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— Scott Lewis (scott@voiceofsandiego.org)

School Principals Reporting Major Stress After Budget Cuts

The San Diego Unified School District was able to get through last year’s budget crisis without making class-sizes larger.

A survey of principals that went out, however, came back with some troubling reports about the consequences the budget crunch did have.

The district can’t respond to technology failures in a timely way. It slashed custodial services, leaving some sticky situations. And human resources has struggled to fill positions the district can pay for. Recently we explored how it was affecting special education classes.

It’s a rough time.

“In my 38 years of experience with the district, I’ve seen some tough years, but this is the toughest I’ve seen,” said Donis Coronel, who leads the union of principals.

Coronel said that the response from the district to the survey has been positive.

Look, Ma, No Helicopter!

The sheriff’s department and several city police departments are embracing drones to help them peer down on crime scenes.

“It’s the quickest, easiest and most effective way to get video and still images without having to use a helicopter, which obviously can’t get into places a drone can,” a sheriff’s lieutenant tells the U-T. “Over the past year, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department has used drones in more than 70 incidents, including homicide investigations, SWAT incidents and search-and-rescue missions,” the paper says.

Housing Commission Rolling in Dough?

The city’s Housing Commission, which is supposed to build affordable housing in a region where those two words rarely go together, “has accumulated more than $278 million in unrestricted cash and other assets, an amount that has grown steadily every year since at least 2005,” the U-T reports.

Perhaps they could use the money to, say, help the homeless and those are barely getting by? Well, yes but not right now, the commission says. That’s because a lot of the money is committed, even though it’s said to be “unrestricted,” which implies that no, it isn’t committed.

“We go through audits every year, they’re always clean,” the agency tells the paper. “The numbers are clean. The money is in good shape. We’re not sitting on reserves.”

A city audit of the agency last year made several recommendations, including a suggestion that it “should establish targets and performance measures and annually report on those results.”

Rent-a-Bike Program Gears for Core S.D.

San Diego’s struggling rent-a-bike program is searching for new homes for clusters of bicycles, the Reader reports. A city engineer says DecoBike has its eye on neighborhoods in the city’s urban core, including downtown, Golden Hill and the Hillcrest/North Park/Mission Hills area.

The idea, the engineer says, is to bring non-car transportation closer to where people live and where they want to go.

At a meeting, “people were concerned about parking loss in commercial areas and about the rentals landing near existing bike shops and possibly costing them business,” the Reader says.

Opinion: Reform the Arts Commission

Peter Kalivas, the executive and artistic director of The PGK Dance Project, writes, in a commentary for VOSD, that the city of San Diego’s Commission for Arts and Culture needs a radical overhaul.

“The current funding system has helped older, larger arts nonprofits continue to grow while grassroots organizations are left struggling,” Kalivas writes.

California’s Opioid Death Mystery

Much of the news coverage of the nation’s deadly opioid epidemic has focused on devastation in West Virginia and Ohio. California hasn’t been as severely affected, at least by percentages. While more people die of drug overdoses here than anywhere else because we’re such a large state, the overall drug overdose rate in California as of 2015 was the seventh lowest in the nation, the L.A. Times reports.

The paper tried to figure out why.

The rural nature of much of the opioid epidemic may explain the discrepancy. Some small rural counties in Northern California, the newspaper reports, are being hit especially hard, and the epidemic there seems to be as bad as in West Virginia.

“Many people are concerned about fentanyl. In one week in Sacramento last spring, 36 people overdosed from street drugs, and fentanyl was the prime suspect,” the paper reports. “Though several opioid-related problems are flatlining or dropping in California, fentanyl deaths increased 47% last year, according to state data.”

Quick News Hits: Animal-o-Rama

• Times of San Diego profiles a pair of adorable local Boston terriers, one who’s “the goofy, sweet one,” and the other who’s “the smart and quirky one.” Those happen to be all my personal characteristics too. It’s like I have a pair of twins!

• The magazine Fast Company checks in on the San Diego Zoo, which is working with an aerospace contractor to “develop an autonomous hexacopter drone that will monitor ice formation and polar bear behavior at a level of detail that’s never been available before.” The drone is supposed to start its work at the Arctic Circle next month.

Drones and privacy are a big issue, with some folks worrying about how the devices will be used to take video of unsuspecting people sunbathing in the nude on the roof. Now, polar bears doing the same thing on the roof of the world will be exposed too.

• Up at the wildlife repository formerly known as the Wild Animal Park, the world’s second oldest gorilla has turned 60 years old, making it eligible for the American Association of Retired Gorillas (AARG).

OK, I made that up, but acronym does reflect my feeling about a certain AARP-eligible birthday coming up next year.

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 randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

Scott Lewis oversees Voice of San Diego’s operations, website and daily functions as Editor in Chief. He also writes about local politics, where he frequently...

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga

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