If your memory can stretch back in time allllllllllllllllllllll the way back to a whopping six months ago, you might remember that local Democrats were very excited about a plan to change the election system that let people win San Diego offices in June, when turnout was dismal. Instead, those races would go to a November runoff, when more people were voting.

The plan was Measure K, and to the delight of Democrats and union leaders, it passed.

At the time, Democrats couldn’t really say, “We want this to pass because it would mean more Democrats would be elected in San Diego, duh.”

So instead they talked about the importance of consistency – state and congressional elections last until November, after all. And they talked about the people and the awesome power of them: “Democracy functions best when the most voters participate, and that is in the November general elections, not the June primary elections,” said a promotional website for the measure.

A new plan is being floated that would make voting in San Diego even more consistent. It would make school board elections run the same way City Council elections do – meaning only the people in a certain district would vote for the representative of that district. Right now, a school board candidate first runs in a districtwide election, then goes to a citywide runoff. Running citywide is expensive, which is why the current system heavily favors candidates backed by the local teachers union, which pumps money and resources into its preferred candidates.

Now, Democrats and union members are in the supremely awkward position of arguing that the system they just got done promoting is actually very bad.

We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

During a debate over Measure K at Politifest, labor leader Mickey Kasparian refused to say whether he would support the same change for school district elections, even as he was arguing for the consistency Measure K would bring.

But local Republicans are proposing another change as well: term limits.

School board president Richard Barrera has literally never faced an opponent before – something that should raise an alarm about the current system. In a Union-Tribune op-ed this week, he and school board trustee Kevin Beiser argue term limits would destabilize the board, and their ability to make decisions as a united front.

That might be a point I’d take to heart – I personally think term limits are misguided – except for something Barrera said back in 2010, when another change was on the table that might have threatened his power: “Barrera said he could readily back term limits and subdistrict elections, but balked at the idea of appointed school board members,” Emily Alpert reported.

In his U-T op-ed, Barrera accused Republicans of using children to play politics. It seems like he’s the one using children as a shield against the potential of having to face an opponent – you know, the way a democratic system is supposed to work.

What VOSD Learned This Week

Many students who are dealing with personal issues find themselves struggling in traditional schools. Some of them have thrived in charters with online courses and independent study programs. San Diego Unified and some other districts, though, are trying to shut those schools down – even as they ramp up their own efforts to offer … online courses and independent study programs.

Also big on our education radar this week: $$$$$$$$$

Mario Koran explained how school budget cuts hit poorer schools the hardest. And Ashly McGlone examined another budget cut victim, the district’s internal audit office, and why that move might violate a state law.

The district’s pot of bond money, which is separate from the budget, is still healthy. That money isn’t supposed to pay for employee salaries, but thanks to a loophole, it does.


The city of San Diego has pledged to take steps to reduce climate change – like getting people out of their cars, and building more homes near transit. Actually doing those things is another story. Andrew Keatts wrote about the next test for the city: A group of residents is mobilizing to oppose new housing and higher buildings near a new trolley stop – will the city cave yet again?

That new trolley stop is part of the Mid-Coast Corridor Transit Project to expand the trolley to UCSD. The project is wildly expensive, but a transit expert weighed in and says it doesn’t have to be.

The agency charged with carrying the trolley expansion out is one we’ve been writing about a lot lately: SANDAG.

We got details this week about Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez’s plan to reform the agency, and the changes would give the city of San Diego – particularly the mayor – a lot more power. Gonzalez said on the VOSD podcast this week that someone had to step up and demand accountability: “It’s time to reform it. It’s time to take it on and not pussyfoot around.”

Gonzalez is also working on a bill to help human trafficking victims recover money they lost while they were being trafficked – it’s part of a new slate of human trafficking bills I covered in the Sacramento Report.

(I’d like to pause here while you applaud the way I wove a record five stories together like I was a damned seamstress.)


San Diego might eventually end up getting some water from a planned desalination plant in Baja – but some local officials think Tijuana would be better off investing in its sewer system, in order to avoid more sewage spills.

Over on our side of the border, in Chula Vista and the rest of the South Bay, craft beer breweries and tasting rooms are on the rise. That’s busting long-held assumptions about the people who live there and what they like to drink.

And, lest you think me making a connection between a Tijuana sewer water story and a craft beer story is a bit tenuous, here’s a story about the mayor drinking craft beer made from recycled sewer water.

(I’m taking another bow right now.)

What I’m Reading

• Behold, a politics story that is actually delightful: This journalist surveyed a host of Irish politicians on their favorite Beyonce song. (Daily Edge)

• You’ve probably heard a lot of stories lately from people whose lives were saved thanks to health care reform. This heartbreaking essay provides the much sadder flip side of the same argument: Some of the people screwed by the system that existed before the Affordable Care Act can’t tell their stories – because they didn’t make it. (Vice Motherboard)

 It’s much harder to prove a hate crime than you might think. (Buzzfeed)

 An ode to Washington Post satirist Alexandra Petri, whose writing and observations are perfect for the moment in which we’ve found ourselves. (Longreads)

• The name bracket is one of my favorite features of the year. This time around, I’m pulling for Boats Botes and Andy Brandy Casagrande IV. (Deadspin)

• President Donald Trump loves him some President Andrew Jackson – they deserve each other. (Slate)

Line of the Week

(It’s long but bear with me – my jaw actually dropped.)

“When a man unprincipled in private life desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper, possessed of considerable talents, having the advantage of military habits—despotic in his ordinary demeanour—known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty—when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity—to join in the cry of danger to liberty—to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion—to flatter and fall in with all the non sense of the zealots of the day—It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may ‘ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.’” – An excerpt from a 1792 letter written by Alexander Hamilton that made the rounds this week because it sounds a little familiar.

    This article relates to: News, What We Learned This Week

    Written by Sara Libby

    Sara Libby is VOSD’s managing editor. She oversees VOSD’s newsroom and its content. You can reach her at sara.libby@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0526.

    john stump
    john stump subscriber

    The 5 City Council Democrats voted against District Elections and term limits and for keeping the "successful" SDUSD just the way it is.

    The irony is the Council and School Board watched a presentation, by the City's Pension expert, explaining their budget deficit just before they voted to keep doing what they have been doing

    michael-leonard subscriber

    While I love the name, I would DQ Andy Brandy Casagrande IV because the name's been used three time before :-)

    Joan Lockwood
    Joan Lockwood

    Human nature has been a constant and self service over public service of elected and APPOINTED officials is nothing new.  The level that it runs at today is appalling- but is this because more of it is exposed with Wikileaks type revelations and the internet? 

    Your quote is quite apropos for San Diego in its present day incarnation.  But remembering back to my  adolescent days in San Diego,he County assessors office was accused of  taking bribes for not  noting non permitted property changes by the County assessors office.  As I recall we lost that County assessor to retirement (why this option given to corrupt military, and public servants is a MYSTERY to me, think of the county retirement budget savings if all these crooks lost their pension!) or he was fired, I can't recall. 

    I am appalled (yes again!) at the loss of common sense of the powers that be..if someone loses their pension for corruption it sends a message to the rest of the personnel, and saves us money on these burdensome obligations we can never meet.  A wonderful Zoroastrian-esque clean up!   It's called accountability.

    So all we poverty stricken underlings must assume that the leaders are actually behind the corruption and they want their pensions kinda like politicians making cuts to social security who are not in that system, it has no effect on them.

    While volunteering for ESGR I met an Admiral (ret), gay,  who told me in passing conversation that whenever you see upheaval and economic distress look to see what is in the bills that Congress is passing and one will find the military industrial complex, along with unabashed pork  being stuffed in the sausage.  He left ESGR and went off to John Kerry's first campaign. But as a military man who was not entirely accepted "Don't ask don't tell" days he had some outsider insights.  Some of these men were old fashion heros and some were just plain greed stricken self servers!  And maybe on some days they were one thing and other days they were another?

    We are a hot mess of self servers in San Diego County and City, right?