Back in the day, newly elected American presidents waited a good four months before taking office.

By contrast, the transition of power in San Diego is lightning fast: The city’s new mayor — Bob Filner — will take office in early December, less than a month after the election. The election won’t even be certified by then.

This rapid pace is unusual among cities, as we report in a new story. And this year’s transition will be unique for San Diego because Filner will come into office as the equivalent of a municipal CEO instead of a more traditional mayor who leaves the city’s day-to-day operation to an administrator.

“The strong mayor picks up those responsibilities under the new system approved in 2005, so Filner is tasked with more hires and with setting an agenda for the city,” our Lisa Halverstadt reports. “He has yet to provide many specifics on either front.”

• The U-T looks at how Filner might govern the city. Here’s how people who work with him have described Filner’s style, the paper reports: “Supreme micromanager. Hands-on leader. Demanding boss.”

Here’s a revealing detail: “Filner has no business or executive experience — other than managing his office budgets through the years — and now faces the task of running a city with a $2.8 billion budget and more than 10,000 employees.”

• The U-T also profiles longtime local political consultant Tom Shepard, “dean of local campaign maestros, loved by those he leads to victory, loathed by those he vanquishes.”

These days his name is mud to many on the GOP side since Shepard helped bring Filner to power instead of his usual practice of supporting a Republican.   

Pink Robots and Flaming Lips in Pen and Ink

An artist has an unusual pasttime: He draws portraits of theater and dance rehearsals. Our story includes a glimpse at his work chronicling La Jolla Playhouse’s “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” production.  

71 Southern California Doctors, 298 Deaths

A tiny percentage of doctors in four Southern California counties — including San Diego — are linked to hundreds of accidental deaths of patients due to prescription drug overdoses, the LA Times finds.

Specifically, 71 doctors wrote prescriptions connected to 298 deaths, and each physician is linked to at least three deaths.

The story identifies a physician from San Diego named Dr. Naga Thota: “Since 2005, at least 15 people have died of overdoses after Thota prescribed drugs for them.”

In an interview, Thota says the number may be higher because his patients may sell the drugs he prescribes them: “There are so many deaths in the city with my prescriptions sold on the street that you don’t know and I don’t know,” he said.

As for the deaths of people under his care, Thota compared prescribing painkillers to “playing with fire.”

Remembering the War Dead

Veterans Day is an opportunity to remember both the living and the dead who have served their country. The LA Times remembers 726 service members from the Golden State who didn’t survive the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

As the paper notes, 41 percent didn’t live past the age of 21.

For a list of the fallen — including details about hometowns, high schools, ages and more — click on the Times’ list here.

San Diego is the most common hometown on the list, with 33 service members. A total of 45 are buried at Ft. Rosecrans National Cemetery in Point Loma.  

Quick News Hits

• Property taxpayers in the Poway school district, who will cough up $1 billion to pay back that wildly controversial school bond, actually owe $2.5 billion over the next four decades overall, according to a new audit. (

• “Officials at the idled San Onofre nuclear power plant are investigating why coolant was found in an important piece of safety equipment during recent maintenance and are trying to determine whether it was an accident or sabotage, according to federal regulators and the plant’s operator,” Voice of OC reports.

A Punchy History for U.S. Grant

The U.S. Grant Hotel, as always, was a hot spot during last Tuesday’s election. The grand dame of downtown turned 10 a couple years ago, celebrating a century of hosting dignitaries (including presidents) and thousands more.

The hotel itself has a big presidential connection: It was built by Ulysses S. Grant Jr., son of the 19th century president and Civil War general. As I wrote in 2010 in a story about a Grant descendant in La Jolla auctioning off presidential memorabilia, the Grant family still has many connections here.

As for the U.S. Grant Hotel, the modern political happenings aren’t as exciting as previous ones, like the time it was the site of a famous a 1960s sit-in (“The Grant Grill Invasion”) by women attorneys who refused to accept its lunchtime habit of being a major — and female-free — location for influence peddling.  

And in 1918, Mayor Louis Wilde socked a councilman in the eye amid a feud at the hotel.

Could something like that happen now? Give me a permanent room there, and I’ll keep an eye out for shenanigans.

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

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at and follow him on Twitter:

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