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A lily pond full of soldiers learning to swim. Dances for members of the military and their dates in the plaza near the organ pavilion. Hospitalized servicemen lining the halls of the art museum. All in Balboa Park, of all places.

Balboa Park hasn’t always been a place for the public to enjoy. During wartime, it served as everything from training ground to entertainment complex, as our arts editor Kelly Bennett discovers.

She’s been tracking down the history of the park, which has survived many decades of controversy. Her previous stories looked at the park’s overall history, early criticism and the eternal battles over what it would look like.

Filner Drops Borrowing Plan to Solve Pension Mess

For months, Rep. Bob Filner, would not release the details of a plan to reform the city’s pension system. He was telling voters the plan would save the city hundreds of millions of dollars, which could then be used for needed services. We tracked his non-existent panacea closely.

Then he unveiled his plan. He wanted to borrow money from investors and inject it into the pension fund. The low interest rate they’d give him would be better than the rate at which our pension debt was growing. They’re called pension obligation bonds.

This was the backbone of his plan. On Saturday, the U-T criticized the idea (as many have, including his ardent supporter former City Councilwoman Donna Frye). And Monday our Liam Dillon noticed the idea was no longer on Filner’s website.

Dillon tracked the mayoral candidate down, and Filner insisted it was still his plan. A few hours later, though, the campaign sent us a statement that, indeed, Filner was abandoning the idea. It was “no longer relevant.”

Why? He’s dedicating himself to getting Proposition B implemented, which Filner had said wouldn’t save a nickel.

• Filner Monday also offered his former opponent, Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, another job in his — Filner’s — mayoral administration. (If there is one, that is.)

Filner would like Fletcher to manage big civic projects, such as the Convention Center expansion and new Chargers stadium. Fletcher, who’s a lame duck in the Assembly, hasn’t accepted quite yet.

We’ll know things have gone too far if Filner next offers him a position as chief cook and bottle washer.

Also: We hear from Filner about his Nixon-to-China-like ability to get things done.

• If you missed it, check out our look this week at Filner’s notoriously prickly personality, which has riled some of those who have supported and worked for him.

Fact Checking Balboa Park Claims

Fact Check TV examines two claims about the future of Balboa Park and finds both lacking.

Councilman Todd Gloria muffed a description of projections of how much money the new underground parking-garage revenue will make (for more details, check our earlier story), and Bruce Coons, executive director of the Save Our Heritage Organisation, failed to correctly describe how the park redesign’s planners responded to public input. (For more, read our earlier story.)

San Diego Explained: Fewer Rescues at the Beach

San Diego Explained, our video series with NBC San Diego, takes a look at a positive trend: city lifeguards have been rescuing fewer people in recent years, as we noted in a recent graphic.

Why the decline? The weather (El Niño and La Niña years, which often lead to more rescues, have been less common), better lifeguard equipment, and older lifeguards. You might think that latter factor would have the reverse effect due to the energy-slowing effects of age, but veteran lifeguards also have more experience and apparently more easily identify trouble spots in the ocean that swimmers need to avoid.

For more about San Diego’s lifeguards, read a history flashback about the horrific deadly day in Ocean Beach in 1918 that spurred the hiring of the city’s first professional lifeguards. And read our 2010 story about lifeguards who work nights, helping kelp-trapped scuba divers, booze-addled skinny dippers and foolish pier jumpers.      

VOSD Radio: School District Wants Your Money

VOSD Radio takes a look at the school district’s bid to boost your taxes and offers up the Hero of the Week (Sally Ride: for more about her, check our guide to the things we learned) and the Goat (Councilman Carl DeMaio).

A Texas resident, by the way, made BBC’s list of the top tweets of the week with this jibe about those who’d criticize Ride’s sexual orientation: “I am shocked to discover that Sally Ride was undermining the traditional, Biblical definition of astronaut.”

Bad News for Bridgepoint Continues

A U.S. Senate committee has issued a scathing report about the state of the nation’s for-profit colleges like the San Diego-based Bridgepoint, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports: “Despite $32 billion in federal student aid to the colleges, most of the students never earn a degree, indicating that taxpayers are being saddled with a losing investment.”

The report says taxpayers pick up the bill for more than 80 percent of the revenue of the colleges.

We investigated Bridgepoint for a major story last year, and wrote this month about its terrible, no good, very bad day at the stock market

Quick News Hits

• Due to an editing error, yesterday’s Morning Report said the U-T debuted its redesigned Sunday print edition on July 29. It actually debuted it on July 15.

• When the 23,000-acre Rancho Guejito ranch in North County built a road, conservationists cried foul, fearing that it could open the giant property to development. Now, the NC Times reports, the company that owns the ranch says it’s willing to restrict it to farm use.

We’ve been following the battle over the fate of Rancho Guejito, and you can read our recent story to get up to speed on why we think it’s important.

• Environmentalists are heading to court to get the county to strengthen its plan to fight climate change by limiting pollution, KPBS reports. The state requires municipalities to come up with the plans when they overhaul their development blueprints.

• “For the third time in four years, state lawmakers will consider whether to provide custom legislation in the waning hours of the session to help in the construction of an NFL stadium in California,” the LA Times reports. This time, the gang up in Sacramento is looking at whether to allow redevelopment funds to help build a stadium for the San Francisco 49ers in the city of Santa Clara.

• It’s “the toughest job in public relations,” says the NC Times. What’s the job? Spokesman for the city of San Diego? For SeaWorld? Nah, it’s a job as “Nuclear Communications Project Manager” with Southern California Edison, which runs the broken-down San Onofre plant.

I know the perfect applicant.

I can has Panda Cam? Yes! The San Diego Zoo has debuted Panda Cam, offering a live view of mother Bai Yun — born on Sunday at 2:10 p.m. — and her sixth cub.

Clearly I need to get over there immediately. A certain baby panda needs to learn some rude gestures, stat!

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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