Newt Gingrich’s most unwanted endorsement. An unproven curfew crackdown. San Diego’s “cheerleader in chief.” A fantastically costly borrowing scheme.

These were the topics of some of the 10 most popular stories on our site in 2012.

Here’s a look at these stories along with updates about what’s happened since our readers first got a gander at these articles.

1. Where Borrowing $105 Million Will Cost $1 Billion: Poway Schools, Aug. 6.

The Story: The Poway Unified School District — which serves a big chunk of inland North County, including parts of the city of San Diego — persuaded voters to let it borrow $105 million for school construction. But many voters didn’t realize that they’d be paying off the loan to the tune of about $1 billion.

Quote, Unquote: “If they ever told the truth, they would never get these approved by the voters.” — Glenn Byers, Los Angeles’ assistant treasurer and tax collector, on what he says is the dishonesty of districts like Poway’s.

Postscript: While we weren’t the first to report about it, our coverage of Poway’s ultra-costly and ultra-unusual school bond drew intense and unwanted national attention to the district. Critics slammed its decisions to take on major debt, saddle itself with inflexibility and make local property owners pay off the loan several decades down the line.

2. A Creative Borrowing Boom: Poway Not Alone in High-Interest Financing, Aug. 7.

The Story: Poway is far from the only local school district to engage in an unusual type of borrowing. Districts serving San Diego, Oceanside and Escondido have done the same thing.

Postscript: Taxpayer advocates, the state attorney general’s office and others have been raising the alarm about these types of borrowing schemes. A local assemblyman plans to introduce legislation to limit them.

3. Doug Manchester: San Diego’s Cheerleader in Chief, Jan. 20.

The Story: Doug Manchester, the new publisher of the U-T, opens up about his motto (“Making positive memories”), his vision for the paper and more. A prominent Catholic and “family values” advocate, he acknowledges being unfaithful to his wife; they’re now separated.

Quote, Unquote: “There’s always going to be people who may be jealous. As long as you don’t cheat the man in the glass, you can live your life to the fullest. I get up every morning and tell myself, ‘Hey, Papa Doug, this is the first day of the rest of my life. Let’s live it to the fullest. Like it’s the Super Bowl, only without any timeouts or instant replays.’” — Manchester.

Postscript: Manchester and his newspaper continued to make news throughout the year. Even the New York Times took notice of the U-T’s evolution.

4. Where San Diego’s Poorest Live: Map, Aug. 6.

The Story: We created a map to show the neighborhoods where the most (and fewest) people making under $30,000 live in the city of San Diego.

Quote, Unquote: “Residents south of Interstate 8 are poorer than residents to the north, and this broad comparison is often a flash point of public discussion about how services are distributed or prioritized.”

Postscript: Newly elected Mayor Bob Filner promises to support neighborhoods instead of putting so much focus on downtown’s financial interests.

5. Hundreds of Kids Arrested on an Unproven Hunch, March 11.

The Story: Curfew sweeps pull in hundreds of children who stay out past 10 p.m. in parts of San Diego’s urban core. While not definitive, a VOSD analysis questioned whether the sweeps have reduced crime.

Quote, Unquote: We are going to take a good hard look at it,” Long said after reviewing our findings. “I love that you’re looking at the numbers because I haven’t.” — Assistant Police Chief Boyd Long.

Postscript: The story prompted a debate over the curfews. For more, click here.

6. The Three Words That Made Pensions Untouchable, June 25.

The Story: Why have public workers’ pensions become so untouchable? We explored the legal reasoning why government employees can’t be forced to cough up the pension proceeds they have coming.

Quote/Unquote: “It all goes back to three words in a 1917 California Supreme Court decision about benefits for a police widow.”

Postscript: To catch up on what’s happened with city pensions this year, click here.

7. The Teachers Union Gets Tough, and Isolated, Feb. 6.

The Story: The San Diego teachers union developed a hardline attitude in its contract negotiations with the school district. That’s not unusual for labor unions, but critics both inside and outside the union accused it of being too confrontational.

Quote, Unquote: “I think their answer is just ‘No,’ before they even know what the question is. They’ve kinda become the bullies on the block.” — Donis Coronel, a former negotiator for the school district.

Postscript: The union and the district reached a deal that prevented massive layoffs.

8. Duke to Newt: I’ve Got Your Back, Jan. 26.

The Story: Former local Rep. Duke Cunningham, who was languishing in federal prison, threw his support behind GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich in a letter from the big house.

Quote, Unquote: “Newt, a voice out of the past. Down but not out and still fighting. First I do not want anything from you but have been watching the debates. I have 80% of inmates that would vote for you. They might not be able to but their extended families will.” — Cunningham’s letter.

Postscript: Cunningham’s support didn’t help. Gingrich lost the Republican presidential nomination to Mitt Romney.

9. The Tragic and Fascinating Life of Carl DeMaio, March 13.

The Story: Councilman Carl DeMaio, then a candidate for mayor, hasn’t yet reached his 40s. But he’s had an eventful and often high-profile life, highlighted by great success and great loss.

Quote, Unquote: “I think it probably is to some extent a product of my childhood that you keep your emotions in a box. Because it is so scary. It is so painful.” — DeMaio.

Postscript: DeMaio won the June primary but lost the November election to Filner.

10. The Mayoral Candidate Scorecard, May 4.

The Story: We created a graphic listing the positions of the four mayoral candidates in the June primary and linked to stories about their views.

Postscript: Filner won a November faceoff with DeMaio.

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

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.

Randy Dotinga

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

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