On one side, a family with a upright if distant history of working-class pride, a protective and caring grandmother, an American social safety net. On the other side, a mother on drugs, a heavy-drinking and abusive father, and a country out of control. This week, we got to learn how all this created a 14-year-old boy who allegedly became a hit man for a Mexican drug cartel.

The tale is unspooling in a four-part series in the U-T. The first part tells of the decline of a family and the birth of a boy in a Volkswagen on his way to a hospital in National City. He had cocaine in his body. The second part explains the role of his grandmother, who tried to protect him but didn’t survive to complete the task. And today’s installment (not yet posted) will explain the rest of the story about how he became a shocking emblem of Mexico’s endless bloodshed.

As the first part puts it, the story shows how “within a single family, so many of the factors that fuel the drug war — the social toll of addiction, the effects of spiraling demand in the United States, the breakdown of law and order in Mexico, and the lure of power and money wielded by the cartels.”


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Tomorrow, the newspaper asks community members from the U.S. and Mexico to ponder the lessons of the series.

New Urban Renewal Chief’s Bad Timing

A local mainstay of the building industry named Kim John Kilkenny could hardly have picked a more difficult time to become chairman of the board that oversees urban renewal downtown.

Sacramento has its knives out for redevelopment statewide, and the City Council has been sticking Kilkenny’s agency with bills. Then there are other pesky matters, such as big controversies over proposed future projects, like a football stadium and a convention center expansion. And a conflict-of-interest scandal’s shadow still hangs over the agency.

In this week’s Q&A, Kilkenny talks about what he’s learned from his career (he was a key figure behind the sprawling Otay Ranch community in South Bay), his agency’s role as “the financier of last resort,” and his focus on ground level.

“When we are wearing our design and review hat, that is my focus: the public realm,” he said. “The portions of the building that people can feel and touch and see. I don’t really care that strongly what happens above three stories. It’s not that it’s unimportant, but what is most important is what’s happening at the ground level and how people react to it.”

These SD Residents Feel a Bit Peck-ish

The latest edition of San Diego Explained, our video series with NBC7 San Diego, is timely: it tackles the debate over city regulations that don’t allow chickens within 50 feet of homes. Home-raised (and then home-cooked) food is all the rage, and some folks would like to keep their poultry in the yard.

One North Park hen had to move to an undisclosed location because neighbors complained. Now, sadly, she has apparently gone to that great free-range open space in the sky, possibly thanks to a peckish coyote.

Face It: The Cardiff Kook Has Your Number

A new iPhone app allows users to superimpose their faces on images of the now-famous Cardiff Kook boy-surfer statue, the Del Mar Times reports. Some of the images show the statue dressed in the costumes that have made it such a big hit.

Wanna see yourself in Kook-as-Oprah? Kook-as-sharkbait? Kook-as-Easter-Bunny? Just cough up 99 cents at the App Store. Five percent of proceeds go to local public libraries.

Handy! Speaking of clothes, how about a convenient app that can remind me not to wear white after Labor Day?

•••

What We Learned This Week

• Pot Referendum Puts City in Pickle: Opponents of the city’s new strict restrictions on medical marijuana dispensaries managed to gather enough petition signatures to force the City Council to either repeal the rules or put them up to an expensive (and unlikely) citywide vote. (U-T)

The pot proponents feared that the regulations would essentially make it impossible to keep the city’s many — and very busy — marijuana shops open. But there’s a chance that the city could still make life tough for the shops.

The shops, by the way, serve people with medical marijuana permission slips that are universally thought to be easy to get from pot-friendly physicians. (As in: “I have a cough. Um, ahem. Koff! See? So lemme get some medi-pot, doc!”) I’ve never seen a local journalist actually prove that it’s a racket, however.

• Two’s Company (and Invalid): Duplicate signatures and other problems doomed a $300,000 petition drive to put a school reform measure on the ballot. While supporters gathered about 133,000 signatures, the registrar of voters only deemed about 90,000 to be valid, a few thousand short of the number needed.

The firm that ran the campaign also was in charge last year when a petition drive for a city contracting/outsourcing measure failed miserably due to a ton of duplicates. The firm also ran this year’s successful petition drive for the medical marijuana measure.

Running a petition drive and detecting invalid signatures (like duplicates) isn’t as simple as it might seem. There are plenty of complications that make it more than a matter of simply typing a bunch of names into a spreadsheet and then looking for the ones that are the same.

• Bill Horn’s Epic Whopper: In the annals of San Diego Fact Check, one extreme verdict is reserved for the most egregious of mistruths. We’ve issued it — “huckster propaganda” — this week, and it goes to County Supervisor Bill Horn, who has repeatedly unleashed a whopper of a false claim about being arrested and jailed during a 1960s civil rights protest. He’s also exaggerated his ties to a civil rights leader.

His spokesman said two men could confirm his story, but they were inconveniently dead. In fact, they are (inconveniently for him) alive and talking.

• DeMaio’s Money Non-Troubles: On the heels of news that Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher has raised a quick $300,000 for his mayoral campaign, Councilman Carl DeMaio’s campaign says he has $540,000 in hand, half of it from his own pocket.

• City’s Behind on Auditing: After an unhappy era in which the city perennially couldn’t get its mind around its finances, an audit of financial statements is seven months behind. Meanwhile, the U-T finds that a city auditing firm missed costly and embarrassing problems.

• Cloud Still Hangs over Mingei: Three years after a raid on the Mingei museum, an investigation into an alleged smuggling ring still isn’t over.

•••

Transposition of the Week

Yes, I did accidentally write “gift certificate” instead of “birth certificate” in a Morning Report item this week. It’s surely a coincidence that my birthday is coming up. (Did I mention that my birthday is coming up?)

•••

Quote of the Week:I’ll be darned. Something’s going on because I certainly haven’t passed away yet.” — Hal Brown, chairman of the local C.O.R.E. chapter in the early 1960s, on a Supervisor Horn spokesman’s belief that Brown had died and could not confirm an event.

•••

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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