Keeping up with the issues and institutions that shape our region can be confusing. That’s where we come in. San Diego 101 is your guide to understanding the people and systems that govern the region so you can get involved in the decisions that impact your life.

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Sponsor Recognition

San Diego 101 is made possible by support from The Legler-Benbough Foundation, The Parker Foundation, and The Seuss Foundation. Additional support was provided by Golper, Sullivan, Rivera & Osuna; Blood, Hearst & O’Reardon, LLC; and members of Voice of San Diego.


Every 10 years, cities redraw their political boundaries, which has a major impact on elections and representation.

Our 101 video and podcast explain what happened in San Diego during the last redistricting process. We’ll also break down how the process works, why we do it, how it could affect San Diego in 2021 and how residents get involved.


The County Budget

Every year, San Diego County decides how it’ll spend billions of dollars to provide resources and services for people living in the region.

When deciding the budget, county staff and elected officials look at how much money they’re expected to bring in and how much of that money to spend on law enforcement, homelessness, public health and more.

In this video, we break down the basics of how the county budget process works, so you can get involved in deciding how the county spends money.


Who Polices the Police

Police killings of people of color have gotten a lot more attention in recent years — in large part because of social media. That kind of news travels fast now. 

In response, protesters have taken to the streets and advocates have pushed policy to demand reforms, including greater oversight of law enforcement. 

Which poses an important question: Who should police the police? 

VOSD’s Jesse Marx explains how police oversight is currently structured and what happens when cops get convicted. 

Take the quiz: Who Polices the Police


How Schools Get Money

In California, there are more than 6 million children in the K-12 public school system. In San Diego County, more than half a million.  

To serve all these kids, and all the demands that come with this essential part of society, schools need a constant stream of money. They have to keep teachers in the classroom. Buildings need repairs. And sometimes, schools need to get a laptop to every student when classroom learning isn’t possible.  

So, how do they get the money they need to keep us educated? VOSD’s Ashly McGlone explains where all the school money comes from, and how it gets divvied up.  

Take the quiz: How Schools Get Money


The Tijuana River Sewage Crisis

San Diego’s coast is being drenched in sewage on a regular basis.   

It’s one of the most pressing environmental emergencies in the region. Beaches have to close frequently because of the ocean pollution from the Tijuana River. 

It’s an ongoing, complicated problem. No one has put forward a solution to fix it despite locals pleading to all levels of government for help. 

VOSD environment reporter MacKenzie Elmer explains the history, geography and politics at play in this binational environmental crisis — and where all the sewage is coming from.

Take the quiz: The Tijuana River Sewage Crisis


The City Charter

If you live in the city of San Diego, the city charter is where you’ll find who’s in charge and what they’re in charge of.  

It also explains how the city is managed and a lot of other important details that govern City Hall. It’s getting changed all the time to keep up with the city’s needs and what the people say they want. The only people who can change the charter are the voters. 

So if you want to change something major about the city, you need to change the charter. VOSD’s Scott Lewis explains this document, its history and how it’s used.  

Take the quiz: The City Charter


The Roles of Local Government

If you want to know how the San Diego region works, you should first understand the difference between the county and the cities within it. Which government handles what? They play different but complementary roles to make the region run.


How We Get Our Water

San Diego County doesn’t get enough rain to support the millions people who live here. And as the climate changes, the region is working to keep up with the demand and buy its way out of potential water shortages.


Choosing a School

Choosing the right school for your child can be daunting. Where do you start? What’s the difference between a charter school and a magnet school? What data should you consider? We walk you through the basics of school choice and explain what information is available for you to consider.


Who Runs the Border

The border is more than a line separating two countries. It’s a web of entities, intersecting and overlapping. Before you start to sift through all the policies and politics involved, you should get to know each border agency’s role.



Improving how people get around San Diego County remains a central issue in the region. But not much is known about the agency tasked with doing it: the San Diego Association of Governments.


Your Role in Local Government

We’re going to hit you with two stories about two men who suddenly had to figure out local government — after it completely changed their lives.

One became a political activist after spending months in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. The other became one of the youngest city councilmembers ever in San Diego after realizing how the city’s government had left his community behind.

Here’s how they changed San Diego – and how you can, too.

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