If your memory can stretch back in time allllllllllllllllllllll the way back to a whopping six months ago, you might remember that local Democrats were very excited about a plan to change the election system that let people win San Diego offices in June, when turnout was dismal. Instead, those races would go to a November runoff, when more people were voting.

The plan was Measure K, and to the delight of Democrats and union leaders, it passed.

At the time, Democrats couldn’t really say, “We want this to pass because it would mean more Democrats would be elected in San Diego, duh.”

So instead they talked about the importance of consistency – state and congressional elections last until November, after all. And they talked about the people and the awesome power of them: “Democracy functions best when the most voters participate, and that is in the November general elections, not the June primary elections,” said a promotional website for the measure.

A new plan is being floated that would make voting in San Diego even more consistent. It would make school board elections run the same way City Council elections do – meaning only the people in a certain district would vote for the representative of that district. Right now, a school board candidate first runs in a districtwide election, then goes to a citywide runoff. Running citywide is expensive, which is why the current system heavily favors candidates backed by the local teachers union, which pumps money and resources into its preferred candidates.

Now, Democrats and union members are in the supremely awkward position of arguing that the system they just got done promoting is actually very bad.

During a debate over Measure K at Politifest, labor leader Mickey Kasparian refused to say whether he would support the same change for school district elections, even as he was arguing for the consistency Measure K would bring.

But local Republicans are proposing another change as well: term limits.

School board president Richard Barrera has literally never faced an opponent before – something that should raise an alarm about the current system. In a Union-Tribune op-ed this week, he and school board trustee Kevin Beiser argue term limits would destabilize the board, and their ability to make decisions as a united front.

That might be a point I’d take to heart – I personally think term limits are misguided – except for something Barrera said back in 2010, when another change was on the table that might have threatened his power: “Barrera said he could readily back term limits and subdistrict elections, but balked at the idea of appointed school board members,” Emily Alpert reported.

In his U-T op-ed, Barrera accused Republicans of using children to play politics. It seems like he’s the one using children as a shield against the potential of having to face an opponent – you know, the way a democratic system is supposed to work.

What VOSD Learned This Week

Many students who are dealing with personal issues find themselves struggling in traditional schools. Some of them have thrived in charters with online courses and independent study programs. San Diego Unified and some other districts, though, are trying to shut those schools down – even as they ramp up their own efforts to offer … online courses and independent study programs.

Also big on our education radar this week: $$$$$$$$$

Mario Koran explained how school budget cuts hit poorer schools the hardest. And Ashly McGlone examined another budget cut victim, the district’s internal audit office, and why that move might violate a state law.

The district’s pot of bond money, which is separate from the budget, is still healthy. That money isn’t supposed to pay for employee salaries, but thanks to a loophole, it does.


The city of San Diego has pledged to take steps to reduce climate change – like getting people out of their cars, and building more homes near transit. Actually doing those things is another story. Andrew Keatts wrote about the next test for the city: A group of residents is mobilizing to oppose new housing and higher buildings near a new trolley stop – will the city cave yet again?

That new trolley stop is part of the Mid-Coast Corridor Transit Project to expand the trolley to UCSD. The project is wildly expensive, but a transit expert weighed in and says it doesn’t have to be.

The agency charged with carrying the trolley expansion out is one we’ve been writing about a lot lately: SANDAG.

We got details this week about Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez’s plan to reform the agency, and the changes would give the city of San Diego – particularly the mayor – a lot more power. Gonzalez said on the VOSD podcast this week that someone had to step up and demand accountability: “It’s time to reform it. It’s time to take it on and not pussyfoot around.”

Gonzalez is also working on a bill to help human trafficking victims recover money they lost while they were being trafficked – it’s part of a new slate of human trafficking bills I covered in the Sacramento Report.

(I’d like to pause here while you applaud the way I wove a record five stories together like I was a damned seamstress.)


San Diego might eventually end up getting some water from a planned desalination plant in Baja – but some local officials think Tijuana would be better off investing in its sewer system, in order to avoid more sewage spills.

Over on our side of the border, in Chula Vista and the rest of the South Bay, craft beer breweries and tasting rooms are on the rise. That’s busting long-held assumptions about the people who live there and what they like to drink.

And, lest you think me making a connection between a Tijuana sewer water story and a craft beer story is a bit tenuous, here’s a story about the mayor drinking craft beer made from recycled sewer water.

(I’m taking another bow right now.)

What I’m Reading

• Behold, a politics story that is actually delightful: This journalist surveyed a host of Irish politicians on their favorite Beyonce song. (Daily Edge)

• You’ve probably heard a lot of stories lately from people whose lives were saved thanks to health care reform. This heartbreaking essay provides the much sadder flip side of the same argument: Some of the people screwed by the system that existed before the Affordable Care Act can’t tell their stories – because they didn’t make it. (Vice Motherboard)

 It’s much harder to prove a hate crime than you might think. (Buzzfeed)

 An ode to Washington Post satirist Alexandra Petri, whose writing and observations are perfect for the moment in which we’ve found ourselves. (Longreads)

• The name bracket is one of my favorite features of the year. This time around, I’m pulling for Boats Botes and Andy Brandy Casagrande IV. (Deadspin)

• President Donald Trump loves him some President Andrew Jackson – they deserve each other. (Slate)

Line of the Week

(It’s long but bear with me – my jaw actually dropped.)

“When a man unprincipled in private life desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper, possessed of considerable talents, having the advantage of military habits—despotic in his ordinary demeanour—known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty—when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity—to join in the cry of danger to liberty—to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion—to flatter and fall in with all the non sense of the zealots of the day—It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may ‘ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.’” – An excerpt from a 1792 letter written by Alexander Hamilton that made the rounds this week because it sounds a little familiar.

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

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