The last year has been quite revealing, at least on our pages. We’ve uncovered the San Diego-area neighborhoods that supported legalizing marijuana, from the usual suspects (Hillcrest and environs) to the unusual suspects (the East County boonies). And the booze ban’s possible effects on reported alcohol-related crime (down in beach neighborhoods, up elsewhere). Plus the Latino-ization of the heart of black San Diego.

Our graphics guru Keegan Kyle turned to colorful and revealing images to illustrate all of the above in 2011. We’ve published a post highlighting some of his greatest hits of the year.

• Speaking of greatest hits of the year, tune in this afternoon to NBC 7 San Diego at 4:30 to hear the other Voice of San Diego, the San Diego Master Chorale, sing the greatest headlines we chose to represent the year. The song will be set to “Ode to Joy.”

Booster: Library Donations on Track

The chairman of the San Diego Public Library Foundation tells us he’s confident that boosters will raise enough money by the end of the year to keep the new downtown library project on track. But he isn’t providing details, and they may not be available until the mayor’s State of the City Address in January.

The last time we got a number, boosters needed to raise almost $26 million to allow the city to finish construction on the library/charter school project, which is scheduled — funding permitting — to open in 2013.

If private money doesn’t materialize, the city will have two choices: shut the project down or find the dollars somewhere else. Considering that it’s already patched together the existing money for the project from a bunch of different sources, that latter option may be quite a toughie.

The library is already under a cloud on another financial front. The city’s libraries are barely open due to cost-cutting: the existing downtown library is closed on Saturdays, while most branches are shut two days a week and only open past 5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The new library won’t get better hours.

The city’s top librarian told us in an interview in September that she’s not worried about the push toward more private funding of the library system. “That’s the direction we’re going now, and I can’t say it’s going too far,” she said. “Society is saying let’s find another way to fund not only library services but other services.”

• Our interview with the librarian, by the way, sparked a blistering debate among our readers over the value of libraries and inspired me to wonder what librarians sit around and do anyway. (I found out and, through superhuman power of will, managed to write a story about it without using a “shhh!” joke).

• Our Scott Lewis will be talking to the top library fundraiser Monday. Lewis is guest hosting the morning show on FM 95.7 and AM 600 KOGO on Dec. 26, which everyone knows better as Boxing Day, of course. Stay tuned for more details on what topics he’ll cover besides the Whoppers of the Year and how great VOSD is.

• Finally, the library’s top benefactor, so far, besides the city, is Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs. A supporter of many services around in San Diego, including this one, Jacobs just announced he’s retiring from Qualcomm’s board of directors. Here’s the Wall Street Journal’s take on that news, and the U-T’s.

Take it Out to the Comments, Gentlemen

Yesterday, we brought you the discussion about what a small town’s bankruptcy in Rhode Island might mean for our town’s finances. There, retirees gave back some of their pension benefits as the town works out its insolvency.

The city attorney and mayor in San Diego have sharply disputed the idea that current benefits can be rolled back in a restructuring effort like a bankruptcy proceeding. What’s happening in Rhode Island seems to counter that. Our story also provoked an insta-commentary from the city attorney.

It didn’t stop there, though, the city attorney, reporter Liam Dillon and the former city attorney all continued the discussion in the comment section of the article.

U-T Owner’s DeMaio Connections

Wondering whom the U-T will endorse for mayor next year? Here’s a clue: “Papa” Doug Manchester, the new owner of the U-T, and new CEO John Lynch were big supporters of a political group linked to Councilman and mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio, the Daily Transcript reports.

Manchester has supported another mayoral candidate, Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, too.

“We certainly like Carl and appreciate the fact that he has a plan for the city,” Lynch told the paper. “But we also think Nathan Fletcher is a great American who served his country and has a great political future. That’s basically where we’re at. And we don’t know the other candidates as well.”

Doesn’t know them well? Those wallflowers! Rep. Bob Filner has been a congressman here since 1993, and previously served on the City Council and school board. Bonnie Dumanis has been district attorney since 2003.   

We Blow Top Physicist’s Shark Claim Out of Water

An octogenarian physicist named Freeman Dyson has gained plenty of credibility in his long career. The NY Times has described him as a “world-renowned scientist and public intellectual” who “contributed seminal work to physics by unifying quantum and electrodynamic theory.”

Lately, Dyson has been in the news for his debunking of the threat posed by climate change. Now, we’ve debunked him.

In a book review in The New York Review of Books, Dyson claimed that “careful analysis of deaths in the ocean near San Diego shows that on average, the death of each swimmer killed by a shark saves the lives of ten others.” That’s supposedly because swimmers would be too afraid to go in the water, and therefore wouldn’t drown.

This would be quite a fascinating statistic if true. It’s not. And even Dyson himself admits it’s fishy, sending us a jaw-dropping email: “I should have said it was an urban legend rather than a scientific fact.”

Yes, that would have been helpful.

A Big Hug for the Endangered Caliente Ad

CityBeat’s Enrique Limon lionizes the 1960s-era Caliente racetrack ad on the side of a downtown building, which may be painted over unless preservationists can convince the city to keep it around. “Tijuana’s luster has long since faded, and that mural is a public testament to how good things once were, how Tijuana and San Diego were intertwined. They were sister cities to the core—BFFs even,” he writes. (He also notes that he would have included it in San Diego Magazine’s list of 100 top local works of art, which one commenter decried as an “execrable assemblage of hopeless sleaze and cheese.” Hey! Most of that art is pretty nifty. Of course, I do love my Niki de Saint Phalle.)

News at the Speed of Brief

• The massive wind farm approved for East County is part of an Obama administration push for renewable energy on both coasts, the Wall Street Journal says.

• CityBeat talks to abortion rights activists who suspect Jim Holman, the Catholic conservative publisher of the San Diego Reader, is trying to bleed organizations like Planned Parenthood dry by continuing to bankroll state measures to require parental notification before teens could get abortions.

• “Border Monument 258,” one of more than 200 obelisks denoting the U.S-Mexico border that were erected in the 1840s and 1850s and then in the 1890s, has more than its share of history. “If you came to San Diego between the 1850s up into the early 1900s, it was one of the places to go,” historian Charles W. Hughes tells CityBeat. “It was like going out to Cabrillo National Monument.”

Good luck getting to it now. A fence has blocked access to it, annoying history fans. “First of all, it’s American territory, and it belongs to us,” Save Our Heritage Organisation’s Bruce Coons told the paper. “It’s really asinine to put the monument on the other side of the fence.”

• The police department in Coronado is embracing helmet-mounted cameras that record the actions of motorcycle, patrol and traffic officers, NBC 7 San Diego reports.

Everybody ready for their closeup? Thank goodness Coronado has a tradition of taking cosmetics seriously. Just ask Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis or that blonde, what’s-her-face.

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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