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Morning Report: Boosting Arts Without Breaking Bank

SD’s path to innovation, Filner wants to reform taxi system, new supe’s cagey again, and a literary landmark hits the history books.

Denise Montgomery, the incoming head of the city’s Commission for Arts and Culture, will land in her job with some good news (an increase in the agency’s budget) and some not-exactly-ideal news (it’s not as much as city leaders would like).

In a Q&A interview, we ask Montgomery to describe her admiration for the mayor, her vision and the need for more money. Among other things, she mentions that Portland is trying an arts tax.

Photo by Sam Hodgson

Photo by Sam Hodgson

How San Diego Became Innovative

VOSD reporter Kelly Bennett begins her quest to understand innovation in San Diego with a look back into history at how a small town in the sticks of California became a powerhouse.

A local sociologist puts it this way: “San Diego’s innovation economy is inextricably linked to its rise as a military metropolis in the early 20th century.” And, she says, it actually helps that San Diego was a “second-tier” city because we could be more nimble.

Behind the Rash of Principal Vacancies

And away they go: 16 principals are bidding farewell to their jobs in the San Diego Unified district, reports VOSD education blogger Christie Ritter.

How come? One spot is open for a pretty good reason: a principal is becoming the superintendent of the school district. Other principals are also switching jobs, while some are retiring. More departures could be on the way.

Our story also has details about principal salaries: they work more days than teachers but can also reach salaries of $118,000-plus without overtime.

Here Comes the Rapid Bus in Midtown

Rapid transit is wonderful when it works. But, as countless people have noted, rapid transit in San Diego can be a drag thanks to concerns about personal safety, the long length of time it can take to get anywhere and annoyingly high costs. (Local think tank leader Eric Bruvold sparked a long conversation the other day on Twitter by noting that it cost his family $20 to travel via transit from Mission Valley to Little Italy.)

Government officials have been trying to improve things in the mid-city and College areas by building a rapid bus line, but they ran into opposition from residents concerned about safety, losing parking spaces and getting a second-class transit system.

Now, Megan Burks reports the project is moving forward with construction starting this month.

Filner Catches a Cab Reform Effort

If you’re like me (and here’s hoping you aren’t), you bum rides to the airport off friends or pay for parking near Lindbergh Field in order to avoid the hefty cost of cab rides in our fair — and high fare — city. Taxis here are indeed very expensive, ranking in the top 10 in the U.S. (as high as No. 2 in one 2012 rating). We’re definitely pricier than New York City, Boston and Washington D.C., and our per-mile fares are among the highest.

Now, the U-T reports, Mayor Filner wants to reform the taxi system in the city to better protect cab drivers. But it’s not clear if changes will bring any relief to passengers.

Correction: Restoring Nuke Plant to Proper Place

Saturday’s Morning Report inadvertently relocated the San Onofre nuclear power plant. We like to think we have some influence in this town, but not that much. The plant is in San Diego County, not Orange County. Sorry about the mistake.

Want to know more about the unexpected closing of the plant? U-T San Diego has a Q&A and a nifty graphic, while NBC San Diego offers insight into the huge cost of closing the thing.

Education Roundup: Marten Speaks

• Cindy Marten, the incoming chief of San Diego Unified schools, talks to the U-T about the importance of convincing the public that schools aren’t failing. She also bypasses a line of questioning about what to do with lousy teachers.

For more about her perspective (not to mention her ability to fend off pesky interviewers), check our chat with her.

• The school district that serves Ramona, a rural town in East County, recently looked about ready to dissolve into a teachers strike in a flap over a budget shortfall. Some teachers blamed the lack of money on bad decisions at the district, which has had a mighty hard time convincing voters to raise their property taxes to pay to fix schools.

Now, the district has reached a tentative labor deal with teachers, patch.com reports via KPBS.

Can I Get a Witness? (Yes, Lots of Them)

• Check out our whole Top 10 most-read story list here.

Un-Book ’em, Danno

What were all those TV news satellite trucks doing on E Street on a sunny-ish Sunday afternoon? Joining bookworms in saying goodbye to a literary landmark.

Yes, the current incarnation of downtown’s Central Library has reached the end of the reading rainbow. All of the downtown library’s books and materials will be off limits for more than two months, waiting for their new home to finally open in late September. (For background on the city’s libraries, check our revealing 2011 Q&A with the city librarian, who was on hand yesterday at Central Library’s closing.)

I dropped by Central Library to do some last-minute research and check out the crowd. As usual on Sundays, the place was hopping with adults, kids and long lines for the online computers.

And, of course, I needed to soak up the heady odor of old books, old building and my-goodness-someone-needs-to-take-a-shower. That’s what libraries smell like around the world, I’m told. But not always. If all goes to plan, in a few months we’ll get to breathe in that delicious new-library smell.

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego and vice president of the American Society of Journalists & Authors. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

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