The City Council on Tuesday signed off on a plan to increase hotel-room taxes to fund the Convention Center expansion.

But it didn’t happen without some drama. As Liam Dillon describes in his colorful account of the proceedings, dealmakers hustled and whispered in the council chambers. Councilman Carl DeMaio appeared crestfallen. And Mayor Jerry Sanders got called before the council for a rare round of questioning.

A major concern remained the city taxpayer’s contribution. The other two financial contributors to the expansion, hotel guests and the Port of San Diego, have their payments capped. When DeMaio sought similar protections for the city, he learned they would’ve had to have done that at a previous hearing.

Despite the concerns from DeMaio and others, the council moved forward. At one point, the councilman asked for, and received, assurances from the hoteliers’ powerbroker that he’d work to deal with the council’s worries.

How will he do that? “Nothing fresh comes to mind,” the powerbroker said after the meeting.

Why New Year’s Eve Bus Rides Weren’t Free

The local transit system hasn’t offered free rides to partygoers on New Year’s Eve for two years now, even as buses in Los Angeles and San Francisco continue to offer them, our Sandy Coronilla reports. Nor did the bus system offer extended hours on a night when plenty of people shouldn’t be driving.

It’s not clear why MADD and a local tribe stopped sponsoring the rides. The Metropolitan Transit System used to provide the service itself, then it required a sponor. Now, the free rides, the system says, haven’t been a top priority.

City Pumping Up Sewage System

The city is poised to spend about $12 million to keep the sewage system afloat during a blackout, the U-T reports. The move is a response to the nearly 3.5 million gallons of raw sewage that spewed into places like the Los Peñasquitos Lagoon following the big Sept. 8 blackout.

We explained how all that sewage got loose in our Anatomy of a Sewage Spill video and a Scott Lewis column in October.

Latino Newspaper Dings Mayor over Video

La Prensa San Diego, a newspaper for the Latino community, says in an editorial that it’s appalled by the video that appeared before the mayor’s State of the City speech. It featured “a young black kid with a backdrop of the ills of our barrios and neighborhoods – including crime and presumably gangs, drugs and poverty, and the boy running from this to a new football stadium, new convention center, new library, high rises.”

The newspaper writes: “The message we got was that all the problems of the barrios and innercity neighborhoods can be fixed with big projects such as a new football stadium – bam! crime is down. A new library – zap! the achievement gap between whites and minorities is solved. A new convention center – pow! drug problems are solved.

“Sanders did not address the problems of our neighborhoods. He used them as props in order to sell his legacy.”

We had a similar take following the speech.

Commenters Tackle Evolution of Special Ed in SD

As we’ve reported, charter schools are ditching the San Diego school district’s special-education services because of a variety of concerns over things like funding, quality and independence. Our readers have weighed in, and we’ve compiled a handful of incisive comments.

Susan Fanno would like a voucher: “My son has 4 different aides teaching him every day, plus his class room teacher, plus his resource teacher, plus his speech therapist.” Meanwhile, former school board member John de Beck claims that charter schools will try to “wiggle” out of enrolling a costly special-ed student, while Meri Jo Petrivelli questions why the district is in the dark about why its costs are so high.

Support for Mt. Soledad Cross, Sort Of

The House of Representatives has passed a bill aimed at protecting war memorials — like the cross on Mt. Soledad — that include religious symbols. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Duncan D. Hunter of East County, “would not resolve the constitutionality of the cross. However, it would for the first time give statutory protection to religious symbols in all war memorials,” the U-T reports.

The ACLU, which has fought the cross, calls it a “meaningless bill” that won’t affect the legal debate over whether the existence of such a religious symbol on public property violates the Constitution.

Lawyers have been battling over the cross’s fate for more than two decades; last year, a panel of a federal appeals court said it’s unconstitutional, but didn’t demand it be removed immediately.

A Right-Leaning Guide to Preachy Profs

The San Diego State College Republicans group has released a “Teach or Preach” list that claims to disclose which professors keep their opinions out of their classrooms and which don’t, the Daily Aztec reports.

“When teachers are preaching political biases in the classroom, we are not getting the education we paid for,” the president of the group, who has the intriguing vowel-challenged name of Lx Fangonilo, told the student newspaper.

One professor said he doesn’t mind opinions. “I don’t think we can expect teachers or students to leave those beliefs and experiences outside the classroom door,” he said.

Arts Report Gives You Marching Orders

The Arts Report, the Morning Report’s pesky younger sister, is out with its weekly look at the local arts and culture scene.

Did I tell you how bossy the Arts Report is? This week, it tells you that you absolutely have to be somewhere on Feb. 1, no ifs, ands or that’s-the-night-I-wash-my-hair excuses. (Trust me, I tried that one, and it didn’t work. Next up: The dog ate my Google Maps app.)

What’s on Feb. 1? It’s the next installment of “A Meeting of the Minds,” which a U-T arts blogger calls “a have-to go happening.” (Maybe this could be the soundtrack?)

To remind you: the event will feature six plugged-in speakers talking about arts and culture highlights around town in a lightning-fast format called pecha-kucha.

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

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at and follow him on Twitter:

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