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Principal Cindy Marten has gotten a lot of attention while leading City Heights Central Elementary and her efforts have now gotten her the top job for the San Diego Unified School District.

It was a swift hire for a district that has often spent months stuck in transitions while cycling through chief administrators over the last decade. Bill Kowba, the current schools superintendent, announced this week that he would be gone at the end of June.

Kowba now has several months to bring Marten up to speed on the internal challenges that make up the district’s chronic budget deficit. Management has committed to address financial problems without laying off teachers but also while honoring planned across-the-board salary increases, and adding days back on to the school calendar.

Marten will also be the boss of a new chief financial officer, whose recent remarks about waste in the district provoked both applause and an angry backlash, even from the head of the school board.

Voice of San Diego has spent a lot of time with Marten. In 2011, we joined NBC 7 San Diego on a week-long effort to explain financial problems at San Diego Unified and the havoc they’d wreak on schools with less senior teachers. Central Elementary was at the center of our story. Scott Lewis and Andrew Donohue gave Marten the hero of the week on Voice of San Diego’s weekly radio show.

Will Carless profiled Central Elementary’s struggles in June when it actually faced those layoffs implemented by the district, they were later withdrawn.

The New York Times followed the same thread on Marten.

Fact Check: Presto-Change-O at Balboa Park

The city has been arguing for more than a year about the big plan to drastically remake the western part of Balboa Park. Now, Mayor Bob Filner says he has a simple solution to rid most of the Plaza de Panama of those pesky cars: drop a handful of traffic cones and voila! Car-free! Yay!

The promenading, presumably, would begin immediately. (Note to self: learn how to promenade.)

Is Filner right? San Diego Fact Check finds his claim misleading. It’s much more complicated and it was worth explaining why.

The same day, though, Filner told KPBS he is nearly ready to announce a plan to transform the park for only $500,000.

Once Homeless, Our Correspondent Tells of New Home

Thanks to the generosity of a middle-aged homeless woman named Liz Hirsch, we’ve been getting first-hand accounts of life on the San Diego streets over the past few months. Now, Hirsch has a home at a house for homeless woman over the age of 50.

In a new letter, she writes of rules that make sense, possible survivor guilt and a new way of looking at the world: “Now I am starting to feel like I’m not in survival mode as much. I can think of what to do next.”    

• We held a great discussion last week about the challenges facing efforts to help the homeless. If you’d like to learn about the topics that were discussed, watch our video presentation that highlights each of the speakers.  

• Filner wants the winter homeless shelter to stay open past its closing date. (CityBeat)

Unbuckled! Happy Sidewalks Reappear

Two of our readers report that decrepit and dangerous city sidewalks have been repaired, coincidentally (or not) after they were showcased in our Stumblr blog.

Reconsidering Managed Competition

Mayor Filner is moving ahead with his re-examination of how the city handles “managed competition,” a kind of outsourcing that can lead to city employees continuing to do their jobs. We’ve got the details.

City News Roundup

• “After five years and $4.75 million in attorneys’ fees, the city of San Diego failed to convince a judge that a Texas-based oil company deliberately dragged its feet in cleaning up the soil and groundwater pollution it caused in Mission Valley.” (Mission Valley News)

• CityBeat talks to several more of the candidates for the District Four council race.

• Jack McGrory, a former city manager of San Diego, has bought a Borrego Springs property owned by the late publisher David Copley. He also now co-owns the former La Casa del Zorro hotel there. (U-T)

• “Coming off like Calvin Coolidge high on crystal meth…,” the U-T’s Logan Jenkins writes, “a local politician pronounced himself shocked…” Whom is he talking about? Just guess.

Say Aloha to a Great Junket

County pension officials went to a conference in Hawaii, California Watch reports. “The conference website supplies board members hoping to shore up support for their expenses-paid trip a ‘2013 Attendance Justification Tool Kit.’ The site also includes ‘7 Tips for Building Your Case for Attending the Annual Conference,’ which suggests that trustees emphasize how the conference could help them ‘build a networking list’ and identify ways to help ‘save your fund money.’”

We’re Pretty Darned Awesome, Aren’t We?

U-T San Diego has published a glowing story about the high hopes and bright future of a local business: U-T San Diego. In particular, the 1,800-word story raves about the newspaper company’s in-house cable station. “What the young staff lacks in experience, they make up for in ideas and drive,” the story says, with the news director putting it this way: “we’re innovating the (television news) business.”

The station, which has been in operation for months, will get its first ratings report next month: “Some preliminary figures indicate U-T TV is attracting measurable amounts of viewers, although far less than the affiliate stations.”

RIP, the Reader’s ‘Matthew Alice’

There’s sad news for any local readers who long for newspaper writing with heart and wit. Local writer and editor Linda Nevin, who spent more than two decades writing for the San Diego Reader under the pseudonym Matthew Alice, has died.

Just about every week, in a sly but never snarky style, Matthew Alice answered questions about quirky science, urban legends and (best of all) San Diego strangeness.: What happened to the Fairest of the Fair? Why are there marbles on the OB Pier? And what’s up with those cameras (not the red-light ones) on stoplights?

Nevin fessed up to readers about her real identity last year (I was delighted to stumble upon her secret a few years ago) and retired from writing the column.

I never got to meet her, nor the ever-colorful “Grandma” and rambunctious “elves” that populated the Matthew Alice world.  But they’ll always be with those of us who loved her warmth, her way with words and her devotion to this often-weird and often-wonderful place.

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