There’s no doubt that North Park is on the ascent: it’s become a nighttime hot spot and has grabbed national attention for its snazzy restaurants. But the neighborhood still has a gritty feel and a sense that trouble may lurk around the next corner.

Will the real North Park stand up? Omar Passons, president of a community association, doesn’t seem to think it needs to. “Our neighborhoods collectively can’t be defined by some little stereotype,” he tells us in this weekend’s Q&A.

Neighborhoods within North Park? Yes, Passons says there are several, including “Between Heights,” which he defines as being between University Heights and Normal Heights. He also talks about the North Park’s evolution, improving safety, and the challenges facing El Cajon Boulevard.

In other news:

• If you saw the front page of The San Diego Union-Tribune on Jan. 15, three days after the Haiti earthquake, you might have noticed something unusual: No big story about the quake’s aftermath.

Of the top 25 papers in the country, only the U-T and the New York Post didn’t devote major chunks of their front pages that day to quake news. Instead, in a move that set the newsroom abuzz, the U-T choose to highlight local news stories.

Since then, the paper has retained its tighter focus on local news, and even more changes are in store. But they won’t come without pain.

As I report, layoffs are pending in the newsroom, and they’ve already hit other departments in the paper. The cuts are coming even as the local economy shows signs of life.

By the way, if you’d like to hear more about what the new editor has to say, he’s posted my questions and his responses.

• San Diego nearly has a new U.S. attorney: Laura Duffy was approved by the Senate yesterday.

We published an in-depth profile of Duffy last year, including an anecdote about how she became known as “The Lady from the Sky” to a Mexican drug kingpin.

Once the president gives his expected final OK, she’ll be only the second openly gay U.S. attorney in the country. This means that the two top prosecutors in the county (including District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, the country’s first openly gay D.A.) are lesbians. Even San Francisco can’t say that.

• That didn’t take long: the local GOP has donated $20,000 to City Council hopeful Lorie Zapf, taking advantage of a court new ruling that allows political parties to make unlimited donations to council candidates.

Meanwhile, the head of the local Republican Party acknowledges that rivals will take advantage of Zapf’s “personal issues,” which have gotten play in the media lately.

“Do these things help? No, of course they don’t help,” the GOP leader told us. “The other team will cast that in a bad light, and frankly we would too if we were in their position.”

Wait, did he really just say that? Yes, he did.

Elsewhere:

• Local groups that oppose illegal immigration are boycotting San Diego over its stance regarding Arizona’s new law. That’s right, local groups. (NCT)

• As a public service, I am continuing to track news stories about the never-ending North County high-end sex-doll saga.

The NCT says a settlement will allow a couple to continue making the life-like dolls, which offer a unique kind of companionship, but not the “Yvette” model or the body of the “Adam” model. The couple earlier lost a lawsuit to a competitor.

The story includes this sentence, which should win an award from somebody: “During the trial, four of the dolls were placed on one side of the courtroom and at one point, disembodied heads were placed on a bend in front of the judge along with silicone torsos, which are sold as separate products.”

• Finally: Actor and trouble-prone celebrity Gary Coleman, who died yesterday, had a San Diego connection: He played the kid manager of the Padres in a 1979 TV movie called “The Kid from Left Field.” Here’s a photo and a video promo.

•••

What We’ve Learned This Week:

Getting the Lead Out, Hazardously: For a decade, workers hired by the city Housing Commission to clear lead-based paint from homes may have been dumping contaminated debris in Miramar Landfill instead of a dump designed to take hazardous waste.

Shhh. People Are Opposing: If you haven’t heard much from the folks who oppose the strong measure initiative on the June ballot, it may be because they’re not organized and don’t have money to throw around. We explore why and get some answers.

Wrong, Wrong and Barely True: Our Fact Checkers examined a statement about how there were supposedly hundreds of county government layoffs (false), a candidate’s claim about billions of dollars in fines faced by San Diego (false), and a claim about shrinking class sizes (barely true).

Stadium With a Roof on It? Here? Um, Why? Because it could hold concerts and other events like the Sports Arena does now, that’s why. The idea of a retractable roof over the proposed downtown football stadium is still in play, we report.

•••

Political Slam of the Week: We check in with City Council candidates as they make the vote-for-me rounds and discover that one is referring to the supposed slumlord past of a rival’s relative. This brings up a nearly biblical question: Am I my nephew’s keeper?

•••

The Coffee Collection: Well-written stories to savor over a cup of java

Preschool Grading Blues: Local preschools are getting rankings, but not everybody is thrilled about how the new grading program is progressing.

YouTube’s Local Moneymakers: Yes, you can make a buck (or $15,000) by posting videos on YouTube. Just ask the Rancho Bernardo lady who has turned Indian vegetarian cooking videos into a lucrative business.

By the way, yesterday’s Morning Report incorrectly said the local man who makes money from salsa dancing videos works at Qualcomm Stadium. He actually works at the Qualcomm technology company. Sorry about the error.

•••

Quote of the Week:

“It says they got the coldest beer in the mountains. But they don’t. Coldest beer’s down the junction.” — Lamont Kennedy, neighbor to the Guatay Country Store in the boonies of East County, helpfully explaining why its “coldest beer in the mountains” sign is riddled with bullet holes. Can someone get this store a better refrigerator, please?

RANDY DOTINGA

Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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