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The Great Blackout of 2011 brought out the best in many San Diegans as strangers gathered in the night to bond and barbecue. But darkness is rarely so inviting in our city, especially when streetlights fail to penetrate the gloom.

Contributing photographer Sam Hodgson contacted several residents who encountered violence and other troubles in the dark. We packaged their photos and audio together using a special presentation on our site, let us know what you think.

Photo by Sam Hodgson

• Have you had a disturbing encounter in a part of the city that’s not well-lit? Let us know in The Plaza. One reader already took a contrarian point of view, arguing that there should be no street lights. It’s the lights, he writes, that create the dark spots.

• He’s not alone. A British astronomy organization has even found evidence that nighttime lighting doesn’t actually prevent crime.

Innovation: How We Got Here

In the latest story in our quest to understand local innovation and what could get in the way of it, we keep marching through history to understand the bustle of scientific activity in the Torrey Pines area. UC San Diego, Salk Institute and more owe plenty to the generosity of the city of San Diego. Or, to put it more precisely, city voters. Again and again, they approved donating land, and they did so by huge margins.

How’s that happen? It’s not clear. While San Diego politics have long been infected by a strain of don’t-frighten-the-horses gentility, our history is full of bitter battles over issues and personalities. Somehow, however, giving away land for research didn’t fire up the masses. It almost certainly would today.

City Politics Roundup

Fact Check TV finds that the mayor didn’t have his facts entirely straight in the battle over tourism marketing.

• The city is trying to figure out what went wrong in the northeastern neighborhood of Del Sur after a KPBS/inewsource uncovered property-tax overcharges of two residents. More people may be affected in the neighborhood, whose residents must pay special taxes. For now, “the city says it will refund the two Del Sur homeowners with interest for the years the mistakes were made and fix their tax bills going forward.”

• There’s a temporary compromise over what to do with the valet service that was set up in Balboa Park’s Plaza de Panama, U-T San Diego reports. The plaza has been temporarily freed of parking as part of an experiment to see if it its conversion to a promenade coaxes people to, you know, promenade.

• The Morning Report frowns on local media outlets that try to be cute by referring to sections of themselves in the third person. Yes, we’re talking about you,U-T Watchdog (“Watchdog learned…”). But we’ll give a pass to CityBeat’s “Spin Cycle” column (“…Spin was told”) because it offers one of the only sly and non-earnest takes on San Diego politics.

This week, S.C. bashes the city attorney and a councilman for trying to take credit for City Hall’s recent labor deal.

The column also notes that politicians are big on self-congratulation. As you know, the local media never, ever engages in that kind of behavior, so it’s totally OK to call out politicians on it.

• In an editorial, CityBeat admits that voters won’t convert the city attorney position from an elected to an appointed position, “but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea.” Glad that’s been cleared up.

Public Art Takes a Hit

Officials at the Unified Port of San Diego have approved a preliminary budget that hacks at funding for public art, KPBS reports. Half of the public art department’s $1.2 million budget has been slashed, and its reserve fund will lose $1.5 million.

“No new public art pieces will be added and some pending contracts canceled,” KPBS reports.

The head of the port’s public art committee bemoaned the cuts, saying it’s important to buy public art when many members of the public can’t afford to purchase their own art. But the port’s art has come under heavy fire lately: the “kiss statue” was widely mocked.

Sidewalk Cracks, Dead Prisoners and Possibly Fishy Fish

• Step on a crack and… there’s a chance you’re walked on one of the most egregious sidewalks to appear in The Stumblr. It’s located in North Park.

• CityBeat, which has exposed a disturbing pattern of deaths at county jails, writes in a new story that its investigation raises “questions not only of whether the Sheriff’s Department is doing enough to prevent deaths in county detention facilities, but also whether its record-keeping system allows the department, and oversight bodies, to fully grasp the scope of the problem.”

• An autopsy offers more details about the alleged killing of well-known architect Graham Downes last April, the U-T reports.

• Active Voice blogger Clare Hoar-Leschin reports on salmon produced with the help of “genetically engineered yeast that will provide the omega-3 fatty acids their farm salmon need to thrive, and the nutritional benefits eaters covet.” Is it enough to make salmon feasible for the environmentally friendly foodie? She’s not too sure.

• SeaWorld wants you to help it pick a name for its new killer whale, NBC 7 San Diego reports.

Airport Goes to the Dogs

Are we America’s Dog-Friendliest City? Maybe! A user on the website Reddit posted a photo of an awesome doggy restroom in the San Diego airport. It even has its own fire hydrant.

Speaking of canines, The New York Times has published a little story about the first dog park, which appeared in Berkeley thanks in part to advocacy by a woman named Doris Richards.

The city eventually created a monument to her — a fire hydrant safely installed next to a tree where dogs wouldn’t run into it. “I think it’s funny, and it’s fitting,” Richards said.

I’m a big fan of Balboa Park’s Nate’s Point dog park, which my goddaughter pooch thinks is the greatest thing since Snausages. So my hat’s off to the late Ms. Richards. But I’m keeping my shoes on, thank you very much.

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego and vice president of the American Society of Journalists & Authors. Please contact him directly at and follow him on Twitter:

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Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at

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