A Sweetwater Union High School District board meeting / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Sweetwater Union High School District increased its central office staff by roughly 75 percent since 2015, according to the district’s own staffing charts — even as enrollment during that period declined.

Now, the district is scrambling to cut millions from its budget mid-year to escape fiscal insolvency.

The ramp-up in administrative staff came after a state report urged the district to reduce costs or find new sources of revenue. Officials for the district, who contend the increase in central office staff was not as high as its own charts show, note that the number of personnel had been cut following the 2008 recession, and some of the hires simply restored previous positions.

Will Huntsberry also reports in a new story that managerial salaries since 2015 increased by roughly 40 percent. Among the quickest areas of growth appears to be an office dedicated to equity and culture, which is staffed by 15 people.

As the district tries to steady the budget — the board miscalculated by $30 million — officials are talking about cuts to special education, the cafeteria and more.

San Diego Debates That Never End: Vacation Rental Edition

From Lisa Halverstadt: The San Diego City Council is set to decide Monday whether to rescind the restrictive vacation rental rules approved this summer or to let voters decide whether to overturn them.

Vacation-rental groups opposing the new city rules last month learned their referendum qualified for a future ballot, forcing the City Council’s hand.

In the days since that news broke, City Council members and Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s team have been considering their options. That includes rescinding the measure the City Council approved in July.

Aimee Faucett, the mayor’s chief of staff, told the Union-Tribune that the mayor’s team is advocating for a repeal of the rules because they believe it will allow the city to more quickly get “enforceable rules on the books.”

If the City Council chooses that route, there’s an important caveat: The city attorney’s office says the city will need to approve rules that substantially differ from those approved over the summer to avoid legal challenges.

The mayor’s office says it stands ready to work with the City Council to hammer out new rules.

McNeil’s Complicated Relationship With the Criminal Justice System

The criminal justice system in San Diego was a source of “both conflict and cooperation for Earl McNeil, harm and help,” reports the Union-Tribune. McNeil, who was black, died after being taken into police custody earlier this year, drawing weeks of protest in National City.

Officers were cleared of criminal liability last month, on the same day that a medical examiner’s report determined the brain damage McNeil suffered while in custody had been the result of drugs, agitation and “respiratory compromise.”

Diagnosed with schizophrenia as a boy, McNeil had a long-running and complicated relationship with police and prosecutors. He was “victim, juvenile ward of the state, defendant, documented gang member, witness, informant and psychiatric patient,” the U-T writes.

Politics Roundup

  • Carl DeMaio, the Republican radio host who’s leading the statewide gas tax repeal, complained recently that transportation money meant for roads was being spent on homeless camp cleanup. CalTrans said that’s not true, and a spokesman for DeMaio conceded that gas tax money was not used on homeless efforts, but said the larger point is that state officials aren’t good stewards of money meant for roads.
  • Remember that scene in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” where Sean Penn’s character is explaining Thomas Jefferson’s political philosophy and he concludes, “So if we don’t get some cool rules ourselves, pronto, we’ll just be bogus too”? That was how we felt last week. Podcast hosts Scott Lewis and Sara Libby considered some of the most stereotypical California stories out of San Diego, including one about a plastic straw sculpture that was killed by environmentalists.
  • Democrats have been reluctant to take a strong opinion on Proposition 10, a statewide ballot measure that loosens rent control restrictions on local communities. But the two candidates running for San Diego’s District 8 showed some political courage and detailed where they stand on the issue and landed on different sides.
  • Duncan Hunter Sr., a former congressman, has been integral to his son’s political career in the East County and he’s played an increasingly public role in the campaign since a 60-count indictment dropped, reports the Union-Tribune.
  • Rancho Santa Fe resident John Cox, the Republican pick for governor this year, has a lackluster record, losing elections in California and Illinois. But in a U-T profile, his friends and supporters say those past defeats have only strengthened his resolve and made him a better candidate this time around.
  • In a piece about the trickle-down effect of President Donald Trump’s combative style, the New York Times highlighted embattled El Cajon City Councilman Ben Kalasho and said his social media feeds are a mix of “bare-knuckle politics, aspirational lifestyle content and outright trolling.” Accused of fraud and sexual harassment, the U-T reports, Kalasho is the target of both Democrats and Republicans in this year’s election.

The Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.

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