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Balboa Park has just about always been eyed for one plan or another, going way back to the latter decades of the 19th century when it was known unimaginatively as City Park.

Our Kelly Bennett is exploring Balboa Park’s past in a series of stories in light of planned remodel and upcoming 2015 celebrations. The newest piece takes a look at the pre-“Balboa Park” era, one filled with close brushes with catastrophe due to repeated attempts to slice and dice the land.

“This research has been hair-raising because it shows how endangered the park has been since the day the land was set aside,” one park historian says.

Even the park’s matriarch, Kate Sessions, used its land for her commercial uses. It was also home to a smallpox infirmary, a squatting beekeeper and a cave-dweller rumored to be a master pianist. See Bennett’s first piece in the series for an overview of the controversy that has run through the park in all its 143 years.

RIP, Ride

Sally Ride — the pioneering first American woman in space, a prominent UCSD scientist, and an advocate for women in science — died yesterday in San Diego of cancer. She was 61.

In recent years, she devoted time to Sally Ride Science, a 40-employee non-profit in La Jolla that supports science programs for girls in middle school.

I interviewed her almost a quarter century ago and recall a woman who was shy in the spotlight even when only facing a couple of nervous college journalists. In an extensive obituary full of telling details, the NY Times says she was indeed a insular person who had to endure intrusive questions and late-night jokes about her career in space.

She kept her private life out of the eye of the public, which only learned yesterday that she had a female partner of 27 years. Her partner is the CEO of the Ride institute.

Ride was indeed gay, her sister tells The Broward-Palm Beach New Times, and she didn’t hide it among those she cared about. “Sally was a profoundly private person. It was just part of who she was. We chalk that up to being Norwegian,” said her sister, who’s gay too. “She had a sense of ‘this is family stuff.’”

Filner’s Most Interesting Moments

We’re working on a profile on Bob Filner’s political persona. In the meantime, we put together a compilation of some of his most notable sayings since he began running for mayor.

There’s the time he said he voted against marriage equality because his own marriages worked out so poorly. His antagonizing of debate moderators. And when he pulled out his ringing cell phone during an in-studio television interview.

“When Filner’s confrontational take on issues and people resonates, he can seem like the only honest person in the room. When it doesn’t, he can come off as cranky or out-of-touch,” Liam Dillon writes.

Tomorrow: the five flips of Filner’s opponent, Carl DeMaio.

Statistically Questionable

VOSD Radio tackles the police department’s questionable crime statistics and its retreat on community policing. Also on tap: The Heroes and Goat of the Week awards.

(Almost) Gone but Not Unquoted

Another news story has appeared about the decline of the state’s Republican party, and the GOP’s most famous recent defector — lame-duck assemblyman and failed mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher — makes his usual appearance.

“There are a series of issues where I am just fundamentally out of line with the current Republican Party in California — reasonable environmental protection, equal rights and marriage equality, immigration,” he tells The New York Times. “And it’s not a party that is welcoming of dissent on those issues.”

The Times though it saw the decline of the state GOP back in 2002, which brought up the Monty Python “not dead yet” sketch and got a quote from the state’s young political director, one Nathan Fletcher: “We’re not dead or resting, man. We’re moving forward.”

Quick News Hits

• Rep. Bob Filner, who’s running for mayor, is miffed about the local U.S. attorney’s efforts to close a medical marijuana dispensary in El Cajon, the Reader reports. He called the U.S. attorney’s letter to the dispensary’s landlord “a form of unwarranted intimidation.”

The Reader says it’s the only licensed facility in a three-county area. A spokesperson for the co-op says “this fight isn’t between the feds and our landlord, this fight is between the state of California and the federal government.”

• The La Jolla Playhouse’s artistic director has apologized for what KPBS calls “hurt feelings” over the casting of a China-based musical. Most of the 12 cast members are black or white, and just two are of Asian heritage.

The casting decision touched a nerve the local Asian community, as KPBS explains: “Many Asian audience members spoke out, saying the show’s casting amounted to salt in an open wound. They cited a long tradition of cultural appropriation in entertainment and a history of under-representation on stages across the country.”

• Rep. Darrell Issa, best known as the president’s very own Torquemada, has something else on his mind: He is pushing to rename the Exclusive Economic Zone — U.S. coastal waters extending 3-200 miles offshore — after a former president, The Hill reports.

Under his proposal, they’d be known as the Ronald Wilson Reagan Exclusive Economic Zone.

Wow, that’s an even catchier name. Sure puts me in a spending mood. Do they have a mall out there? Daddy needs a new pair of shoes.

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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