First came the shocking media stories about SeaWorld’s tragic history regarding its famous killer whales. Then an eye-opening book. Finally, the documentary “Blackfish” appeared. And vanished. But then it reappeared on CNN and Netflix last fall, drawing big audiences and sparking an intense debate over SeaWorld’s treatment of its stars.

Two months ago, we began our quest to understand the theme park’s crucial role in our community.

Now, state legislation targeting the theme park is virtually dead. SeaWorld seems secure, except for a legal hitch or two.

As for us, it’s time to close the lid on our SeaWorld quest. But first, reporter Lisa Halverstadt recaps what we’ve learned so far about the real world that SeaWorld has created, one of money and influence, of entertainment and education, of captive creatures and outlandish doomsday scenarios.

• Our SeaWorld stories have been controversial but extraordinarily popular. Our site’s Top 10 stories over the past week include two about SeaWorld.

Don’t Blame Donors for Fiascoes

The 2015 centennial celebration at Balboa Park recently collapsed, the apparent victim of overblown dreams and reality-challenged politicians. Then the San Diego Opera, one of the brightest stars in the local culture scene, went bust amid allegations of mismanagement, high salaries and a lack of will to fight on.

CityBeat columnist John Lamb looked at the big picture the other day and found another explanation to add to the list: penny-pinching local philanthropists who prefer to buy their way to putting their names on medical wings and biotech centers.

VOSD’s Scott Lewis writes that Lamb may have a point about the evolution of millionaire generosity here, “but it’s not why the Opera and 2015 parties failed.”

“The city may indeed be crippled by a smaller civic sector intent on using its wealth to bolster our culture,” he writes. “But that’s not what doomed the Opera or the 2015 celebration.”

The Once and (Not-)Future Councilman

Councilman Ed Harris is just visiting. He’s just a temporary city official, filling in for the man who became mayor. But he still has power and influence for a while, so our trio of VOSD Radio and Podcast hosts invited him over for a chat.

Harris talks about the big challenge of his first week (he does, after all, have to develop a staff) and a few of his priorities (traffic control, safe water, libraries, parks, job growth).

Don’t Look Now … Drought Relief Could Come

Uh-oh. Looks like an El Niño may be on its way later this year. And we know what that could mean: Trouble. Rain and floods, destruction and deaths.

“If current forecasts stay on track, El Niño might end up being the biggest global weather story of 2014,” Slate reports. “If the El Niño ends up being as strong as current predictions indicate, there’s a chance it may even tip the scales from drought to deluge across the state, spurring damaging mudslides amid bursts of heavy rain. The two strongest El Niños in the last 30 years — 1982-83 and 1997-98 — both caused widespread damage from flooding in California.”

If you’ve been around here for a while, you may remember those rainy seasons as the ones when it seemed the skies would never stop opening.

Privacy and Body Cameras

Last month, one of the attorneys with the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties explained in a VOSD op-ed how to begin to address some of the many privacy concerns that might emerge as the San Diego Police Department explores the use of body cameras.

“While body cameras have the potential to be a transparency win for both police and the public, they’ve got to be deployed within a framework of strong policies to protect residents without becoming yet another intrusive or ineffective surveillance system,” wrote Kellen Russoniello.

Now the U-T delves further into the ACLU’s concerns in a new story. “We don’t want the data used for keeping a watch over the city. We have serious privacy concerns.”

We’ll discuss body cameras, among other hot topics regarding the Police Department, at a VOSD forum on Tuesday.

And Now, a Word from the Fashion Police

You’ve heard about lipstick on a pig. How about a frock on a “well-dressed” pooch? As the U-T crime reporter Kristina Davis noted on Twitter over the weekend, the local police scanner featured a report of a lost pit bull wearing a dress.

Anyone missing a pit bull? Or a dress, for that matter? And the even bigger question: Did the pit bull’s shoes and purse match the outfit?

Randy Dotinga

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

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