The mother of a former La Jolla High student remembers the last time she spoke with her son, an Army specialist.

“He had just been on one of their four-day missions. He was tired and hungry and dirty and hot … and he said, ‘I want to come home.’” He had plans too: marriage, a business, a family. Instead, Gregory N. Millard died in Iraq in 2007.

Millard is one of 643 Californians who have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Los Angeles Times has compiled a database of the lost, full of photos, memories and pain.

Users can search by name, hometown and high school, among other things. Twenty-eight of the fallen are from the city of San Diego; only Los Angeles, with 29, has more. Chula Vista has 8; Oceanside, 7.

Some local high schools — El Camino, Fallbrook, Granite Hills, Poway — have three names on the list. High schools in Clovis (in Central California) and Hemet (in Riverside County) have the most in the state, at 7 and 5 names.

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Garden’s Fall from Green to Garbage

For almost 30 years, the city didn’t pay much attention to a plot of land in southeastern San Diego that poor Cambodian refugees used to create a community garden that helped them survive. They grew rare Asian crops there, built huts for resting and installed an irrigation system.

Then the red tape came. The city, which owns the property, evicted the gardeners and the garden began to decay. Now it’s an overgrown mess, a dumping ground for old mattresses.

“In the weeks to come, the San Diego City Council is expected to consider a zoning law change that would loosen restrictions on community gardens in residential neighborhoods citywide,” Adrian Florido reports. “That should, in theory, make re-starting the Cambodian farm a possibility. But even if the laws are changed, the refugees will still need to reach an agreement with the city of San Diego to use the land and reclaim the farm.”

Last year, Florido wrote about how a decline in the doughnut shop business threatened local Cambodians, who’d become dominant players in that line of work. And last week, I interviewed the author of a new book about Cambodia’s tragic modern history, which didn’t end with Pol Pot.

By the way, Florido, our neighborhoods reporter, is going on the road but not going far. As he puts it, “During the next couple of weeks I’ll be pounding pavement in a different neighborhood every day. I want to get a feel for the pulse of neighborhoods I haven’t paid a whole lot of attention to.” You can check out his schedule and give him a piece of your mind.

A Gigantic Mess Grows in North County

Let us consider the recent news out of North County’s Tri-City Medical Center, a hospital that’s run by an elected board.

One board member is banned from attending board meetings in person, and for a while she couldn’t even legally set foot in the hospital she helps oversee unless she needed emergency care. She’s also, by the way, in court on charges of felony vote swapping.

Another board member accused her in public of paying off a judge.

Meanwhile, the board majority is trying to get the district attorney to yank two board members out of office. One quoted Buffalo Springfield in the local paper about the board’s insistence on Kumbaya-type unity: “Step out of line, the Man get you and take you away.”

To say Tri-City Medical Center is a disaster area would be a bit of an understatement. No, not the hospital’s care of patients: it seems to actually be fair. The problem is everything else: management, oversight, public relations and an exodus of patients to other hospitals. In a story we call “The Tri-City Hospital Mess for Dummies,” we’ve got the skinny on what the heck is going on up there.

Behind the City’s $6.8M Arts Grants

A puppetry guild, a women’s history museum, a writer’s group. The Old Globe Theatre, San Diego Symphony and San Diego Opera. These are all among the beneficiaries of the cash-strapped city’s largesse when it comes to arts and culture funding. The big names tend to get the biggest funding.

Not So Fast, La Jolla High!

The San Diego school district’s superintendent has countermanded the principal of La Jolla High: he won’t be able to remove concrete benches that became the center of a battle over free speech, the U-T reports.

The principal had planned to get rid of them after the school painted over unapproved messages painted by students. (Approved messages were OK.) The ACLU jumped in and sued the district, saying that the school violated the Constitution by requiring positivity.

Geezer Bandit’s Back at It

The old-guy bank robber — or the guy who dresses himself up to look like an old guy — took some time off and apparently did some traveling too: His latest heist came last Friday all the way up in Central California’s Morro Bay.

Sounds like it’s time to start asking Hollywood make-up artists for alibis.

Stadium in Middle of Pack

How much do Yelp users love that cozy baseball stadium in downtown? Well, they sort of love it: an NYT analysis found that it ranks only 17th out of 30 major-league stadiums. The stadium where the Pirates play in Pittsburgh has the top rating, and the lowest one goes to the stadium where the Blue Jays play in Toronto.

On the bright side, at least ours doesn’t have a completely horrible-sounding corporate name like “ Coliseum” (Oakland), “Comerica Park” (Detroit) or “Progressive Field” (Cleveland). “Comerica” sounds like a respiratory infection (“Yeah, I’ve been down with a bad case of comerica for a week”).

Then again, ours is named after a company that sells kitty litter. Maybe I shouldn’t talk smack about the other ones.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the principal of La Jolla High as “she.” The principal, Dana Shelburne, is male. We regret the error.

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at and follow him on Twitter:

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at and follow him on Twitter:

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