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Roundtable: Balboa Park, Bridgepoint, Backcountry Wildlife Killings

Voice of San Diego reporter Liam Dillon and U-T San Diego reporter Roger Showley talk to KPBS about the Plaza de Panama at Balboa Park and Bridgepoint Education.

Guests: Roger Showley, UT San Diego

Liam Dillon, VoiceofSanDiego

Rob Davis, VoiceofSanDiego


Jacobs Plan Approved for Plaza de Panama: Less than 24 hours after the San Diego City Council approved a controversial plan which would change the entrance to Balboa Park, the preservationist group Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO) and others announced a lawsuit against the city.

On Monday the San Diego City Council voted 6-1 to approve a plan which accomplishes the long-held goal of both civic leaders and preservationists to remove cars from the center of the park. The design routes traffic from the Cabrillo Bridge onto a newly built road around the Museum of Man and then to an underground parking structure.

The project, expected to cost $45.3 million with the hoped-for completion date of 2015 in time for the park's centennial, was proposed by Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs. It roused the ire of preservationist groups mainly because of the proposed new road.

Monday’s agenda item on the plan lasted more than seven hours and included boos, insults, applause, and the occasional bit of theater.

SOHO said the grounds for the lawsuit were the parking fees for the underground garage, which potantially violate the dedication of the park as “free in perpetuity.” The groups also allege violations of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). SOHO is raising funds to pursue the lawsuit.

Bridgepoint School Loses Accreditation: Ashford University, one of San Diego’s largest private employers, is in trouble.

The for-profit university run by San Diego-based Bridgepoint Education was denied accreditation this week by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). Ashford employs about 3,000 San Diegans to handle its on-line courses.

Accreditation is crucial to Ashford. Without it, its students are not eligible for federal funds. The company cannot continue to operate out of San Diego without accreditation. Bridgepoint may have to move jobs out of San Diego and into Iowa, where Ashford maintains a small physical campus which is still in good standing. It has a very limited time to fix its shortcomings to gain accreditation here, which include a high drop-out rate and inadequate funding for education programs.

Ashford and another Bridgepoint college located in Colorado attracted nearly 78,000 students for mostly on-line courses in 2010. A large number of Ashford's students would not be eligible for or likely to attend traditional colleges. As Ashford students, however, they are eligible for federal student aid.

Last year Ashford’s 84% dropout rate led U.S. Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa to excoriate Bridgepoint executives in a Senate hearing for its “spectacular record of student failure” (some 84% drop out) and lavish executive compensation. If a university is not accredited, its students are not eligible to receive federal aid. Bridgepoint’s stock fell by more than one third on Monday.

USDA Killing Backcountry Wildlife: More than 18,000 animals have been killed in San Diego's backcountry since 2005 by an obscure federal agency, according to VoiceofSandiego. The agency, Wildlife Services, is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture,

Following a report on Wildlife Services in the Sacramento Bee, VoiceofSanDiego requested information on what the agency was doing locally -- which animals were killed and how, where, when and why.

Some were pests like skunks, raccoons, possums and rats. Hundreds of coots, small ducks that congregate around golf courses, were killed. Great blue herons and hawks, which may have posed threats to endangered species, were also killed as were seven mountain lions, 26 bobcats, 24 gray foxes and hundreds of coyotes.

VoiceofSanDiego reporter Rob Davis wanted to find out how many animals were killed, where, when and why. Wildlife Services failed to release much of the information requested by VoiceofSanDiego. The agency offered no explanation for many killings, which also included several species of ducks, 54 beavers and two western meadowlarks.

VoiceofSanDiego has protested the government’s response to its FOIA request and demanded a complete response.

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