As part of our series on how Balboa Park got to be the way it is, we compiled this graphic guide that lays out a timeline of the stories we’ve found so far. Click on any of the events in the timeline, and the graphic will take you to a corresponding story.

The ‘Taxpayers Advocate,’ Unmasked

Scott Barnett, president of the San Diego Taxpayers Advocate, gives his stamp of approval to Prop. Z in a Yes on Z mailer and in the local voters’ guide. But Barnett is also a school board member — a designation unmentioned on either document. So what is the San Diego Taxpayers Advocate? Our Lisa Halverstadt discovered largely a one-man show, starring Barnett.

$28 Million to Unions? Nope

Two District 1 mailers claim Sherri Lightner “voted to hand government employee unions $28 million in bonuses,” a claim our Keegan Kyle found False in our latest Fact Check. The figure corresponds with an audit of a program enacted before Lightner even joined the City Council. As one observer noted, the mailers showed some pretty “brazen mendacity.”

• Check out this Scorecard to see where Lightner and her opponent, Ray Ellis, land on 18 different issues in the race.

What We Learned This Week

In Plain Sight: Carl DeMaio didn’t so much uncover the city’s financial crisis, as he has claimed throughout his mayoral campaign, as he did seize on a public scandal that was already well-known at the time. VOSD contributing editor Andrew Donohue examined the timeline and determined that although DeMaio has been banging the financial drum for years, he didn’t make his mark on the budget crisis until it was already big news.

The verdict: “There is a discernible difference between courageously uncovering uncomfortable truths, though, and simply being adept at using those truths to your political advantage.” This graphic we’ve shared says it all.

Turns out, we weren’t the first to note this. 

Enter the IRS: The Internal Revenue Service is examining Poway’s controversial bond deal. The district’s lawyers called it a routine and random investigation. That would be a big coincidence considering the state attorney general also eyed the bonds warily. Key to the IRS probe (and our own): Whether district spent any of the extra cash it received from the deal on construction projects or other capital expenditures, which would make the undertaking illegal.

This Is Your Art on Drugs: In his latest project, Kelsey Brookes, a scientist-turned artist, takes the simple molecular line diagrams you remember from high school — the ones scientists use to relate a molecule in a simple, visual way — and corresponds them to what those molecules do to our visual perception. Brookes relied on his memory of visualizations triggered during former drug trips to make the paintings, he told VOSD’s Kelly Bennett. “They all produce these crazy visual hallucinations. I decided to depict the molecules based on that hallucination. The molecule makes your brain feel a certain way, and I just take that way that it makes your brain feel and focus it back on the molecule.”

We’ll Miss You, Keegan!

It’s only appropriate that this edition of What We Learned This Week is heavy on illuminating graphics and other visuals, as we say goodbye to our graphics guru Keegan Kyle, who is headed to the Orange County Register.

Quick News Hits

• Is Scott Peters the “father” of San Diego’s pension mess, or a leader in pension reform efforts? The U-T tried to sort out the wildly divergent narratives in the 52nd District race.

• San Diegans’ electricity bill might be getting $1 billion cheaper, thanks to outages at the San Onofre Nuclear Generation Station. The California Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously Thursday to investigate SDG&E customers must pay for the plant while it’s not operating. (North County Times)

Quote of the Week

“He was really, really a late comer. By the time he started going to any (pension board) meetings, it was at least a year after the fact. The cat was already out of the bag and had kittens.” — Plaintiffs attorney Mike Conger, on Carl DeMaio’s claim that he uncovered the financial crisis.

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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