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El Prado in Balboa Park / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

The last time we checked in on the Plaza de Panama project, the plan to overhaul Balboa Park’s central mesa, the city was plowing ahead despite two legal challenges. At that time, it said it expected the project to cost about $78 million.

But, as Lisa Halverstadt reports, bids for the project are in and they’re about $20 million more than officials had anticipated.

Construction bids released late last week show the lowest bid came in almost 40 percent higher than a previous estimate – at least $83.5 million for construction alone. Other bids came in at $88.4 million and $105 million, totals the city says don’t include some costlier options the city and the committee could pursue,” Halverstadt wrote.

That means city officials and the philanthropists who are helping foot the bill for the project will have a decision to make about whether to proceed despite the climbing costs.

A spokesman for the Plaza de Panama Committee said that philanthropists remain committed to the project.

“We think it’s a worthy project or we wouldn’t be partnering with the city to make happen,” said committee member Jim Kidrick, CEO of the San Diego Air & Space Museum.

KPBS Is Suing for Sheriff’s Department Documents

Sheriff’s Deputy Richard Fischer is set to go on trial next month over multiple accusations that he sexually assaulted women while on duty.

KPBS has been investigating how the Sheriff’s Department responded to complaints about Fischer’s behavior. But the Sheriff’s Department denied KPBS’s California Public Records Act requests that would have shed light on that effort.

KPBS believes the department is violating the law, and is taking it to court to obtain the records. At issue is the department’s interpretation over what it can lawfully shield from public view.

Speaking of Public Records Lawsuits …

Though the California Public Records Act allows the public to access documents, it doesn’t include much in the way of teeth when agencies don’t abide by it. One of the only ways to ensure the provisions of the law are followed is to sue when a party believes records were improperly denied.

Illegal Entry Misdemeanors Surged by More Than 29,000 Percent in 2018

In 2017, prosecutors filed 22 misdemeanor illegal entry cases in San Diego’s federal court — a low-level offense reserved for those who haven’t been caught crossing multiple times and who don’t have prior criminal convictions.

In 2018, the year the Trump administration instituted its “zero tolerance” approach to border crossings, that number jumped to an astounding 6,461 cases, reports the Union-Tribune. That’s a 29,268 percent increase, for those keeping tabs.

VOSD’s Maya Srikrishnan has spent the last year documenting the ways the surge in cases has impacted San Diego’s federal court system. A snapshot of her findings:

Are Mixtapes the Future of Musical Performances?

Remember mixtapes?

Composer-conductor Matthew Aucoin doesn’t just remember them, he thinks they hold the key to the future of musical performances.

This week’s Culture Report explores how Aucoin, who is guest curating this month’s Hearing the Future Festival, is approaching the project and what his love of mixtapes has to do with it all.

“I love Radiohead every bit as much as I love Mozart. And I love gnarly, challenging noise-music as much as I love folk songs,” Aucoin told VOSD contributor Julia Dixon Evans.

Today’s 2020 Update

Long-time community planning advocate Joe LaCava confirmed to us Tuesday that he’s running for City Council. LaCava is looking to represent District 1, which includes La Jolla, University City and Carmel Valley. LaCava ran in 2016, before bowing out and endorsing Councilwoman Barbara Bry, who has decided not to seek re-election so she can run for mayor instead. Attorney Will Moore has also said he’s running for the seat.

In the South Bay, Democratic Rep. Juan Vargas is in what’s seen as a safe seat, but is now dealing with a primary challenge from his left. Aeiramique Blake, a community and social justice activist from El Cajon, announced her bid last week, as the Union-Tribune reported.

The Morning Report was written by Sara Libby, and edited by Andrew Keatts.

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