All ears will be on the new chief of San Diego public schools tonight when she gives her State of the District speech. We’ve put together a quick guide to what you should listen for.

The big issue: How is Superintendent Cindy Marten “going to create a school system that is the best in the nation” in partnership with the community? We’ve kept the pressure on Marten, who hasn’t provided key details about issues like her definition of a quality school, how she’ll measure quality and how she’ll deal with the unfolding mess at Lincoln High.

An ‘Absurd Detour’ in the Race for Mayor

Monday was not a great day for political journalism or political campaigning.

First, the U-T decided that the college transcripts of the four mayoral candidates were worth exploring and asked for them.

The story revealed a couple of very minor tidbits: Councilman Kevin Faulconer had a C-plus average more than a quarter century ago, and Councilman David Alvarez aced abnormal psychology. That’s some handy background in his line of work. But former legislator Nathan Fletcher made the biggest splash by simply refusing to cough up his transcripts, sparking a Faulconer campaign demand that he be more transparent and Alvarez to applaud his own openness.

Sara Libby, VOSD’s managing editor, calls the whole flap an “absurd detour” in a new commentary, noting those who yammer about transparency lose their grip. “When you lump school transcripts with campaign donors and calendars, you imply that college grades are just as important for gauging candidates as things that will actually impact their decisions.”

The Rest of the Day in the Mayor’s Race

• Mayoral candidate Fletcher recently declared that “city workers today have a 401(k) and no Social Security.” Is he right about one of retirement proceeds for municipal employees, one of the top issues in the campaign? Nope. His claim is false, San Diego Fact Check finds.

• This zombie-centric anti-Fletcher commercial is so terrible that it makes me feel dead inside.

• Aaaaaah!

City to Make Choice on Ambulance Service

We take a look at the options facing the City Council as it tries to figure out what to do about the city’s troubled ambulance service. A local taxpayers advocacy group is out with a new report criticizing one option — hiring the Fire-Rescue Department to handle ambulance services.

Quick News Hits

• A technical glitch mangled the text in yesterday’s Morning Report. We’re hoping we have it fixed now. Thanks for your patience!

• The city is going after two medical marijuana dispensaries in Pacific Beach, the Reader reports.

• The 10th anniversary of the devastating 2003 Cedar Fire is on plenty of minds this month. The U-T finds that much of Cuyamaca Rancho State Park — which many local kids visited in sixth-grade camp — remains devastated. Makes sure to check out the accompaniment to the story, a grim but beautiful photo essay by photographer John Gastaldo.

• The day belongs to Gene Cubbison: San Diego Magazine has a Q-and-A interview with the veteran reporter at NBC San Diego, our news partner. He’s been there for 30 years, enough time to remember the old days of “Channel 39” and the call letters “KCST.”

Among other things, Cubbison offers some wisdom about San Diego’s much-derided interest in politics and government: “to the extent that it’s a relatively educated electorate, there’s a healthy degree of engagement — although in this ‘chill’ Margaritaville social climate, the masses sometimes need special galvanizing. When it comes to power players, cracking the lineup now seems to be a more fluid process. Power these days looks as though it’s getting more widely dispersed.”

• The City Council today will consider “an ordinance that would prohibit people from entering Children’s Pool Beach in La Jolla from Dec. 15 through May 15 and declare the shoreline an Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area,” KPBS reports.

Locals have been battling over access to the beach for years, pitting seal fans against people who think the beach belongs to their own kind.

• Seals and sea lions are quite common along our coast, but it’s quite rare for someone to spot sea otters, since they don’t hang out much in these parts. Turns out that’s a good thing, especially if you’re a seal.

Slate reports that sea otters are “jerks,” even “diabolical.” The story also reports on violent behavior by dolphins and penguins.

“There is no animal that is made of rainbows and kisses and goodness all the way through,” Slate concludes.

And even if there was, its college transcripts might tell an entirely different story.

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego and vice president of the American Society of Journalists & Authors. Please contact him directly at and follow him on Twitter:

Randy Dotinga

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

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