Behind all the boosterism about how we need to expand the Convention Center is a basic claim: The place is busy and could be even busier if it was bigger. The mayor of San Marcos put part of the equation this way in a recent letter to the editor: “San Diego’s Convention Center is fully booked.”

Is he right? San Diego Fact Check is on the case. Figuring out a verdict is a little complicated since convention centers have a unique definition of “fully booked.” By that definition, which it’s fair to apply to the mayor’s remark, the claim is “Mostly True.” Yes, the Convention Center qualifies as fully booked, but there’s a wrinkle that needs to be considered: It’s giving some conferences a financial break to come here.

Our story includes more than a comparison of the claim to reality. It also features charts of the level that the convention center is occupied over the last few years and the last few months. You can track the ups and downs from year to year (yup, the recession had quite an effect) and see why meeting planners think December is a dead zone.

For Sweetwater Schools, a Brand New Beginning

All eyes are on the scandal-plagued Sweetwater school district, which runs middle and high schools in the South Bay and which saw four board member convicted in a corruption investigation. District voters are preparing to elect not one or two but five new board members — all of them — on Election Day. And there’s another big change this time around.

In a Q-and-A by VOSD reporting intern Michelle Monroy, we talk to high school teacher Gene Chavira, who spearheaded a new voting system that will allow board members to be elected based on where they live. He praises a local assemblywoman, knocks some local mayors whom he thinks were asleep at the switch and explains why it was time for people in the eastern edges of Chula Vista — including the giant upscale Eastlake community — to stop being in charge of everything: “The west side is the old Chula Vista and the east side is the new Chula Vista. The new Chula Vista tends to have people with higher income, higher education and more likely to vote.” Now, he believes, more people have a voice.

• Here’s a notable fact about the Sweetwater district: It’s where San Diego school board President Kevin Beiser, up for re-election, works as a math teacher. Most of the time. “Over the last five years, Beiser has been absent from his job as a middle school math teacher, on average, four weeks out of every school year. That more than meets the bar to be considered chronically absent,” VOSD reporter Mario Koran reports.

We’ve dug a little deeper into this nugget. The San Diego teachers union chief has no problem with his absences; she says teachers must choose how best to spend their time. But, Koran writes, “because the district pays Beiser on the days he misses, and foots the bill for the substitutes to cover his classes, taxpayers are essentially subsidizing his campaign efforts.”

Election Round-Up: These Dudes Dig Data

• Rep. Scott Peters and opponent Carl DeMaio met separately with local boosters for open data and generally agree on the need for transparent government. Both expressed concern about government secrecy, according to the news site IVN: “Peters acknowledged that former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden did reveal important things about the NSA, but he does not ascribe any heroism to Snowden because of the nature of government secrets he revealed,” while “DeMaio came across as slightly more eager to denounce government surveillance.”

• In an editorial, CityBeat cautions that DeMaio hasn’t been cleared of sexual misconduct charges involving a former staffer (though DA Bonnie Dumanis has declined to press any charges): “DeMaio is happy to see the word ‘cleared’ all over the place, but he might not want to get too comfortable. Our lawyer friends say harassment is typically handled in civil court rather than criminal, and [the former staffer] is going to sue DeMaio.”

Quick News Hits: Gone to Pot

• Medical marijuana update: CityBeat profiles “the first person in the city’s history approved to run a dispensary. He says the effort cost him and his investors about $140,000 in up-front costs and will likely top half a million before the store opens, which could be by the end of November.”

The dispensary owner, who’s used marijuana to treat AIDS symptoms for almost two decades, says he wants to help the sick. It’s also quite possible that he and his funders will make a bundle.

• A new map over at the news site Vox shows where the hotspots for singles are around the U.S. San Diego is on the high side when it comes to being home to lots of singles in their 20s.

But then the dot for San Diego singles gets smaller for older age groups. When it gets to mine, the dot is really teeny. Hey, is that me? Am I the only one here? I demand a recount!

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego and president of the American Society of Journalists and 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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