Cast your mind back to 2011 and you may remember all the hullabaloo in the San Diego Unified school district, which serves the city outside of its northern and southernmost neighborhoods.

School officials warned of a budget Armageddon, and big headlines on our site sounded the alarm. Teachers, union leaders, parents, board members — they were all in an uproar.

But now things are calm, if not exactly whisper-quiet. The district didn’t go off a cliff, fiscal or otherwise. Voters on the state level blessed a boost in the sales tax, while local voters approved a deal to borrow almost $3 billion.

Our reporter Will Carless looks at what changed in a new story that explains how budget bonanzas and sacrifices ushered in a new era. Even the teachers union appears to be less antagonistic than in the past.

But the inevitable troubles loom ahead.    

Our Scribe to Monitor the City Outside City Hall

VOSD reporter Liam Dillon, who’s been covering City Hall for us for more than three years, is developing a new kind of beat. He’ll still be covering San Diego, just with less of a focus on the wonky, insular and insider-y world of a few floors in a building on C Street in downtown.

“My new assignment will be to tackle local government reporting from the bottom up,” he writes. “You’ll see much less from me about pensions and budgets. Instead, you’re likely to see more on emergency response times, building permits, streets, sidewalks and other ways San Diegans interact with their governments.”

To learn more about what he’s up to, click here.

Local Government Roundup

• The U-T bids farewell to departing County Supervisor Pam Slater-Price with a news story, saying her “tenure will be remembered largely for her environmental advocacy and her passionate but sometimes controversial support for the arts.”

“Sometimes controversial” is right. As we noted in 2007, Slater-Price had an unusual relationship with employees of local non-profits: “Employees of nonprofit agencies aren’t known to be active political donors, but Slater-Price has been a prolific benefactor in her 15 years in office, dispensing millions of dollars in public funds to the opera, music festivals and playhouses.”

• The city’s supposed to check fire hydrants once every five years. But an audit finds that it failed to check more than a quarter of almost 78,000 hydrants from 2007-2012, the U-T reports. The city’s going to change its policies.

• “Some city of San Diego employees are earning overtime by counting their paid time off as time worked,” according to a new audit, the U-T reports. The city allows that, but the audit suggests it not anymore.

• The Unified Port of San Diego is getting ready to spend $50,000 to hire a fundraiser to find donors to support a $6 million-$8 million project that would line the Coronado bridge with LED lights, the Reader reports. A study about the feasibility of the project, estimated to cost $750,000, is pending.

Meanwhile, a new LED-lighting system at the Empire State Building in New York City is getting mixed reviews. While it allows many more colors, a tweet from a Salon writer derided it as blinking “like a cable modem” on New Year’s Eve.   

Chargers Clean House; Spending Big on Stadium

• In case you missed it, the Chargers brass have fired Norv Turner, the head coach, and A.J. Smith, the general manager. They were among a blizzard of top team officials who lost their jobs on “Black Monday” as the NFL heads into playoff season.

The L.A. Times has the story and quotes Dean Spanos, the Chargers president, on the lack of attendance: “Obviously, if you don’t win, fans aren’t going to come. I think this is part of our business. As I said earlier, our goal is to put a winning product on the field and we haven’t done that in three years.”

• Boon, meet doggle: A couple researchers with the Brookings Institute, a liberal think tank, bash the public funding of a $600 million baseball stadium for the Miami team in a newspaper column: “The end result: a total public bill of $2.4 billion over 40 years. And you thought $600 million sounded expensive.”

They add: “Professional sports teams do deliver value to their communities. They’re a source of regional pride, a great place to spend entertainment dollars, and (mostly) a safe place for the whole family. But when those more abstract benefits start to compete with public safety funding, or classroom sizes, or a new rail line, then the comparison is a no-brainer.”

What’s Next for the Nuke Plant?

U-T columnist Logan Jenkins looks forward into 2013 and predicts that nuclear officials won’t allow the disabled San Onofre nuclear plant to go back online unless it’s fully ready to go. And he thinks this won’t be a good year for its prospects: “Prediction: 2013 will be the year when it becomes clear to a critical political mass, not just the Friends of the Earth true disbelievers, that Onofre is dirty, old technology — and must be buried in the dustbin of history.”

So who’s going to look back a year from now to see if Jenkins was right? (Don’t look at me.)

Here’s an idea: political prognosticators should take a page from the online news organization Slate and publish a “Pundit Audit” at the end of every year, checking to see what they got right and didn’t get right.

Here’s a prediction that you can bank on: Hardly any pundits will do that.

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

Randy Dotinga

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

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