If California voters don’t agree to raise taxes this fall, children at the state’s public schools will face fewer weeks of education. In San Diego, the school district that serves much of the city will cut another 14 days off the school calendar if the tax measures fail.

As our reporter Will Carless explains, the district is gambling once again: “In order to guarantee smaller class sizes for all, the trustees are betting the taxes will pass. If they don’t, kids will enjoy a full complement of teachers, but could spend almost three fewer weeks in classrooms next year.”

Our story explains how the deal developed and examines options that were never seriously considered even though they’d make students the top priority. They include pay cuts without furlough days — teachers would work for less without extra days off — or health-care benefit concessions.  

Balboa Park’s Big Day

Today is a crucial day for the future of Balboa Park. The San Diego City Council will likely vote on Mayor Jerry Sanders and philanthropist Irwin Jacobs’ plan to remove the cars from the center of the park, redesign it into a pedestrian friendly plaza and redirect traffic onto a bridge and into a new parking garage.

The Save Our Heritage Organisation Tweeted yesterday that U.S. Rep. Bob Filner will be speaking against the project. But Filner, who’s running for mayor, doesn’t get to vote on the project. His opponent in the mayor’s race, Councilman Carl DeMaio, does. While DeMaio supported an earlier pact that helped the project advance, he’s been shaky in followups.

His main concern, he always says, is in protecting taxpayers. The park recently, and accurately, corrected a claim about that angle after we did a fact check.

Here’s our reader’s guide so you can catch up on the project in five steps. And stay tuned to Twitter for news on how the discussion plays out.

Hedgecock’s Mostly True Claim

Roger Hedgecock, the ex-mayor and syndicated conservative radio host, thinks the governor is bluffing about cutting funding for schools if his tax measure doesn’t pass.

This sort of thing has happened, before, he writes in a commentary. Remember back in 2010 when city officials warned of a financial doomsday in terms of public services if voters didn’t pass a new tax? They didn’t, and there was no catastrophe.

“In fact, the safety services budget went up as the City Council cut other parts of the budget,” Hedgecock writes. San Diego Fact Check finds his claim is factual but misses important nuance.

Hedgecock, by the way, supports DeMaio for mayor, even though he wrote in a commentary earlier this year that legislators — you know, like City Council members — are bad bets for executive positions.

We asked him about the apparent disconnect. “Gotcha question,” Hedgecock told our reporter. “I love it.”

It Looks Like a Tax, It Quacks Like Tax, but…

Rep. Brian Bilbray, a Republican who’s facing a tough fight against a Democrat in a newly redrawn district that’s less GOP-friendly than his old one, can tout his moderate bona fides. But he was also scheduled to attend a Tea Party rally over the weekend, the NC Times reports.

“The congressman believes that taxpayers have been taxed enough already,” a spokesman said. But what about Bilbray’s attempt to use funds from a new tax on tanning salons to support skin cancer research? (The issue has special relevance to him because his  daughter suffers from skin cancer.)     

The spokesman says the congressman thinks the tax is a “user fee.” Scott Lewis explored this puzzle recently as well.

Speaking of Bilbray, just how close is his congressional race? I checked the well-respected Cook Political Report, which ranks the races round the country. Of 435 seats in the House, only 24 — that’s right, just 24 — are considered “toss ups” that could go to either party. Bilbray’s seat is one of them.

Quick News Hits

• A new report says the number of Islamic residents in the county zoomed up by an estimated 179 percent from 2000-2010, becoming the seventh largest faith group in the county, the U-T reports. Mormons, meanwhile, went up by 55 percent to become the third largest in the county. (Catholics are the most populous faith, followed by non-denominational Christians, who were grouped together.)  

• ESPN.com editor Larry Graham, who’s just been named as the new executive sports editor at the U-T, will be one of only two African-American sports editors in the country, reports columnist Richard Prince, who covers diversity in journalism. The other one works at the Buffalo News.

NY Times on Dying Newspapers (Cites U-T)

In other U-T news, the paper is making a lot of hoopla about the July 15 redesign of its Sunday edition.

Meanwhile, in a story detailing the troubles of the newspaper industry, The New York Times used a U-T front-page story as an example of a disheartening week for journalism. At issue was the U-T’s decision to publish a story in print that it had previously posted online two weeks earlier.

The NYT incorrectly described the story as a blog post.

Even if it was a blog post, who cares? It’s hardly unusual for news organizations to hold stories for weeks or even months if they lack a timely “news peg.” (The U-T once held a story so long that by the time it ran the subject had died. That made for a memorable follow-up.)

If you don’t like repackaged stories, you could write a letter to the editor to complain. But, as San Diego Free Press reports, the paper says letters are limited to 125 words. “That’s two bumper stickers and a tweet,” a source told the Free Press.

More on the Grand Early Finale

A video of last week’s bay fireworks fiasco became the most-watched video on all of YouTube, the LA Times reports, and seven of the week’s most watched videos showed the big blow-out.

A New Jersey paper talked to a co-owner of the fireworks company, Garden State Fireworks, which is based there. He said a virus may have caused the computer glitch. Turns out the company is “the oldest and largest American manufacturer of display fireworks” and ran about 150 fireworks displays around July 4 this year. San Diego’s was one of the 10 biggest.  

“Everything is high-tech, everything is high-speed, and the more technological it gets, the more room there is for error,” he said.

I’m definitely adding that to my handy list of excuses. The technology ate my homework!

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...

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