Earlier this year, a school district investigation found a variety of problems at a San Diego charter school designed to educate local immigrants from Somalia. There are more problems, our reporting finds. They include an expensive legal battle, withheld renovation funds from the San Diego Unified district, infighting among the school’s board members and multiple complaints alleging discrimination and retaliation.
As our Maya Srikrishan puts it in a new report, “Iftin Charter School has gotten itself into a huge, expensive mess,” one that’s cost tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees this year alone.
The school, named for a word that means enlightened in Somali, is 11 years old. It serves the big and largely poor Somali community in City Heights. Our story tracks the ongoing bitter drama that’s played out over the last several months, spawning resignations and dividing teachers, parents and members of the school’s board.
The Flood Next Time: Inside a Disastrous Calif. Scenario
Last winter was mighty soggy, enough to pull the state out of its drought and frighten Northern Californians with the prospect of a dam collapse. Give the credit, or the blame, to an “atmospheric river” that kept sending rain our way.
A similar series of storms socked the state during a winter back during the Civil War era: It killed thousands of people and a quarter of the state’s cattle, created inland seas in Southern California and flooded Sacramento so badly that legislators had to flee to San Francisco. Here’s the scary part: The northern part of the state got about as much rain as it did last winter — but in 23 days instead of 80.
What if a similar series of winter storms hit us now now, when California has 39 million more residents than it did in 1861-1862? In the wake of the Houston disaster, A 2011 report imagined a similar California “megaflood” scenario today. The report, the product of 113 experts led by the U.S. Geological Survey, estimates that a megaflood is just as likely to happen than an epic quake along the San Andreas Fault but would cause three times as much damage.
My new story explores the predictions of effects in San Diego County alone, including damaged highways, major flooding along the coast and $25 billion in property damage. And I checked with a couple of the report’s lead authors. Here’s the bad news: They don’t think the risk has changed — “this past winter reassured me of this again and again,” one says — and there’s little evidence that we’re better prepared.
• Several local dams are only in “fair” condition, according to a new report, and could be dangerous. “While extreme situations would be needed for the nine dams to pose a risk, the assessments pointed out that the downstream hazards to life and property were high or extremely high at each,” City News Service reports.
Last winter, we looked at the danger lurking in local dams and explored California’s deadly dam history. A dam in the L.A. area failed in 1928, killing hundreds, and San Diego’s extraordinary 1916 rains overcame a South Bay dam, killing at least 11 people, many of them part of a Japanese community.
County Declares Health Emergency After VOSD Coverage
After a vaccination push but also weeks of fumbling and inertia on other fronts, the county has suddenly acted to combat the deadly hepatitis A outbreak among homeless people. On Friday night, the county declared a local health emergency, the U-T reports, ” bolstering the county Health and Human Services Agency’s ability to request assistance from the state and providing legal protections for a slate of actions that began unfolding across the city earlier in the day.”
Meanwhile, 20 hand-washing stations — which may prevent transmission of the disease among the homeless — were installed and 20 more were said to be on the way by last Saturday. One appeared not far from the Museum of Art in Balboa Park.
Street-cleaning crews were also slated to power-wash downtown streets with bleach.
Nearly 400 cases of hepatitis A have been reported, with hundreds needing to be hospitalized, and 15 people have died. The outbreak has hit the homeless community hard, apparently because homeless people lack access to sanitation.
U-T Rips City, County for Inaction over Hep A Outbreak
In a scathing editorial (“city and county officials should be ashamed”) and an outraged column (titled “Inaction Becomes Deadly”), writers at the U-T scorched local leaders for failing to act sooner regarding the urgently needed hand-washing stations. They also credited our reporter Lisa Halverstadt, whose “devastating” reporting last week finally humiliated officials into taking action instead of dithering over red tape while people died.
In its editorial, the U-T notes that “public officials can move fast and effectively when they want.” (Indeed, an obscure monument with ties to the Confederacy was removed from Horton Plaza recently within hours of the mayor learning that it existed.) “They just didn’t with this Hepatitis A outbreak.”
Also, U-T columnist Dan McSwain writes that “San Diego has lost control of many of its streets.” He puts the blame on Mayor Kevin Faulconer, but says “he has plenty of enablers.” McSwain also writes that Halverstadt’s reporting for VOSD is “devastating.”
“Put bluntly, our homeless neighbors are pooping outdoors and failing to wash their hands. Then they touch each other — along with the doorknob of your local convenience store — and spread the virus,” he writes. “For context, San Diego’s leaders have been closing or refusing to permit public toilets in key areas for years, especially downtown, despite the booming homeless population.”
• NPR did a piece about the outbreak.
California to Resurrect the Death Penalty
Thanks to state voters, California may quicken the pace of executions, possibly beginning to put people to death within months, the U-T reports. According to the paper, there are more than 740 people on Death Row (including 38 from San Diego County), and 15 (including 3 from here) may be first in line because they cannot appeal any longer.
The state hasn’t executed anyone since 2006. We reported last year on the dueling death penalty initiatives on the ballot. We’ve also explored the epic last-minute drama surrounding the execution in 1992 of a man who kidnapped and killed two boys in an infamous San Diego case; he was the first person executed in quarter century. And we’ve revealed the bizarre phenomenon of notorious local killers seeking romance online from Death Row.
Quick News Hits: Shore Patrol
• The superintendent of elementary schools in San Ysidro, Julio Fonseca, has resigned. “Fonseca is currently facing a civil lawsuit filed against him by San Diegans for Open Government alleging he unlawfully approved a $114,000 settlement payout in May 2016 to a former employee that had raised concerns about Fonseca’s relationship with a female district employee,” La Prensa reports.
The tiny school district has been through a lot of tumult in recent years. (NBC 7)
• The local casino boom is still booming. (U-T)
• Here’s more fodder for those of you who are worrying about a nuclear bomb hitting San Diego. (NYT)
• Many members of the county’s largest union are frustrated and want it to stop representing employees. (U-T)
• A local group has developed an unusual way to keep the ocean clean: “With a paddle board, bucket and net, H2O Trash Patrol navigates along the coast grabbing debris that has worked its way into the water from the sand.” (CBS 8)
Perhaps the patrol could give out tickets to litterers and other wrongdoers in the water, like that guy over there who’s trying to make neon-orange swim trunks happen. Hey buddy! Pull over.
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 (asja.org). Please contact him directly at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.