San Ysidro High School’s commencement ceremony / Image courtesy of CBS8
San Ysidro High School’s commencement ceremony / Image courtesy of CBS8

You might not know Nataly Buhr by name but by now you’ve probably heard about her valedictorian speech to fellow graduates of San Ysidro High School.

After thanking some of the teachers and others who she said helped her get where she is, Buhr changed course. She continued to thank people – but now she was thanking people who’d done her serious wrongs and who she said she succeeded in spite of. The guidance counselor who wanted to take credit for her position as valedictorian after continually failing to provide her with services. The teacher who showed up drunk to class. The administrators who dropped the ball on important paperwork despite her and her family’s pleas for help.

Though the speech went viral nationwide and landed everywhere from CBS News to the Washington Post, Buhr’s message was especially radical in a place like San Diego, where not everyone uses their platform to make bold declarations.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer has been routinely criticized for leading from behind on issues large and small, from homelessness to vacation rentals. (He memorably did not even take a leading role in his own early mayoral campaign ads, a role he outsourced to former Mayor Jerry Sanders.)

Meanwhile, in a speech last week that got the exact opposite reaction of Buhr’s – at this writing it has three views on YouTube, at least two of which are mine – Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins spoke before a group called LEAD San Diego at an event in which the group handed out its Visionary Award.

Her message – let me stress again that this was before a leadership group, in honor of visionaries – was on the virtues of … restraint.

Not unrelated, CALmatters this week reported that despite overwhelming Democratic majorities at every level of state government, progressive priorities are nonetheless being scaled back.

“Atkins observed what may become the motto of 2019: ‘All three of us are sort of moderating each other.’”

Plenty of people criticized Buhr’s speech as an inappropriate forum to be making such candid and negative proclamations (including, not coincidentally, some of the people who shared culpability in the wrongdoing she exposed).

But San Diego leaders in particular might find some inspiration from Buhr when it comes to how to seize a podium and use it to speak frankly and directly about the problems we’re facing.

What VOSD Learned This Week

Given that officials up and down the state keep approving housing developments in high-risk fire areas, this is big: Fire insurance companies are dropping some longtime homeowners and refusing to write new policies in some places. Meanwhile, SDG&E believes it’s a certainty it will start or contribute to a major wildfire in the next 20 years.


This week we chronicled problems in several different corners of the education world: Will Huntsberry painted a vivid portrait of how a massive alleged $80 million online charter network scam worked. Lincoln High School is facing a leadership crisis – again. And Thomas Jefferson School of Law is on the cusp of having its national accreditation yanked.


The city dropped its defense of Proposition B, the 2012 pension reform measure – but that doesn’t mean anything will change for the time being.


Here’s a rundown of the local projects getting cash from the new state budget.


On the podcast this week, we talked to VOSD’s Maya Srikrishnan about her recent reporting trip to Honduras.

What I’m Reading

Line of the Week

“We aren’t Tacoma. We aren’t Amherst. We aren’t Portland, Maine. Are we Scottsdale? No, we are not. And so all this so-called ‘evidence’ about how policies have worked in other towns simply does not apply to us. No evidence applies to us. Our town exists in a fog of mystery and enigmatic strangeness, and nothing that happens outside city boundaries should have any bearing on how we govern or exist.” – It was downright impossible to pick a single line from this perfect parody of every NIMBY speech ever, so please just read the whole thing.

Correction: An earlier version of this post said Sen. Toni Atkins spoke while accepting an award from LEAD San Diego. She spoke at the award ceremony but did not receive an award.

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

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