The Morning Report
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Investigations come in lots of shapes and sizes.
There are a few different kinds: One, which we call a scooplet, happen when a reporter is the first to have a piece of news that will eventually be public – the L.A. Times’ story Saturday revealing Toni Atkins is officially challenging state Sen. Marty Block is an example of this type of scoop.
There are big, comprehensive investigations that come out all at once – think our recent piece on Lilac Hills.
There’s what’s called a conceptual scoop – where a reporter is able to connect the dots between other outlets’ reporting to pull out a revelation or point that no one’s made yet. Example: Our sense-making on body cameras.
And then there’s the slow drip. This is different from those big investigations that land with one loud bang. With these, one shoe drops. Then another. Then another. (Picture a centipede wearing many loafers – because it works, and because it’s hilarious.)
That brings us to our big week. Bear with me, it’ll be worth it …
What We Learned This Week
Mario Koran’s investigation into what happened between school board president Marne Foster and the School of Creative and Performing Arts, where her son attended school, has been the quintessential slow-drip story.
Early in the week, Koran got the school counselor at the center of the ordeal to tell her side of the story: She says she wrote a truthful college evaluation for Foster’s son, and was suspended for nine days. Her less-than-flattering eval was replaced with a glowing one. The principal of the school was reassigned.
Then came a bizarre twist. The father of Foster’s son had filed a $250,000 claim against the district over the bad evaluation. But John Marsh told Koran this week he didn’t write the claim – Foster did.
And, another shoe: Emails we obtained in a public records request show Foster indeed made demands of district staff over the evaluation. This is big – before the emails, all we had was Foster and school staff members’ conflicting accounts.
The school board is now planning to meet in closed session Tuesday to discuss how to move forward, and several board members have said an independent investigation is on the table.
For now, Superintendent Cindy Marten’s position, as she told NBC San Diego Friday, is that Foster was acting within her rights as a parent. And Marten removed the principal for completely separate reasons.
• Assemblywoman Shirley Weber has stirred up her share of education controversy this year thanks to her reform proposals, including one that would institute teacher evaluations that was shot down. Weber sat down with us this week to talk about educating poor students, teacher tenure and neighborhood schools.
For an outside-San Diego perspective, check out this great piece by my friend Gene Demby: What Else We Lose When a Neighborhood School Goes Away. (NPR)
Even people who don’t know much about water policy probably know one thing: Their bills are getting higher. Ry Rivard has been doing a deep dive into water rates around the county.
Here’s what he’s found so far: Over the past 25 years, water rates have more than doubled for most customers in San Diego County. One thing affecting smaller agencies’ rates is the fact that they’re seeking out sources that will help them gain some independence from the County Water Authority – and that independence can come with a cost. Then there’s desalination: It’s going to provide a much more stable water source, but the price is far less predictable.
What Else VOSD Learned This Week
• The former head of SDCERA is getting unemployment, after taking home a $250,000 severance payout.
• SANDAG is trying to woo labor, progressives, environmentalists – it needs everyone it can get, really – to support a ballot measure that could raise up to $21.3 billion by raising sales taxes.
• The city still hasn’t written any logic into sidewalk policies they said they’d fix two years ago.
• If the utility boxes in your neighborhood have gotten a cool artistic makeover lately, it’s probably because of this guy.
• Mara Elliot, who’s running for city attorney, thinks the job directive is clear: Act as the lawyer to the mayor and City Council – nothing more.
What I’m Reading
• This portrait of the family that took in Dylann Roof before he allegedly committed the Charleston church shooting is sad, and beautifully written. (One of the family members was arrested a few days after this ran.) (Washington Post)
• One of my favorite Internet Things is Rookie’s Ask a Grown Woman series. It’s just like it sounds: Teens write in with questions, and a boss lady steps up to answer them. The latest video enlists Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who Rookie describes as “a true-blue homie.”
• Wouldn’t expect anything less from Will Carless – our pal just wrapped a yearlong investigation that found many priests accused of child abuse in the U.S. are hidden away in South America, where many continue to lead churches. (Global Post)
• A lengthy Inside Climate News investigation reveals how Exxon “helped to erect a vast edifice of misinformation that stands to this day” on climate change.
Line of the Week
“When he shows up at the mall wearing dark sandals with white socks, (NFL veteran Brandon) Meriweather says strangers ask two questions: ‘Are you Brandon Meriweather?’ and ‘Why are you wearing socks with flip-flops?’” – From a groundbreaking Wall Street Journal investigation into why wearing socks with sandals is suddenly en vogue.