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Roundtable Opera Bows Out; Water In Imperial Valley; Sweetwater Troubles

Audio

HOST:

Mark Sauer

GUESTS:

Beth Accomando, KPBS News

Tony Perry, LA Times

Wendy Fry, NBC 7

Transcript

San Diego Opera's Last Act

The news that the San Diego Opera will cease operations next month after the final performance of "Don Quixote" was a genuine shock to many San Diegans.

In its nearly 50 years in San Diego the opera weathered both bad and indifferent economic times but managed to stay happily afloat. In fact, it boasted 28 consecutive years of balanced budgets, including — ironically — this year.

But to the opera's board of trustees and artistic director-CEO Ian Campbell, the road forward was surely a rocky, increasingly perilous path, with bankruptcy at the end instead of a pot of gold.

The opera's operating budget of $15 million meant it was required to raise about $10 million from donations because ticket sales cover only one-third of the budget. The recent recession claimed both donors and audiences, which never returned. The opera cut costs (its budget in 2007 was some $2 million more than 2014) and shortened seasons and performances.

Further, with careful maneuvering over 10 years, the Opera spent down a $10 million bequest from Joan Kroc. (She had expected it to be gone in three.)

The loss of the San Diego Opera will be felt, of course, by those who love its music, but perhaps most by the 117 people it employs and the many local musicians and chorus members who perform.

Drought? What Drought?

The Imperial Valley may be a desert, it may even be in a state suffering from drought. But the farmers in this sparsely populated corner of California currently have all the water they need to grow the crops that feed the rest of us. Most of the crops, anyway.

The valley gets its water directly from the Colorado River, its share determined by its seniority in the 1922 Colorado River Compact.

Imperial County (population: 175,000) is entitled to some 3 million acre feet of Colorado River water, only 3 percent of which goes toward residential use. Los Angeles County (population: a whopping 19 million) gets only 1 million acre feet.

If the federal agency that manages the river imposes drought rules now or later, Nevada and Arizona would have their allocations cut before the Imperial Irrigation District. But things could change. The district was forced a decade ago to sell water to the San Diego County Metropolitan Water Authority. If they hadn't agreed to sell, the feds would have taken the water without compensation.

Since that time, Imperial Valley farmers have had to leave some acreage fallow, a situation they generally despise.

The question is, how long can the Imperial Valley hold out against the drought, the feds and calls for change to the Colorado River statute, which makes valley farmers “first in time, first in right.”

Troubles for Sweetwater, South Bay Schools

The troubles just keep coming for school districts in the South Bay.

Sweetwater Union High School District trustee Pearl Quinones, who had vowed to fight charges against her to the bitter end, entered a guilty plea to one felony and one misdemeanor count for failing to disclose gifts from contractors as far back as 2007.

Quinones is one of three current and former Sweetwater trustees facing charges in this branch of the many-tentacled, pay-to-play scandal also involving former Sweetwater superintendent Jesus Gandara and officials from Southwestern College and San Ysidro Elementary School District. In addition, it has been reported that the San Ysidro district is approaching insolvency.

As if this weren’t enough, Sweetwater Union High School district teachers authorized a strike last Friday over contributions to the district’s health plan, which the district says is an increase of $4,000 and the teachers say is a decrease of $3,000. They are working under a contract that expired in July 2013.

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