What We Learned This Week
What the airport authority predicted that hasn’t happened, what Balboa Park wanted to be when it grew up and how to say goodbye to a friend.
It Pays to Be Skeptical of Official Projections: In 2006, as it pushed a plan to move the city’s international airport to Miramar, the San Diego Airport Authority warned that the current spot would be congested as early as 2015.
Delayed flights, trouble for the economy, less flexibility to add new routes to new cities. It was a dire projection, part of the foundation the authority built its Miramar initiative upon.
But then the bottom fell out of the national economy, and air travel dropped off. Last year, San Diego’s airport had the fewest takeoffs and landings since 1986.
We revisited the projections this week as part of our ongoing effort to fact check promises and warnings of years past.
The airport authority’s warning isn’t coming true. The authority says it doesn’t expect Lindbergh Field to become congested by 2015, once its worst-case scenario. It plans to draft new projections later this year.
Do you have a suggestion for a big warning you heard local politicians utter? E-mail our Fact Check guru, Keegan Kyle.
Seriously, Skepticism Is Healthy: As they fought a ballot initiative that would allow San Diego’s city government to put out some municipal services to bid, opponents claimed that its approval would lead to contracts being awarded to the largest campaign contributors and their lobbyists.
As our Fact Check found, that hasn’t happened.
• We’ve been fact checking claims about the privatization of government for years. Our Keegan Kyle rounded them up here. The local newspaper, county officials, city officials. Yet only one of the 10 claims we examined fully withstood the scrutiny from our Fact-Check-O-Meter. Read to see who it was.
Balboa Park Figured Out What It Wanted to Be When It Grew Up: But it wasn’t easy. In 1989, San Diego’s City Council passed what it called the Balboa Park Master Plan. It had taken years of fighting to get the park blueprint finished.
A boost for the park came with it: A dedicated source of funding to fix the city gem that had deteriorated over the years. City leaders slowly redirected funding to other projects, but it helped renovations in the park.
Give the story a read. If you’ve followed the current fight over the plan to remove cars from Balboa Park’s Plaza de Panama, it’s helpful to understand the long debate that led to its blueprint being adopted in 1989. That blueprint is one of numerous controversies the park has hosted over the years and the latest that Bennett has delved into as part of her examination of the park’s not-so-peaceful history.
As Bennett noted, the fight over the blueprint “stirred up long-running debates that continue today. Cars and parking versus pedestrians loomed large, and still does. And so did the question about how to balance the park’s emphasis on serving the museums and cultural institutions while still attracting community groups.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Doesn’t Always Keep Its Open Government Promises. Back in May, we began investigating a federal agency called Wildlife Services, which is part of the USDA. The agency has killed 18,700 animals in San Diego County since 2005, but hasn’t disclosed routine information about the killings, like where and why they happened.
I protested the lacking disclosure, and the USDA promised more information by Aug. 27. It promised periodic releases before then, too.
Neither happened. Lyndia Taylor, a USDA Freedom of Information Act specialist, told me in an email this week that she hadn’t started reviewing the documents yet. She said in an email she hoped to start looking at them in September. So we asked her: When exactly might the USDA provide those records?
Taylor didn’t respond.
To understand why we want to know about Wildlife Services, read this story outlining our specific reasons.
Saying Goodbye Isn’t Easy: Our dear friend and leader, Andrew Donohue, left San Diego this week with his family for a fellowship doled out by Stanford University. He gave 110 percent while he was here and taught us there’s no I in team. It is what it is, but he helped us do our due diligence. Now, without him editing my stories, I can stop avoiding clichés like the plague.
In all seriousness, all of us at Voice of San Diego are grateful to him for expertly guiding our newsroom these last many years. Andy has been a great boss and mentor. Working with him has been an absolute joy. He’s simply a nice guy. And a hell of a journalist.
We’ll miss him, though we’re excited to continue working with him in his role as contributing editor.
Quick News Hits
• The Contra Costa Times says San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne is one of the Bay Area’s “200 Club.” They are public employees receiving pensions larger than $200,000 a year. And he is, of course, still working.
• This collection of time-lapse videos from around the city is mesmerizing. You have to watch it. Artist Kevin Andrew Falk produced it and the Museum of Photographic Arts made it go viral after posting it on Facebook.
• Wow: “Almost 23 years after he was sentenced to death row, Hector Ayala won an unexpected reprieve from a federal appeals court last week,” writes the U-T.
Quote of the Week: “Did your mom ever make a casserole when you were growing up? What was left in there after you ate all the casserole? All that stuff. That’s how bureaucrats talk. You are a brush. And soap. I want you to get in there, scrub all that crap off and give me a dish that I can give to my mother to have her make another casserole.” — Andrew Donohue, giving then-VOSD-intern Sam Hodgson sage advice during a 2006 edit.
Rob Davis is a senior reporter at Voice of San Diego. You can contact him directly at email@example.com or 619.325.0529.