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For more than a year Roosevelt Blackmon, a community member in southeastern San Diego, has been saying that hundreds of thousands of dollars were misspent at Lincoln High School.
New documents obtained by Voice of San Diego show not just that Blackmon was right – but that district officials have known for many months the basis of his claims were true. Rather than vindicate Blackmon, district officials instead undermined his ability to perform his official role as chair of the Lincoln cluster group.
“In a district with a yearly budget of more than $1 billion, Blackmon’s allegation might appear isolated and small – with no wider implications for the greater school district or how it conducts its business,” writes Will Huntsberry. “But perhaps no other school in San Diego Unified has a deeper connection to the city’s Black community than Lincoln.”
Community members – including Blackmon, who is Black – have complained for years that district officials don’t listen to them and ignore their wants for Lincoln. Blackmon’s story strikes at the heart of that complaint.
The emails show that high-level district staff members who oversaw the administration at Lincoln were aware of and helped coordinate the response to Blackmon’s allegations. Those administrators include Superintendent Cindy Marten and recently appointed chief of staff Sofia Freire.
Mayor Todd Gloria’s first months in office reflected the precarious budget scenario he walked into. His State of the City address was frank that the COVID-19 pandemic was taking a toll on the city, and while he’s maintained some of the lofty priorities he touted on the campaign trail, his first 100 days in office (today is day 90) have indicated a certain sheepishness about promising big new things at a time when basic service cuts, and maybe layoffs, loomed over the city.
But he revealed during a Tuesday press conference that those fears are unlikely to materialize, with the federal government’s anticipated approval of a massive pandemic relief package that Gloria said could bring $300 million to the city.
That would more than cover the city’s anticipated $84 million budget shortfall this fiscal year, and the $154 million shortfall in the next fiscal year.
Gloria said Tuesday that he’ll prioritize that money to boost the region’s vaccination efforts – estimating the city could administer 5,000 doses per day on its property – to maintain service levels offered by the city today, and aiding beleaguered small businesses so they can succeed in a post-pandemic city, as City News Service reported.
The fund would set aside $5 million a year – from gas taxes, the city’s portion of a regional sales tax for transportation projects and fees the city collects from SDG&E for providing gas and electricity to residents – that the City Council would allocate to specific projects within each year’s budget cycle.
The money could be spent on projects like park improvements, bike lanes, transit improvements and sidewalks.
But $5 million is a relative drop in the bucket out of the city’s annual infrastructure spending. The city’s overall capital improvement project budget this year clocks in at nearly $370 million.
Although current coronavirus case rates place San Diego County in the state’s most restrictive purple tier, officials expect that could change next week.
The state has said it will increase the threshold for making the red tier from 7 to 10 per 100,000 residents as soon as California has collectively doled out 2 million vaccines in what it has identified as some of the hardest-hit areas.
The county reported an adjusted case rate of 8.8 new daily COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents Tuesday. Under current guidelines, the county would need to maintain a rate of 7 or less for at least two weeks before moving into the red tier.
The Morning Report was written by Megan Wood, Will Huntsberry and Andrew Keatts, and edited by Sara Libby.