School districts’ financial woes, city planning and one woman who’s recently become homeless were some of the topics you commented on this week.

Check out five we’re highlighting:

Alan Harris on “Emails from a Newly Homeless Woman“:

A very moving story that reminds us it could be us in her situation. People are homeless for many different reasons — not just because they are substance abusers or mentally ill or anti-social personalities. Sometimes we become callous when we see homeless people. My hope and prayer for her is that she gets back on her feet. In one of the wealthiest countries and wealthiest cities in the U.S. we should not have homelessness except in those situations where people choose to be homeless. We do have profound problems of income distribution and the existence of a real safety net for some people in our society. It is easy to blame the victim — but I always remember — but for the grace of God (and perhaps some of my own efforts) – go I.

Chris Brewster on “The Story Behind the Empty Desks“:

There was a point in San Diego’s not-too-distant past that San Diego had a strong Planning Department in the 1980s and 1990s whose job included implementing a vision of smart growth in San Diego. The term “livable communities” may not have initially been in vogue, but there was a definite desire to avoid “urban sprawl.” There was a city architect, Mike Stepner, who worked to help ensure, for example, that downtown skyscrapers were not monolithic and ensured that view corridors were maintained, so that the bay and our views were retained. Much thought went into how to shape the city in a way that would best work for everyone.

The problem, of course, is that if you are doing smart planning, it means one developer or another is not going to get to do whatever they wish, maximizing their investment in ways that hurt the community or the overall plan. As well, in an effort to create livable communities, the lot someone thought they would make a mint off of selling to 7-11 or whatever may now be constrained in one way or another. So developers and other wealthy interests prevailed upon the powers that be to quash this concept of smart planning in favor of “do what you want.” (As Mayor Susan Golding famously trumpeted: We are going to be business friendly!) No more permits held up by the planning department to ensure they address comprehensive community plans.

So planning was separated from a new department called Development Services, as in: We aren’t going to plan, we are going to service developers. And smart planning came to an abrupt end. The fact that planning is a subset of development services says it all.

Dan Lazzaro on “School District Botches Land Sale, Starts Over“:

As a current resident of Tierrasanta I am very concerned about any new building in my community. I have lived here for over 25 years and have previously sat on the local Planning and Community Council. I am not against anything specific going into the site in question but I certainly want it to fit into the community plan as well as be a benefit to the community. My preference would be to have the site be incorporated into Mission Trails Park, which borders it, but the city would have to purchase the property or the district would have to donate it. Regardless, the proper procedures need to be followed and all issues with the property should be explained to any potential buyer i.e., possible ordinance removal or habitat issues as well as presentation to the Tierrasanta Community Council. The district needs to get their ducks in a row before they put parcels out for bid.

Alicia Suarez on “CAB Legislation Expected in January“:

Capital appreciation bonds over 15 years are really not necessary and are only being issued to circumvent laws designed to protect taxpayers, such as the tax rate limit of $60 per $100k of assessed valuation for unified school districts.

In addition, having an interest rate cap of 8 percent may still be excessive. What would make more sense is to require that the bonds be issued at market prices … so if the market benchmark shows 3 percent yield for a tax-exempt bond, then the bond should not exceed that market yield. Also, the law should be amended to require school districts to obtain best financial terms via a competitive bid. A negotiated sale method should not be used unless a district attempted a competitive bidding process and shows the public why the competitive bidding process failed.

Lastly, a party not associated with the school district should authorize the bonds, like the County Board of Supervisors, county treasurer, treasurer’s office or state controller. We should require that all persons involved in authorizing the issuance of debt be bonded.

Glenn Younger on “As Loans Come Due, District Asks Ramona Teachers to Sacrifice“:

The School Board clearly has both a math problem, and a repayment problem.

I believe the last bond measure failed because much of the money in the 30-year bond was to be spent on short-term needs. Ongoing needs should be paid for with ongoing funding.

If they cannot do the math to balance the budget, then there will need to be more taxes, or a reduction in the operating expenses. Pretty simple math that the board and the teachers group need to figure.

Comments were lightly edited to fix typos and spelling.

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Dagny Salas is the web editor at Voice of San Diego. You can contact her directly at or 619.550.5669.

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Disclosure: Voice of San Diego members and supporters may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover. For a complete list of our contributors, click here.

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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