A few weeks ago, Voice of San Diego’s Mario Koran broke the news that the San Diego Unified School Board President Marne Foster had held a private fundraiser to benefit her sons.

In an apology Tuesday, Foster called the event a “Mistake of the Heart” and said she’d return donations that came from individuals with business before the school district, Koran writes in a new story.

“Foster said in the apology statement that ‘it never occurred to me that ‘Marne the Mom’, by supporting an effort to help my sons go to college, was stepping into territory occupied by ‘Marne the Elected Official’. But obviously I was,’ Koran writes.

But “Marne the Mom” getting in the way of “Marne the Elected Official” is becoming something of a trend.

Koran has also recently uncovered details of Foster’s involvement in an ugly situation between her son and leadership at the School of Creative and Performing Arts last year.

Austin, We Hardly Knew Ye

It was just four months ago we were introduced to Austin Beutner, publisher of the San Diego Union-Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, since the Tribune Publishing company purchased the local paper in May.

Beutner was fired Tuesday morning. Multiple reports said it was because the company’s Chicago leadership didn’t like how he was running things, thinking his push to make the company a civic force were in part meant to raise his profile for a political career. Another account suggests Beutner was fired purely for business reasons, not political ones. Either way, he’s being replaced by the Baltimore Sun’s publisher, Timothy E. Ryan.

Our Liam Dillon broke down what all this means to local news readers watching decisions about their local paper being made in Chicago, Los Angeles and Baltimore.

Ryan will take a local paper that under Beutner’s watch consolidated printing and distribution with the the L.A. Times and launched a daily email newsletter with 10,000 subscribers. He’ll now have to steer the company’s relocation out of its Mission Valley offices, and figure out what to do if print revenues slip so low that the company is no longer viable before someone figures out how to replace them with digital sources.

New Leader Looks to Add Flavor to Public Art

Christine Jones took over as manager of the San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture’s public arts program this spring and is taking on the organization’s reputation for funding ho-hum installments.

In a new story, Kinsee Morlan looks at what the city’s arts community is looking for from the new leader, like installing more projects in neighborhoods across the city (“beyond utility boxes,” as one person says), and making public funding more readily available to younger and less-established artists.

So far, Jones is keeping quiet about her plans, Morlan writes.

“(Jones) kept things vague in our interview and, when asked about her vision for San Diego’s public art program moving forward, would only say she was in the midst of thinking about some serious things.”

Others in the local arts community were more vocal, including a former director of the city’s arts commission who encouraged her to put the city’s “vanilla” reputation in the past.

• There’s more art news in Morlan’s newest Culture Report, such as a proposed state law that would formally designate gallery-filled neighborhoods as “arts districts” and make it easier for them to market themselves.

News Around Town

• UC San Diego has a new, nontraditional program that allows recent college graduates who don’t have the grades to get into medical school to take an intensive year-long set of classes to prove to medical schools they can do the work. (KPBS)

• The city of Encinitas is looking to increase restrictions on group homes that house rehabilitating addicts, based on complaints from neighbors about the properties. But the city attorney for Encinitas has cautioned against implementing the regulations until the city is certain doing so won’t put them in violation of state law. (Union-Tribune)

• A Pacific Beach neighborhood group is organizing against the city’s plan to build a $7 million lifeguard station at the end of Law Street, arguing that the project will obstruct beach views. The Fire Department said the station fills a safety need. (NBC San Diego)

• A small airline that operated shuttle flights from Carlsbad’s airport to both Los Angeles and Las Vegas is shutting down the service. Little passenger demand ever materialized for the flights. (NBC San Diego)

Police Chief’s Fight for Public Trust

San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman on Tuesday released early results of the department’s new policy requiring officers to wear body cameras.

Though the report found a decrease in citizen complaints and allegations against officers, as well as citizen complaints found to have merit, it was what the report didn’t say that bothered the San Diego Union-Tribune’s editorial board.

“Yet the report didn’t include a breakdown on whether there were fewer sustained complaints about police misconduct after body cameras were adopted,” the board wrote. “This is an absolutely crucial metric.”

The editorial also criticized Zimmerman’s hesitance to release the videos those cameras record. She told the editorial board she wouldn’t release the results even if a criminal investigation was no longer under way, because of the possibility for a civil suit.

We recently recounted other ways Zimmerman has declined to be transparent on matters of public interest.

On Twitter, Scott Lewis had his own take on the chief’s battles against transparency. Zimmerman’s reason for not releasing footage of a recent officer-involved shooting in the Midway neighborhood, he argued, is essentially that the video is so awful, it could drive residents to violence.

Voice of San Diego is part of a group of local media outlets that has filed a motion to release the video, which was recorded by a private business’s security camera.

Actually, Vanilla Is Really Flavorful and Distinct

One last thing. That earlier arts story I mentioned included a debate over whether the city’s public art up to now has been “vanilla.”

I have no defense for public art in this city. Not an area of expertise for me. But I have to defend vanilla, a flavor that’s been unreasonably besmirched by common usage as long as I’ve been alive.

Vanilla is not bland. It is not boring or weak or indistinct. It is the opposite of those things.

When you cook with vanilla, you use only a few drops, lest it overpower your cookies. If you accidentally mixed some into your scrambled eggs, you’d surely taste it. Vanilla air fresheners and candles are overpowering and unmistakable.

The reality of vanilla is the opposite of its public perception. It’s a travesty. No one should describe boring things as vanilla. It doesn’t make sense.

Clarification: An earlier version of this post mischaracterized a quote from the former San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture. She said the city appears to be moving “beyond vanilla” with its public art.

Andrew Keatts is a former managing editor for projects and investigations at Voice of San Diego.

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