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Her friends feared she was moving to a “cultural desert” when she relocated to San Diego a few years ago. But like many locals who defend our arts world, Vanessa Dinning found plenty of culture in bloom in San Diego.

Dinning, who’s an actor, director and San Diego opera employee, was one of the presenters at the arts illumination event voiceofsandiego.org hosted last week called Meeting of the Minds. Take a look at the video of Dinning’s presentation, produced by the Media Arts Center. She explored words, music and meaning in performances and the arts.

Also: We have the video of the presentation by Lynn Susholtz, artist, educator and owner of Art Produce, who talked about working with the Eveoke Dance Company on a production. And the video of the presentation by Constance White, who’s been working on the art program at the San Diego airport, about public art and the collection at UCSD.

Teachers Union Direction Debated

Writer Will Carless appeared on KPBS television’s Evening Edition Monday (segment begins at minute 12:10) to discuss his story about the increasingly tough but isolated city schools’ teachers union. Commentary exploded after the story with a school board member, parents and teachers weighing in on the current teachers union leadership.

Schools trustee Scott Barnett responded to a teacher in the comments with “It’s also true that less people are doing more work at all levels.

But the past school board made promises which we cannot keep. There just is not the money,” he wrote. Parent activist Matt Spathas tweeted that he thought the union had lost touch with its members.

One of those members though, Dennis Schamp, says the public isn’t getting the whole story and that he supports the controversial executive director highlighted in the story: “The public only sees what the district wants them to see: their numbers, their pleas, their blame,” he wrote.

What are your thoughts on the district and its future? Submit them here.

“Testing the Boundaries of the Law” on Hotel-Room Tax

Also on KPBS’ Evening Edition, city attorney Jan Goldsmith again laid out his legal concerns about a proposed hotel-room tax increase that would be the main part of a funding plan for the expansion of the Convention Center. Suppoters of the tax hike are trying to avoid a public vote.

KPBS showed Goldsmith a clip of former port commissioner Steve Cushman saying passing the tax was “100 percent legal.” Goldsmith responded that this surprised him. He said he’s heard feedback that this was a done deal. It’s not.

We have more on his argument is here. And here’s Scott Lewis explaining what he called the Comic-Con Tax.

• Our story about Goldsmith’s concerns was our 10th-most read last week. Find out what the other nine were here.

Fact Check TV on Filner’s Claims

Rep. Bob Filner says he’s been elected 25 times and has never been supported by “special interests.” We fact checked him last week, and now Fact Check TV offers a video take on our verdict.

Filner often ignores the media, as is his wont (or maybe it’s his “won’t”), and he didn’t respond to our questions about this Fact Check. But he did get back to us after we published it.

Put a Letter on It

Food trucks are the hot new thing in the local culinary world, but you won’t see something if you drop by one for tacos or Korean food: a letter grade from the county restaurant inspection people.

The U-T reports that the trucks and carts do undergo inspections, and half were written up for violations over the past two years.

County Supervisor Ron Roberts told the paper that he’ll push for letter grades. “We’re doing the inspection work already so to convert those inspections to a letter grade will add to the comfort the public will have,” he said.

For more about the local food truck world, read our 2010 Q&A interview with one of the guys behind the MIHO Gastrotruck, which served up burgers, Vietnamese sandwiches and Mexican food at various places around town.

Seal/Slavery Argument Meets Skepticism

A federal judge didn’t sound too likely to go for the argument by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that SeaWorld’s killer whales are being held as slaves, the U-T reports. The 13th Amendment, as a SeaWorld attorney notes, refers to persons.

Animals haven’t been able to sue in the past. This could be a good thing, considering that my cat looks like he’d be quite a litigious sort. SLAPP suit, anyone?

New Money for Fletcher but Not Other GOPers

Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, a moderate Republican, was one of only six members of the Assembly — the others were all Democrats — to get their budgets increased by the Democratic Assembly speaker, the Sacramento Bee reports.

Each got increases of tens of thousands of dollars, with Fletcher adding $37,000 to his budget. He spent it on a spokeswoman who made $7,084 a month ($85,000 a year) and later left. She now works on his campaign. 

Rural Fire Fee Could Cause Exodus

A $150 fire-fighting fee courtesy of the state could lead rural communities to abandon fire protection from the state and either rely on local fire agencies or seek to become part of nearby cities, The (Riverside) Press Enterprise reports.

“The Brown administration and other fee supporters contend that taxpayers essentially are subsidizing people living in the state areas,” the paper reports. “Critics, however, call the proposed charge an illegal tax and unfair to residents who already pay local fire districts.”

The fee is the same across the state in rural areas, whether they’re fire-prone or regularly socked by rain.

Arrests Down, but Border Patrol Overtime Up

The poor economy has kept many from crossing the border for a better life in the United States, leading to a huge dip in the number of arrests.

But here’s a twist: Border Patrol agents still get plenty of overtime — $1.4 billion over the past six years, the AP reports. That’s an average of two hours a day per agent.

Why so much? “The uncontrollable nature of the work is inherent in the primary duty of a Border Patrol agent and must be performed in order to get the job done,” an official says. 

Everything Is Better with Bacon

Foodmaker Co.. is definitely in the running for the most unoriginal company name of all time. It’s history, but its legacy remains: For decades, the San Diego-based company owned Jack in the Box, the fast-food chain that got its start on El Cajon Boulevard in 1951.

(Jack in the Box was also my employer for a couple weeks in the 1980s until I suspiciously dropped off the schedule. Maybe it had something to do with me being a slow tacomaker because I kept dodging spatters of hot oil? Nah, I was probably just too awesome for them to deal with.)

So what food is Jack in the Box making these days? Bacon shakes,reports NBC 7 San Diego. It’s not crunchy, however: Only the syrup is bacon-flavored and the ice cream is plain ol’ vanilla.

It’s getting mixed reviews. U-T San Diego watchdog editor Ricky Young tweeted that his first will be his last. “I guess I just like my meat flavors to be contained in … meat.”

So how fattening is this porkerrific treat? The Jack in the Box website says a large bacon shake has 1,081 calories, or enough for almost four breakfast jacks.

Wow. Basically, you need to drink a bacon shake while running a marathon to work off the calories. Guess I’ll get mine to go!

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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