Any sharp reporter knows that digging into a cultural institution is bound to reveal an unseemly story or two. It turns out that any kind of digging in Balboa Park has the added potential of turning into a very messy endeavor.

Arts reporter Kelly Bennett took a look at a barren corner of San Diego’s urban oasis, Balboa Park, and discovered that large sections of the park are not exactly what they appear to be.

“All this dirt we’re standing on hides 1.9 million tons of garbage, decomposing trash thrown away over 20 years,” says Bennett, alongside NBC 7 San Diego’s Catherine Garcia in our latest San Diego Explained video.

Bennett’s been exploring the park’s controversies, bringing context to the recent City Council decision to remodel the park’s western entrance. She found that many of Balboa Park’s landmark buildings and structures have a surprising past and many also have an uncertain future. The recent controversy surrounding the park’s renovations is just one of many issues to make headlines since the park was first constructed in 1868.

Check out all of Bennett’s recent efforts to add some historical context to the current debate on Balboa Park’s renovation plan.

The LOL Cat Can Has Some Competition: VOSD Is Going for Memes

The fastest growing trend in social media was once the exclusive domain of adorable cats, frustrated dinosaurs and hilarious commentary on current events.

Today, such internet “memes” are used by news agencies around the world to distribute quick and interesting bits of information. We decided it’s about time that VOSD got in on the fun and deliver a few memes of its own.

To sign up for our graphic updates, you’ll need to subscribe through one of our social media pages at Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest. This is an experiment, so please help us develop this service with your feedback.

Check out some of our early attempts here.

Bon Voyage for Editor Andrew Donohue

Editor Andrew Donohue will be leaving VOSD in style this weekend with some farewell festivities at El Take It Easy in North Park at 4 p.m. on Sunday.

Donohue will be heading up to Stanford University as one of 21 participants in the prestigious John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship where he will develop new tools to foster investigative projects. His presence will be missed, but not until his friends and colleagues get the final word. We’re hoping the mescal gimlet specials will help soften the blow of this bittersweet departure.

RSVP on Facebook and check our post for further details.

A Letter from a Challenger

School Board candidate Mark Powell takes the San Diego Unified School District to task over its handling of the 11th hour deal struck with teachers to save 1,500 jobs in classrooms across the city. Powell says the school board could’ve avoided this if they’d just leveled with teachers in 2010 and told them how bad things really were.

Powell’s letter is the latest in a string of critiques regarding the policies and tactics utilized by school board officials. Our Reader’s Guide has a full breakdown of the controversial deal that prevented mass layoffs by gambling with unsecured tax revenue.

New Bill Could Change How CA Teachers are Evaluated

If passed, a new bill in the state senate would completely overhaul teacher evaluations in California, according to a report from KPCC radio. The bill would eliminate the required use of standardized test scores in conjunction with teacher evaluations to gauge teacher performance. The rule would be replaced with a system that would vary from district to district based on the local needs of the school.

Needless to say, the bill is incredibly divisive. The antiquated evaluations performed by San Diego Unified have received harsh criticism for their lack of a data-driven system. In April, we explained the evaluation process used by San Diego administrators and showed why they were not eager to join the current movement to reform teacher evaluations.

Solana Beach Lawmaker Attempted to Stop Controversial Bonds

Several months before Poway became the poster child for exotic school borrowing, Solana Beach State Sen. Mark Wyland introduced a bill that would have outlawed the practice, reports the U-T.

Capital appreciation bonds — otherwise known as CABs — were issued by the Poway Unified School District last year with the promise to repay investors nine times what they lent the district over 40 years. The district won’t begin paying the principal or interest for two decades. The problem isn’t limited to Poway. Districts all over the state have been issuing the bonds as well.

Congressman Wyland’s bill was pulled for reevaluation and he plans to make it more comprehensive before reintroducing a more robust proposal during the next legislative session.

Carl DeMaio Is Getting Ready to Show Off Those Pearly Whites

The SD Reader reports that Republican mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio has purchased major TV ad space in anticipation of the November vote.

Democratic candidate Bob Filner appears outmatched in his expenditures thus far, which is perhaps a sign of things to come. But some experts believe most of his television efforts will be funded by San Diego’s major law enforcement clubs and labor groups.

Either way, fans of Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy ought to be ready for a healthy dose of dramatic slow-motion walking and vigorous patriotic handshakes. My name is Colin Weatherby, and I approve this message.

Colin Weatherby is a freelance writer. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter at @CCWeatherby.

Colin Weatherby

Colin Weatherby is a freelance writer. You can reach him at and follow him on...

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