Big Brother it ain’t.

The San Diego Police Department has raised the eyebrows of privacy advocates with its plans to monitor the public with the help of private security cameras. Now the PD says it has access to 41 cameras through Operation Secure San Diego.

So how’s that going? Not well at all. Half the cameras use the wrong software and are useless, we report in a new story. And the other half have slow 3G connections that officers can’t access.

There are other problems. Officers don’t appear to know that the video links even exist. (Never mind the big publicity effort after the Newtown massacre.) The department told us that the program is not operational and then said it’s partly operational.

School Discipline Gets Massive Rethink

A new report by Harvard researchers who visited San Diego Unified schools says a tough, zero-tolerance, war-on-drugs-type approach has been a failure in public schools.

In a new story, we examine the conclusions of the report, which calls for specific changes (like an early warning system to pinpoint kids who are falling behind on credits) and overall reforms (like collective accountability).

Behind the buzzwords is a basic problem with kicking kids out of class for days or more as a punishment: “Kids can’t learn if they’re not in class. And when it comes to disciplinary practices that keep kids out of San Diego Unified, black and Latino students are losing the most,” Mario Koran reports.

VOSD Radio: ‘Density’ Gets a Makeover

To some advocates, fitting more people into neighborhoods through taller buildings is the best way to boost public transit and protect the environment. But critics, including many on the left, warn of a plot to boost developers by ruining communities with ugliness and congestion.

The latest edition of the VOSD Radio Show and Expanded Podcast, local urban designer and former city strategist Howard Blackson tries to redefine the D-word: “Density is a way to measure something after it’s been built. It is not a tool to design something to be built.”

Also on the show: The candidate for governor who went “homeless” as a stunt (it’s not the first time a political-type has done this), and the Hero of the Week award goes to one of VOSD’s own.

• Our story about how the supposed density fight in Ocean Beach — which isn’t really about density — was the most popular on our site over the past week. Check the full Top 10 list here.

No County for Young Men (or Women)

On the county level, we live in the eighth-most expensive housing market in the nation, a new report says. If you make the average household income here, you’d have to spend 42 percent of it on a house as of 2013. Could be worse: That number is 78 percent in San Francisco.

You can also see a worrisome statistic in the numbers: Among the most expensive markets, we rank very low when it comes to the growth in the population of millennials in our county.

Fixes to Nursing Home System Could Stall

News coverage of deaths from neglect and abuse in San Diego County nursing homes has sparked a bunch of bills in the state legislature.

But the reporting, by the U-T and Center for Health Reporting, might not ultimately result in dramatic change. The U-T reports that the bills are “facing new challenges from owners of small facilities who say the measures would cause homes to close, leaving seniors with fewer options.”

Quick News Hits: Sundaes Get My Vote

• California College San Diego, a private school with several local campuses and an uninspiring name, “gave employees unlawful student recruitment bonuses and perks, defrauding the federal Department of Education out of $81 million, a whistle-blower lawsuit claims,” the U-T reports.

“The lawsuit says college recruiters received cash bonuses, pay raises, upgraded office furniture, movie tickets, resort stays and other perks for enrolling students in violation of federal rules,” the paper says. The chain that runs the schools denies the allegations.

• As you may have heard, the city and the business community have lost (at least temporarily) their bid to jack up taxes on hotel guests to pay for a giant expansion of the Convention Center. Supporters could just go and ask voters to raise the taxes, but they’ve been very skeptical about their chances at the ballot box.

As a hotel magnate told the U-T: “San Diegans historically have shown even if you give them free ice cream on the ballot, it’s tough to get two-thirds.”

Interesting. There goes my suggested campaign motto to get voters on board: “Pretty please with a cherry on top?”

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

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