“Barely a nickel” of each dollar donated to the charity Disabled Veterans Services of Pompano Beach, Florida wound up going directly to help the veterans in question, which led News21 reporters to look more deeply into the underbelly of non-profit organizations that claim to support veterans causes. “In the years that the country has been at war, Americans have given more than $12 billion to veterans’ and military charities,” they reported.

But often those dollars end up being spent on anything except helping veterans. The money can go toward paying for staff or consultants, or for fundraising mailers sent out to millions of homes. Other times, it’s hard to tell where the money has gone. One nonprofit claimed to have shipped $2.5 million in supplies to a veteran non-profit center in Boston, but the center could only confirm receiving one shipment valued at $200,000.

We’ve partnered with News21, a journalism student project, to run a series on veteran’s issues.

New Mayor, Fat City

The next mayor of San Diego, whomever he or she may be, will likely have some cash to throw around, our Liam Dillon reported. “The city could have a dramatically lower pension bill next year, which could translate to lots of extra money in the budget,” he wrote. We won’t know specific amounts until November, he noted, but it could change the rhetoric of mayoral hopefuls. “During the 2012 mayoral campaign, candidates’ promises for big new initiatives at times conflicted with the reality that pension headwinds meant the money wouldn’t be there.”

What’s a Parklet? This is.

Wander by the Caffé Calabria coffeehouse in the North Park neighborhood and you’ll notice something new: it’s a parklet. “There’s no room to kick a soccer ball, but it is a nice place to drink coffee and read a book,” reported Andrew Keatts. It’s got seating for 20, and despite what you may think on first glance, it is free and open for public use. It won’t be the last one you see, either. The city wants to “build five to 10 of the pedestrian-friendly areas citywide,” Keatts wrote.

Public Records Law Needs Accountability

Joel Hoffman has been asking about ideas for increasing transparency in city government, and wrote about some responses he’s gotten from the community. Former Voice of San Diego Editor Andy Dononhue summed up the frustration felt by many in San Diego with his suggestion: he wants “real punishment for failure to comply” with public records requests in a timely manner.

Healthcare Q-and-A: Separated Family, One Plan?

Speak City Heights has been taking questions about the looming start of Covered California, the state-wide insurance exchange that will implement the Affordable Care Act. In the most recent of the Second Opinion series, they tackle the question of whether a family with one member living in a different region can still cover the whole family under one plan.

Covered California spokeswoman Ann Gonzales says it won’t work. “Plans in different regions come with different price tags, and each insurance provider has to be paid separately,” reported Speak City Heights. The family member living in a different region can still participate in the exchange, but would have to purchase an individual plan.

Send in your questions about insurance coverage under Covered California.

New Principals in High Schools Today

As Christie Ritter prepared to send her daughter off to high school, a recent shake up of principals in the San Diego Unified School District had her feeling nervous. “Principals are the heart of a school,” wrote Ritter. “Thirty-six new principals will be there to open the school doors on Tuesday.”

Meeting of the Minds Returns

Our next Meeting of the Minds event is coming up on Sept. 18. These popular events have taken place in unusual places all over San Diego and feature speakers presenting in the pecha-kucha style, which is rapid-fire and visually compelling. Kelly Bennett will return to host the event featuring six presenters covering theater, music, dance and other arts. We’ll be in the East Village neighborhood of Downtown San Diego. This Meeting of the Minds event, however, is open to members only, but we’ll be registering new members onsite with a special deal.

Pointing Fingers

Member Bill Bradshaw wrote in sarcastically blaming Carl DeMaio’s policies and campaign strategies for Bob Filner’s successful bid for mayor. “So DeMaio is the villain in this saga, no doubt to the delight of his many detractors,” Bradshaw wrote.

Library School Now Open

“It may be the first public school in the country located inside a library.” While San Diego’s new Central Library won’t be open for weeks, the school inside of it opens its doors to full-time classes today. KPBS toured the new charter school on the first day teachers were working full-time and construction was still being completed. The school, e3 Civic High, is home to 260 freshman and sophomores and it’s built for working in teams. “Some of the classrooms look like conference rooms and other spaces are designed to bring teachers and students together in casual ways,” wrote KPBS. “To match the sophisticated environment, the charter school’s students will have to dress professionally.”

D-day For Mayoral Potentials

We’re expecting an announcement today from former City Councilman Carl DeMaio about his intentions on running for mayor. A Politico story circulated over the weekend claiming that DeMaio had already decided to stop campaigning for Congress and instead run for mayor of San Diego. DeMaio denied on Sunday that he had made his decision, and instead released a picture of himself with his family holding both “DeMaio for Mayor” and “DeMaio for Congress” signs. “We’ve reached max coy,” wrote Scott Lewis.

The U-T, one of DeMaio’s fiercest backers last year, has told him not to do it. They said it was no time for “opportunists,” which he would be if he bailed on his congressional run. “His in-your-face doggedness and sometimes abrasive manner is just what is needed to fix a broken Congress.”

Todd Gloria also said yesterday that he would announce his own decision about running for mayor on Tuesday.

News Nibbles

• Filner coverage topped the list of our most-read articles last week, followed by our coverage of large community construction projects that recently went up with uncharacteristic ease.

• Smoking is now banned on the University of California San Diego campus.

• Members of San Diego’s congressional delegation have been speaking out about American intervention in the Syrian conflict.

• The U-T took an interview with San Diego Planning Director Bill Fulton, who says he really wants to re-plan Mission Valley.

• NBC San Diego has a gallery of the amazing talent that was on display this weekend at the U.S. Sand Sculpting Competition.

• UT San Diego published its own photo gallery of the bridges of San Diego County.

• San Diego Police Department will soon begin rolling out new bigger, faster patrol cars.

We’re Getting Quite A Reputation

The National Zoo in Washington, D.C. welcomed a new panda bear cub last week, which many San Diegans may have welcomed with a yawn considering how good our zoo’s pandas are at procreating. The Atlantic highlighted a New Yorker article about why San Diego pandas, to put it bluntly, are way better at having sex than the ones at the National Zoo.

Our pandas apparently have “no need for sex aids fashioned by zoo carpenters,” compared to the pandas at the National Zoo which were tempted into procreating using a variety of methods including the administration of Viagra. None of it worked; ultimately the cub they have now was conceived artificially.

Seth Hall is a local writer and technologist. You can contact him at voice@s3th.com or follow him on Twitter: @loteck.

Seth Hall is a local writer and technologist. You can reach him at voice@s3th.com or follow him on Twitter: @loteck.

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