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The City Council agreed yesterday to allow the controversial Balboa Park makeover to move forward, although the vote doesn’t guarantee that the massive project will ever see the light of day.

The council rejected warnings from opponents who said the vote would give too much momentum to the project, whose major supporter is Qualcomm billionaire Irwin Jacobs. (One sign at the council meeting said: “The People’s Park, Not Qualcomm Park!”) He is a philanthropist and major donor to voiceofsandiego.org.

The project would eliminate the parking lots between the Museum of Art and the organ pavilion. It would also create a bypass road from Cabrillo Bridge and an underground parking garage with above-ground green space.

Jacobs said in an interview that no other presented proposals would accomplish his goals. On the other side, Welton Jones, a former theater critic for the U-T, told the council that “the subtext today is unstated but obvious. A philanthropist wants the city to back his project in Balboa Park exactly his way, or he’ll take his money and go home.”

What’s next? The mayor’s office expects the proposal to return to the council next March. The plan is to finish it by the time the park celebrates the Panama-California Exposition centennial in 2015.


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• Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher’s decision to support the pension reform initiative makes him an ally with one of his Republican rivals in the mayor’s race but puts him at odds with another. It also might hurt his chances with labor.

Cops Won’t Disclose Emails of Accused Officer

San Diego Police won’t allow us to inspect emails from a former officer who faces 21 charges related to accusations that he sexually assaulted or solicited sexual bribes from seven women in the last three years. Usually emails that are sent or received by government employees are public records, but the police department says these aren’t because they’re potentially part of a criminal investigation.

Appeals Court Rules for Anti-Obama Commenter

A federal appeals court reversed the conviction of a La Mesa man who’d posted what it called “repugnant” racist and violent messages about the president online. Law professor Shaun Martin of the University of San Diego summarizes the ruling as saying the man was “just a big talker.”

One judge supported the ruling but called the man “an especially unpleasant fellow” with a “malignant nature.” A dissenting judge notes that “we do not require that the speaker in a threats case explicitly threaten that he himself is going to injure or kill the intended victim; rather, we examine the surrounding circumstances to determine whether a reasonable person in the speaker’s shoes would foresee that his statements would be perceived as threats.”

At UCSD, a Firm Voice for Scientists

A high-profile UCSD history professor who aims to unmask the motivations of climate change deniers “has turned vilified scientists into the heroes they deserve to be,” says a fan in a profile (written by me) in The Christian Science Monitor.

Naomi Oreskes, who studies the history of science, is “a fierce defender of scientists and a leader in the vanguard of those who strongly advocate that the world must acknowledge and deal with global warming.” She’s the co-author of a recent book, “Merchants of Doubt,” that links global warming deniers to other movements to discredit scientists.

Not surprisingly, she’s unpopular among those who question the evidence about climate change. One detractor calls her a “conspiracy queen.”

Solace for Kids Lost in Both Life and Death

The San Francisco Chronicle profiles Garden of Innocence, a San Diego organization that holds funerals for abandoned and nameless kids and pays for their headstones. “Every child deserves the dignity of being given a name by someone who cares,” said the group’s founder, a local real estate agent. “People say how can you bury a baby? I say, how can I not?”

The group has memorialized about 140 kids, mostly here. There’s now a chapter in San Francisco. There, the children are cremated and placed in an unusual 1898 building called the Columbarium where the remains of loved ones — including many victims of the AIDS epidemic — are stored in compartments, often with mementos from their lives.

Here in San Diego, county officials are now memorializing poor people who died without family or friends to take care of their remains. Instead of being anonymously and unceremoniously buried three-deep at a city cemetery, as was done in the past, they’re now laid to rest with headstones at a National City cemetery.

Rolling Down the River

Mike Aguirre, the former city attorney, uses an unusual analogy to describe San Diego city government in the early 2000s in a newspaper article: “San Diego was kind of a combination of a riverboat town with a little bit of the Wild West.”

His comments appear in a story about San Diego’s former chief information officer, who’s now interim city manager in Tacoma.

Behind those Hard-to-Win Fair Games

The county fair has come and gone. Maybe you won a big stuffed animal at a carnival game. Most likely you didn’t. How come these games are so tough to win? At fairs, “the darts are typically dull and the balloons are under-inflated,” reports Smart Money, quoting an ex-carny. “The basketballs are overinflated and the hoop isn’t regulation sized. And the water guns aren’t very accurate, as most receive almost ‘zero maintenance.’”

Huh. “The basketballs are overinflated and the hoop isn’t regulation sized.” Write that down: Sounds like a perfect excuse for anyone who can’t dunk like they used to.

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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