Like many private companies that find themselves in a financial pickle, the San Diego Unified School District is handing out golden handshakes. Or maybe you could call them platinum handshakes: Teachers who agree to head out the classroom door will get to collect a full year’s salary.

It’s a good deal for teachers who’ve been around for a while, and it’s a good deal for the district, which has a $124 million shortfall, at least initially. But, as our Ashly McGlone reports in a new story, “documents show the payout will actually begin costing the district money in two years,” assuming that the teachers are all replaced; cumulative savings will go into the red by 2021-2022.

“In total, the retirements and payouts that come with them will save the district $4.48 million in the first two years, but will cost $5.12 million the following three years, for a net loss of more than $635,600, district documents show,” McGlone reports.

A district official said the tradeoff is worth it: “The $600K (cost) is less than a percentage point out of the district’s $1.3 (billion) budget, and worth it to the district to save a large number of teacher layoffs,” district spokeswoman Shari Winet said in an email.

The governor’s revised proposed budget is less severe than before, and that may be good news for school districts. But much of San Diego Unified’s troubles are of its own making, as we’ve reported, and the state won’t help much in solving the mess.

In a VOSD commentary, San Diego Unified parent Elaine Camuso criticizes the district for layoff notices that could lead to the removal of a pair of teachers and the demise of Roosevelt Middle School’s International Baccalaureate certification: “I am disappointed — both as a parent and a taxpayer — that the district is going to throw away the investment that has been made in these two teachers. The loss of their skills and rapport with our children would have a huge impact on our community,” she writes.

Politics Roundup: Spotlight on Weber

Local legislator Shirley Weber is still a standout in the state Assembly. As a glowing L.A. Times story puts it, “she’s not afraid to buck the Democratic establishment. And she is bucking it now over the contentious issue of teacher tenure.”

She wants schools to have three years to decide whether to hire a teacher permanently; once they’re hired, they’re difficult to fire. Teacher unions don’t like the idea of her fix.

The Times article also tracks her history, including her father’s decision to flee to L.A. from Hope, Ark. — yes, the hometown of a president and at least two governors — when she was 3 because a lynch mob wanted to kill him.

In a U-T commentary, Rep. Darrell Issa explains why Obamacare has to go.

CityBeat columnist John R. Lamb, who spends way too much time on his creepy Photoshop mashups featuring local politicians, explores how county supervisors are launching their bid to temporarily fill the district attorney position now that Bonnie Dumanis is stepping down mid-term. At a meeting, he writes, “they seemed tone deaf to concerns raised by several speakers who fear that next year’s election will be conducted on a tilted playing field.”

Indeed, Dumanis’s hand-picked successor, Summer Stephan, seems bound to get the job, giving her a head start for the elected position. County Supervisor Ron Roberts wasn’t impressed by the idea that an interim chief could promise not to run: “They could say they’re not running, but as we know from past performance, people sometimes do that and then decide, ‘You know what? I think I really will run,’” he said. “We’ve had examples of that.”

But his office wouldn’t provide any examples, “saying the supervisor didn’t want to embarrass anyone.”

“A last-minute decision by National City’s mayor Ron Morrison and two councilmembers to water down a resolution to certify National City as a ‘welcoming community’ is now the subject of a new lawsuit,” the Reader reports. The suit alleges a violation of open-meeting law.

Why Southbound Border Traffic Is Backing Up

Visitors to Mexico expect to encounter plenty of traffic on the way back into the U.S. But now there’s a twist: Traffic is heavy going south too, KPBS reports. But it’s not the Mexicans who are making the cars back up:”U.S. Customs and Border Protection is conducting random inspections and lane closures that are causing the delays. The agency won’t comment on the frequency or timing of outbound inspections.”

Why bother with who’s going into Mexico? The idea is to catch fugitives and smugglers.

RIP: S.D.’s Highway Maestro

U-T columnist Logan Jenkins remembers the late Jacob Dekema, father of our highway system, who just died at 101. Dekema believed in the power and potential of roads for cars: He claimed driving was safer than riding horses to get places (no seat belts on that old nag) and even better for open space, considering all the pastures required to keep horses alive.

And he defended cars verses public transit: “The best transportation system gives the greatest freedom in choosing where to live, expands the area where they can sell their labor and gives them a greater choice in selecting shops, educational, religious, cultural and recreational facilities.”

He was decidedly not what we’d call an urbanist today, but he wasn’t a throwback either. He was “a booster of ‘jitneys,’ freelance cars or buses that would be largely unregulated, free to go where people wanted to go,” Jenkins writes. “In terms of vision, Jake was nothing if not Uber.”

Court Wary of Earlier Water Authority Win

On Wednesday, a state appeals court expressed skepticism about a San Diego County Water Authority’s court victory over the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. At stake is up to $7.4 billion in San Diego ratepayer money.

The Water Authority’s earlier victory is “in jeopardy,” according to the Daily Journal. (The article is only available to subscribers.)

Last year, a San Francisco judge handed the Water Authority a major win by ruling that Metropolitan, which supplies most of San Diego’s water, had been overcharging the Water Authority to deliver some water from the Colorado River. The two water agencies are locked in a series of expensive and high-stakes legal and political battles.

In a statement, the chairman of the Water Authority’s board, Mark Muir, didn’t dispute that the Water Authority’s case faced skepticism from the appellate court, but he said the hearing “was another step in a very long journey to fight for our region’s ratepayers.”

The appeals court’s ruling is expected this summer. Whoever wins, an appeal to the state Supreme Court is also expected.

Ry Rivard

San Diego Explained: Expanding the Convention Center

The latest episode of San Diego Explained, our video series with NBC 7, explores how the mayor hopes to hike taxes on visitors who stay in hotels to pay for an expansion of the Convention Center expansion, street repairs and fixes to help the homeless.

Quick News Hits: Augmented Masculinity

In their latest episode, the guys at The Kept Faith podcast, part of the VOSD network, talk with Shawn Chatfield from the gaming website Mega 64 about his favorite baseball video games.

 Poorly maintained streets and sidewalks come with a price in lives lost or deeply disrupted. Earlier this year, San Diego paid almost $5 million to a cyclist who was severely injured when he biked over a 7-inch sidewalk bump in Del Cerro. Now comes news from L.A. that the city is paying $4.5 million in the case of a cyclist killed “after striking a patch of uneven pavement on a street.”

 Public statues, like so much else, tend to be dominated by men. But a new app created by a marketing company promises to shake things up, at least in an augmented, Pokemon Go-style reality: In several cities, users can pull up the app at locations of certain male statues and images of statues of historic women will appear next to them.

San Diego hasn’t had its reality augmented yet, but there are several prominent male statues that could use female counterparts. Here’s just a partial list: Balboa Park’s El Cid, Horton Plaza’s Pete Wilson, Cabrillo National Monument’s Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, Balboa Park’s founders, the Cardiff Kook, Poway’s Tony Gwynn, Presidio Park’s The Indian and even downtown’s Bum the Dog and his canine companion Bobby.

The 1930 El Cid statue — dismissed by the L.A. Times 27 years ago as “lackluster” — was sculpted by a woman. So were the Balboa Park gents. In 2011, I profiled their wisecracking creator, Ruth Hayward, who’s also responsible for the nearby statue of master gardener Kate Sessions, in 2011.

When it comes to local statues, Sessions doesn’t have much company on the female front other than the nurse getting kissed on the waterfront and the “Guardian of Water” in front of the County Administration Building.

The landmark-feminizing app may never get to San Diego and fill our favorite places with fake female statues. Even if it does, The Onion makes a sharp point about the project: “It’s about time women got the simulated recognition they deserve.”

Indeed. Let’s start remembering women in stone instead of bytes. A good place to start: Sally Ride. A couple years ago, a statue of her didn’t make it to California’s contingent of statues in the nation’s capital. Why not here, and why not now?

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

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