Several months ago, San Diego Unified denied that it urged struggling students to leave district-managed schools. Now, thanks to an analysis of public records, we have a fuller idea about what actually went on from 2012-2016.

The documents, our Mario Koran obtained, show that hundreds of students were advised to leave.

These are not expulsions. Counselors or other school staff bring the students in and tell them they need to find a different option.

“The referral might be an honest recommendation to students who don’t stand a chance at graduating on time unless they transfer to a different school. But the practice can have more troubling implications.”

For one, the district’s graduation rate looks higher than it would be if those students stayed in district schools. San Diego Unified has denied that its staff counseled students to leave, criticizing Voice of San Diego specifically. “That would be both morally wrong and financially foolish for any school to push out its students,” the district website says.

Now, a district spokeswoman acknowledged that yes, students were urged to leave. They insist administrators did not do it to boost graduation rates. Whatever their motivation, the practice has that effect on graduation rates.

Opinion: Cate Screwed Up, Big Time

In a VOSD commentary, local attorney Will Moore criticizes Councilman Chris Cate for passing a city legal memo on to the developers of the SoccerCity project. Moore scoffs at Cate’s claim that he was undecided and describes the councilman’s defense this way: “I did it because I felt like it, and I’m going to get away with it… Maybe Cate’s calculation is right. Maybe he will get away with it. But it won’t be innocence that protects him. It will simply be power.”

Last week, we ran a defense and explanation of his act from his public relations man. U-T politics editor Michael Smolens mused Sunday about how bad the legal situation for Cate’s associates could be.

State Allows Law to Be Ignored Amid Shelter Crisis

The governor has signed a bill (link goes to PDF) that allows several cities, including San Diego, to “suspend state and local building standards for three years” if they declare homeless shelter crises.

The idea is to expedite the construction of homeless shelters and long-term housing.

Written by Assemblyman Phil Ting, the bill originally applied only to San Francisco, but Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher joined in and added San Diego to the list of cities, which now also includes Los Angeles and several Bay Area cities. It’s not clear why Orange County, which has multiple tent cities along river banks, isn’t included.

• A photo, apparently of a local homeless woman being arrested, is getting plenty of attention on Facebook.

Feinstein Gets a Major Dem Rival

Longtime Senator Dianne Feinstein is running for yet another term, and now she has a major Democratic rival: Kevin de León, leader of the state Senate and a San Diego native.

“The announcement sets the stage for a bitter intraparty battle next year, pitting Feinstein, who epitomizes the Democratic old guard, against a member of the party’s ambitious younger generation seeking to climb the political ladder,” the L.A. Times reports.

De León is not well known outside the political world, where he’s grabbed the endorsement of high-profile local legislator Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher. But he could catch fire among progressive Democrats.

De León, who’s 50, “grew up in a poor neighborhood, Logan Heights, near Chicano Park in San Diego. He never really knew his father, a cook of Chinese decent, and was raised by his mother, Carmen Osorio, a housekeeper from Guatemala,” L.A. Weekly reports. “She moved the family, including de León and his two older half-sisters, back and forth between San Diego and Tijuana. One of his half-sisters died last year, after years of struggling with meth addiction and homelessness.”

• The governor also signed a law “that will require the University of California to be more transparent in how it reports costs and how it deals with the state auditor, a measure that was introduced in the wake of a scathing audit of the UC president’s office this spring.” The audit revealed that as much as $175 million in rainy-day money went undisclosed. (L.A. Times)

Law Enforcement Report: Protest Fears at Border Walls

• Workers are building eight mini-border walls at the border. Protesters don’t care, even though the prototypes represent perhaps the most controversial building project now underway in the U.S.,” the U-T says.

As the newspaper notes, there were plenty of worries. Construction companies had to say how they’d handle security — “fall-back positions, evacuation routines and methods, muster area … in the event of a hostile attack” — and the county banned “implements of riots.” But no protests there have appeared, possibly because critics don’t want to give the prototypes attention.

• Authorities are investigating the death on Saturday of a man who was tased at a Hobby Lobby store in San Marcos after confronting sheriff’s deputies. The man, who seemed to have been suffering from a drug overdose, died at a hospital emergency room.

The Reuters news agency has analyzed the many deaths connected to tasers in the United States.: “Many of the casualties are among society’s vulnerable. A quarter of the people who died… were suffering from a mental health breakdown or neurological disorder. In nine of every 10 incidents, the deceased was unarmed.”

Catholic Leaders Rapped over LGBT-Friendly Mass

A conservative Catholic website is bashing the local Catholic establishment, including tolerance-friendly Archbishop Robert McElroy, for celebrating a mass for San Diego’s LGBT community earlier this month. In its article, Life Site refers to “‘married’ homosexual partners,” calls Hillcrest the “historic epicenter of homosexuality in San Diego” (seismic!) and puts references to “LGBT” in scare quotes.

“The whole event seemed to be choreographed, with the TV cameras, the VIPs, including the mayor and city council member, the imported rich gays (at least two of them were from Palm Springs), the Hillcrest elite gay men’s group with the matching T-shirts,” one critic complained to the website.

“Imported Rich Gays” does sound like a good name for a band.

Surveying the Spooky Seas

The Birch Aquarium is celebrating the deep “boo” sea for Halloween with exhibits spotlighting scary-looking fish and various types of slime.

They won’t be talking about the scariest sea fright of all: Surfing in the suddenly icky ocean after a big storm. Eeek!

Update: U-T Politics Editor Smolens clarified that he was not provoked to write about the legal problems associates of Councilman Chris Cate might face by an op-ed that ran in VOSD. A clause to that effect has been removed. 

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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