school district got to the point where its top officials are now warning it could become insolvent and need to be taken over by the state.

Readers wanted to hear directly from each school board member: Why did they decide to bank on the state’s rosy revenue projections?

We have the responses about why they made the decisions that could potentially bring on a crisis like no other. We also hear from the sole board member who voted no.

To refresh your memory, the board voted to rehire about 300 teachers, a decision that locked them into spending millions of dollars that the district might never actually have.

What do you want to know about all this? Will Carless and Andrew Donohue have been on the story and will be at your service on Wednesday. They’ll be the People’s Reporters, and you’ll be their boss. Send them your questions, tips and assignments. 

Check out our reading guide to the crisis to learn more.

Some Good Economic News for Once

If the school district does go insolvent, the state will take over and the superintendent will be out of a job. Luckily, the local job market is on the mend: employment continues to trend upward.

Union Says Humbug to Higher Hotel Taxes

You might assume the hotel workers union would like the idea of a higher tax on hotel guests whose proceeds would go to expand the convention center and support marketing. If everything goes according to plan, that would mean more visitors, more no-vacancy signs and more hotel jobs. But the union thinks the money should go to city services instead, and it’s questioning the industry-supported plan to raises taxes on visitors.

This is the plan that would boost taxes but leave voters out of the loop through some fancy legal legerdemain. (Yes, that is indeed my Word of the Day. Please make a note of it.)

Council Race Solidifies in Emerald’s District

With a little more than seven months until the primary election, the number of challengers facing Councilwoman Marti Emerald has dipped from three to one. The challenger is Georgette Gomez, an environmental activist and political newcomer.

Emerald will have plenty of new neighborhoods to woo: Among other areas, her newly drawn district will include Kensington and Talmadge, which she doesn’t represent now, and City Heights, which she only represents part of. She’s moving to the College Area so she’ll be inside the new 9th district, which is mostly made up of Latinos.

• Emerald isn’t in a good mood about the hassles of moving her water account to a new home. “Oh don’t get me started,” she told the Union-Tribune. “I’m kind of mad about it.” She’s one of many: the city’s new water billing system is making a lot of people steamed, and “the situation has forced the public utilities department to assign about 20 employees to work nights and weekends for several months to respond to the calls and emails.”

Media, Meet Circus

Whoa Nelly. Get ready for a new media onslaught: the Dr. Phil show is paying to exhume and re-test the body of the woman who was found dead at a Coronado mansion last summer, radaronline.com reports. She was buried in Missouri. Dr. Phil “will air the results on his show during the November sweeps season.”

Fact-Checking Auto Thefts and Low Test Scores

Fact Check TV examines two true claims: one from a school board member who says there are city high schools with as low as 5 percent of students proficient in math and the other from the district attorney, who says San Diego’s national ranking as a leading place for car thefts has dropped.   

Live from Your Computer, It’s a Virtual Councilman!

First, the publisher of the LGBT Weekly bashed mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio for promoting endorsements from former Mayor Roger Hedgecock, long a critic of gays (he once tried to insert a “Normal People” contingent into the gay pride parade) and former judge/assemblyman/state senator Larry Stirling, who’s also tangled with the gay communty. DeMaio, a mayoral candidate, is openly gay.

Now, DeMaio is bound to get hoots for what we’re calling The Carl (and he calls a Video Townhall). A real video version of DeMaio appears in a virtual reality setting — an office complete with fireplace (I need to get a virtual one for my office!), a big flag and a view of downtown. You can ask him questions from a list and he’ll respond with prerecorded answers about city issues and important things like his favorite color and whether he’d run with the bulls in Spain.

I’m not making this up. 

We compared his answers to the ones you can get from Siri, the woman’s voice inside the new iPhone. Meanwhile, CityBeat notes that he says he doesn’t need a teleprompter to make a speech, but the paper found that “taxpayers footed the bill to rent DeMaio a teleprompter for both his 2009 and 2011 ‘State of the District’ addresses (plus rental cost for a pre-speech rehearsal).”

I decided to ask The Carl for the skinny. “Is it true that you do use a teleprompter?”

He declined to answer, but did tell me about a cell-phone service that I can use to report graffiti, potholes and dead animals. OK, that’s certainly handy, especially if someone paints graffiti on a dead animal in a pothole.

But where do I report a councilman who doesn’t answer my questions? Hello?

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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