Leaders of the San Diego teachers union devoted much of their time at a press conference yesterday to bashing their school district’s financial numbers. But the union did something new too: It called for a fix

The union wants the district to work with the state to fix what it calls a broken budgetary process and stop the annual dance around layoffs.

“But if the district refused to play the budget game, it wouldn’t be able to borrow any money and teachers wouldn’t get paid, district officials say,” our Will Carless reports. “And changing the budget system would require the unions themselves to agree to change a layoff deadline they’ve so far fought to protect.”

Earlier this week, Carless explored the union’s confrontational approach to dealing with officials who decide how the district’s money is spent.

What We Don’t Know about Fletcher

As we reported earlier this week, there’s no evidence that Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher did anything wrong back when he worked for corrupt Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham. In fact, he spent much of his time on Cunningham’s staff serving as a Marine abroad. 

While researching Fletcher’s background, we wondered: Did the government send him two paychecks — one for military service and one for working for the congressman — and was his total income more than he would have made from either job separately? He did receive two paychecks, but his total income isn’t clear.

• “We’ve now had over 30 pieces of legislation, not only out of the first committee but signed into law,” Fletcher said at a mayoral candidate forum earlier this month.

Has he been that much of a busy legislator up in Sacramento? Yes, San Diego Fact Check finds: the claim is true.

When San Diego Banned Free Speech

A century ago, San Diego’s anti-union city leaders snuffed out the free-speech rights of its citizens. Their unconstitutional action drew national attention to this little city by the border, spawned a battle in downtown streets and sparked literal bloodlust in the citizenry and the local press.  

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Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the day when San Diego cops arrested dozens of people for going out in public and saying their piece in violation of a city ordinance. Local liberals, including union members, planned to memorialize the arrests yesterday evening, reports the U-T, which recaps what happened back in 1912.

I took a deeper look at the free speech battle in a history flashback last year, saying it “brought out the worst in the governor, the police chief and local newspaper editors while shaking the reputation of a city eager to show itself off to the world a few years down the line.”

Balboa Park Makeover Battle Spills onto TV

A state historic preservation official says the proposed Balboa Park makeover could threaten the park’s status as a national historic landmark, KPBS reports. Mark Johnson, the lead designer of the project faced off with Bruce Coons, the preservationist who has vowed to kill it, on KPBS’ Evening Edition.

Johnson said the park will “absolutely” retain its historic designation and pointed to the recently released 4,000-page draft environmental impact report of the project where the historical designation issues are discussed at length. Here’s part one, part two, part three and part four of that document. Public review of the draft version ends March 8.

• Speaking of the park, reader George Mullen wants us to get inspired for the 2015 celebration. He says we need to look to the 1889 Paris Exposition. “There are seven striking parallels between this Exposition and San Diego’s upcoming 2015 centennial worth examining.”

• And speaking of the 2015 celebration: On Tuesday, Scott Lewis informed us that hotel lobbyist extraordinaire Mike McDowell had taken over as CEO of the Host Committee set up to plan for the 2015 event. The festivities will be funded one-third by the city, one-third by philanthropy and one-third by the 2 percent levy on hotel room stays, whose implementation McDowell orchestrated years ago.

Curiously, labor leaders reacted to that news wondering if the 2-percent fee, which is paid on top of the city’s 10.5 hotel-room tax, will actually still be around in 2015. It’s “the billion dollar question,” wrote labor leader Lorena Gonzalez

It’s in question? The levy is set to expire but the city’s taken steps to extend it. Labor, and the Chargers, have both called another levy on top of it to fund the Convention Center expansion illegal. Will this one now face scrutiny too?

Here’s an interview we did with McDowell about his strategy on hotel-room taxes and his experience rising to become one of the most important operatives in town. He’ll go back to the visitor industry after this stint on the 2015 committee.

Trim the Wings, Says Port Staff

The staff of the port district is recommending against the giant Wings of Freedom double sculpture that would cost $35 million and rise as much as 500 feet in the air, the U-T reports, although it’s still recommended that it be considered as an alternative.

“The architectural features proposed would exacerbate and perpetuate a pattern around San Diego Bay of allowing the dominant visual impact and bulk of structures to be directly on the water, instead of maintaining an open waterfront,” writes a staff member.

Translation (I think): Buildings block the bay, and the sculpture would make things worse.

Schools, Honesty, and the Worst Road Around

Letter writers promote the value of looking at schools in other countries, put the blame on Prop. 13, call for more honesty from both sides in the district vs. teachers union battle and nominate a South Bay freeway as the worst road around. (For more on why our roads are in such bad shape, check our readers guide to the issue).

No Go for Orcas-as-Slaves Lawsuit

Nope, a federal judge ruled yesterday, SeaWorld’s killer whales aren’t slaves, the AP reports. So much for PETA’s lawsuit.   

Breakfast of Champions

The U-T checks out the new breakfast menu at an elementary school in Lakeside, which is debuting its “Sunrise Cafe” program. On the menu: “fresh fruit, cheese omelets, breakfast sandwiches, sausage and biscuit, and cinnamon French toast, among other options.”

The full price is just $1.25. Wowsers.

In a related story, I’m thinking about going on an undercover assignment as a Lakeside fourth-grader who had his growth spurt really early. Dang, if only I’d kept that mission diorama from my first tenure in a California fourth-grade classroom.

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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