Assemblywoman Shirley Weber and Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez take part in a Politifest panel. / Photo by Vito Di Stefano

We’ve set a low bar in San Diego, and all you need to clear it is to speak candidly.

But several people did over the last week, in some eye-opening ways.

The most uncomfortable instance involved a U-T editorial cartoon, depicting Jussie Smollett alongside James Baldwin and Toni Morrison – an offensive comparison that the paper pulled, and apologized for. The paper itself hosted a conversation about the decision-making behind the cartoon and the conversations it provoked, and the cartoonist, Steve Breen, even talked with other newsrooms about the episode.

To be clear, it sucks that this happened. But so often in San Diego politics, I’ve watched leaders clam up and refuse to admit any wrongdoing, even long after it’s become clear that something bad happened. Breen and the U-T’s willingness to say plainly that the cartoon shouldn’t have run was satisfying in that sense.

The U-T editorial board, meanwhile, was on the other end of some fiery truth-telling from someone we’ve come to expect it from: Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, when asked about the San Diego Unified’s insanely high 2016 graduation rate – an achievement we spent more than a year unraveling – was pure fire, and she made several references to our reporting in criticizing the number:

This is not true. Now, if you decide you’re not going to count over half of them you might end with 97 percent or you took a group of them and put them into a computer class and had them finish… you know.

You… and then you’re going to tell me this is a great program. Why? You… these kids can do all of their work that they have failed for two years or three years… you can do it all in one big swoop of a semester and they’re going to master this material every month, a different subject matter? Come on now, you know. You’d have to… I mean I… I don’t know. I guess you believe in unicorns.

That brings us to another member of the Assembly known for speaking her truth: Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, as Scott and Andy reported this week, told visiting members of the local Chamber of Commerce she’s not interested in having meetings in which they all smile and pretend to get along, only to have the Chamber torch her legislation or worse: “Let’s be honest and not play a game where we all get together and break bread and smile and then talk shit in our silos,” she said. “Have the ovaries to stand up and have a tough conversation, because when we create a conflict that can be resolved, it can be resolved in a good way.”

When I read this, I pictured Gonzalez dropping the mic as Ariana Grande’s “Fake Smile” blared throughout the room, as if from nowhere.

Finally, SANDAG’s new director continues to say plainly what we’ve been reporting for more than two years.

Most recently, he admitted that SANDAG can’t make good on everything it promised to voters with TransNet – a fraud you should really sit with for a moment.

And while it’s a relief to have the agency helmed by someone willing to speak hard truths, it would have been nice to hear those truths from Gary Gallegos and Ron Roberts at any point in 2016, 2017 or 2018 – when they were just as clear as they are now. It’d be similarly nice if anyone from San Diego Unified were willing to be as frank about what it took to achieve that graduation rate as Weber is.

What VOSD Learned This Week

A bill written by Sen. Ben Hueso and sponsored by City Attorney Mara Elliott would make it harder for members of the public to sue over violations of the California Public Records Act. A fact sheet released by Hueso’s office says it’s trying to help overburdened public agencies, but transparency advocates say the bill would let government officials cover up wrongdoing.

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The city did a big thing this week! It, along with the county and a couple other local cities, voted to move forward in creating a government-run energy company. But there are still some fights to come – namely, whether the agency will require labor-friendly contracts.

These government-run power companies are called community choice aggregators. But what, exactly, does the “choice” part mean?

We talked about CCAs, and how they factor into the so-called San Diego Green New Deal, on the podcast.

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We hear a lot about immigration enforcement when it comes to people trying to cross the border, or people arrested at their homes, at their children’s schools or just walking down the street. We hear far less often about the enforcement the government does of workplaces – but that enforcement is ramping up in a massive way.

And speaking of workplace issues, the confrontation between Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez and exotic dancers who oppose a worker classification bill she’s pursuing was far from the first time strippers have stolen the spotlight in local political affairs.

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Sweetwater Union High School District is gearing up to make big cuts in order to cover its massive budget hole.

What I’m Reading

Line of the Week

“After reading the phrase ‘shawl vault’ caused every single synapse in my brain to light up in pure ecstasy, I realized I wanted one thing in life: to be locked inside Stevie Nicks’s shawl vault.” – I can confirm that after reading this, Andy Keatts, Adriana Heldiz and I contemplated creating a Fleetwood Mac cover band named Shawl Vault.

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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