It was October when we first explained how San Diego’s regional transportation authority SANDAG had profoundly miscalculated its financial projections back in 2004 when it persuaded voters to raise taxes to build roads, new trolley lines and other big stuff. Last week, SANDAG itself copped to whole thing, acknowledging its forecasting was broken.
“This is all excusable,” Scott Lewis writes in a new commentary. “They didn’t steal the money or waste it, as far as we can tell.” SANDAG simply underestimated the amount of money it would bring in, and as a result, promised projects that won’t have any funding.
But what isn’t excusable, Lewis writes, is how the agency knowingly used the same flawed forecasting method to pitch another tax hike called Measure A to voters just last month, claiming it would raise $18 billion for new projects. “That was all a sham. The tax would have raised much less,” Lewis writes, pointing out how agency officials could have used Measure A to shed light on the shortfalls from 2004. But they didn’t, instead choosing not to tell voters that Measure A would likely suffer the same fate. “This is now a scandal,” Lewis writes.
What Schools Taught Us in 2016
This year we looked into several San Diego schools to find out why they stand out from the crowd. In the case of schools like Sherman Elementary or The O’Farrell Charter School, they shine bright due to their ability to achieve success beyond expectation. In the case of Lincoln High School, it stands out primarily because of its consistent inability to overcome conditions that send students and parents fleeing. “Each story is distinct, but when we take a step back, we see common threads,” Mario Koran writes in the latest Learning Curve.
Those common threads include practices like parents choosing to send children to schools other than their nearest public school. San Diego Unified hasn’t made much progress on its effort to increase the amount of children who stay in their own neighborhood school since 2011 when the district made putting a quality school in every neighborhood a priority. Parents still send their kids to public schools in outside neighborhoods or to charter schools.
We also noticed how schools often reflect the varying priorities of parents and their surrounding neighborhood. Some schools prioritize test scores, while others focus on student behavior or exposing students to multiple languages. Schools have the ability to both reflect and respond to the communities they reside in, Koran notes.
Poway Unified Tightens Finances
The Poway Unified School District suffered a major setback this year when it finally fired its superintendent in July, alleging he had taken home hundreds of thousands of dollars in unauthorized pay. Since then, the district’s board has been fighting to rebuild credibility, including a recent effort to rein in credit card spending by district staff and to tighten the rules on cash payouts of vacation time. In addition, “board members this month approved up to $50,000 for an internal controls audit,” Ashly McGlone reports.
Four Ways to Help Homeless
Greg Anglea is executive director of Interfaith Community Services, an organization that focuses on social services and the homeless. Around this time of year he fields a lot of questions about what people can do to help the homeless. Anglea’s primary suggestion, he writes in a new op-ed: “hire skilled, screened, hardworking people through organizations like Interfaith, Father Joe’s Villages, Veterans Village of San Diego, Alpha Project and others.” For those not in a position to hire people, Anglea suggests volunteering for one of those organizations, or donating whatever you can to help them accomplish their missions.
Finally, Anglea suggests, talk to the homeless. “The time you take to visit with a person in crisis can make a real difference,” he writes.
Safeguarding Gangster Babies From Trump
Fearing that a statewide database that tracks gang membership with reckless inaccuracy could be used by federal officials under a Trump administration, California’s outgoing Attorney General Kamala Harris has called for changes. She wants the state’s Department of Justice to be given full control of the database, reports Voice of OC’s Yvette Cabrera . The DOJ would aim to “ensure that the information in the system is verified using the ‘strict standards’ of the department’s criminal justice information services division,” Cabrera writes.
San Diego Assemblywoman Shirley Weber has been a leading voice on efforts to reform the database.
Budget Woes Go From Bad to Worse
Last month the mayor’s office dropped the gloomy news that San Diego’s budget may have deep shortfalls in coming years as the cost of paying for pensions rises. But on Thursday the city’s independent budget analyst rained on the gloomy parade with news that the shortfalls may be even worse than the mayor projected. “The mayor’s outlook left out some key costs that would likely increase those deficits and extend them two more years,” KPBS reports. Those key costs”included $47 million to service future bonds, $23 million to replace city vehicles and more than $17 million for new police officers and equipment.”
• The city of El Cajon is moving to district elections for City Council members, which means they have to draw their first Council district lines. (KPBS)
• The L.A. Times documents the harrowing journey of immigrants crossing continents to arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border. Back in July, we published this photo essay of the Tijuana shelters packed with migrants.
• Tijuana City Councilman Luis Torres Santillan is still in a U.S. jail while he waits to face charges of money laundering. (Union-Tribune)
• The Port of San Diego drives more than $8 billion in economic activity and supports 68,300 jobs, a new report finds. (Times of San Diego)
• Governing.com looks into San Diego’s community planning groups and compares them to how other cities make land use decisions.
• Rear-facing car seats will be required in California for passengers under 2 years old, effective Jan. 1. (KPBS)
• Bah, humbug! Winner of this year’s Grinch award goes to whoever picked up the entire lighted Christmas tree at the end of Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach and threw it into the ocean.