About a year ago, Andrew Sharp, the chief spokesman for the San Diego Unified School District, made a joke – twice – about VOSD reporter Ashly McGlone turning up dead.

At the time, Scott Lewis and I wrote that joke or not, we took it seriously.

I’ve been thinking about those “jokes” a lot this week, as we saw a GOP candidate for Congress assault a reporter who asked a routine health care question on the final day of the campaign.

That candidate had a history of making jokes about violence against reporters.

“We’d point out that all the other questionable interactions Gianforte had with reporters, including one case where he joked about ganging up on a reporter, must now be seen through a much more sinister lens,” the Billings Gazette editorial board wrote in a piece rescinding its endorsement of Greg Gianforte. “What he passed off as a joke at the time now becomes much more serious.”

When Rep. Duncan Hunter, who represents eastern San Diego County, was asked whether Gianforte’s behavior was appropriate, he said this: “Of course not. It’s not appropriate behavior. Unless the reporter deserved it.”

Hunter has himself been the subject of aggressive watchdog reporting by the Union-Tribune that helped kickstart a federal investigation into Hunter’s use of campaign funds.

At the San Diego County Taxpayers Association dinner this week (where, fittingly, McGlone’s dogged reporting on the school district was recognized), one of the chairs of the event remarked on how San Diego was unique because its leaders were able to disagree on policy but still come together for a night of laughs.

But how different are we really?

If any San Diego leaders have forcefully condemned Hunter’s disgusting and dangerous remark, I haven’t heard about it.

Meanwhile, Sharp remains employed as the chief public information officer for an agency tasked with educating San Diego’s children.

What VOSD Learned This Week

Each piece of Mario Koran’s in-depth examination of how San Diego Unified achieved its unprecedented graduation rate is not to be missed. The district says it achieved its grad rate thanks to a big boost from online courses. Now,  we’re hearing from teachers and students across the district that cheating in those courses is frequent and pervasive.

Then there’s the school budget and its multimillion-dollar shortfall. If a group of well-resourced parents and even a school board member can’t get info, what hope does everyone else have?

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Some news on the essentials: water, food and shelter:

It’s not just your imagination: You really are paying some of the highest water rates in the country.

Some local businesses say they’re about to get screwed by a new city policy reining in who can collect food waste from restaurants.

And San Diego leaders say they’re trying to finally go from a bunch of piecemeal plans to end homelessness to one unified approach, but they admit it won’t be easy.

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This week, Maya Srikrishnan profiled Mary Salas, one of the first Latina mayors in the county, and discovered that despite boosting transit and development projects, she’s still struggling to gain traction with SANDAG.

And I interviewed California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, the first Latino to hold that role. We talked about San Diego’s election reforms, the $450 million voter modernization bond he’s hoping to pass and why he’s so outspoken about issues that go beyond his job title.

Padilla is among a group of state leaders who have been vocal in pushing back against President Donald Trump’s policies. Part of that effort includes SB 54, the so-called sanctuary state bill. Scott Lewis zeroed in this week on how the bill would impact San Diego, specifically ICE’s agents who work inside San Diego jails.

What I’m Reading

• A lot of criminal justice reporting over the last few years has zeroed in on false confessions. This stunning story examines a related issue: children who were manipulated into making false accusations against their father. (Marshall Project)

• How Maggie Haberman became a Trump whisperer and arguably the most influential political reporter in the country. (Elle)

• On the heels of Mario Koran’s jaw-dropping story about cheating in online recovery courses comes this deep dive into similar issues in Florida and beyond. (Slate)

• President Donald Trump actually used to be pretty articulate. This fascinating story examines possible reasons why that changed. (Stat)

• Now, they’re Backstreet Men. (MEL)

• Some businesses require job applicants to take employment tests as part of the hiring process, and – surprise! – they give white, male applicants a huge boost. (Reveal)

Line of the Week

“When we’re scared, as many of us are today, it’s easy to shut down – to hold our girls especially closer, to try to protect them by keeping their lives a little more confined, by making them a little less free. Don’t. Take them to their favorite concert instead.” – From a beautiful piece in the wake of the Manchester bombing about what happens when we dismiss teenage girls.

Sara Libby

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

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