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Roundtable: Superintendent Roulette; Sequestration Reality; Plaza Reroute; License-Plate Readers

Jon Campbell, a freelance reporter for San Diego CityBeat, talks to KPBS about his story on license-plate readers that monitor and record the movements of thousands of drivers.

GUESTS:

Kyla Calvert, KPBS News Education Reporter

Dean Calbreath, San Diego Daily Transcript Reporter

Katie Orr, KPBS News Metro Reporter

Jon Campbell, San Diego CityBeat Freelance Reporter

Transcript

Unusual Choice for SDUSD Superintendent: San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Bill Kowba announced his resignation on Tuesday.

Twenty-four hours later, the district board had chosen his replacement in a unanimous decision: Cindy Marten, a City Heights elementary school principal.

The term “surprise move” is certainly applicable here, and so, some think, is the phrase “violation of the Brown Act.” (The decision was made at an unannounced board meeting, and no agenda was published. The board says there was no violation.)

Marten is a star in the district, lauded for the improved performance of Central Elementary during her six-year tenure. The school, which serves about 850 students, many of whom are English learners, has an annual budget of about $5 million.

SDUSD serves 118,000 students with an annual budget north of $1 billion.

Trustees Richard Barerra and John Lee Evans said community input into the decision was unnecessary. Barerra told U-T San Diego that he didn't "believe in disingenuous community engagement," saying that it would have been dishonest to hold public forums on the new hire as the board had already made its choice.

Sequestration: Armageddon or Opportunity? Democrats say the end is near; Republicans say it’ll be good for us.

As sequestration, an across-the-board 20 percent cut in the federal budget, becomes more real, San Diegans look at what could happen to local programs and initiatives.

Depending on how long it lasts, the biggest impact in San Diego is likely to be on the military, with furloughs of civilian workers; layoffs among hundreds of contractors and sub-contractors, like those who work at NASSCO; and even small businesses.

Other areas likely to take hits if the sequester lasts a year are scientific research projects, air traffic control and all levels of education.

Mayor's Office: Parking Problems, Tourism Lawsuit, Meet the Press: New plans to get cars out of Balboa Park's Plaza de Panama, a lawsuit from the Tourism Marketing District, and the monthly meeting with local press were highlights of Mayor Bob Filner’s week.

The mayor said his solution to the perennial Balboa Park conundrum of too many cars in all the wrong places was to eliminate parking in the Plaza de Panama, but keep the road. Cars would be routed through the plaza to the parking lot and Park Boulevard.

He says he needs $500,000 to make it happen.

The Tourism Marketing District filed a lawsuit this week over the mayor’s refusal to release funds allocated to the district. The mayor wants four changes in the 40-year contract, approved already by the City Council, before he signs. One of them is to change the contract's 40-year span to two years.

And this week the mayor held his monthly meeting with reporters, covering a wide range of topics.

It's 10 p.m. Do You Know Where Your License Plate Is? Since 2010, law enforcement agencies in San Diego County have used devices called license-plate readers to monitor and record the movements of thousands of drivers, says an exclusive story in San Diego CityBeat.

Police cars with LPRs patrol the streets, scanning and photographing every license, tagging them with a GPS coordinate and storing the information away in a mappable, searchable database maintained by SANDAG. Countywide, there have been more than 36 million scans -- so far.

Unusually, this information is also used by the FBI, DEA and ICE. In the U.S., most law enforcement agencies keep their own data in their own systems. SANDAG's shared database holds the scans for one to two years. The San Diego County Sheriff keeps them indefinitely.

The American Civil Liberties Union says the system is analogous to GPS tracking without a warrant, and it considers the retention time of the records in San Diego County excessive.

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