The County Office of Education, which assists local school districts and runs some campuses of its own, had some miffed employees last spring. Almost 250 of them gathered for a meeting in Mission Valley, and some were prepared to speak out. Bizarrely, they ended up with a one-time chance to spend $25,000 in free money.

As our Ashly McGlone reports, “all received $100 vouchers for use at the nearby Barnes & Noble or Lakeshore Learning stores. The catch: The money had to be spent on the spot, that same day, before 8 p.m” on items that would support learning. Not just learning of students, though: Learning by the employees would count too.

What happened next? Just about everybody got up and left to spend their newfound dollars — on things like a Bible (the agency later asked the employee for a reimbursement) and erotica (a reimbursement was not sought) — instead of sticking around for a Q&A.

District officials defended this strange shopping spree in emails we’ve uncovered. It’s an awkward time for this to happen: The County Office of Education’s superintendent is on leave amid an investigation of his pay.

Opinion: Hey, the Bolts Won’t Burn You

In a commentary for VOSD, activist and Save Our Bolts co-founder David Agranoff argues that keeping the Chargers in town is a positive: “Don’t believe the divisive campaign ads pitting football against neighborhoods, nothing in the Chargers’ initiative hurts your neighborhood.”

What’s the alternative to building a downtown stadium and convention center expansion? He writes: “Conventions will be turned away for lack of space and end up in Las Vegas or Los Angeles. Super Bowls, Final Fours, college football bowl games, concerts and millions of dollars in tax revenue will go to other cities.”

Homicides on the Rise

Crime rates remain low around the United States and in San Diego, one of the nation’s safest large cities. But perceptions matter too, both at the national level (when the GOP presidential candidate declares that we face a major threat from crime) and the local level (when residents like me notice more graffiti lately and wonder about rising crime rates).

Now, some bad news on the local crime front: Homicide rates are up markedly in the first six months of the year in the city of San Diego and in county areas covered by the Sheriff’s Department. As of July 1, the county has had 17, the same number as in all of 2015, and the city’s had 28, compared to 37 in 2015.

What’s going on? It’s not clear. Police can only point to a rise in killings that happen when disputes escalate. (NBC 7)

Husbands Are Doin’ It for Themselves?

Back in the old days — like, say, yesterday in Philadelphia — many women rose in politics after their husbands got there first. Now, the opposite is happening in Encinitas… again and again.

First, the husband of Mayor Kristin Gaspar, who’s running for county supervisor, requested the papers that are needed to run for City Council. Then, as the U-T reports, two other political husbands (one of a councilwoman and the other of a former councilwoman and mayor) did the exact same thing.

Cab Drivers Try to Fight Uber, Lyft

The local taxi industry is working to gain a foothold as it loses customers to Uber and Lyft: It’s pushing to unite cab drivers and seek friendlier regulations, KPBS reports. This time there seems to be a twist: A union president acknowledges that the industry has to do things differently in terms of fares and customer service.

It’s unclear how much the city can do since the state plays a major role in regulating Uber and Lyft.

Temporary Tags Get a Re-Do

You know those paper temporary registration tags that are taped on automobile windows when we buy new cars? They’re hard to see from a distance, especially if you’re — say — zipping down the I-15 car pool lane without an extra person or a pass.

Well, they’ll soon be history, thanks to legislation signed by the governor. Newly purchased cars will need actual temporary license plates. Critics fear that potential fines will sock poor people.

Culture Report: The Port Gets Arty

This week’s VOSD Culture Report says the port’s public art program has got its act together, and things will pick up this fall when a “sound art concert of sorts” appears. A port official even puts a positive spin on things by saying that artists who applied for grants before budget cuts have had a chance to improve their proposals.

Also in the Culture Report: a new mural in Lemon Grove, rent-a-surfboard, Steve Martin and Pokémon-friendly restaurants. Gotta eat ‘em all!

• The NY Times drops by downtown’s Makers Quarter in East Village and reports that its “transition from 25,000-square-foot vacant lot to urban park to housing is part of a plan to create an employment hub in the neighborhood’s tech corridor.”

Quick News Hits: Who’s In Charge Here?

• A city auditor report says evidence collected by the police department is in danger due to a poorly maintained building. The SDPD has also failed to fully follow grand jury recommendations, the audit says. The police department says it will improve things but can’t move to another building right now. (S.D. Reader)

• The local Red Cross is raising the alarm about a shortage of blood, saying there’s less than a 5-day supply. The Red Cross wants to see donors with all blood types. (NBC 7)

• “Technology giant Qualcomm agreed Tuesday to pay $19.5 million to settle a gender discrimination class-action lawsuit alleging women were denied equal pay and job opportunities to their male counterparts at the tech giant.” (AP)

• Who’s governor of California this week? It’s not, technically, Jerry Brown. Or the lieutenant governor. Or the next in line, the state Senate president pro tem. They’re all at the Democratic National Convention, which means they’re out of state and, under the state Constitution, ineligible to run California at the moment.

So who’s in charge? Tom Torlakson, the L.A. Times reports. Who? You know, the superintendent of public instruction. “You’re in safe hands,” he says.

Hmm. Sci-fi fans may recall that this kind of thing has happened before: In the rebooted “Battlestar Galactica” TV show, a secretary of education — the 43rd in the line of succession — becomes president of a coalition of colonies after an attack kills the other 42 officials ahead of her. She ends up fighting for the survival of the human race.

For his part, Torlakson may just be happy if people can pronounce his name five times fast.

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. He is also a board member and ex-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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