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Earlier this week we found out SANDAG had worked hard to deliberately hide and possibly delete documents from public view as officials tried to contain its forecasting scandal. While certainly outrageous, that offense made up only a small part of the problems investigators revealed when they released their 176-page report on Monday. Andrew Keatts reports on how the other offenses outlined in the report cast suspicion of an entirely different scandal within the agency that investigators weren’t instructed to pursue, and also cast doubt about the honesty and competence of SANDAG’s top leaders.
We know what the separate scandal is. Just prior to 2016, SANDAG intentionally calculated the costs of all its expensive projects using out-of-date numbers. They knew the bad numbers would make the agency appear more attractive in the contest for federal grant money, the report says.
But “SANDAG structured the investigation so that it would not look into any of those questions,” Keatts reports.
The report also found that letters written by board Chairman Ron Roberts and Executive Director Gary Gallegos, which sought to reassure the public and the SANDAG board that everything was fine, were misleading and “somewhat dishonest.” Meanwhile, SANDAG staff have been mismanaged for years as key staff involved with forecasting have left and been replaced with people who have little or no forecasting experience, according to the report.
The report “reads like a consultant’s report recommending a top-to-bottom overhaul of a private company,” Keatts writes.
Ex-Supe Collins Loses Credential
Fired Poway Unified School District superintendent John Collins has had his teaching and administrative credentials revoked by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, Ashly McGlone reports. Without that credential, Collins can’t teach or manage public schools. The commission’s website says only that the July 23 revocation was due to “misconduct.”
Collins is the target of a mess of lawsuits and investigations stemming from his July 2016 firing related to issues with his compensation.
The Learning Curve: Decline in Private School Enrollment Impacts Everyone
We write a lot about public and charter schools in California, but not often about private schools. Private schools educated 7.5 percent of California’s students in 2015, but even that small number is a significant drop from the 10 percent they were schooling a decade earlier. There’s a consistent decline in private school attendance across the state, and Maya Srikrishnan reports that decline has advocates for both public and private schools worried.
“In San Diego County, there were roughly 220 private schools in the 2016-2017 academic year. That’s down from close to 300 that were operating in the 1999-2000 school year,” Srikrishnan reports.
Each school closure sends kids rushing into public schools, which already have tight budgets. All told for California, private school attendees make up an approximate $5 billion potential cost to taxpayers, and could require some 400 new public schools in order to facilitate them, a private schools group argues. The disappearance of private schools would result in “a staggering level of long-term, public indebtedness,” according to the California Association of Private School Organizations.
Public Records: San Diego Explained
Recently we’ve written reports about San Diego Unified School District and the transportation planning agency SANDAG. In both cases, the reporting has relied on having access to documents and records from those organizations, which we get by submitting a request under the California Public Records Act, a state law that requires state and local governments to make their records accessible. (The federal government, likewise, is subject to the Freedom of Information Act.) Mario Koran and NBC 7’s Monica Dean take a good look at public records laws, and where they fall short, in our most recent San Diego Explained.
911 Wait Times Are Still in Crisis
For years, San Diego has wrestled with the problem of long 911 wait times and the longer times people wait for help to be dispatched and arrive. When the problem reached a tipping point at the police department, Mayor Kevin Faulconer stepped in and promised a fix. Police 911 wait times have indeed improved, but NBC 7’s Wendy Fry reports the same problem has now popped up at the fire department, where the situation is said to be on the brink of crisis. “In recent months … incoming emergency calls went unanswered for more than 59 seconds before a dispatcher was available to answer on many observed occasions,” writes Fry. The national standard is to hold for only 10 seconds or less, 90 percent of the time.
Fry also reports that in seven cases last week alone, emergency calls went unanswered for more than two minutes.
Employers Retaliate Against Complaints
L.A. Times reports that some workers who complain about labor violations by their employers are being subjected to immigration enforcement while they attend official proceedings. Employers sometimes retaliate against employees who complain about workplace abuses by reporting them to immigration officials, the L.A. Times notes. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez said in a statement Thursday she will move to strengthen laws that prevent companies from retaliating against their employees in that way.
• San Diego Superior Court is eliminating more than 60 positions in an effort to get its arms around budget problems. (KUSI)
• The California State University system is trying to help route students around a math requirement that poses an insurmountable obstacle to 65 percent of students who attempt it. (KPBS)
• A local biotech company is working on treating Parkinson’s patients using a substance derived from lizard saliva. (Union-Tribune)
• One SDSU professor dives deep into the lives of young people in a new feature in The Atlantic and finds the current generation’s social patterns have changed to allow them more time. What are they doing with it? It’s not good news. “They are on their phone, in their room, alone and often distressed.” We’ve talked with the author about her high-profile research on young people before.
• Not enjoying the weather? Apparently it has inspired tarantula spiders to make more public appearances. (NBC 7)