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Public Safety

Roundtable: Hep A Blame Game, Olango's Legacy, The Delta Tunnel

A patient receives a hepatitis A vaccination at a public clinic in downtown San Diego, Sept. 22, 2017.
Susan Murphy
A patient receives a hepatitis A vaccination at a public clinic in downtown San Diego, Sept. 22, 2017.
Roundtable: Hep A Blame Game, Olango's Legacy, The Delta Tunnel
Hep A Blame Game, Olango's Legacy, Delta Tunnel
Hep A Blame Game, Olango's Legacy, Delta Tunnel GUESTS Jeffrey McDonald, watchdog reporter, The San Diego Union-Tribune Seth Combs, editor, San Diego CityBeat Eboné Monet, anchor, KPBS News Erik Anderson, environment reporter, KPBS News

This week, San Diego city and county officials are busy dealing with the deadly hepatitis A outbreak by placing blame for its spread on each other.

Civic reaction to the outbreak, identified as such in March of this year, was characterized by back-and-forth emailing and discussions while the outbreak spread.

Local journalists, such as KPBS News' Susan Murphy and Voice of San Diego's Lisa Halverstadt, began reporting the story early on. It soon attracted the attention of national media.


Meanwhile, hep A has killed at least 17 people in San Diego and sickened 461.

Also this week: the city cleared the homeless from the East Village and bleached the streets.

Jeff McDonald’s story details how lack of urgency combined with lengthy discussion of responses, protocols, regulations, permits and even posters allowed the problem to fester and grow larger.

Halverstadt's reporting and the recent reports on CNN, The Washington Post, Huffpost and Fox News -- in addition to a related closure of a restaurant in Pacific Beach -- may have led the city to speed up the distribution of more portable toilets and hand-washing stations this month, four months after the county requested them.

The city says the county is the public health agency for the region, and should lead on this issue. The county says the city simply declined to put up hand-washing stations until very recently.


There is agreement that the problem will get worse before it improves.

The Discussion

-Who's in charge here? Can the county order the city to take measures in an emergency?

-If the incubation period for hepatitis A is 50 days, won't moving people elsewhere spread the disease further?

Related: City, county officials blame each other for growing hepatitis A outbreak

Related: Critics say response was lackluster as 'man-made' hepatitis crisis grew in San Diego

Related: Marketing this “man-made disaster”


The Story

It’s been one year since El Cajon police officer Richard Gonsalves shot and killed Alfred Olango.

Olango was a mentally distraught, 48-year-old Ugandan refugee who was unarmed. He was holding a vaping device, which he pointed at police.

This story, although no longer front-page news, is not over.

Olango’s family has filed several lawsuits. Alfred’s brother Apollo, interviewed by Eboné Monet, started a foundation which promotes training to de-escalate police encounters. Trust in the police among people of color – especially young people -- remains at a low ebb.

There are other results many describe as hopeful. The El Cajon Police Department accepted the services of a community assistance team from the Charity Apostolic Church. The team will help foster understanding and communication between various communities and the police.

And elsewhere, new San Diego Police Department recruits are getting training from San Diego County’s 51-member Psychiatric Emergency Response Team on how to deal with people having a mental crisis.

The Discussion

-Have community activists changed their emphasis in the year following the shooting?

-Has Apollo Olango's foundation had much impast on issues like de-escalation of conflict?

Related: A Police Shooting: The Death Of Alfred Olango

Related: Alfred Olango’s Brother Advocates For Police Reform With San Diego Foundation

Related: San Diego Activist Reflects On Alfred Olango Protests


The Story

The word "ambitious" doesn't quite cover it.

The Delta Tunnel project, or California WaterFix, is a $17 billion plan to catch fresh water at the top of the Sacramento Delta, send it through tunnels to a station at the bottom of the delta and then pump it into the California Aqueduct to Southern California.

The plan is, to put it mildly, controversial.

The idea to provide Southern California's 19 million urban customers more water security is supported, unsurprisingly, by L.A.’s Metropolitan Water District, which would fork over some $4 billion initially.

But there's a big "however" here. Each of California’s many water districts will vote on whether they will participate in the cost or not. Farmers in the Westlands Water District in central San Joaquin Valley have said no, so far, deeming their $3 billion portion of the project too expensive.

San Diego, as a minority member of the MWD, has as yet taken no position.

The delta has already been transformed by human activity. This project proposes to use engineering to avoid further harm to endangered species like the delta smelt and salmon.

Many more votes on this project will be taken in coming months.

The Discussion

-With several new sources of water, including desalination, do we need this project?

-Isn't there likely to be further harm to the delta?

Related: California Water: Debating The Delta Tunnel Plan

KPBS has created a public safety coverage policy to guide decisions on what stories we prioritize, as well as whose narratives we need to include to tell complete stories that best serve our audiences. This policy was shaped through months of training with the Poynter Institute and feedback from the community. You can read the full policy here.