With services scaled back, the city of San Diego has increasingly relied on what are known as business improvement districts to pick up the slack and help spruce up neighborhoods.

They’re public agencies, but we found they don’t always act like it. Our Sandra Coronilla surveyed the 16 districts across San Diego and found that a majority of them didn’t comply with open government laws meant to ensure public participation and transparency.

In some cases, the organizations failed to post their meeting plans on their websites or didn’t provide documents within the time prescribed by law. Many didn’t turn over employee compensation information. Some districts asserted they weren’t the government at all.

“Under California law, however, they’re considered public agencies,” Coronilla writes. “They are required to adhere to the same public records and open meetings laws that the City Council or local school districts must follow.”

What We Learned This Week

Schools Trustee Says It’s Time to Surrender: Scott Barnett dropped the nuclear option for city schools this week, saying the district needed to stop layoffs and allow the state to take it over. His colleague, board president John Lee Evans, said he’s got it under control. He said layoffs and land sales and hopefully employee concessions would be enough to at least keep the district afloat. Barnett doesn’t want to rely on those cuts and says the board can’t be trusted to make the tough decisions anyway, so a state-appointed receiver needs to come in and redesign the district.

How Carl DeMaio Made His Money: Take a look at how mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio rose to success in Washington, D.C., and you’ll see some striking similarities to his rapid rise in San Diego. He just showed up, grabbed an issue on its way to prominence, worked relentlessly, sometimes took more credit than was due, and hit it big. That’s what we found as we explored the story of how DeMaio made the money, and learned the game plan, that has fueled his ascent in San Diego politics.

The Benefits of Fletcher Not Voting: Supporters of Nathan Fletcher’s campaign for mayor sent out a mailer hitting DeMaio for voting for a $1 billion tax increase. Fletcher hasn’t voted for it. But that’s only because he hasn’t had the chance. Turns out the guy supports the same exact tax increase, for the Convention Center expansion. Also turns out there is a whole lot Fletcher hasn’t voted on. He’s only made 47 percent of all votes in Sacramento, where he’s an assemblyman, this year, U-T San Diego reported. Oh, and it also turns out he’s been touting his attendance using an inflated number. The good news for him: fellow candidate Bob Filner’s only made half of the votes in D.C., too. Though maybe some of those were just jokes. LOL.

• Bonus learning: Filner continues to use a line we determined to be “misleading” seven months ago. We check in, and it’s still misleading.

Doug Manchester’s Aggressive: Let’s tally up the first six months of the U-T San Diego under developer Doug Manchester:

Name change? Check.

Creation of television studio? Check.

Increased size of American flag on front page? Check!

Massive development planned for newspaper’s real estate? Check.

Used newspaper as political bludgeon to propose development and attack opponents? Check and check.

Signs emerged this week that he was about to check another box: purchasing another newspaper, the Orange County Register, and consolidating it with the paper here. There’s long been talk of a mega Southern California newspaper, and Manchester thinks he can pull it off.

Our Scott Lewis offered up some good perspective on all the newspaper’s happenings on KPBS’ Evening Edition on Friday. Check out the video here.


Troubles with the San Diego VA

A new audit has found that the local office of the Department of Veterans Affairs complied with only one of nine of the categories it measures for disbursing benefits and communicating with veterans.

That means that 53 percent of the benefit claims it sampled contained errors made by the office. And the office suffers from a 30,000-claim backlog. That’s forced more than 60 percent of veterans to wait for a decision for more than four months, the Bay Citizen reports.

“With today’s release of VA’s Inspector General’s audits for San Diego and Oakland, a reasonable person can conclude nearly all of the Veterans Benefits Administration remains deeply mired in crisis, with little chance of recovery unless President Obama and Congress act immediately,” a lawyer told the Bay Citizen.

Weekend Reading

Web editor Dagny Salas is back with her usual offerings:

• Check out our reading list to find out why I’ll never look at hamburgers the same, what a 101-year-old economist has to teach us and the ill fate of hockey in the desert.

• Check out our comments of the week to find out why our children are being used as pawns, how our city ignores homeless and whether to expect the next mayor to give you a pony.

Quote of the Week

“We’ve got this heaping pile of bovine scatology that we want people to believe is chocolate mousse. But the voters actually see it for what it is, which is a big heaping pile of BS,” Eric Christen, the executive director of Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction, on KPBS.

I’m the editor of VOSD. You can reach me at andrew.donohue@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0526. Follow me on Twitter: @AndrewDonohue.

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