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More than two years ago, the Balboa Park Conservancy announced that it wants to restore the crumbling Botanical Building, one of Balboa Park’s most treasured icons. The idea was to raise $3 million. But the effort, so far, has been a failure.

As our Lisa Halverstadt reports, less than $500,000 has been raised. Balboa Park boosters acknowledge the problem and even accept some (but not all) of the blame: “Conservancy leaders point to a handful of roadblocks, from intense fundraising competition and struggles in the lead-up to the Centennial to an initial reliance on volunteers to help sell a project that wasn’t fully sketched out.”

The president of the Balboa Park Conservancy said the failure of the plan to remake the park’s Plaza de Panama had ripple effects that hindered their efforts, too: “It was a chilling effect to the philanthropic community to find the city’s largest donor wasn’t able to get a project done in Balboa Park,” she said.

Attorney General: Don’t Pick Me, Obama

Kamala Harris, the state’s attorney general, says she doesn’t want to join the U.S. Supreme Court. Her name’s been floating around since the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, but Harris declared that she’s devoted to running for U.S. Senate to take the spot of Sen. Barbara Boxer, who’s retiring. (L.A. Times)

SeaWorld Helps PETA Rake It In

Attacking SeaWorld appears to be paying off for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The animal rights group reports that it reaped 30 percent more in donations through the year ending July 30, 2015, than it did two years earlier. A critic of PETA offered the L.A. Times a colorful quote referring to the documentary that’s damned SeaWorld to endless bad publicity: “Before, it was easy to write them off as basic lunatics. ‘Blackfish’ may have given them certain credibility in this one issue.”

Meanwhile, SeaWorld San Diego says “it will open a multimillion-dollar attraction that will take visitors on an exploration of the earth’s seven seas.” (KPBS/City News Service)

Border Report: Big News for Calexico

Rep. Juan Vargas doesn’t always cooperate with the press, but he did talk with VOSD about what he describes as great news: the president’s proposed budget includes $248 million for the Calexico West Land Port of Entry reconfiguration and expansion project.

VOSD’s weekly Border Report has the details and extensive comments from the congressman. Plus: Pope Francis in Mexico, the environmental impacts of a border fence and “gory” vandalism of water stations designed to help immigrants avoid dying of thirst while crossing the border.

Culture Report: Encanto Seeks Moment in Sun

The Encanto neighborhood in southeastern San Diego is known for its struggles, but locals have big dreams. They want to turn it into a hub for arts. There was a big glitch early on involving city regulations, but boosters want to work things out with the powers that be.

VOSD’s weekly Culture Report has this news plus sculptures on display at Balboa Park (including a Rodin), a public discussion of San Diego’s arty dreams, and more.

Plus: An iconic landmark in North Park is closing for good after 19 years. Claire de Lune, the quirky coffeehouse, is shutting down. Like many local writers and artists, I found a home at Claire de Lune because of — and sometimes in spite of — its friendly atmosphere, raggedy furniture, open-mic performances, weird patrons, terrible parking, poor ventilation, lack of wi-fi and yummy Funky Monkey drinks.

Clarifying a Commentary

Tuesday’s Morning Report linked to an op-ed by Mark Weston, chairman of the San Diego County Water Authority. It summarized his views as saying the state’s mandated conservation goals were not fair to San Diego as such: “San Diego, after all, has been conserving water and creating new supplies for years, so we shouldn’t have had to cut.”

The Water Authority sent in this statement to clarify its chairman’s comments. It supports cuts in water use, to a point: “The Water Authority has consistently advocated for a combination of conservation and new supplies. For months, we have said that during governor-declared drought emergencies there should be an 8 percent conservation floor, recognition of the critical role that conservation plays during emergencies.”

13 Try for School Board Spot

Thirteen people are in the running to be appointed to the San Diego school board to replace Marne Foster, the trustee who resigned earlier this month. That’s down from 16: Three of the initial applicants didn’t live in the district Foster represented. (KPBS/City News Service)

Some of those on the list are familiar. LaShae Collins (supported by Assemblywoman Toni Atkins) and Sharon Whitehurst-Payne announced earlier they’d be making a run for the seat in June. They’ve both applied for the interim spot, which will last through the end of the year.

There a couple of surprises too. Jacqueline Young, who is married to former city Council President Tony Young, threw her hat into the ring. Aimee Nimtz, a parent who, for better or worse, has played an active role in the tumult at Harriet Tubman Village Charter School, will also give it a try.

Quick News Hits: Getting Saucy

The city doesn’t seem to have a Plan B if it loses millions in tourism-boosting funds. (U-T)

In the light of the sacking of an executive director, local Assemblywoman Toni Atkins is calling for more openness regarding the California Coastal Commission and lobbyists.

• Spring training is upon us, and the U-T looks at seven “storylines” worth watching.

Yelp is out with a list of the Top 100 Places to Eat in the U.S. in 2016, and it offers some great news for San Diego diners. As NBC 7 notes, eight local restaurants make the list, offering Mexican food, Japanese food, barbecue, sandwiches and more.

By the way, our county is home to a pair of top-ranked BBQ restaurants, two more than than all of South Carolina. That’s the state where barbecue is so much a part of the culture that a pollster just asked GOP voters to name their favorite kind of BBQ sauce. (Trump voters are split between tomato- and vinegar-based sauce, while Cruz voters like mustard-based. “Ben Carson had the most unsure supporters, which sounds about right,” noted a local paper).

San Diegans aren’t quite that saucy. We’re much more inclined to argue over the best place to get brunch or a veggie burrito. Not that we’re more delicate than South Carolinians or anything. Now if you’ll excuse me, I hear a breakfast quiche calling.

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego and national president of the 1,200-member American Society of Journalists and Authors (asja.org). Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

Randy Dotinga

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

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