It’s a common refrain during school bond campaigns: Vote yes and we promise your money will go to construction projects, not district employees.

Turns out that’s not quite true.

Districts across California, including the San Diego Unified and Grossmont Union High school districts, have openly been spending bond money on employee costs for more than a decade, our Ashly McGlone reports.

In a new story, McGlone explains how a 2004 attorney general’s opinion opened the door to millions of dollars in bond cash bankrolling the salaries and pensions of certain school workers. The money can’t go to pay for, say, teachers’ salaries — but it can be used to pay for the salaries and benefits of employees who oversee the bond projects.

This year alone, McGlone finds, San Diego Unified is expecting to throw $15 million in school bond cash at employee salaries and benefits. That puts it about in the middle of the pack compared to districts across the state.

Remember, there’s nothing illegal about spending bond money this way.

“Everybody states there will be no salaries going for administration. Some say teachers and administrators. It’s a big selling point, but that’s not true. But all the election people put it in because it sounds good,” one expert told McGlone of the ways in which districts sell bond measures to voters.

Lawmaker Pushes SANDAG Reform

SANDAG could be facing some major reforms out of Sacramento.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher unveiled the details Monday of AB 805, a bill she announced two weeks ago to make major changes to the regional planning agency.

Most significantly, her bill would make shift the agency to a single vote weighted by population; right now, SANDAG also has a vote where each city in the county has a vote of equal weight (think of it like the House and Senate — one gives equal weight to all states, one is weighted by population). It would give the city of San Diego far greater sway in regional transportation decisions.
It would also create an audit committee, and an independent auditor, to oversee the agency’s spending, forecasting and budgeting.

The bill would also give the county’s two transit agencies – the North County Transit District and Metropolitan Transit System – the authority to levy taxes within their specific coverage areas. That would mean the more tax-friendly areas that are covered by MTS could impose their own tax, without having to rely on tax-averse North County for votes.

The proposed legislation follows our Andrew Keatts’ bombshell reporting that revealed the agency pushed faulty estimates as it campaigned for a transportation measure rejected by voters last fall. The SANDAG board recently approved an independent investigation of the debacle.

On the Border Beat

As President Donald Trump proudly pushes his border wall plans, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer is touting our city’s border connection.

Faulconer and Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastélum met at Tijuana’s Casa de la Cultura Monday to sign a formal pledge to team on economic development and other civic causes.

Faulconer has repeatedly emphasized San Diego’s cross-border business ties as Trump calls for immigration and border crackdowns.

Baja farm workers who help supply a significant share of U.S. fruits and veggies aretraveling across Mexico this month to spotlight their harsh working conditions. VOSD contributor Brooke Binkowski shares their story and rounds up news on Trump’s latest moves to ramp up immigration enforcement, the infamous Tijuana River sewage spill and more in the latest Border Report.

A state bill that aims to make California a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants moved forward Monday with some tweaks and the state has officially joined the legal fight against Trump’s updated travel ban, the Associated Press reports. San Diego Sen. Ben Hueso’s bill to fund legal representation for immigrants facing deportation also moved forward Monday.

Unpopular Politics

The Union-Tribune reports that Rep. Darrell Issa, a big Trump supporter during the 2016 campaign, is backing away from the president this year following an internal poll that showed that support was hurting him politically – and could make the Vista Republican’s next political race even more difficult.

Voter registration data analyzed by Capital Public Radio reveals newly registered voters are increasingly aligning with minority parties rather than with Republicans and Democrats.

Quick News Hits

• Let the signature gathering begin – again. A team of investors will start collecting signatures on Wednesday to place their soccer proposal for the Qualcomm site on the ballot. (KUSI)

• City Councilwoman Lorie Zapf’s plan to build five fire stations and improve public safety infrastructure is appearing less likely amid a big city budget deficit. (KPBS)

• New Google Earth images are inflaming longtime critics of a plan to store millions of pounds of radioactive waste from the shuttered San Onofre power plant along the coast. (Union-Tribune)

• A large RV park in Mission Bay Park is set to be paved over and replaced with 150 luxury rental homes. (Reader)

• That impossible-to-miss yellow and white apartment tower in the heart of East Village also happens to be a home-sharing hotspot. (Union-Tribune)

Lisa is a senior investigative reporter who digs into some of San Diego's biggest challenges including homelessness, city real estate debacles, the region's...

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