December 30, 2010 (San Diego's East County)--With three disaster declarations in just one year (for earthquake, flooding, and the “bomb house”), it’s been a turbulent year in East County and San Diego’s inland regions.
Here’s a look back at some of the biggest stories of 2010—from Mother Nature rocking our region to political and economic upheavals. We’ve also had stories of inspiration and courage, some heart-wrenching tales, plus news items that range from wild to just plain wacky.
Here are our picks for the year’s top stories that impacted East County.
SHAKE, RATTLE AND ROLL: A 7.2 earthquake in Mexico jolted East County on Easter Sunday, causing damage to buildings and roads in East County towns and on local Indian reservations. Hundreds of aftershocks rattled the region for weeks afterwards, triggering new seismic activity on faults in and near East County—dispelling the myth that the “big one” couldn’t happen here. East County Magazine’s serial coverage of the earthquake and its aftermath on both sides of the border won a San Diego Press Club award, drawing attention to both the plight of quake victims and concerns over seismic safety of major energy projects planned near active fault lines in East County.
DELUGE FLOODS REGION – December storms raised the San Diego River level to 14 feet -- the third highest level ever recorded here. Days of downpours flooded the region and left Qualcomm Stadium submerged on the eve of the Poinsettia bowl. Flash floods, mudslides and rockslides across East County made some quip that it might be time to build an ark. The silver lining in all those stormclouds? Our reservoirs in East County are full or nearly full. Replenished local water sources, coupled with heavy Sierra snowpacks from storms in Northern California, may mean some reprieve from drought. Could lower rates or a roll-back of watering restrictions be on tap for local residents next year?
COWBOY FIRE: Revelations that the Cowboy Fire was started by two lost border-crossers who lit a fire for rescuers to spot have added fuel to the fire for those arguing a need for stronger border security. The blaze charred 827 acres in San Diego’s East County and cost $2.5 million in fire suppression efforts.
MONTE FIRE: – Victims of the Cedar and Witch Creek Fires had a flash of déjà vu when the fast-moving Monte Fire charred over a thousand acres and sparked evacuations in Lakeside’s El Monte Valley. With some rescues made just in the nick of time, the blaze renewed controversy over whether future fires can be controlled in time if Sunrise Powerlink is built through the El Monte Valley, which has just one way in and out.
BUSINESS & LABOR
BOUTIQUE WINERY ORDINANCE APPROVED: Local vineyard owners say “Cheers” to passage of a boutique winery ordinance that aims to sharply reduce the cost of opening a tasting room. But a lawsuit filed by the San Diego Citizenry Group alleges that the County didn’t adequately weigh environmental impacts (a claim the County disputes). If the County prevails, look for an increase in tourism and an economic boom as East County becomes known as a wine-growing region—but watch out for those wine-tasting motorists on the highways.
CHANGES AT THE ECCDC: The El Cajon Community Development Corporation gained a new director, Cindi Fargo, this year. Fargo inherited troubles revealed in an audit that found irregularities incurred under prior leadership, leading the City Council to consider yanking funding. Instead, Council voted in August to extend funds for six months—giving the ECCDC time to clear up questionable accounting practices. Not content to leave economic revitalization in the hands of Council and the ECCDC, store owners including a bakery owner facing foreclosure held a vigil on December 17th to pray for a better economy.
NEW LEADERSHIP AT THE EAST COUNTY CHAMBER: Scott Alevy, a public relations professional and former Chula Vista City Councilman, takes the helm as CEO of the San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce. Mike Cully vacated the position earlier this year, which was temporarily filled by ex-El Cajon police chief Cliff Diamond.
LITTLE SAIGON IN CITY HEIGHTS: Su Nguyen and Frank Vuong have formed the Little Saigon Foundation and aim to gain official designation of a “Little Saigon” business district in City Heights’ Vietnamese community to provide economic revitalization. Illuminating community pride, the Foundation hosted a lantern festival this year –complete with lion dancers, martial arts demonstrations, festive lanterns and other Asian cultural highlights.
JOBS BILL: A jobs bill signed into law by President Obama in August, and supported by the National Manufacturing Association, aimed to boost U.S manufacturing production by $9.6 billion and support 90,000 jobs nationwide, including 16,000 education jobs in California. So why did Congressman Brian Bilbray vote no, the only member of San Diego’s Congressional delegation to oppose the legislation?
TOYOTA SETTLES SAYLOR CASE: In December, Toyota reached a $10 million settlement in the case of CHP officer Mark Saylor, who was killed along with his family in Santee in 2009, when he was unable to stop the vehicle’s acceleration. A wrong-sized floor mat was blamed in the crash, triggering nationwide recalls and concerns among vehicle owners.
CHELSEA’S LAW: The disappearance of Poway high school student Chelsea King sparked the broadest search for a missing person in San Diego’s history. Discovery of her body and the revelation that her killer, John Gardner, also murdered missing Escondido teen Amber Dubois, triggered outrage. These tragedies led to passage of Chelsea’s law, carried by Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, and other measures aimed at protecting California teens and others from sexual predators.
GEEZER BANDIT: The FBI and banks are offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to arrest of the “Geezer Bandit”-- an old man, or someone disguised as one, believed to have robbed a dozen banks including 10 in San Diego County. He robbed his first bank in Santee. Since then, toting a gun and in at least one case, an oxygen tank, the dapper Geezer has become the stuff of legends—inspiring copycat crimes and a Facebook page with comments such as this one: “Go, Old Man, Go. You made your own bail-out.”
CAR BOMB IN RANCHO SAN DIEGO: The car bomb that injured day care worker Connie Hoagland in a Rancho San Diego neighborhood set community nerves on edge—until Hoagland’s husband, Larry, was arrested for the crime. Hoagland has pled not guilty to the attempted murder of his wife.
BOMB HOUSE: Authorities ended the year with a bang—blowing up an Escondido home filled with the largest stash of home-made explosives ever found on U.S. soil. Bombs and bomb-making chemicals commonly used by terrorists and suicide bombers were among the times found in the home rented by George Jakubec, a former Ramona resident. Officials have not released a motive, leaving unanswered the burning question: Why?
HOME FORECLOSURES: Impacts of the national foreclosure crisis were felt here in East County, with thousands of homeowners losing homes or facing the prospect of foreclosure. Congressman Filner organized a candlelight vigil to stop a bank from foreclosing on one homeowner with a disabled son. Filner later drew complaints for not cancelling the rally after learning that the bank called off the foreclosure. But for many other homeowners, no such salvation occurred. At year’s end, however, there is some encouraging news: foreclosure rates have fallen, as glimmers of economic recovery can be seen.
UNEMPLOYMENT: San Diego County’s unemployment rate remained in double digits (10.4%) in November 2010, though slightly lower than the state average. Meanwhile Congress delivered a holiday gift for the long-term unemployed, passing an extension on unemployment benefits—though Democrats had to agree to also extend tax cuts for the wealthy to secure enough Republican votes for passage.
STUDENTS SQUEEZED: Students are paying a high price for the state’s budget crisis, with skyrocketing tuition fees pricing many out of a college education. Then San Diego State’s president decided to save money by eliminating guaranteed admissions for local students who met all requirements, instead relying on non-local students to boost campus revenues by forking out hefty dorm fees. Students fought back, persuading Assemblyman Marty Block to carry legislation that ultimately restored local student admissions. But victory was short lived; soon after, the CSU system and UC regents opted to jack up tuition fees—again.
NEW SUPERINTENDENT AT GROSSMONT: Bob Collins retired as Superintendent of the Grossmont Union High School District, leaving big shoes to fill. Ralf Swanson, formerly Superintenden at Grass Valley in northern California, was chosen for the district’s top spot.
RIVER VALLEY CHARTER MAKES THE GRADE: How did a rural school with minimal funding outperform top schools statewide on Academic Performance Index scores--again? Lakeside River Valley Charter students and teachers earned an "A" for effort.
MOUNTAIN EMPIRE CHARTER SCHOOL OVERSIGHT IN QUESTION: Mountain Empire closed its only middle school and ranked in the lowest 10% statewide on standard achievement testing. An ECM special report raised a compelling question: Why are taxpayer dollars being spent to allow Mountain Empire to provide oversight of new charter schools opening in other districts where the existing schools have high performance standards?
ENERGY & THE ENVIRONMENT
GREEN JOBS: San Diego is now the state’s fastest growing center for green jobs—and one of the top hubs for green job creation in the nation. With $445 million in venture capital invested locally over the past five years, San Diego’s green jobs industries are expected to generate tens of thousands of new jobs locally, a study by the San Diego Foundation has concluded.
SUNRISE POWERLINK: A coalition of 79,000 opponents have been unable to stop SDG&E’s Sunrise Powerlink Project. In 2010, federal agencies granted approval for Powerlink to cross public lands. Governor Schwarzenegger attended a ceremonial ground breaking in McCain Valley (though no ground was broken, since final approvals are still pending). Proponents say the line is needed to assure a stable energy supply. Opponents, including Supervisor Dianne Jacob, argue that rooftop solar could fulfill that need without environmental destruction or fire risks. Several law suits have been filed; it remains to be seen whether a court may yet bar the project or force modifications of its route.
INDUSTRIAL-SIZE ENERGY PROJECTS RAISE CONCERNS: To some, miles of desert solar mirrors and wind turbines hundreds of feet tall symbolize energy independence and clean energy alternatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But increasingly, environmentalists, rural residents, and Native Americans argue that large scale proposed projects (such as Tule Wind in East County and Tessera’s Solar project in Ocotillo) are anything but “green.” They point to massive destruction of the environment, wildlife habitat, cultural and sacred sites, as well as bird deaths from wind farms. At year’s end, a judge granted an injunction that may spell a death knoll for the Ocotillo project—and a flurry of new lawsuits have been filed seeking to halt several giant energy projects. So what’s the alternative? Incentives for widespread rooftop solar in urban areas, opponents of industrial-scale energy projects propose.
WHAT HAPPENED AT THE WIND FARM? A flash lit up the night, then everything went dark, a witness told East County Magazine. Then the Campo Wind Farm was offline for more than two months after that stormy night, we reported in February. All 75 blades on each of 25 wind turbines had to be replaced. What caused the massive disruption? High winds, an electrical malfunction, or something else? The questions remain unanswered.
CITY LAGS IN FIRE PROTECTION: A shocking report by, the Center for Policy Initiatives revealed that the City of San Diego has fewer firefighters per capita than any other major city in America. “Service quality has dropped below acceptable standards, most tragically in the fire-rescue department,” CPI warned. “Without increased revenue, the city could face the closure of almost half of our fire stations and the firing of several hundred police officers, as the chief operating officer described to the Council…” San Diego Fire Department’s brown-out policy likely played a role in the death of Mira Mesa toddler Bently Do, who choked on a gumball while the fire station next door was shut down due to budget cuts. The ramifications of brown-outs could be similarly lethal for East County , if mutual aid is requested from neighboring San Diego and response is delayed during an emergency.
BURNED BY FIRE ABATEMENT COSTS: Artist and veteran Joseph Diliberti was shocked to receive a $25,000 bill for weed cutting on his property after the Rural Fire Protection District outsourced the job to a private company. The bill more than doubled to $63,000 with penalties and the County slapped a lien on the property. Despite his allegations of price gouging and public rallies by other backcountry residents hoping to save Diliberti’s home, the County plans to auction off Diliberti’s artistic residence in March, arguing that the weed abatement was necessary to protect neighboring properties from fire danger. Many disagree; meanwhile Diliberti faces the prospect of homelessness—and feels burned by the County’s rigid stance.
FIERY BOARD ISSUES: Lakeside’s Fire Protection District Board took heat from citizens after firing popular chief Mark Baker for reasons that the Board never explained to the public. Citizens formed Lakeside First, a group that aimed to recall board members who supported the firing, but later backed off after learning the cost that a special election would impose on the district. Meanwhile San Miguel’s Fire Department board, faced with mounting budget cuts even after shutting down an engine company, considered laying off firefighters but backed down after an emotional plea from an Iraq War veteran who would have been the first firefighter to be laid off. Both boards gained some new members in the November election, but it remains to be seen how the Boards will handle mounting budget woes while assuring public safety.
WHOOPING COUGH EPIDEMIC: As of December 22, San Diego County had 1,083 confirmed cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, reported in 2010. That’s almost ten times more than in 2009 (143 cases) and by far the highest on record in our county, topping 371 cases in 2005. While public health officials urge everyone to make sure vaccinations are up to date for children and adults, the troubling truth is that many of the cases occurred in people who had their booster shots—leading to concerns that the disease strain may be developing immunity to vaccines.
HEALTHCARE REFORM: The Obama administration’s passage of healthcare reforms assures healthcare coverage for 43 million Americans without insurance, also doing away with some insurance industry abuses such as denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. But the bill lacked teeth to prevent rate hikes and drew criticism for its impact on business owners and people who will now be required to buy health insurance. For better or worse, federal healthcare reform is likely to impact you, your employees, or your family.
HOSPITAL BOARD MEMBER LOSES SEAT: Grossmont Healthcare District board member Jim Stieringer stirred up a hornet’s nest of controversy when he resigned his seat in anticipation of obtaining a more lucrative staff position with the district. But when a citizen watchdog’s group cried foul, citing state rules prohibiting such a practice, Stieringer asked for his old job back—but his request was denied. As a consolation prize, however, the Board voted to name its conference center after the outgoing Board member.
MONTE FIRE RESCUE—The year’s most harrowing rescue was made by Sheriff’s deputies, who saved two rock-climbers trapped on the face of El Capitan Mountain. Deputy Gary Kneesehaw bravely stayed behind on the mountain to make room for the first hiker to be flown out. The chopper returned with only seconds to spare, sparks flying into the cockpit. Kneeshaw helped the second hiker into the helicopter, then leaped onto the chopper skids, riding unsecured outside as they descended through blinding smoke to safety. Hollywood couldn’t script a better story!
FAMILY SAVED IN CHRISTMAS FIRE: Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Cruz spotted smoke pouring from a garage while on patrol in the pre-dawn hours Christmas morning. He awakened the sleeping family and was able to help all five family members escape the blaze, suffering smoke inhalation before firefighters doused the blaze.
SADDLE TRAMPS TRAGEDY: It started out as an anniversary ride for members of the Lakeside Saddle Tramps motorcycle club. But the ride ended in tragedy when a gold Honda crossed the line at a high speed, killing five and injuring six Saddle tramps members on a desolate desert highway. An outpouring of community support resulted, including fundraisers to help local children who lost both of their parents.
BRIDGETTE’S LAW: After the death of Bridgette Hale, a young Ramona mother killed by a wrong-way driver on Highway 67, her relatives were outraged to learn that no blood test was ordered by CHP. Family members began organizing other victims’ families to remedy the situation. In 2011, they hope to persuade a local legislator to introduce Bridgette’s Law, a bill that would require mandatory blood tests of all drivers involved in fatality crashes to determine if they were under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
IMMIGRATION & BORDER ISSUES
DREAM ACT DIES: Local students lined bridges to voice support for the Dream Act, which would have provided a pathway to citizenship for children whose parents came here as undocumented immigrants. But the Dream Act died in Congress in December amid a wave of Tea Party candidate elections and anti-immigrant sentiments, dashing the hopes of millions of students across America.
BORDER SECURITY: With border violence on the rise and fears of terrorism crossing our borders a continuing threat, the Obama administration signed a $600 million bill to beef up border security and authorized Predator drones to patrol our border with Mexico. Border Patrol kept busy nabbing crooks trying new means to bypass border security--from drug smuggling tunnels complete with lights and railways to a cross-border horse smuggling ring. But just how did they get those horses over/under/or around the border wall?
GENERAL PLAN UPDATE: Proposed zoning updates to the County’s General Plan for the backcountry may not be the most exciting news story of the year, but the impacts on rural communities could be substantial. The debate pits advocates of preserving rural character and limited water supplies against development interests who argue that the area’s economic vitality is at stake.
DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL IS REPEALED: For a military town like San Diego, the Congressional vote ending a ban on gay and lesbian service in the military will have an impact on many service members. Congress passed the repeal, which was signed by President Obama, after a federal court ordered that the policy be halted. Joseph Rocha, a San Diego student and former ECM intern, was among those who testified at the trial. His shocking revelations of abuse by a commanding military officer while serving as a dog handler in the Middle East, along with evidence that a female officer committed suicide after she was threatened for trying to help Rocha, helped to persuade a federal judge to declare the military’s policy unconstitutional and lead Congress to overturn the policy.
VETERANS BENEFITS ACT: Authored by San Diego Congressman Bob Filner and signed into law by President Obama, the Veterans Benefits Act provides veterans with enhanced employment opportunities, also preventing and caring for homeless veterans, ensuring the welfare of veterans and their families by increasing insurance limits, protecting service members called to combat, honoring fallen service members and their families, strengthening education benefits, addressing housing needs of disabled veterans, and investing in research for Gulf War veterans.
MUSIC & ARTS
EAST COUNTY PERFORMING ARTS CENTER GOES DARK: It’s curtains at the East County Performing Arts Center, after El Cajon’s City Council voted to close down the theater for a remodeling project that could take up to two years. The move has not drawn cheers from downtown merchants already struggling to survive amid a slow economy and now, closure of a major attraction drawing visitors to downtown.
NATIVE AMERICAN NEWS
INDIANS WIN INJUNCTIONS: Historically, Native Americans have lost ancestral lands while the government failed to protect them. But now the Indians are learning to fight back—in court. In December, a federal judge issued an injunction halting a massive desert solar project in Ocotillo after the Quechan Indians filed suit to protect sacred burial and ceremonial grounds. Earlier this year, the Viejas band of Kumeyaay Indians also scored a victory in court, after Padre Dam Muncipal Water District defied the state Native American Heritage Commission and kept digging at a Lakeside reservoir site where Native American remains and artifacts were found.
BARONA GAINS "GREEN" RECOGNITION: Barona's tribal government facility received national LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, continuing the Barona Band of Mission Indian's commitment to sustainability in our region.
ANTHONY PICO RETURNS TO HELM AT VIEJAS: The Viejas band of the Kumeyaay Nation has elected Anthony Pico as its new chairman. Pico has previously served as chair and vice chair, leading Viejas through much of the tribe's most significant economic development, also championing inter-tribal business development.
LOCALS PITCH IN TO CLEAN UP GULF: Calling the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico “unprecedented” in scale, our own Mark Hanson, publisher of East County Magazine, led efforts locally to train workers to help out with cleanup in the Gulf, in conjunction with the Urban League and Leadership Management International. Local businesses also helped out, including Sport Clips in Santee, which collected hair trimmings to make oil-soaking booms.
DISASTER RELIEF: Numerous East County residents and groups helped organize efforts to aid disaster victims in Mexico after the Easter Sunday earthquake. Others led relief drives to help Haiti quake survivors left homeless by the power of Mother Nature, as East County Magazine reported.
TEA PARTY TAKES POWER—BUT NOT IN CALIFORNIA: Republicans took back control in the House of Representatives, sweeping in conservative anti-taxation T.E.A. Party candidates. Locally, San Diego’s Congressional delegation remains unchanged despite heated efforts of challengers (including a hunger strike staged by Democrat Ray Lutz seeking more debates with Rep. Duncan Hunter and a military veteran, Nick Popadich, leading a charge against Bob Filner). Statewide, by contrast, California was swept by a blue tide, with former Go vernor/Attorney General Jerry Brown beating out former E-Bay chair Meg Whitman to replace “terminated” Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
VOTERS SAY NO TO SPECIAL INTEREST INFLUENCES: A U.S. Supreme Court decision granted corporations the same “rights” as individuals—and authorized companies to spend unlimited sums to influence election outcomes. But California voters showed that they could not be bought—voting down special-interested initiatives backed by big oil and insurance companies, as well as billionaire Meg Whitman’s bid to become governor in the most expensive non-presidential campaign in U.S. history.
MUSICAL CHAIRS IN LEGISLATIVE RACES: Assemblyman Joel Anderson’s decision to run for State Senate sent four candidates scrambling to fill his seat. The winner was Brian Jones, a Councilmember from Santee. Anderson also won his race handily despite a scandal over campaign finance law violations. Moving up to the Senate, he replaces Dennis Hollingsworth, who is retiring due to term limits
MAYORS WIN REELECTION AS CITIES NEAR CENTENNIALS: Despite contentious races in La Mesa and El Cajon, the long-time mayors in both cities won reelection -- and the right to preside over their cities' upcoming centennial celebrations in 2012.
IRAQIS MOURN A MASSACRE: East County’s Iraqi community mourned the loss of friends and family members killed in a Baghdad church massacre. Images of the slain, including two priests beheaded on the altar, brought home the grim reality of the dangers facing Christians in Iraq. Iraqi Chaldean Christians also staged a candlelight vigil in El Cajon and a rally in San Diego, calling on the world to help protect Christians throughout the Middle East.
BENEFITS CUT: Federal benefits for aged and disabled refugees expired in October—and no member of Congress took action to extend the cuts. A spokesperson for Congressman Duncan Hunter’s staff said the office was unaware of any local impact. But the head of East County’s Refugee Center estimated that 1,800 refugees locally are losing their benefits—including many who worked for the U.S. military in Iraq and suffered serious injuries as a result.
MISSION VALLEY MIRACLE: No, we’re not talking about rescues of motorists from flooded Mission Valley roadways. We’re cheering about the miraculous victory by the Aztecs, who won the Poinsettia Bowl for the first time in 41 years. Not even a flooded stadium could tip the advantage to the Navy Academy’s Midshipmen, who lost to the San Diego State University’s Aztecs 35-14.
STATE BUDGET BATTLES
BUDGET BLUES: California’s budget crisis has impacted many lives in East County. Students suffered from cuts in education programs and hikes in tuitions. Teachers endured cycles of layoffs and rehirings. State workers stressed over how to make ends meet when the Governor threatened to cut their pay to minimum wage. Hospitals saw cuts in nursing staffing. Disabled people suffered benefit cuts and the elimination of the Cal-Works program got rid of welfare-to-work programs and childcare that previously enabled chronically unemployed people to get job training and assure that their children weren’t left home alone . Legislative Republicans refused to approve any budget that included revenue increases, instead insisting on more cuts—a position enforced by Governor Schwarzenegger, who vetoed Democratic budget proposals and wielded his line-item veto power to slash even more.
GOVERNOR BROWN TAKES CHARGE: Newly elected Governor Jerry Brown has pledged not to raise taxes (unless voters approve a ballot measure, an unlikely prospect), but is apt to have different priorities in what should be cut. Among his first actions are trimming state lobbyist positions in Washington D.C. and firing the lottery director after learning she spent lavish sums on employee parties. He’s pledged to make spending on public education a priority, but warns he will propose a bare-bones budget. "Please sit down if you're reading the stories on the budget on Jan. 10,” he’s cautioned. “ If you're driving, fasten your seat belt, because it's going to be a rough ride." Brown has set an example of frugality by opting to live in a downtown loft instead of a Governor’s mansion.
HISTORIC HIGHWAY 94: The State of California issued a historic designation for Highway 94, paving the way for increased tourism for East County communities along the route. Supervisor Dianne Jacob performed a ceremonial ribbon cutting with a vintage automobile, as historical re-enactors entertained a crowd with performances of historic gunfights and more.
BIG BIRD & WILD HORSES: It wasn’t your traditional Easter chick. A 5’5” bird, estimated to weigh a whopping 150 pounds, startled residents in the Otay Lakes area. Police and County Animal Control officers finally captured the giant bird, which was believed to be an emu, outside Bonita Vista Middle School. Just a couple of weeks earlier, a herd of horses believed to be wild stampeded through streets in the same community, leading law enforcement officers and local cowboys on a wild chase through suburbs, fields and the grounds of the Olympic Training Center.
WATER CONTROVERSIES: “Get used to it. You’re going to pay more each year,” Helix Water District director Mark Weston said in August, when the Board voted an 8% rate increase. Last year, water rates in the District rose 23%. Other districts in East County have also seen rates rise, to varying degrees, and many have imposed watering restrictions due to drought. Ratepayers have rebelled by calling for cuts in board member pensions or other expenses. Districts are looking to create new local supplies, deepening the San Vicente Reservoir and proposing a water recharge project in the El Monte Valley. Meanwhile, recent rains have filled most local reservoirs and doubled the Sierra snow pack. While some restrictions still apply (such as court-imposed limits on Delta pumping), local ratepayers hope water restrictions may soon be eased—and may question the need for rate hikes if water supplies are more plentiful.
HOG WILD: Hundreds of wild pigs are rooting around the backcountry in San Diego’s East County—and they’re breeding fast. While hunters delight in the prospect of bringing home the bacon (you can buy a hunting license for around $42 and a pig tag for $19), others have voiced concerns over environmental destruction and potential threats caused by the voracious -- and sometimes vicious – feral swine. Just ask our “East of the Line” columnist, whose bicycle-riding son was pursued and treed by four bodacious boars.
LION STORIES--NO, LYIN'!: A ban on hunting mountain lions back in 1972 has led to an increase in California’s mountain lion population. In 2010, lion sightings prompted lockdowns of schools in Jamul and Alpine—including a mid-day sighting by a barber shop patron right on Alpine Blvd. in the heart of downtown Alpine. The big cats prefer to stalk deer, though they’ve been known to prey on domestic poultry and pets. But are those proliferating pumas also porking out on all those wild pigs?