Compared to the largest school districts in the state, San Diego Unified teachers make less but still enjoy free medical benefits while their colleagues elsewhere are increasingly paying for insurance, a VOSD analysis finds.

Candyce Schauer, teachers union representative for James Madison High School, makes about $64,500 after working at the campus for 34 years. “Earning as much as I do, it’s like being a well-paid poor person,” says Schauer, who makes $13,500 less than she’d be paid in Long Beach.

Schauer says teachers have already given up too much. Her teachers union agrees, and refuses to negotiate to give up a series of across-the-board pay raises that begin in July. The district has warned more than 1,600 employees that, without concessions, they may be laid off.  

As we explained last year, San Diego city schools offer “Cadillac Benefits, But Honda Salaries” compared to other districts in the county.

A retired school administrator explained “that boosting benefits was easier to sell politically than increasing salaries. The costs are less obvious to the public.”

And don’t forget our “four revealing charts” on school finances to help you get a grip on the financial crisis.

Fire Pit Hoopla

The LA Times notes none of the “civic strides” city leaders have hailed recently as they balance the books has been met with as much hoopla as restoring city funding for maintenance of beach fire pits.

For years, the Scott Lewis has tracked what he calls the “dissolving city.” It’s when a municipality backs away from a service and either private donors or smaller organizations begin funding it or it’s just lost. In a San Diego Explained segment last summer, we broke down the drama with the fire pits.

Now, we see the opposite of a dissolving city: A service the city backed away from paying for, was funded by private donors and now the city’s taking over from them. As readers have noted, it’s an interesting choice of city functions to restore.

Meet SDSU’s New Boss

The hiring of Elliot Hirshman as the new president of San Diego State last year turned out to be one of the biggest higher-education stories of the year in California. But it wasn’t because of who he was. The hubbub was over how much he makes — $400,000, $100,000 more than his predecessor.

The governor led the outcry over the size of the salary, which came while the state’s university systems are mightily struggling. Just last month, legislators effectively ousted the chairman of the board of the California State University System.

We sat down with Hirshman last week, and he denied receiving a cold reception here. “I think people have been really, really supportive. There are of course always bumps in the road in the presidential transition. But I can’t say enough about how supportive people on campus have been, people in the community.”

The fuss wasn’t a distraction either, he said. Hirshman also spoke of the university’s sometimes-touchy relations with its neighbors, its sports program, and the intense rush for open student spots.

Few Homes for Sale Portends Price Bump

If you’ve been looking to buy a home, this fact has probably been quite apparent: The supply of San Diego housing for sale has abruptly tightened, reaching levels that have historically portended of near-term price increases, writes economics analyst Rich Toscano.

Major Coup for Arts Museums

The estates of a husband and wife are giving $45 million worth of art, mostly Expressionist and Minimalist works from the 20th century, to the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and the San Diego Museum of Art, the U-T reports. The donations include art by well-known names like Gustav Klimts, Christo, Roy Lichtenstein and  Ellsworth Kelly, among others.

Higher Rates for Cabs, Possible Cameras Too

San Diego cabs, which reports show have the highest rates in the country, are going to get even more expensive. Thanks to a move by transit officials, fares from the airport will go up and cabs will have the choice of charging more on their own, the U-T reports.

San Diego already has the highest cab fares in the country, according to an April survey of more than U.S. 30 regions by a Chicago trade journal for the taxi industry.

A five-mile trip with a five-minute waiting time here would cost $20.40, the survey said, compared to $18.48 in L.A., $16.15 in San Francisco, $12.72 in Chicago (where gas prices, like San Diego’s, were among the highest on the list) and $11.50 in Washington D.C.

A 2006 survey also put San Diego at the top, behind only Honolulu, in terms of average fare.  

Also, in the wake of the killings of two local taxi drivers last year, transit officials are also considering whether to require cabs in the city to have security cameras.   

Ranking California’s Commitment to Open Government

Investigative Newsource, a San Diego State-based journalism outfit, has posted a less-than-stellar report card on California’s commitment to government accountability and transparency.

California ranks fourth in the country but only ranks a B-minus grade, the report finds. “While the survey concluded that the state has plenty of laws written to make government accessible and to diminish the risks of dishonesty, favoritism and conflicts of interest, there are gaps between what the laws say and what they actually do,” Investigative Newsource says.

The survey was conducted as part of a national project of the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity and Public Radio International.

Quick News Hits

• The very public breakdown in Crown Point of a founder of the Invisible Children organization continues to make waves worldwide as another video surfaced over the weekend. Dr. Ford Vox, a Boston brain injury physician, says in an Atlantic post that many reactions “betray an insensitivity to the nature and frequency of brain diseases.” 

• The Obama Administration is standing behind the Mount Soledad cross, saying the U.S. Supreme Court should reject an appeal court ruling that said its presence on government land is unconstitutional, the LA Times reports. The cross has been the subject of court battles for more than 20 years.   

• The astronauts at the International Space Station snapped a nifty nighttime shot of Southern California and Baja California from a couple hundred miles up, the U-T reports.

You can see San Diego, Tijuana and Orange County all lit up on the right, and then there’s a big dark blob to the left.

Hey, maybe that’s the ego of your least favorite local politician! No, wait, it’s just the Salton Sea. Hard to tell them apart.

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

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at

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