By Doug Porter
After a bad week in the stock market and a bad first half of the year at the turnstile, the company behind SeaWorld announced a series of moves it obviously hopes will enhance the image of its water parks.
The plans include doubling the size of its orca environment, contributing an additional $10 million to research on the species and establishing an independent advisory committee of scientists to oversee its orca program.
The new orca environment, dubbed the Blue World Project, will cover 1.5 acres at 50 feet deep and 350 feet in length. The new habitat will have 10 million gallons of water, up from 5.6 million. Visitors will be able to view the orcas from a 40-foot-tall glass wall below the water line.
The editorial board at UT-San Diego was impressed. Not many other people seemed to share their near-gushing sentiment.
Here’s a snippet from the editorial:
SeaWorld’s move was smart. It demonstrated — to Main Street and to Wall Street — that it understands the growing concerns among the public at large about the quality of life for 10-ton mammals living in confined tanks, large as they are. The plans, which will require the approval of City Hall as well as the California Coastal Commission, call for the tanks to double in size. The tanks will also have a feature strictly for the whales’ benefit, a fast-flowing stream of water that Atchison likened to a whale treadmill.
SeaWorld is a major and welcome component of San Diego’s tourist economy. This new plan will only make it stronger.
It was obvious yesterday that the weekly protests outside SeaWorld’s entrance will continue.
Despite SeaWorld’s announcement of a major expansion for its orcas, many animal activists protested outside of the park’s entrance on Sunday.
The protesters held signs and chanted their anger toward SeaWorld San Diego, and some told 10News the theme park’s plans to build larger tanks for its killer whales is not enough.
Here’s Frank Gormlie, writing at our sister site, OB Rag:
It’s clear that the protests and demonstrations have deeply affected the San Diego and American public over what SeaWorld is doing and not doing for and to its killer whales.
The theme park monster corporation (11 parks in US and plans for more in Middle East) – instead of responding directly to the criticism – will be spending its millions on “easing” the public’s conscience with its larger tanks, and will keep on showering tourists with water sprayed from its orcas doing tricks for a bit of mackerel.
At Fortune they reported on a “we’ll see” attitude from Wall Street:
Tuna Amobi, an equity analyst at S&P Capital IQ, said that while the new habitats could be a step forward in reversing the company’s fortunes, it is by no means a wave of a magic wand.
“This is not going to have any immediate positive impact,” he said. “Most investors are kind of going to take a wait-and-see approach.”
Although the theme park has long been a target of animal rights groups, in the past few months the pressure on SeaWorld has intensified. This summer the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) posted an ad in the San Diego airport featuring actress Kathy Najimy and the words “Welcome to San Diego! If you love animals like I do, please avoid SeaWorld,” according to a story in The Wall Street Journal. The animal rights group also had actress Jessica Biel submit a question on its behalf to Atchison at SeaWorld’s investor day (she asked when SeaWorld would develop a plan to move the orcas to a sea pen in a natural setting).
At animal rights website TheDodo.com the SeaWorld announcement was hailed as proof that the end is nearing:
SeaWorld, as we know it today, is over. It’s only a matter of time. The company is finished.
The accompanying article lists five reasons why they think it’s all but over for the company.
The Man They Love to Hate Wasn’t for Sale
A profile of attorney Cory Briggs in today’s UT-San Diego appears to offer a titillating glimpse into the attitude of what really goes on in downtown developers’ minds:
Briggs has earned a reputation as a project-stopper that goes deeper than his win-loss record. That came into play in his successful lawsuit over the $520 million convention center project, in which he challenged a surcharge approved by hoteliers — but not voters.
Briggs said that a couple of months ago he got a visit at his office from someone he described as a “high-level expansion booster and City Hall insider.” After writing the numeral “1” on a whiteboard in Briggs’ conference room, the person patted his shirt pocket and said he had a check for $1 million in private funds, made out to Briggs.
If Briggs would sign a dismissal of the appeal right then, the money would be his, Briggs said, adding that he rejected the offer.
Briggs responded to a promotional tween from UT editor Ricky Young:
@RickyWhy: Ironic that people smart enough to run downtown were dumb enough to think I could be bought off.
— Cory Briggs (@corybriggs) August 18, 2014
More Lanes, More Gridlock for Interstate 5
An updated regional transportation plan (RTP) for San Diego seems to be headed in the direction least favored by residents and most likely to create further gridlock.
Last week members of the California Coastal Commission gave their blessing to the North Coast Corridor Project, adding four “managed” lanes to a 27-mile stretch from La Jolla to Oceanside.
It’s been three years since a judge found in favor of a lawsuit challenging the original plan’s lack of concern over its environmental impacts and the best that the planners at the San Diego Regional Association of Government (SANDAG) can do is to add flowery language to its documents.
Environmental concerns over building more highways have been addressed by planners by adding bits and pieces of restoration at several other lagoons bisected by Interstate 5 and by backloading promises on enhanced mass transit options far off into the future.
A survey prepared for the San Diego Foundation in 2010 revealed that the majority of residents supported development around transit and expansion of transit services in the region.
J. Clark of the Cleveland National Forest Foundation says the data used in this project is flawed because it uses CalTrans old date, despite that data being upgraded four years later.
“CalTrans failed to make any changes and have gone forward with this old data. What makes this choice even more pressing is the consequences to greenhouse gas emissions, sea level rise, ocean acidity, land use patterns, health impacts, drought and our future.”
Data? Who needs data? Build more freeways…
Despite those concerns, the commission voted unanimously to approve this north coastal project. In the past, adding more lanes has done little to decrease congestion and mass transit has always taken a back seat to freeways. This is a huge project that will take 30 to 40 years to complete, so it will take years to assess the impacts.
Bang, Bang, You’re Dead, Ferguson Style
It was another disturbing few days in Ferguson, Missouri. Just when it seemed like peace was restored, the local gendarmes stoked the fires, releasing a video-tape of a unknown person grabbing small cigars in a store and saying that dead person Micheal Brown was suspected.
Then they back-tracked. The police admitted the officer who shot Brown was unaware of the crime. The store owner said Brown wasn’t the guy. And the scab covering the wound was picked off.
Violence flared back up.
Today’s New York Times has an autopsy report from an independent medical examiner that doesn’t bode well for encouraging civil discourse.
Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager who was killed by a police officer, sparking protests around the nation, was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, a preliminary private autopsy performed on Sunday found.
One of the bullets entered the top of Mr. Brown’s skull, suggesting his head was bent forward when it struck him and caused a fatal injury, according to Dr. Michael M. Baden, the former chief medical examiner for the City of New York, who flew to Missouri on Sunday at the family’s request to conduct the separate autopsy. It was likely the last of bullets to hit him, he said.
Mr. Brown, 18, was also shot four times in the right arm, he said, adding that all the bullets were fired into his front.
The bullets did not appear to have been shot from very close range because no gunpowder was present on his body.
NYT columnist Charles Blow examined the broader context of what’s going on:
Yes, there are the disturbingly repetitive and eerily similar circumstances of many cases of unarmed black people being killed by police officers. This reinforces black people’s beliefs—supportable by actual data—that blacks are treated less fairly by the police.
But I submit that this is bigger than that. The frustration we see in Ferguson is about not only the present act of perceived injustice but also the calcifying system of inequity— economic, educational, judicial—drawn largely along racial lines.
In 1951, Langston Hughes began his poem “Harlem” with a question: “What happens to a dream deferred?” Today, I must ask: What happens when one desists from dreaming, when the very exercise feels futile?
The National Guard is now being deployed to Ferguson.
OMG…How Much Can They Smear This Young Man?
The Washington Post just let the world know (as I was finishing up this story) that suspect Michael Brown had the dreaded killer weed in his system when he was shot.
Michael Brown was shot in the head and chest multiple times, according to Mary Case, the St. Louis County medical examiner.
While Case declined to comment further, citing the ongoing investigation into Brown’s death, another person familiar with the county’s investigation told The Washington Post that Brown had between six and eight gunshot wounds and was shot from the front.
In addition, Brown had marijuana in his system when he was shot and killed by a police officer on Aug. 9 in Ferguson, according to this person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.
Previous reports claimed that toxicology reports would take up to six weeks.
On This Day: 1920 – Tennessee ratified the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. The Amendment guaranteed the right of all American women to vote.1927 – Radio station WEVD, named for Eugene V. Debs, goes on the air in New York City, operated by The Forward Association as a memorial to the labor and socialist leader 1962 – Peter, Paul & Mary’s “If I Had A Hammer” was released.
Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to “The Starting Line” and get an email every time a new article in this series is posted!
I read the Daily Fishwrap(s) so you don’t have to… Catch “the Starting Line” Monday thru Friday right here at San Diego Free Press (dot) org. Send your hate mail and ideas to DougPorter@