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If you need a reminder of the value our work, take a look at this week’s special “Schools on the Brink” report on the crisis at San Diego schools. We’ve posted the third episode in our week-long series. This time, we look at the gambles that the school district made and how they contributed to the risks it faces.

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The Fix Is Out

Three years ago, San Diego schools asked voters to allow it to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars to fix schools. Voters said OK. But the sour economy and the prioritizing of flashy technology over repairs have left many repairs undone. Now the district needs to spend $137 million more to get things in shape.

“The school board is exploring whether to ask taxpayers to pay for another bond,” Emily Alpert reports. “But it could be harder to get support this time, facing criticism that it broke its promises to maintain schools.”

Meanwhile, schools continue to decay, but teachers do have technology, like digital whiteboards (they replaced dry-erase boards, which replaced chalkboards) aimed at making education more engaging.

• Our education special series Schools on the Brink culminated last night with a special live discussion on solutions. Watch NBC 7 San Diego at 6 p.m. tonight for the final in our five-part series. We’ll be posting Part 4 today. Part 3 went live yesterday and explained the gambles the financial crisis is built upon.

Gadhafi’s Son and the Chula Vista Police Chief

There’s more news in the very strange saga that’s pulled in a locally based security company and its “vice president of law enforcement training” (Chula Vista police chief and former San Diego police chief David Bejarano) into an alleged plot to smuggle dead dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s son into Mexico.

Mexican authorities allege that two associates of the company were involved in the plot, the U-T reports. Bejarano said he did agree to serve as the company’s consultant (for which he got the fancy VP title) but didn’t actually do any work or get paid. Chula Vista’s city manager said he supports the police chief “100 percent.”

That, of course, is the kind of thing that public officials often say before someone in hot water ends up opting to “spend more time with my family.”

According to the U-T, city policy says “the police chief cannot be involved in outside security companies.”

Mayoral Rivals on Owning the Bolts

Could the Chargers be like the Packers? No, I don’t mean successful. Could they be owned by the public?

Fuggedaboutit, say the NFL rules, which have banned public ownership of teams other than the Packers since 1960. The public doesn’t get to have “a license to print money,” as the New Yorker puts it. So suck it up, public!

But wait. Maybe the NFL owners could change the rules so folks other than rich people like themselves could get a piece of the action. Stranger things have happened, right? (None come immediately to mind that didn’t require a court order, but still.)

What if taxpayers could own part of the Chargers? Rep. Bob Filner, a mayoral candidate, sounds intrigued by the idea. We asked his rivals to weigh in.

City Councilman Carl DeMaio said he doesn’t want to spend additional taxpayer money to keep the team here but didn’t deal with the issue of partial ownership. District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis also ignored the question about ownership and called for “smart, creative solutions.”    

Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher zinged Filner with a mention of the NFL rules and called for a “sports and innovation district.” 

News at the Speed of Brief

• We haven’t heard a whole lot from new U-T owner “Papa Doug” Manchester, the developer and hotel mogul, about his goals for the paper (although we do know that some U-Ters refuse to call him “Papa”). But he did talk to KUSI this week, and his comments make it clear the purchase was at least in part a political play.

“Local newspapers need to be a cheerleader for what’s right and good for the country, such as promoting the new stadium or whatever. I felt that there’s been a lack of that here in San Diego. And so that’s one of the motivations.” 

Interestingly enough, the only thing Manchester and his partner John Lynch have mentioned by name when talking cheerleading has been the Chargers stadium.

Manchester also discussed the paper’s new patriotic motto (“The World’s Greatest Country & America’s Finest City,” in all caps) and larger American flag logo on the front page: “Both John and I love this country and love this city. And we want to promote both of them.”

Of course! Clearly, the greatest country in the world needs promotion. Maybe someone could hire a marketing team so people could hear about it in all those inferior countries? And then they’d all want to come here. Oh wait…

• Rep. Darrell Issa, a North County congressman who’s one of the major players on Capitol Hill, got in a big snit with the U.S. attorney general over the “Fast and Furious” federal gun scandal. (NYT)

• The Metropolitan Transit System is going to ban luggage larger than 30 by 18 inches, the U-T reports, out of concern that riders are bringing on too much stuff.

The transit board approved the new regulations unanimously even though no one from the agency had contacted any advocates for the homeless to discuss the change.

Park It Right Here

San Diego has the third and fourth most-visited city parks in the country, behind only NYC’s Central Park and Lincoln Park in Chicago, according to a new report. Mission Bay Park has 16.5 million annual visitors, just ahead of Balboa Park with 14 million.

Chula Vista is the nation’s leader when it comes to skateboard parks per 100,000 residents (it has seven). San Diego scores high among similar cities when it comes to the percentage of parkland within the city boundaries (23 percent); Chula Vista is low (3 percent). CV is on the high side in terms of playgrounds per 10,000 residents while SD lags; the reverse is the case for park spending per resident.

The report also notes that a San Diego city park created back in 1850 is in a tie for the 45th oldest in the country. Can you guess the park without looking it up? The first three people who send me an email with the correct answer will get a shout-out in the Morning Report. (Hint: It doesn’t have “Balboa” in its name). 

And don’t even think about trying to bribe me for more hints with Christmas cookies, like the yummy ones with red and green sprinkles that could easily be dropped off at our office with my name on them.

Correction: The Morning Report incorrectly implied that the Metropolitan Transit System will ban all luggage larger than 30 by 18 inches on all routes. One bus route, Route 992, which serves the airport and parts of downtown, will allow larger luggage.

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga

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