Over the last seven years, San Diego’s backcountry has experienced a heavy death toll at the hands of a federal wildlife agency: almost 19,000 animals killed. They include creatures like ducks and songbirds that don’t appear to be significant threats.

Why? What are ducks and songbirds — plus beavers and more — doing to turn them into a threat? It’s not clear. Our investigation, the first in an ongoing series, finds that the reasons behind many of the killings are unclear. In fact, it’s been impossible to discover whether government-funded trappers have acted reasonably or even legally.

In many cases, the animals were pests like skunks and rats. But others — like blue herons and hawks — threaten endangered species. And some of the animals appear to have been killed only because they threatened livestock.

Our investigation continues, and we won’t stop pressing the federal government for answers. 

Fact Checking a Balboa Park Claim

Opponents of the Balboa Park makeover, approved this week by the City Council, have charged that it was a done deal from the start. “They’ve changed it not one bit,” proclaimed Bruce Coons, executive director of the Save Our Heritage Organisation.

San Diego Fact Check finds his statement is false. As our fact checker Keegan Kyle notes, “proponents had indeed made changes in response to public input over the past two years. They just hadn’t been all the big changes he wanted.”

Coons didn’t dispute the findings but said the rating, false, was not deserved.

Last week, we found a claim from the proponents of the plan misleading.

UCSD Scientist: Give Pot a Chance

UCSD Professor Igor Grant, one of the world leaders in research into medical marijuana, is out with a new report that calls on the federal government to allow greater use of pot as a medical treatment: “it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking.”

I interviewed Grant last year for a VOSD Q&A feature, and he spoke about marijuana’s potential as a treatment for conditions like chronic pain.

He said the studies by his state-supported research collaboration have supported the use of medi-pot: “every single study has been positive, which is a surprise to me. Now, they’re not large in scope, so you could always criticize them. But they suggest to me that there’s something to this.”

San Bernardino Bankruptcy

U-T San Diego sent writer Aaron Burgin to San Bernardino yesterday to find out more about that city’s decision to reorganize its finances under bankruptcy.

Over the years, we’ve hosted numerous discussions about municipal bankruptcy and whether it should have been considered here. The city of San Diego, Chula Vista and others have worked for years to save services while grappling with the enormous costs of promises they made to employees without ever setting aside money for them.

A terrible recession didn’t help.

In December, retired firefighters and police officers in a small Rhode Island town agreed to cut their pensions while the town went through bankruptcy. This undermined a central claim from San Diego officials that touching current pension benefits would be impossible. The mayor and city attorney were quick to tell us how little we could learn from Rhode Island, in fact.

Since then, another California town in bankruptcy has decided not to touch pensions. And it might all be because of three words.

Quick News Hits

• The city lost two rulings in its bid to implement Prop. B, the measure that radically changes how the city provides retirement benefits to its employees, KPBS reports.

• If you were born in the 1970s or later, you likely know Roger Hedgecock as a staunch conservative radio host. (How come people say “staunch conservative” but never “staunch liberal?”) But if you’re older and paid attention to local politics in the 1970s and 1980s, you might remember a very different political creature.

In fact, as columnist John Lamb writes in CityBeat, “he was the Nathan Fletcher of his time” — a Republican but hardly the poster boy of the local GOP. (He didn’t turn independent, though.)

• Escondido is losing money on its red-light cameras. (NC Times)

• An accreditation agency’s refusal to accredit an arm of the Bridgepoint higher education company, which led to the collapse of its stock price this week, could lead the company to skedaddle out of San Diego and move to a part of the country where it might be easier to get accredited, the U-T reports. If there’s a move, jobs could leave here too.

The Onion offers a few comics-related fake stories in time for you-know-what at the convention center. My favorites: “Bill Watterson Writes, Illustrates, Shreds New ‘Calvin And Hobbes’ Strip Each Morning Out Of Spite,” “Comic-Con Once Again Marred By Increasingly Popular Bully-Con” and “Comics Not Just For Kids Anymore, Reports 85,000th Mainstream News Story.”

Yeah! Phooey on those lame journalists at the Comic-Con who write cliches like “science fiction and fantasy are no longer confined to cult status.” Oh wait. I wrote that.

• If you’ve seen one fireworks fiasco video you’ve seen them all. Right? Wrong: Another video of the July 4 bay blowout is getting attention online, offering a view from a close-up (and even a bit frightening) perspective. Make sure to heed the warning that the audio is very loud.

They Really Knew How to Pick ‘Em

Two carjackers went up to a car on Tuesday night and one declared that “This is a carjacking.” Unfortunately for them, the car was being driven by an SDPD plainclothes cop who was off duty.

The LA Times had a droll take on what happened next: “The detective announced his employment status and pulled his service revolver.”

Never mind what the cop announced. I’d like to hear what words the carjackers had to say next and whether any had more than one syllable.

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

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga

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