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San Diego school districts still can’t quit FieldTurf.

Earlier this year, the Poway Unified School District directed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the artificial turf provider, which knowingly sold defective products, as it cornered the athletic field market in Southern California and beyond. Indeed, even within Poway Unified, FieldTurf’s products have consistently fallen apart far sooner than anyone expected.

But as Jesse Marx reports, officials gave FieldTurf and one of its affiliates more than $800,000 in no-bid contracts in April. California law allows for public agencies to avoid the competitive bidding process under certain circumstances, but it’s not mandatory.

Still, none of Poway Unified’s trustees questioned that decision at a public meeting or asked to see alternatives. Staff said in a statement that although they didn’t formally seek bids from other companies, they conducted their own research and remained confident in FieldTurf. They have not responded to our request to see the research.

Two years ago, a VOSD investigation found that the FieldTurf products installed at school districts across San Diego County were rapidly falling apart, and few public school officials were pushing back

Sweetwater Gets a Fiscal Adviser

The San Diego County Office of Education approved the Sweetwater Union High School District’s new budget but appointed a fiscal adviser to keep a close eye on the district’s finances.

School district officials in the South Bay realized this summer that they had planned to spend more money than they had available. They’re now tasked with making $19 million in cuts to the current school year.

Will Huntsberry reports that if county officials believe the district is headed toward insolvency, they could intervene and overturn decisions made by Sweetwater’s Board of Education. Likewise, if they believe Sweetwater’s situation is improving, they could tell the adviser to step back.

Over the last two years, the district has increasingly relied on borrowing against an account dedicated to building fees, which could cause serious problems down the road.

The Election Is Still Going!

Another Latino newcomer is close to winning office in an area long dominated by white candidates.

Going into the weekend, attorney Maria Nunez was ahead of her challenger, Craig Garcia, in the San Marcos City Council’s newly created District 1 by 65 votes (out of about 2,300). San Marcos was one of six cities in North County this year to stop electing candidates citywide, giving minorities a better shot at holding office, after a Malibu attorney threatened to sue under the California Voting Rights Act.

These are the other tight races we’re watching:

  • Escondido Mayor Sam Abed’s lead over Paul McNamara, president of a community college district, shrunk to a mere 70 votes.
  • Esther Sanchez is 72 votes ahead of Chuck Lowery for an Oceanside City Council seat, and Priya Bhat-Patel is 65 votes ahead of Corrine Busta for a Carlsbad City Council seat.
  • Sean Elo, a community organizer and first-time candidate, significantly increased his lead this weekend from about 700 votes to 1,555 over outgoing San Diego City Councilman David Alvarez for the San Diego Community College board. Both are Democrats, but Elo got the party’s endorsement.

Opinion: Mayor Forgot to Include Homes in His Latest Homeless Proposal

Mayor Kevin Faulconer will make a pitch to the City Council Tuesday for converting an East Village skydiving center into a service hub for homeless San Diegans. But Councilman Chris Ward, who represents downtown, says he won’t move forward with the project until officials articulate a broader homelessness strategy.

“This center would require a major investment in both start-up and ongoing costs, all without providing more available housing units for homeless individuals or demonstrating how homelessness would be reduced,” Ward argues in an op-ed. “We should not tie our hands for the foreseeable future while we fail to address the most critical gaps in our systems.”

Politics Roundup

  • Brian Jones is headed back to Sacramento to replace state Sen. Joel Anderson, a fellow East County Republican. Democrats are on the verge of a regaining a supermajority and will have a governor to the left of Jerry Brown. Jones spoke to told Sara Libby about the role of Republicans in this political environment, as a force that can at least block or manage some of the tax increases.
  • Closer to home, Democrats now enjoy a veto-proof majority on the City Council, meaning they can pursue a progressive agenda without worrying about what the mayor thinks. Ashley Hayek, president of GoldenState Consultants, and Dwayne Crenshaw, CEO of Rise San Diego, joined us for some post-election analysis on the podcast, and a good part of the conversation focused on the future of the GOP.
  • In the Politics Report, we also explain some of the demographic and structural shifts in San Diego County that gave Democrats an advantage this year at the ballot box. Lewis also considers the failure of SoccerCity’s campaign for the Mission Valley stadium site and offers advice for all parties involved.

Border News

In Other News

  • We wish Gene Cubbison well! The dean of political reporting is retiring after four decades, and NBC 7 paid its respects.
  • The U-T reports that if San Diego State is going to deliver on its promise to turn the Mission Valley stadium site into an eco-edu-entertainment wonderland, it’s going to have to raise big money and attract industry. Last week, we laid out the four big promises made by Measure G’s backers that we’ll be watching as well.
  • Rep. Scott Peters asked San Diego to investigate the management of the North Chapel in Liberty Station, the historic house of worship that is advertising as a restaurant venue. (Union-Tribune)
  • Comic-Con’s low-profile but influential president died Saturday. John Rogers was first elected to the role in 1986 and grew the pop culture celebration into a behemoth, taking over the convention center and surrounding parts of downtown for a long weekend every summer. (Union-Tribune, NBC 7)
  • County offices are closed Monday in honor of Veterans Day, but most parks and campgrounds will remain open.

Corrections

In Saturday’s Politics Report, we incorrectly asserted that Nathan Fletcher was the first Democrat elected to the County Board of Supervisors in years. We meant the District 4 supervisor seat.

In Sunday’s What We Learned This Week, we misstated the state in which Krysten Sinema is running for Senate.

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

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