Councilman David Alvarez said something unexpected last week as a dwindling crowd of miffed residents looked on.

Alvarez, who represents southern parts of the city, said the makeover of Balboa Park would cost money — possibly $1 million a year, according to the city’s own internal watchdog — but that’s OK. To him, it’s worth it.

Why is this so shocking? Our City Hall reporter Liam Dillon explains in a story about why Alvarez didn’t follow the usual game plan for city leaders and other folks: “San Diego politicians and interest groups have elevated the notion that big ideas don’t cost anything to a fine art.”

For more about Alvarez, check our profile that explains how he’s carved a reputation as a non-nonsense politician who doesn’t always get pushed around by the prevailing winds.  

Meanwhile, local billionaire philanthropist Irwin Jacobs wins the Hero of the Week award on our weekly radio show. Yes, that’s the same guy who’s a major donor to VOSD. Our Andrew Donohue and Scott Lewis explain why they decided to give him the award.

The two hosts also talk about the Balboa Park project overall and award the Goat of the Week honor (or dishonor) to the federal Wildlife Services people, who won’t cough up details about the thousands of wild animals they’ve killed in the county over the last few years. We’re learning from our readers about this issue: Check the comments (like this one and this one) explaining the hazards that wild animals can pose to livestock and farms in the backcountry.

The wildlife story, by the way, was the most popular on our site over the past week, followed by our examinations of Bridgepoint’s woes and the debate over human safety and killer-whale captivity at SeaWorld. For more, check our Top 10 Most Popular story list.

On Fact Check TV, a Cutting Claim

Fact Check TV examines a former mayor’s claim that the city never followed through on its big threats to cut funding for firefighters and cops if voters didn’t pass a tax hike in 2010.

Voters didn’t pass the tax, and our fire protection and police services didn’t dwindle into crisis states. But did spending actually go up, as claimed? Our fact-checking team has the answer. Read our story from last week for more details.

Poll: Killer Whales; Poll: We Love Sea World, etc.

Should killer whales — extremely intelligent animals — be kept in captivity? No, say many of those who responded to a new poll. Is it good that people get to interact with dolphins — including killer whales — at marine parks, zoos and aquariums? Absolutely, said almost all of those who responded to another new poll.

I’ll stand by while you guess who commissioned each poll. Yup: Animal protection groups were behind the one that found lots of anti-captivity opinions (39 percent strongly or somewhat opposed keeping them in captivity). And the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks & Aquariums was behind the one that found — surprise! — 91 percent believed “interacting with dolphins in a marine life park, aquarium or zoo offers people a deeper understanding of this mammal.”

The Orlando Sentinel has more details about the surveys. Check my Q&A with the author of “Death at SeaWorld” for more on the debate. 

Quick News Hits

• Major League Baseball owners will vote on whether to approve the sale of the Padres Aug. 17, according to Forbes, which has more details on the value of the team.

• Talk about not going according to plan. The state employee pension system, the largest in the country, made just 1 percent over the past year, the LA Times reports. The fund expects to make a 7.5 percent annual return in the long term.

How’d they do compared to investors overall? The global market fell by over 5 percent over that period, while U.S stocks went up by about 5 percent.

• Last year, the big salary boost for San Diego State’s incoming president set off lots of complaints about the idea of paying administrators more as students cope with higher fees and a public university system that’s lost its once-golden reputation. The incoming UCSD chancellor also got a raise, but the state isn’t paying for the extra dough.

Is it OK for university foundations to step in and boost administrator salaries, as happened (partially) at SDSU? A state senator isn’t bowled over by that idea, his spokesman tells the LA Times: “When money is going to line the pockets of an executive, it’s not in the mission of the university and not helping students. The other problem is, it’s going to create a pay-to-play atmosphere on campus where if you want to a contract for university business, you give to the compensation fund, and leaders become beholden to that interest.”

Well, that’s Just Beachy

It’s time for the annual rites of summer at our local beaches.

They include: Worrying about the sting ray and jellyfish menaces. (They’re both big this year.) Wondering if Black’s Beach is really clothing optional. (Yes. Hundreds go bare on some summer days. But trust me, lots of them choose the wrong option.) And, of course, playing Over the Line at Mission Beach.

I checked the Over the Line website in search of the usual unprintable team names, but they haven’t been posted yet. I did find a handy list of don’ts: “No Bottles, No Bicycles, No Bowzers, No Babies, No Boas, No Bad Attitudes, No Battles.”

Bowzers are dogs. Battles are fights. And boas… well, it’s not clear if they’re boa constrictors or feather boas.

Either way, I’m out.

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at and follow him on Twitter:

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at and follow him on Twitter:

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