A programming note! Due to scheduling conflicts, we are moving the Meeting of the Minds event to April 22 at the downtown library. This is our semi-regular confab devoted to the local arts and culture world.

If you already registered for the earlier date, are unable to attend and would like a refund, please contact our membership and events manager, Christina Shih, at christina@voiceofsandiego.org. She will be happy to assist you.

If you’ve been in town for a few years, you may remember the San Diego school district’s last two successful bids to get voters to boost or extend property taxes to pay for renovations and improvements. Both times, the district warned voters about safety issues that needed to be fixed, like the removal of dangerous asbestos.

So how’s that effort going? Are kids breathing in less asbestos? No one seems to know. As VOSD’s Mario Koran reports, the district “can’t say how much money it has spent removing asbestos or hazardous materials from schools. Nor can it say how much of the stuff it has actually removed. It doesn’t think tallying up either would be of much use.”

In fact, the district says, asbestos doesn’t need to be removed if it’s not exposed. Does this matter? The district’s most prominent critic, former school board member Scott Barnett, isn’t willing to bash anyone, although he acknowledges that the asbestos business “was maybe a little alarmist.”

By the way, we wrote in 2013 about how money from the most recent bond measure is being spent on new swimming pools even though this prospect was buried in the fine print of the ballot measure.

Councilman Jumps Into Stadium Debate

Councilman Scott Sherman, a Republican, is out with his own plan to build a new football stadium. His proposal, which he wants the mayor’s task force to consider, “includes contributions from the Chargers, sales of personal seat licenses, private investors and naming rights.” It also includes plans for more development in the Mission Valley area. (Daily Transcript)

Sherman says his proposal will allow a stadium to be built without a tax increase, although traffic certainly would go up: “The development could include as many as 5,926 housing units, 2.8 million square feet in office space, 500,000 square feet of retail space, a 300-room hotel and a 20-acre riverfront park that Sherman likened to San Antonio’s famed 13-mile River Walk project.” The chairman of the task force, however, threw some cold water on the plan, saying it’s too optimistic regarding revenue. (U-T)

You can read an overview of the proposal here (warning: it’s a PDF) or look at the full plan here

Gov: Cut Water Use by a Quarter

Governor Brown has ordered a 25 percent reduction in water use in the state: “the measures include replacing 50 million square feet of lawns throughout the state with drought-tolerant landscaping, banning the watering of grass on public street medians, requiring agricultural water users to report their water use to state regulators, and requiring large landscapes such as campuses, golf courses and cemeteries to make significant cuts in water use.” (ABC News)

• The LA Times notes that this isn’t the first time that our past-and-present governor has called for 25 percent water cuts. He did the same thing in 1977, although it was voluntary back then, when “a similar water crisis that pitted water-rich Northern California against its thirsty southern neighbors.”

• Almonds are good to eat, and sources in my taste buds tell me that almond butter is delicious. But the hordes of people who sometimes feel like a nut are costing the state a lot of water, and almonds (responsible for a reported 10 percent of state water use) are becoming a villain, even more than alfalfa hay (15 percent of the state’s water).

Now, an almond farmer tells the state in an L.A. Times commentary to lay off. The headline: “Why almond growers aren’t the water enemy.

How SeaWorld Is Defending Itself

We took a deeper look at how SeaWorld is fighting back against the tidal wave of bad press with an eye on the most memorable responses from the theme park chain. “SeaWorld has boomeranged between writing the film off and aggressively countering its claims,” writes VOSD’s Catherine Green, who notes the latest move – releasing a video of an ex-trainer critic’s drunken, racist tirade – takes things to a whole new level.

Meanwhile, the park is saving water by flushing toilets with salt water. (NBC 7)

April Foolin’, but Joke’s Not All Fake

A post on the conservative sdrostra.com blog fooled me for a few minutes on Tuesday night, especially since it got posted before it was actually April Fool’s Day. No, Councilman Mark Kersey is not leading an effort to split the Scripps Ranch neighborhood off into its own city. And no, the Local Agency Formation Commission — yes, that’s a real thing! — hasn’t signed off on the idea.

But the idea of a local community telling the city of San Diego to get lost is a real thing. La Jolla, which many outsiders (and some insiders) assume is a city of its own, has been trying to split off for more than a quarter-century. Among other things, community leaders have claimed that the low-crime streets La Jolla deserve more police protection considering how much wealthy residents contribute to city coffers.

There’s even a non-profit group devoted to the effort, which appears utterly unlikely (unless the law changes) because San Diego would have to OK city hood for La Jolla.

• Country station KSON tried to fool listeners with a gag about diapers for those pesky pooping seals in La Jolla. Wonks would have figured out it’s a joke: There’s no La Jolla school district to pull the supposed $1.8 million cost from.

Quick News Hits: State of State’s Emblems

• A local doctor is getting attention for reporting that abortions-by-pill can be reversed.

• The Padres are out of the basement… at least when it comes to spending. It’s not one of the bottom five teams in terms of team salaries, the AP reports. It’s not in the top 5 either. Meanwhile, the average player salary will top $4 million for the first time.

• The other day I ran across a factoid that says the grizzly bear vanished from California in 1922, three decades before it became the official state animal: “Less than 75 years after the discovery of gold, every grizzly bear in California had been tracked down and killed.” Um… ohh kay.

I looked at the list of other state symbols, and found (surprise!) that we have a State Fife and Drum Band, a State Tartan, a State Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and a State Fish and a State Marine Fish.

There’s even a State Prehistoric Artifact. But there’s no reason to bring Jerry Brown into this. (Zing!)

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 randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga

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