A school bus drives through Barrio Logan. / Photo by Sam Hodgson

School buses are pretty synonymous with getting to school. But for a growing number of students in San Diego Unified, taking the bus to get to school is no longer an option.

“In the past seven years, the district has slashed its busing options,” Mario Koran reports in a new story. “In 2010-2011, the district ran 2,300 bus routes and transported 17,500 students daily. This year, it’s down to 1,439 routes moving 9,330 students a day. And the district continues to cut busing.”

San Diego Unified’s school choice program lets parents apply to send their kids to schools outside their neighborhood, space permitting. “But school choice takes on a different meaning for families who don’t have cars or simply have a hard time arranging their schedules to get their kids to school and back,” Koran writes.

Parents can always send their kids to the school closest to them to avoid having their kids take a bus across town. Still, some parents say the closest school doesn’t necessarily serve their kids the best, and some kids’ routes to school are bisected by freeways or other conditions that make walking to school unsafe.

Environmental Report: What a Hot 2017 Means

This week’s VOSD Environmental Report takes note of a warm last few months in California and a toasty Thanksgiving on tap: “This will be the latest bit of notably and possibly record-setting hot weather across California this year. In September, temperatures in San Francisco hit an all-time high of 106. In October, Los Angeles hosted the hottest World Series game ever played, and record temperatures for fall were set across San Diego County, including in Alpine, El Cajon, Ramona and Vista. It was also hot in the city, hot enough that San Diego Unified sent kids home because of the heat.”

Heat in the Southwest isn’t just a nuisance. An Arizona newspaper series reveals how deadly the heat can be.

Also in the Environmental Report: Local marijuana farms, drinking water and fracking, threatened kelp forests in the ocean and more.

Plus: our environmental reporter is disturbed and intrigued by Border Field State Park.

S.D.’s Hepatitis A Outbreak as Scary Harbinger

Wired magazine warns that San Diego’s hepatitis A outbreak, which has spread to homeless people across the country, is a sign of the medical mayhem that can occur when people live on the edge:

“It isn’t just that people are getting sick. It’s who, and how many. When people lose access to the last century’s worth of improvements to services and health care, they’re more likely to get sick. And the next outbreak might not be something people can vaccinate against.”

The Neglected Menace of Stolen Guns

We don’t hear much about stolen guns, but a new investigative project conducted by The Trace, with local reporting from NBC 7, suggests that we should.

In San Diego County alone, since 2010 “nearly 200 stolen guns were recovered in connection with crimes, including two attempted murders, 15 assaults, and 40 burglaries.” Statewide, they’re responsible for at least 63 killings.

Haitian Refugees Get the Bad News They’d Expected

Tens of thousands of Haitian refugees moved to the U.S. in the wake of the 2010 earthquake, and thousands landed in San Diego, where local churches helped them to get by and find jobs. But over the last few months, their numbers shrunk dramatically. “Now it’s decimated. Everybody is moving,” one church volunteer told the L.A. Times in August.

Why? Because they feared the Trump administration would end the program that allowed them to come here, which federal officials say was supposed to be temporary. Now, the administration says they’ll have to leave by July 2019 or face deportation.

“Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, is still struggling to rebuild from the earthquake and relies heavily on money its expatriates send to relatives back home,” the New York Times reports. “The Haitian government had asked the Trump administration to extend the protected status.”

New Accusation Against Former Mayor

Disgraced former Mayor Bob Filner, who resigned office and pleaded guilty to misconduct amid a sexual harassment and assault scandal, now faces an accusation from a congresswoman.

Rep. Diana DeGette, a Colorado Democrat, says she was assaulted in an elevator by Filner, then a longtime U.S. congressman. He “tried to pin me to the door of the elevator and tried to kiss me.” She pushed him away.

“Believe you me, I never got in an elevator with him again,” she told MSNBC.

L.A. Mayor Eyes the White House

At least a couple California mayors, (including our own) became U.S. senators. At least one (our own) became governor.

Now, there’s talk that one (not our own, for now) might make a bid for president. Eric Garcetti, mayor of Los Angeles, is considering a run, the New York Times reports. He says “I’m progressive and I’m practical.”

Garcetti “was sworn into his second term as mayor just five months ago, and has not built a particularly broad record of accomplishments to showcase to the nation.”

And then there’s this fact: No sitting mayor has ever become president. Then again, it seems to be a decade for record-breaking: No one outside of politics and the military had become president either until this year.

If Garcetti’s last name sounds familiar, it’s because “his father, Gil Garcetti, is a two-term district attorney who prosecuted O.J. Simpson in the double-murder trial that ended in acquittal.”

Quick News Hits: Flamingo Fails to Flamingo?

An L.A. Times editorial tweaks the opponents of the state’s ban on certain plastic bags (and mandating a 10-cent charge for stronger bags) by noting that “in the end, this momentous change was not a big deal.”

But did it make a difference? Seems so: “Plastic bags (both the banned and the legal variety) accounted for 3.1% of the litter collected from the state’s beaches during the 2017 Coastal Cleanup Day, down from to 7.4% in 2010.”

Over on the San Diego section of the website Reddit, someone has posted a photo of a grayish brown bird that seems to be standing on its knees among the gloriously pink flamingos at the San Diego Zoo. “This one,” the post says, “forgot how to flamingo.”

Funny! But not very accurate. The bird appears to be a baby flamingo that hasn’t yet developed the pink pigment that adults have due to the food they eat. And it seems to be standing funny because its legs and feet are still developing. (And those aren’t knees it’s standing on.)

This all raises a question: When this little baby grows up, it will probably enjoy standing on one leg. But why?

“It would appear that this peculiar habit came about to keep the flamingos warm when standing in the water to feed,” Scientific American explains. Good to know. Now if someone could just explain why pink flamingos grow in certain California yards …

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.

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com...

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