Parents and watchdogs are worrying about the water at San Diego Unified schools after a report of unhealthy lead levels in the system at an elementary campus.

We wondered right away about how construction bond money was spend on the plumbing said the be the culprit. San Diego Unified voters have approved three tax and construction bond measures in the last 20 years. They were supposed to fix schools — specifically addressing dangerous things like lead and asbestos.

As our Ry Rivard reports, the tax hikes — which allowed the district to borrow billions — specifically mentioned repairs at Emerson-Bandini Elementary, where lead was discovered in the water.

But the repairs have not yet been made.

The district did spend $1.7 million on the school, including $400,000 on new artificial turf. The district said the turf spending didn’t delay plumbing upgrades. Richard Barrera, a district trustee, explains in the article why the turf was prioritized (students wanted it) and plumbing put off (they thought they’d tear down the school maybe).

In the big picture, “even after district officials persuaded voters to approve multibillion-dollar school construction bonds, San Diego Unified has seen the condition of its schoolhouses worsen.”

Water Test Results Trickle in, Spark Dispute

After the scare about lead in the water at Emerson-Bandini, the San Diego Unified district is testing water in all district schools. It’s released results from several campuses along with a message: Nothing to see here, everything is fine at these schools, the district says, saying the results are “below action level,” as deemed by the EPA.

But the Calpirg consumer group disagrees, NBC 7 reports, noting that the state sets a much lower goal for lead in water than the feds. “There is no safe level of lead in drinking water for kids,” a Calpirg official said. “These schools must protect children’s health and shut off access to these water outlets immediately.”

Check up on the results school-by-school here.

• Parents are sounding the alarm about special-education cutbacks in San Diego Unified schools that will eliminate small classes and bring some kids into more contact with non-disabled kids. (KPBS)

Dogs Rejoice: SeaWorld Fireworks Are Off

Boom! There it isn’t.

After more than two decades of thrilling tourists, aggravating residents and sending dogs into freak-out mode, the nighttime firework displays at SeaWorld are taking the summer off. They’re on hiatus as the park focuses on a new (and presumably less noisy) evening spectacular.

“The park denies the decision was made in response to a petition filed by local residents demanding an end to the nightly fireworks displays,” NBC 7 reports. Critics say they’re too noisy and create pollution.

The fireworks, whose booms can be heard throughout coastal areas and Mid City, will return on holiday weekends and a few other times.

Activist Goes Missing in Mexico

“Hugo Castro, a U.S. citizen and immigrant rights activist from San Diego, disappeared Thursday evening after posting a Facebook Live video from the shoulder of a highway near Mexico City, saying a group of criminals was ‘hunting’ him,” KPBS reports.

The station reported last week about Castro’s work supporting Haitians migrants in Tijuana for the Border Angels group.

Gov. Jerry Brown has pardoned three veterans who got deported to Mexico when they finished serving terms behind bars. (Sacramento Bee)

A year ago, we reported on an effort by one of the men, who created a home in Tijuana to support deported veterans.

Cracking Up, California-Style

You may have heard about the wack-a-doo efforts to split off California from the U.S.. Turns out there are a lot of them. According to the L.A. Times, at least four proposals are out there, with the confusion of options boosting the likelihood — already way, way, way, up there — that nothing will happen at all.

As for a group that’s pushing for a ballot measure, it’s not even a quarter of the way to the petition signatures it needs by the summer, even though it’s had almost three months. Even a spokesman said the odds of a successful ballot bid (just one step in the secession process) isn’t “great.”

Come Fly Away… to Frankfort?

Soon, we’ll have non-stop flights to four faraway foreign cities (London, Tokyo, Frankfurt and Zurich), the U-T reports in a rapturous story about the airport’s growing profile. It may take years, though, for non-stops to China to begin, and wooing airlines to fly non-stop from here is costing the airport millions.

Meanwhile, fliers who want to go non-stop to Frankfurt and Zurich will need to be willing to take airlines they haven’t heard of, like Condor and Edelweiss (whose name reminds me too much of a disturbing TV show theme song).

Quick News Hits: Oh, Baloney? Try NO Baloney

San Diego’s own Meb Keflezighi is running his last competitive race today, the Boston Marathon, which he has won before.

“Vowing to fight public school profiteering, Democratic state lawmakers have introduced legislation that would either block or seriously limit for-profit companies’ ability to operate charter schools in California.” (CalMatters via Times of S.D.)

El Cajon has become a major destination for Chaldean Christians fleeing Iraq, and the U-T (via the L.A. Times) checks on how new arrivals are doing. An interesting fact: “Over this fiscal year, In the current fiscal year, the local Jewish Family Service has helped resettle 232 refugees” — most of them Iraqis. An official with the group quotes the leader of a Jewish organization that helps immigrants: “We don’t serve refugees because they are Jewish. We serve refugees because we are Jewish.”

The U-T takes note of a physician group’s lawsuit against the Poway Unified School District demanding that it stop serving hot dogs and other cured meats to kids because they’re unhealthy. That means the doctors want to dump bacon, sausage and baloney too. (“Bologna” if you insist, but please don’t.)

No baloney in schools? That’ll be the day. Oh wait. They’re talking about the luncheon meat, not the other kind. Never mind.

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. He is also immediate past president of the 1,200-member American Society of Journalists and Authors ( Please contact him directly at and follow him on Twitter:

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at

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