San Diego’s VA hospital isn’t one of the worst offenders when it comes to how long new patients must wait for an appointment. But that doesn’t mean it wants to juggle more people.

In fact, the San Diego VA health care system has quietly scaled back its outreach efforts in order do avoid “(drumming) up more business,” Catherine Green reports in a new story. That means older generations unfamiliar with changing eligibility standards might not know what care they’re entitled to.

Staff members still go to some events where they can spread information about who’s eligible for care, but smaller community groups that invite the VA to present will mostly get turned down now.

Trustee-To-Be Didn’t Face a Fight

Meet Mike McQuary, who will soon join the San Diego Unified school board. Don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of him: McQuary ran unopposed for his seat, whose current occupant — the ever-vocal Scott Barnett — decided not to run at nearly the last minute.

Barnett distinguished himself with his endlessly running mouth. McQuary seems to be a very different kind of character. He’s also unusual because of his extensive and varied background in education: “He’s worked as a teacher, a principal and within county and state offices of education.”

So whose side is McQuary on, if any? Here’s a hint: The teachers union likes him. He doesn’t seem thrilled about the idea of being pigeonholed, though. “I would say that having like-minded people on the school board because they’re supported by the union is an overly simplistic way to put it,” he said.

The Bright Side of High Home Prices

Home prices have been creeping up since the big crash in the late 2000s. That’s good news for home sellers and bad news for home buyers. Could they be good news in any other way?

Yup, writes Murtaza Baxamusa, who works for the San Diego Building Trades Family Housing Corp. An analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco links increases in house prices with growth in start-ups. It argues that lower home equity constrains the availability of start-up funds.”

In other words, people have more money to spend to support new companies when they can borrow against their mortgages. To make home prices more crucial in this context, “startups are the flagships of economic recoveries,” he writes.

Culture Report: Sweet Music Straddles the Border

VOSD’s weekly Culture Report notes that music interrupted the debate over immigration when San Diego Symphony performed alongside the Orquesta de Baja California at tBorder Field State Park.

The Culture Report also takes note of big budget cuts at a San Ysidro art gallery, a “wind vessel” for kids, a couple who go by the name “Chinkle” and an outdoor movie featuring Rita Hayworth and Tyrone Power.

• The Culture Report takes note of CityBeat’s extensive story about the legacy of slain architect Graham Downes. The architect’s killer was sentenced to 15 years to life Tuesday. (U-T)

• If you’ve been following the high-stakes drama at the San Diego Opera, check this revealing New York Times story about the labor dispute at the Metropolitan Opera in the Big Apple. Among the interesting tidbits: Chorus members made an average of $200,000 annually a couple years ago, and on average they’ll make almost $33,000 a year in pension when they get to retirement age. Some will make much more.

Failures Galore in DEA Prisoner’s Near-Death

A federal report finds that “four different federal drug agents saw or heard Daniel Chong during the five days he was held in a holding cell without food or water after a 2012 narcotics sweep,” the U-T reports. The agents didn’t do anything, the report says, because they weren’t trained and figured someone else was responsible.

Chong, a UCSD engineering student, “drank his own urine and tried to eat his broken eyeglasses during his unthinkable ordeal” in 2012 after he’d been caught up in a drug investigation, the paper says. Chong nearly died during his confinement in a tiny room. He was never charged and received a $4.1 million settlement.

Health Insurers Under Fire

Anthem Blue Cross, a major insurer in California, is facing a class-action suit alleging that it misled millions of people “about whether their doctors and hospitals were participating in its new plans, and failed to disclose that many policies wouldn’t cover care outside its approved network,” Kaiser Health News reports. The suit claims that the insurer failed to let policyholders know that it “had stopped offering any plans with out-of-network coverage in four of the state’s biggest counties,” including San Diego.

Uber Changes Course on ‘Price Insurers’

You may have heard of Uber, “everyone’s least and most favorite transit app,” as the Valleywag blog puts it. In a great boon for anyone trying to get around without a car in a pricey taxi town like San Diego, it allows regular people to drive folks around for a fee. But it also “catches a lot of flak for lacking anything you might call a conscience.”

Case in point: Uber’s (alleged) price gouging during emergencies. Now, Uber has agreed to stop jacking up prices during crises in New York state and is expected to make a similar change on a national level.

X Prize May Get Cloned

A state legislator is pushing to create a program that will give modest cash prizes to innovators who come up with ways to streamline the state government, Capital Public Radio reports. (Think of those X-Prize contests, then lower your expectations about the money people can win.)

The city had a somewhat similar program that would give bonuses to municipal workers if they helped boost the bottom line at City Hall. The current mayor didn’t like that plan, but he’s now supporting something similar.

• Speaking of prizes, we’re closer to getting the America’s Cup.

• The U-T reports on a court hearing over a hotel-guest tax to help pay to expand the convention center.

Puppy Love Sways Judge?

“How Duke Cunningham’s puppy selfie helped him gain his freedom,” reads a tweet from the U-T. In a word: CLICK.

Here are the actual details: “Disgraced former San Diego congressman Randy ‘Duke’ Cunningham has been granted an early release from post-prison monitoring by the federal court judge who sentenced him to more than eight years in prison for accepting bribes.” You’ll have to read farther down to hear about the selfie.

How Golf Courses Are Facing (Water) Pressure

The Daily Transcript checks in with local golf courses, which are paying a bundle to stay green. And what about the drought? Well, says one golf course manager, we have to compete with lush competitors in other parts of the Southwest.

“I’m not sure brown is the new green,” he said. “There’s an expectation that when you travel to San Diego and you play golf in a destination market, that it’s pretty good. I just think it’s still going to take some time before our guests have fully put their brain around what the drought does mean.”

These days, that’s par for the course.

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego and 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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