A philanthropist wants to raise $25 million to remake a chunk of Balboa Park and turn a parking lot into a walkable plaza, but critics have cried foul. Now, it’s the City Council’s turn: it will decide later this month whether to support the controversial plan.

A subcommittee of the council has already expressed skepticism about the park makeover, and the philanthropist seeks reassurance before going forward with designs and environmental studies. The mayor wants to move ahead with it and says it’s now or never. “Without this vote of support, the project will not happen,” he said in a letter last week. “We do not want to see this incredible philanthropic opportunity pass us by.”

On the Two Cathedrals blog, Lucas O’Connor imagines some far-out what-if scenarios that question the wisdom of using private philanthropy to keep the city running. OB Rag reprinted it, getting among its comments one from Dan Soderburg: “The City must not abdicate its management role, its decision making role, or its responsibility to ensure an open process that allow the public full participation.”

Legislator Allegedly Was Quite Drunk Post-DUI

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Martin Garrick, a Republican state assemblyman who represents part of coastal North County and is a possible candidate for state Senate, had a blood-alcohol level of at least 0.15 percent after he was pulled over in the Sacramento area last month, authorities allege. The legal limit is 0.08.

According to an online calculator, a man weighing 180 pounds might reach a 0.14 blood-alcohol level after drinking eight bottles of beer over two hours.

Garrick faces DUI charges and has apologized. It’s not clear yet if he will plead guilty and, if so, what his punishment will be. He was not jailed after the incident.

Death of an Ornery but Successful Padres Manager

How’s this for a way to be remembered: “I’m the guy in his book who said, ‘I love playing for Dick Williams, but when I get out of the game, I’m gonna run him over with my car.’” That quote in the U-T comes from a Padre who played under manager Dick Williams, who has died at the age of 82, and says “He’s a guy who taught us all how to play, and that’s his legacy.” Ornery and persistent and a “a tough customer,” Williams ran the team during its glorious pennant-winning season in 1984.

$300,000 for Mayor Candidate

Nathan Fletcher, a Republican state assemblyman running for mayor, says he’s raised more than $300,000 for his 2012 campaign in the first month of fundraising. The amount stunned some local political observers since it may cost each major candidate about $1 million to make a serious bid, and this much money this soon is a big head start.

Fletcher, who hasn’t been in the political spotlight very long, might be the least-known of the four major candidates. But there’s still plenty of time until the June 2012 primary, and a well-funded advertising campaign could quickly raise his profile.

• As I’ve noted previously, San Diego has a history of electing mayors who, like Fletcher and rival Councilman Carl DeMaio, are in their 30s. Here’s another factoid: San Diego is one of only three of the most populous 10 cities in the country to have elected two female mayors. (The others are San Jose, Houston and Dallas). If she wins, DA Bonnie Dumanis would be our third elected female mayor.

To learn about our current mayoral candidates, check our page devoted to the race.

• City Attorney Jan Goldsmith apparently wants another term. He’s reportedly running to retain his office next year.

Three years ago, Goldsmith — the former state legislator, former Poway mayor and former judge (and victim of a famous Assembly speaker’s notorious quip) vanquished his predecessor, the frenetic and perennial City Hall-aggravating Michael Aguirre.

Another False 401(k) Plan Claim

A press release from a local labor coalition made this claim questioning the supposed savings from a proposed ballot measure that would convert most new city employees to 401(k) plans:”The Republican campaign is taking credit for the pick-up savings, even though that has already been eliminated through collective bargaining between the city and its employees.” The claim is false, since backers of the measure have changed how they calculate the savings from the measure.

Build and Build, Layoff and Layoff

How come San Diego’s schools are busy building and renovating schools with scads of money while getting rid of teachers and other staffers? San Diego Explained, our video series, tackles this seeming contradiction. (The city of San Diego has a similar issue: it’s building a big downtown library but may not be able to keep it open for more than a few days a week.)

Minkow’s Ex-Church Won’t Minister to His Wounds

The local Community Bible Church, where con man-turned-minister-turned con man Barry Minkow served as pastor, isn’t in a forgiving mood. As the LAT puts it based on information from Minkow’s attorney , the church is “accusing its former leader of plundering church funds to finance his fraud-busting business and leading members of his flock to make ill-fated investments in an unreleased movie about his life.”

Minkow’s pithy attorney drew upon a classic political saying to describe the church’s charges (it’s a bit too earthy to reprint here) and said Minkow didn’t steal from the church. In fact, the attorney said, Minkow worked for free for four years.

Back in 2009, I interviewed a harried-looking Barry Minkow at the church, which he ran in a Kearny Mesa business park. In a cluttered office full of books, papers and weight-lifting supplements, he told me of his new life as a fraud detection specialist, family man and pastor and mentioned the movie, which featured some of Hollywood’s leading lights… from the 1970s.

Power from P… Er, You-Know-What

San Diego has plenty of dog parks (and even a nationally recognized Dog Beach) that offer pooches a chance to gallivant without leashes. Being dogs, they like to leave reminders of their visits, which end up filling extremely odiferous trashcans.

There may be good news on that scent-itive front. Garbage collectors may someday be able to breathe a sign of relief (or, for that matter, just breathe): Arizona college students are hoping to develop a “dog waste digester” that would turn the canine leftovers into methane gas that would light a street lamp.

Maybe next they’ll figure out how to get energy from hot air. Just think: your least favorite politician’s office alone could light the Coronado bridge for a week!

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com...

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