The Morning Report
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Dinosaurs, DNA, diabetes, oh my. Come to tonight’s Meeting of the Minds to hear what these topics have to do with local discoveries. We’ll be at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, where you can channel your inner scientist by getting a preview of their exhibition Imaginate before it opens to the public.

Doors open at 6 p.m., talks begin at 7 p.m. VOSD members get in free, general admission is $20. All tickets come with a free drink. Visit voiceofsandiego.org/motm for details and tickets.

San Diego school board President Marne Foster is at the center of a storm over what happened at her son’s school where a principal was removed and a counselor punished. Now, we’re gaining more insight into what happened.

As VOSD’s Mario Koran reports, newly released documents indicate that Foster conjured a fake-out scheme designed to uncover what a school counselor would say about her son. Foster thought someone should call the counselor and claim to be a college admissions official.

An investigator told her “this would be improper and unethical.”

Koran also finally heard from the former principal who was removed. She disagrees with the district’s take.

Her new lawyer, attorney Dan Gilleon, is now on the media circuit. Here he is in the U-T criticizing the district’s decision to blast the former principal and on KOGO radio.

Lilac Hills Newest Pitch: Robots

The controversial development proposed for 600 acres near Valley Center, Lilac Hills Ranch, now has a new selling point: robots.

Seriously.

The developer is partnering with a robotics company to link all the homes with robots that will carry your groceries and protect your children as they walk to school.

“Imagine Uber but where there are neither drivers nor cars,” the robot creator told county officials.

Safe City, Yes. Safe Streets? Well…

New crime statistics say San Diego is the safest big city in the country, but the numbers hide the truth about what it feels like to live here. As urban design guru Howard Blackson writes in a VOSD commentary, our neighborhoods don’t always feel safe. “That’s because subpar urban design can make safe streets feel isolating, uncomfortable or dangerous.”

He’s not talking about streetlights. Instead, Blackson is referring to how sidewalks, buildings and streets interact (or don’t). He uses photographs to show what he means. The street in front of the downtown police station looks rather forbidding, no place a pedestrian would want to be. But a photo from the Marina area shows how “stoops and common entries every few feet provide many chances to move from public to private space gracefully, and offer opportunities for eyes on the street.”

• In another VOSD commentary, former educator Shannon M. Biggs says a coalition of local governments can do a lot better than its controversial regional transportation plan for the next 35 years. It’s “far from environmentally friendly,” she writes. “We can imagine something better” in light of the pending demise of the “era of single owner auto-combustion cars.”

Environment Roundup: Wet Means Fuel

• There’s a funny thing about wildfires: When backcountry brush is dry due to lack of winter rain, we hear about how we’re in danger of fire. But when there’s lots of fuel due to big winter rains, we hear warnings too.

Now, the LA Times offers an analysis and an infographic about how wet and dry conditions combined to fuel all those wildfires in Northern California: “A warm winter coupled with December rains brought new plant growth throughout California. But drought conditions returned in January. By March, vegetation had dried up, creating fuel for wildfires.”

N.C. Report: No Styrofoam, No Peace!

• The owner of a restaurant in Encinitas is warning about danger to limb (if not life) if the city bans styrofoam food containers. The news about this unusual development is just one of the stories we link to in the latest edition of VOSD’s weekly North County Report.

Also: A new blueprint for Carlsbad (with no plans to connect Cannon Road between Carlsbad and Vista), a top-performing Vista school full of low-income students, and protests at Oceanside’s long-troubled Tri-City Medical Center. Plus: The busiest library branch in the county library system.

• Speaking of bizarre municipal complaints, last week’s infamous Coronado freak-out over the horrors of striped bike lanes has made late-night TV. Way to get national publicity, Coronado!

State Roundup: Vaccinations All Around

• Anti-vaxxers have failed in their attempt to repeal the state’s strict new child vaccination law at the ballot box. They didn’t get enough signatures to force the issue to go before voters. (LA Times)

• “Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and two other lawmakers called Wednesday on Gov. Jerry Brown to sign bills that would establish a regulatory framework for medical marijuana in California.” (City News Service))

• No, the folks at Airbnb claim, their short-term house rental service isn’t making it harder for people to find homes in Los Angeles. A new report released by Airbnb conflicts with another report that claims “rentals listed on Airbnb and other online platforms had removed nearly 11,000 units from the L.A. market.” (LA Times)

Quick News Hits: Raccoon Story Is On the Rocks

• KPBS’s ongoing investigation into the YMCA has turned up more details about internal turmoil and payouts for officials who left. Among the most intriguing findings: “According to documents, the YMCA has a policy that requires its branches to buy 85 percent of its cardio exercise equipment from Precor. Sources say the policy came about at the same time the YMCA’s regional vice president was in a relationship with a sales representative at Precor.”

The Y isn’t talking.

• “Who the hell is Rolf Benirschke?” asks AV Club, a pop culture news site. Ooo! We know. Pick us, pick us! Actually, they know too. He appears in an article about “TV host transitions that ended badly.” Yes, the former Charger was part of one — of “Wheel of Fortune,” of all things — and for the love of Pat Sajak was it was a mess.

• No, a Camp Pendleton Marine did not get drunk and use a raccoon to fool a car breathalyzer prior to getting attacked by the darned thing. Never mind what you heard on the Internet, it’s not true, the U-T says, although Marine cops were reportedly “highly entertained” by the hoax story.

• The student newspaper at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will now use “first-year” instead of “freshman” in order to avoid sexism, and old-timers are predictably grumbling about the supposed political correctness of kids-these-days. Maybe they complain about “firefighter” and “mail carrier” too.

It’s not just today’s college students. Back when I was a journalist at UC San Diego’s Guardian student newspaper, we battled sexism by using the term “freshperson” for a year, ultimately replacing it with “first-year student.”

“Because language is the tool by which we express our thoughts and feelings,” we explained in a 1990 editorial, “it is one of the most fundamental outward manifestations of ourselves, and perhaps provides the most telling indication of collective social ideals.”

We could have just said “words matter,” but we had space to fill. As we all learned in college, sometimes just increasing the size of the font isn’t enough.

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego and national president of the 1,200-member American Society of Journalists and Authors (asja.org). Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com...

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