Do you know how things get built in your neighborhood or why our streets are in such poor shape? What about the ABCs of Common Core or where our water comes from?

These are just a few examples of the 14 “City 101” speed sessions taking place at Politifest this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Liberty Station.

The whole day is about making you a more informed and engaged resident, so please come out and join the entire VOSD crew. Click here for details.


The drivers responsible for hit-and-run crashes often get away with their crimes, sometimes forever. As we reported earlier this year, cases in San Diego are on the rise, and detectives often have little to go on. Families and friends can be left with no answers and no justice.

VOSD contributing photographer Sam Hodgson met with several San Diegans who lost their loved ones to hit-and-run incidents. In a new story, they tell their stories through photos, words and audio. We also hear from a former police sergeant and a fire captain about what they’ve seen.

Hodgson begins the story about one victim this way: “Jack Jackson was something of a night owl, so it was no surprise that he was out for a walk in the wee hours of the morning. And while he almost made it home, he couldn’t get beyond the driveway. That’s where a neighbor discovered him collapsed and, as it would turn out, grasping for life. The family was later told that the lacerations on his elbows and knees indicated that he was hit by a car away from the house and had tried to crawl home.”

Meet the Calculator That Makes You Work For It

Ilan Samson, an inventor from Israel, isn’t just a guy who tinkers in his garage. He actually has a job as an inventor-in-residence at UCSD. One of his missions: Rethink how kids learn math.

In a new story, we talk with Samson about the challenges of math and his device that’s making waves locally: a calculator that makes users guess the answer before they can see it.

But why bother learning math if calculators are always at the ready? “If you ask a student a question, he plugs it into a calculator and a second later he has an answer,” Samson says. “But if you cover up the calculator, a moment later he’s already forgotten it … There is no ‘how much’ without understanding how. That means knowing how to get to an answer.”

Whistling While They Patrol for Bias

Our weekly Culture Report leads with an item about a group of female playwrights who passed around whistles to blow whenever they run across bias. It’s a “clear sign that the call for diversity would be heard loud and clear,” writes VOSD contributor Alex Zaragoza.

Also in the Culture Report: storytelling in public, a piano-playing duo, the overwhelming whiteness of children’s books, a journalist’s chat with Bob Marley’s son Ziggy, and striking new architecture to clease your visual palate of whatever monstrosity just rose up down the street.

Convention Center Says It’s a Mess

It’s been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week for the Convention Center: A few days after an appellate court ruled the funding mechanism for an expansion unconstitutional, a spokesman says the place is “rotting,” we report in a new story. It’s not clear what anyone’s going to do about it: The center’s plans to expand are on hold, and they don’t include money for repairs anyway.

Meanwhile, the nation’s leading critic of convention center expansions, a professor in Texas, is out with a new book “where he says centers don’t provide community-wide economic benefit or growth as supporters say, but they do boost the downtowns where they’re typically located.” That same convention center spokesman here helpfully dismissed the professor as a “whack job” a while back.

In a memo, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith admits that the appellate court ruling  is “quite strong” and says the Council would have to act basically this week to get the special tax on the November ballot.

Commentary: Hey, We Aren’t So Bad!

Irv Lefberg, an Escondido resident who formerly worked as a senior economist, has a response for all those who claim San Diego is unfriendly to business: Nonsense.

“San Diego has enormous strengths,” he writes in a VOSD commentary. “It doesn’t need to join the race to the bottom by overreacting to business movements that are mostly part of the natural churn of capitalism.”

Quick News Hits

• The ACLU is going after Escondido in court in a bid to make the city accept a shelter for illegal migrant children. (NBC 7)

• San Diego is one of five cities in the nation that are on the government’s top watch list for “known or suspected terrorists,” reports The Intercept, a web publication devoted at the moment to examining “the documents previously provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.”

• It looks like the state will get a new law requiring assisted-living homes to have liability insurance, the U-T reports.

Meanwhile, the U-T says “assisted-living facilities around the county are expected to soon see an array of monitors, investigators and deputy district attorneys to crack down on shoddy or criminally negligent care and rapidly respond to complaints.”

• The battle between two of San Diego’s most stubborn characters, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith and City Hall-fighting attorney Cory Briggs, is degenerating into more mutual sniping.

As the Reader reports, Briggs wants the city attorney to resolve a suit over access to private emails by, among other things, admitting wrongdoing and writing “a public letter to the U-T, admitting he made misleading comments to reporters covering the lawsuit.”

The city attorney responded in a draft letter that his office accidentally sent Briggs. Did he want the final letter? Not really. “That un-final letter, if finalized, is a major waste of time.”

On the bright side, the city attorney finally has a document that Briggs doesn’t want to see.

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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