San Diego Redevelopment Looters Unmasked

The Pulitzer committee won’t announce its awards for a couple of months, but I’m calling the game already for Liam Dillon and the Voice of San Diego for their report on how San Diego “screwed” the schools—San Diego’s choice of words, not mine—to grab more state money for redevelopment toys. Read it and weep.

The story is doubly notable.

First, it does real reporting about how the state-local financial relationship works, instead of just stenographically transmitting local leaders’ spin about the state taking “their money.” As Dillon’s report shows, the dollars, in fact, flow the other way: people around the state are paying higher tuition for college and watching their schools cut the school year so San Diego can build baubles, perhaps including a stadium for the San Diego Chargers, the NFL team owned by Alex Spanos, a billionaire developer.

Second, by reporting the role played by GOP Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher in passing the San Diego grab, Dillon underscores again that legislative Republicans may say they oppose spending, but, in practice, support it as vigorously as any Democrat.

A system that promotes the purchase of frills at the expense of education is broken and needs a fundamental fix that’s not going to happen overnight. But for all those deep-pocketed would-be reformers who are chomping to spend some of their millions to change California right now(!), the Voice of San Diego story points them toward an opportunity.

Why not put up a few million to fund recall campaigns against the city officials and legislators who, in the midst of California’s fiscal emergency, have been busy looting the schools to hand out redevelopment welfare to developers and the well-connected? Those campaigns could advance the reform conversation all around the state and at the same time perhaps retire to private life some officials who’ve lost sight of the common good. Forget the town hall meetings. Let’s bag ourselves some looters.