You’ve probably heard by now that Republican congressmen across the country have tried to wave off their increasingly vocal constituents by arguing that any folks who want to engage with them face to face are paid protesters, and therefore, illegitimate.

It is, of course, absurd on its face. America itself was birthed from angry protesters. And waving off concerned citizens as people being paid to agitate discounts the very real sacrifices people make in order to make their voices heard.

But while President Trump and other GOP lawmakers are suddenly talking a lot about paid protesters, efforts to write off any criticism as insincere and thus, unimportant, are not new. And they happen in San Diego all the time.

Often when we write about the school district or charter schools, for example, people have a standard knee-jerk reaction — to point out that one of VOSD’s founders is a backer of charter schools. (It should go without saying, but here I am saying it: VOSD board members don’t tell us what to write. They don’t trick us into writing stories in their favor. We have agreed with them on what we stand for, including a high-quality education for all students.) San Diego Unified often instantly rebuts anything we write with a similar insistence: You’re out to get us!

Suggesting we’re just tools of a particular interest group, or are devoted to bringing down a particular agency or person is not only untrue, it’s a very convenient way to avoid engaging any specific argument on its merits.

Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton this week, as he faced a raucous and livid crowd of town hall attendees, stumbled into a good point. One woman prefaced her comments to Cotton by saying she was not being paid to be there. Cotton responded: “I don’t care if anybody here is paid or not. You’re all Arkansans.” Forget that his comment leaves the door open to the idea that paid protesters exist. His underlying point is right: That thing everyone is insisting should discount your voice should not in fact discount your voice.

People in San Diego belong to different political parties, they come from different backgrounds, different religions, have different jobs, etc. We’re all bound to disagree. But we won’t ever make much progress if we refuse to engage with one another unless we deem the other side to be sufficiently pure and unblemished and sincere. Those are bars that no one is going to clear. Democracy is messy and infuriating sometimes. But it doesn’t work unless you argue real points and ideas.

What VOSD Learned This Week

For months, Mario Koran has been unraveling how San Diego Unified achieved its jaw-droppingly high graduation rate. He’s learned that the district factors out many students right from the start, and that some students who did graduate did so thanks to new, online classes.

In his latest, Koran found that hundreds of students who were at the highest risk of not graduating moved into charter schools that focus on online credit recovery. There, they can graduate without having to complete the rigorous courses required by the district.


SANDAG has ditched its flawed forecast and now uses a new one to predict how much tax revenue it will bring in to pay for transportation projects across the region.

The new forecast makes clear what we first reported back in October: Transnet, a sales tax hike approved in 2004, is on track to collect $9 billion – not the $14 billion voters were promised.

On Friday, SANDAG board members voted to kick off an independent investigation into the events that led the agency to tell voters that Measure A, another sales tax measure rejected in November, would bring in $18 billion when they knew it would actually bring in far less.

This is all kinda confusing, right? It seems like a zillion years ago, but waaaaaaay back on Monday (simpler times!) I wrote a reader’s guide to the SANDAG scandal.


The Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation holds major swaths of land in southeastern San Diego, and for years, it’s assured the community that it will use that land to bring more jobs and opportunities the area.

Now, the nonprofit is facing major upheaval, shedding staff – including executives – and dramatically scaling back its ambitions. Its leaders are considering selling some of that land.


The Trump administration said this week that it’s working on a definition for what a “sanctuary city” is – and that it plans to punish places that meet its criteria even if those places haven’t actually declared themselves a sanctuary.

One thing that often gets left out of this discussion is the fact that the promise of sanctuary is hollow to begin with. Scott Lewis explored that idea this week and found that thousands of immigrants are deported from cities in California – including ones that say they’re places of sanctuary. What’s more: Many of the deported have no criminal records.

Even setting aside Trump’s crackdown, sanctuary isn’t real.

What I’m Reading

 Mexico has more leverage than you might think when it comes to pushing back against Trump’s immigration policies: “Right now, Mexico is deporting more Central Americans than the United States, so many would say Mexico is doing some of the United States’ dirty work.” (Foreign Policy)

 I only have so much outrage to go around at any given time, which is why I try to avoid reading about Milo Yiannopoulos at all costs. That said, every single line of this piece about his troll tour and his sudden, ugly downfall, is fantastic. (Pacific Standard)

 From 2010 to 2015, “a child in Florida was shot, on average, every 17 hours.” (Tampa Bay Times)

 A Muslim woman who was encouraged, supported and promoted in the Obama White House tried to give it a go under Trump. She lasted eight days. (The Atlantic)

 These tips are directed at journalists but could come in handy for anyone: how to secure your data when crossing the border. (Nieman Lab)

 The rise of Roxane Gay. (Brooklyn Magazine)

Line of the Week

“Democracy dies in darkness.” – That’s the new slogan you’ll find on the masthead of The Washington Post.

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

Leave a comment

We expect all commenters to be constructive and civil. We reserve the right to delete comments without explanation. You are welcome to flag comments to us. You are welcome to submit an opinion piece for our editors to review.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.