We obtained a city memo that finds about half of San Diego’s 10,000 workers received raises even as the city touted its cuts to salaries and benefits.

“The raises detailed in the report clashes with years of City Hall rhetoric about wage cuts and pay freezes,” our Lisa Halverstadt reports. “Throughout his tenure, former Mayor Jerry Sanders claimed he held the line on staffers’ salaries, and union leaders have repeatedly decried the years city employees have gone without raises.”

There are a variety of reasons for the raises. For example, “some staffers received pay hikes due to promotions or previously agreed upon increases based on qualifications or the amount of time spent on the job.”

Understanding Bond Underwriters

Municipal bond underwriters sometimes donate to school bond campaigns and then get to finance the deals when the measures pass. We’ve put together a list of seven questions and answers to help you understand the role of these underwriters, who have long been controversial and played a role in our recent school bond investigation.

• Our reporter Will Carless made several media appearances to discuss school bonds. You can watch and listen here. And he’s also on VOSD Radio.

Did Filner Keep His Tijuana Promise?

We’re tracking whether hyperkinetic Mayor Bob Filner keeps his campaign promises. One of them was to open an office in Tijuana in order to improve relations between the cross-border cities.

So did he do it? Our verdict is yes, but there’s a caveat: Filner didn’t exactly open an office south of the border. In fact, a San Diego city official has office space &mdash a cubicle to be exact (plus access to meeting rooms).

Some city observers expected something more, like a stand-alone office or even a building. Still, as our Lisa Halverstadt reports, “though it’s not standalone office, the space will make it easier for San Diego officials to meet with leaders across the border and serves as an important symbol of San Diego’s relationship with Tijuana.”

We have a list of dozens of Filner promises (you can peruse it at your leisure here and we’ll be tracking whether he follows through.

Active Voice: Singing with a Laugh, Playing with $8M

• “Smutched.” “Nard.” “The bag of the bee.” These words sound potentially dirty to me, VOSD’s resident contributor with the maturity of a 12 year old. They did to singers too, who giggled as they sang them. Our arts blogger Libby Weber explains how they came up in song and why being musician can be more fun than it looks.   

• John Gennaro notes that Padres player Chase Headley will get paid more than $8 million this year. And this makes Padres fans fear that he’s too good to end up staying with the team much longer.

Check out Active Voice to keep up on our new project where writers like Gennaro and Weber are having some fun.

Tourism Tax Supporters Get Council Boost

After a long hearing, the San Diego City Council spoke mostly in the positive (KPBS) about the 2 percent hotel-room levy that funds tourism marketing and that Mayor Filner is trying to block. The Council declined to ask the city attorney to start modifying the deal.

Today, in closed session, the body is set to debate an option that may allow it to go forward in spite of Filner’s reluctance to sign the operating agreement that would eventually allow the Tourism Marketing District to collect the revenue and disburse it. Filner, as mayor, presides over closed session meetings, unlike regular City Council meetings.

Scandalous Mayors Top VOSD’s Hit Parade

My look at San Diego’s eight most scandalous mayors (leaving out ex-Mayor Maureen O’Connor because her scandal is still unfolding) tops the Top 10 list of our most popular stories over the past week.

If you appreciated our history flashback (not everybody did), we’ve got more where that came from: Our archives include stories about other “Escandalo!” moments in San Diego history, including the reporter who fibbed his way to a Pulitzer, the young fabulist who convinced people he was the next Mr. Rogers, and a Union columnist who captured the nation’s attention with her false claim about discovering a cache of Lincoln love letters.

Also: Fact Check TV dips into the reality regarding O’Connor’s gambling losses.

Quick News Hits

• Mayor Filner is furious (I’ll stop while you recover from this unusual image) over a local association of governments’ plan to spend as much as $40 million on public relations over just five years. “I open up a paper and it’s pretty embarrassing to be a member of the board that’s doing this,” said Filner, a member of the SANDAG board, U-T San Diego reports.

He was not swayed by a spokeswoman who said the agency doesn’t actually plan to spend the $40 million. SANDAG already has 10 communications staffers.

• Residents of Allied Gardens say they’re opposed to an affordable housing complex for seniors because it will worsen traffic and overcrowd the neighborhood, KPBS reports. The City Council will consider the project today. We’ve already tracked one Council member’s frank support of the project though he maintains his mind is still open.

• Federal prosecutors say they’ve uncovered an elaborate local scheme to provide driver’s licenses to people who wouldn’t or couldn’t pass driver’s tests. “The investigators offer some colorful details: furtive glances exchanged between alleged co-conspirators, flurries of text messages that discussed timing and pricing, and cryptic shorthand,” the U-T reports.

• With an emphasis on San Diego, the Associated Press explores the great transformation of efforts to stop illegal crossers along the U.S.-Mexico border: “Where border agents made some 530,000 arrests in San Diego in fiscal year 1993, they had fewer than 30,000 in 2012.” The story asks the question: “What does a ‘secure’ border look like?”

• In other border news, KPBS takes a look at the Border Patrol’s local horse unit. Yes, horses. They’re able to go places where cars can’t, they’re environmentally friendly (except for those inevitable deposits), and they’re fairly quiet. And, of course, they’re intimidating to border crossers and other law-breakers.

There’s another benefit, KPBS notes: “While vehicles last for a few years, a horse can work for up to 17 consecutive years.”

That’s a lot of time spent walking around with someone sitting on your back. Here’s hoping the horses get a chance to put in for early retirement.

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

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 randydotinga@gmail.com...

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