At some point recently, the brass at SeaWorld must have realized that “we’re gonna need a bigger p.r. campaign.”

News coverage and a well-received book hadn’t triggered the theme park giant to develop a big response to claims of mistreatment of animal and trainers, but the documentary “Blackfish” changed the game. SeaWorld is now playing to win the public-image sweepstakes.

In a new story, we take a look at SeaWorld’s counter-claims and the messages that the company is trying to spread.

Affordable Housing Fee: Back to Square One

So much for that big boost in fees on builders to pay for affordable housing: A referendum effort convinced the City Council to kill it Tuesday. The alternative was to head to a public vote that proponents might lose.

Andy Keatts reads the tea leaves and provides a breakdown of where the conversation might pick up again. The Council can’t legally just pass a tweaked version of the same measure — anything new plan it considers must be substantially different than the one that was challenged. But the group that opposed the measure did say it could live with a smaller fee hike, and that might provide the jump-start for any renewed discussion.

Balboa Park Centennial Group Folds

“Balboa Park Celebration Inc., the nonprofit formed in 2011 to organize a yearlong celebration of Balboa Park in 2015, is closing up shop and returning all responsibility for the events to the city,” the U-T reports.

The problem, said one board member, is that “for reasons too varied and complex to enumerate, sponsorships have not materialized.”

New Police Chief at a Crime-Fighting Crossroads

The City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to appoint Shelley Zimmerman to become San Diego’s police chief. Among her biggest immediate challenges: Figuring out how to prioritize crime response times versus crime prevention. Our new story explains what’s at stake and why it’s not clear which she’ll embrace the most.

Politics Roundup

• The mayor’s office has put a planned purge of not-very-old city staff emails on hold amid an outcry from journalists and open-government advocates. We have a roundup of coverage.

• In a VOSD commentary, Sheriff Bill Gore explains why he supports District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, who’s running for district attorney and seems to be facing a difficult race: “Now more than ever, we need a steady, trustworthy hand at the helm,” he writes.

• Yeah, yeah, parking meters have their uses: They add to the cost of driving (perhaps encouraging people to walk), they help the city coffers and they help businesses by encouraging parking turnover. But that doesn’t mean I gotta like the little buggers that force me to dig into the deep reaches of my car to find spare change.

Now, you gotta pay up for more hours than usual, at least in a big chunk of downtown: The meters are demanding your cash until 8 p.m. instead of 6 p.m. (10News)

Speaking of parking meters, NBC San Diego examines a partially hidden one downtown and explores the big picture of how parking tickets work.

Also: Guess how many tickets the most-ticketed person in the city got last year? A lot more than you, we’re guessing. Unless that person is you. If so: You made out of money? What’s the deal?

• The U-T has details about new rules for food trucks.

• Democrats are going after congressional candidate Carl DeMaio for his latest “House of Cards”-themed promotion.

• Tuesday, we noted the city has honored at least one journalist with a day named after him or her. We’ve been informed of a few others: The late Neil Morgan, the longtime journalist and VOSD founder; ex-U-T reporter Don Bauder; ex-KPBS reporter Katie Orr; and ex-U-T reporter Phil LaVelle. Now you know!

VOSD Tackles ‘News Literacy’ in Chula Vista

Voice of San Diego is launching a “news literacy” program aimed at helping underserved residents leverage new media and technology to become empowered members of their community.

Chula Vista, the county’s second-largest city and a bit of a news desert, will host the first series of workshops. Read more about the project here.

Quick News Hits

• The Culture Report focuses on art — about the dispossessed in Tijuana, by women, of sea creatures and inspired by veterans. Plus: Nachos, jazz, jorts, lady parts, Chuck E. Cheese and a mondo statue of Cuauhtémoc.

• VOSD’s Andrew Keatts explains why the Padres should keep spending big money (really big money) on promising young players.

The commentary notes that “the universe is complicated and … unlikely events are not impossible events.” Wow, there’s hope for me to get a date for Saturday night after all!

• North Park attorney and community activist Omar Passons is a familiar and friendly face to just about anyone involved in civic affairs, from journalists to city officials. (I like to say that VOSD’s intense focus on city issues is designed to appeal to one single reader: Him. Indeed, he’s a big fan.)

Now, the U-T profiles Passons and explores how his past is prologue: “The 38-year-old attorney never stops reaching out and giving back. And why should he? He learned early, and he learned from the best.”

• Last week, the Morning Report noted how the people who track levels of drought use in the state use words like “Severe,” “Extreme” and “Exceptional” that all sound about the same. Now, it turns out that the folks at Accuweather have a similar problem.

I checked the weather for the next few weeks to see if we’ll get any more rain. Maybe a little, the forecast says, but we’re mainly due for “brilliant sunshine,” “plenty of sun,” “abundant sunshine” and even a “full day of sunshine.”

Hey, Accuweather! It’s OK to repeat yourself instead of tying yourself in circles trying to reword the same concept. Remember, unless you’re a dictionary, a banana is a banana is a banana — not a “yellow elongated fruit.”

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 is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at and follow him on Twitter:

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