The San Diego school district wants its employee unions to get cracking and say what they’re willing to give up during negotiations over pay and benefits. The deadline, it says, is Feb. 15. But, as our Will Carless reports, almost a week has passed and “the district has not yet sent the unions a formal proposal setting out its terms. The unions have a deadline, but haven’t been able to present the district’s proposal to their members because there isn’t one yet.”

The district is facing a potential deficit of $124 million next year. The only solutions appear to either laying off hundreds of workers or convincing the unions to give up pay and benefits.

Trouble for Pacific Beach Business Group

“A group of businesses in Pacific Beach significantly underreported the number of people they employ, triggering an investigation that revealed the neighborhood’s business improvement district was operating in violation of its contract with the city of San Diego,” our Sandy Coronilla reports.

Twenty-three businesses reported 52 employees, but an investigation found they employed 297; they need to pay more in city fees if they have more employees.

The business district’s boss says no penalties or fines were assessed on it. Here’s a notable tidbit: “The Discover Pacific Beach board of directors met Friday at an all-day retreat at the Catamaran when it approved fiscal year 2011’s annual report, which includes a $27,043 deficit.”

Legal Beagle Weighs in on Bankruptcy & Pensions

Go ahead: Ask a San Diego politician if San Diego could go bankrupt to kiss off the giant bill that it owes to current and former employees for promised pensions. You’re likely to get an answer that goes something like this: “No, no, no! Can’t happen, won’t happen, stupid question. Security!”

That’s about what we got when a small city in Rhode Island used federal bankruptcy reorganization to negotiate big cuts with current retirees.

The line goes like this: California’s constitution protects vested pension benefits and there’s nothing we can do about  promises already made even if the people who made the promises never set aside money for them.

University of Pennsylvania law professor David Skeel told Liam Dillon that there’s more to the story. Even federal property law, a backstop for pensioners, may only protect the money already collected by a pension fund, not what it owes.

Vlad Kogan, one of our commenters, is skeptical of the theory.

Sweetwater Schools Won’t Pay Trustee Legal Bills

After a marathon meeting attended by hundreds of angry residents, the board that runs middle and high schools in South Bay declined to pay the legal bills of four elected officials accused in a corruption investigation, NBC 7 San Diego reports. Three of the officials are still on the board and one is a former board member.

The U-T has more about the meeting and we recently explained how the mess began.

The Battle over Latino Representation in Escondido

Most residents of the city of Escondido — the fourth largest in the county — are Latinos. But the city leadership doesn’t want to change the way City Council members are elected in order to make it easier for Latinos to serve.

Only one Latino currently serves on the council. No others — not a one — have been elected in the city’s 133-year history.

Escondido has gone as far as to hire an outside law firm to fight a lawsuit and says the suit has no standing, the U-T reports.

For background on this issue, check this column by the U-T’s Logan Jenkins, who reveals how the battle isn’t as simple as it seems.

Losing Their Heads at the Opera

The Arts Report is out with its weekly look at the local arts and culture scene, and this one’s a doozy: Among other things, it features a disembodied head on stage, a journalist who used her phone during a performance without making a giant scene, a big hairy mess over a giant flop of a Christmas performance and the fight to save Imperial County’s famed Salvation Mountain.

Also, don’t forget tonight is the Meeting of the Minds. Be there at 7 because we’re expecting a packed house.

What You’re Saying

We have been receiving loads of commentary from you lately. Here are a few highlights.

• Reader James Beyster wonders why San Diego doesn’t charge anything for trash pickup. This gave us an opportunity to post our explainer on the topic. Many San Diegans do pay a special fee for trash pickup. Those who live in single-family homes do not.

Gail Conners says “Potholes are boring but more important than building another sports cathedral.”

• Murtaza Baxamusa looks into local wages. “In terms of average annual wage per job, San Diego has still not recovered from the loss of manufacturing jobs in the 1970s.” Michael Robertson responded that what Baxamusa was offering as a solution was “political speak for artificially setting wages beyond what the market will bear.”

Commenters got philosophical after Scott Lewis’ musings on how the government simply isn’t good at building housing or lowering home prices to make them affordable.

• Reader Joe O’Keefe envisions a new type of school. It would help people prepare for blue-collar jobs. “Jobs that are centered on the blue collar sector like plumbers, welders and electrical utility workers pay great wages and are always in demand.”

What’s your view? Submit it here.

Issa Mans Anti-Occupy Barricades

The Occupy Wall Street movement’s arms in Washington D.C. are bracing for eviction “resulting from Republican Rep. Darrel Issa’s long-running campaign to shut down the camps,” Salon reports, although they got a reprieve.

Issa represents part of North County and is one of the most high-profile Republicans in Congress. Yesterday, Politico reports, he threatened “to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress if the Justice Department did not provide certain documents in response to the committee’s subpoena.”

VOSD Scoop Makes ‘Colbert’

Our Liam Dillon’s big scoop about imprisoned ex-Rep. Duke Cunningham’s presidential endorsement — go Newt, the most disgraced congressman of all time says, adding that fellow prisoners in the big house agree — made it onto “The Colbert Report” last night. In a related story, my jealousy of Liam Dillon is now brighter than the sun.

Playing Favourites

Over on Twitter, City Hall minion Matt Awbrey wonders about the fate of agency that oversees urban renewal in downtown: “Would be hilarious if Centre City Development Corp could find dissolution loophole by just changing name from ‘Centre’ to ‘Center.’”

To borrow a downtown-centric word, he makes a really good pointe. Although I think adding “Ye Olde” to its name might do the trick and fool the appropriate people.

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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