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Roundtable On Cory Briggs, One Paseo, Women In Combat

Roundtable On Cory Briggs, One Paseo, Women In Combat
Roundtable On Cory Briggs, One Paseo, Women In Combat
Cory Briggs, One Paseo, Women In Combat HOST: Tom FudgeGUESTS:Brad Racino, inewsourceAlison St. John, KPBS News Gretel Kovach, U-T San Diego

Editor’s Note: The original version of this Roundtable transcript was updated on April 9, 2015. It provides a more detailed transcript of the segment on San Diego attorney Cory Briggs and the case inewsource reporter Brad Racino cited, Rico v. Mitsubishi Motors ( Tom Fudge: The land deals of a prominent San Diego attorney raise some ethical and legal questions. The San Diego City Council approves a big development project in Carmel Valley to the dismay of some residents; and are women ready and able to take on roles in military combat. I’m Tom Fudge and the KPBS Roundtable starts now. [Music plays.] Tom: Joining me at the KPBS Roundtable today are investigative reporter Brad Racino Brad: Hi Tom Tom: Alison St. John of KPBS News. Good to see you Alison. Alison: Good to be here Tom. Tom: And Gretel Kovach, Military Reporter for UT San Diego. And welcome to you, Gretel: Thank you. Cory Briggs Tom: Well, Cory Briggs is best known to San Diegans as being one of the leaders of the successful movement to oust Bob Filner from the Mayor’s Office, but he’s also been known City and Port officials as an attorney who has filed dozens of environmental suits against the City of San Diego. This week KPBS partner inewsource raised some troubling questions about some land deals Briggs has engaged in. Other questions focus on the fact that his wife has done consulting work for some of the very City projects that were targeted by Briggs’ suits. Now Brad, tell us first of all, why did you decide to look into Cory Briggs? Brad: Sure. Well, actually, I can’t take full credit for that, that would belong to my colleague, Brooke Williams who last year, last June actually contacted me. She’s out East and has worked for inewsource and actually the UT years ago. And she has a lot of knowledge about San Diego and about its past and she had a list of people that she thought deserved some looking into. And, at the time we, at inewsource, were working on the impossible choice project and I said, when that’s finished let’s do some digging and see what we can find and September came around and we published that project. And in late September she was very busy working for the New York Times and said why don’t you go out on your own, so I did. And, I started like we start with every background of every person we look into in land, and started looking at land deals. So we went to the San Diego County Recorder’s Office and started seeing, we started looking up Briggs’ land holdings and his law corporation’s holdings and one of the first things that popped out was his own home here in San Diego and on that recorded deed it said Cory Briggs and Sarichia Cacciatore, husband and wife. And it’s a very unique name and I, to my knowledge have never heard that name in San Diego and for such a prominent person think that would come up in any of the profiles written about him. So I just did a quick Google search and one of the first things that came up was that she’s an environmental biologist for a consulting company here in San Diego. So that started us on this long journey of four and a half months or five months of reporting . And that led to kind of everything that we’ve been publishing. Tom: Well, your story has at least a couple of different aspects. And your first story for KPBS focused on real estate deals which involved liens. What is a lien? Why would an attorney put a lien on someone’s house? Brad: Sure. So, in California, they’re called liens, in other states they’re mortgages. California is a little bit different. Most of the time they are a mortgage. Other times they are a guarantee for payment. So if a bank is going to loan you half a million dollars to buy your home, they will put a lien on your house and they own that house or have title to that house until that money is repaid. Why a law corporation would do this, there’s a couple reasons. One is a guarantee for repayment. So if I’m your lawyer and I am representing you and you don’t have the money to pay me, I will put a lien on your house to guarantee repayment. So that’s what a lien is. But, why an attorney would file one for that reason. But, what we’ve found, most of these people, including the $3 million in liens that I’m sure we’ll get to in a moment, these are not his clients. These are not people he has ever represented or taken to court from what we can find in Bloomberg Law, Westlaw, Lexis Nexis searches, we cannot connect these people to any lawsuits with Briggs. Tom: Okay, and that’s interesting, because Cory Briggs said in an open letter on his website: When my clients win in court sometimes the losers have to pay my fees. Occasionally a losing party cannot make immediate payment and wants to work out a payment arrangement. When that happens I take a security interest to ensure my fees are paid. Brad: Yeah. And one of the people, we found I believe it was 11 of these liens from the Briggs Law corporation scattered throughout four different counties. One of the people we did get in touch with was on the receiving end of one of his lawsuits. She ran a dog food company that he took to court for environmental matters. And she lost. And she has a $75,000 lien on her house. So, that makes sense. That checks out. Ah, but what he didn’t address in that letter and what we have yet to find an explanation of is what, first of all, $3 million as a retainer. That’s a pretty hefty sum for an environmental lawyer whose either representing or attacking, I’m sorry going after someone in a lawsuit. And this lawsuit that relates to these people, we can’t find anywhere. Tom: Well you did talk to some academics and some legal experts about this. What did they have to say? Brad: Um. They were very surprised by this. They did say there are some loopholes that lawyers can jump through as long as they check a lot of boxes for disclosure with their clients, saying they can enter into these things. Ah, but they’ve all insisted that they have to be clients. Or, if that’s not the case, there is something else going on here. Female: I was interested in your story that the family that had these liens, the $3 worth of liens, sent a letter to the station responding to inquiries saying you were inquiring and trying to make a link with the end of Bob Filner’s career. Um, that, you know that, that is kind of an interesting speculation. Tom: Yeah. Why, why would she think that? Alison: Have you found any connections at all with that family and that whole news story? Brad: No. And, actually, we never brought that up with them. No, but we spoke with the son of that family by phone very briefly and we spoke to one of those two people in person at their house for about ten seconds. And we never brought that up. The only time that was brought up was to Briggs himself during our interview when we questioned the timing of those liens. They were executed on August 28, Filner announced his resignation August 23 and as good reporters do, looked at the timing and just said is there anything, you know, about Filner that has to do with this. He didn’t answer my question. But that’s the only time Filner was ever mentioned to anybody. Alison: Maybe that letter was, if anything just to throw you off the track rather than because that is, in fact, not motivation. Tom: Well, and Brad, I think it’s worth saying that you tried to speak with Cory Briggs about this; you tried to speak with the people who owned the homes and none of them would talk to you. Brad: Right. We, when we did sit down with Briggs for an interview and we had a long list of questions and a stack of documents we wanted to show him, we got the to our second question before he shut down the interview and threatened to call the police. So, we did get some questions out during the transition from his office to the road. But he did not answer any of those. The one family that we did drive up and see, they wouldn’t speak to us at all. The other one, their house, their lights were off and they wouldn’t answer the door. And everyone else we called wouldn’t speak to us, except for one. Tom: Well, let’s move on to the other aspect of your story. You and Brooke Williams also found some possible conflicts of interest involving Cory Briggs and his wife and her place of employment. Brad: Right. She is, or was, for at least eight years, according to her own LinkedIn profile, an environmental biologist, project manager sometimes, on these projects for all different cities and municipalities throughout Southern California for Helix Environmental Planning. So the City of San Diego has a contract with Helix, the Port has a contract with Helix, a lot of places have a contract with Helix. And we found her name listed on, as personnel on the Port’s contract for a whole bunch of projects the Port was executing. And then what we did was cross-checked Briggs’ lawsuits and saw that he has sued multiple times over Helix’s work. And then it just came to light on Wednesday when the, after a PRA request we put in, a public Records Act request, that the City Attorney turned over invoices that showed that she worked directly on a project that was sued over and to make it even stranger, the City Attorney sent a memo to Helix’s CEO stating in the memo that they have, they know firsthand that she was also vice president of Briggs’ law corporation while she was working for Helix, while Briggs’ law corporation was suing the City. Tom: So, so Brad. What does this mean? I mean, the fact that she’s working for the City on these projects that he’s suing over. What’s wrong with that? Brad: Well, it’s a huge conflict of interest. If you are either, if you’re playing both sides, that usually needs to be disclosed in a contract, say with between the Port and the City and Helix or between her and her employer and from what we can find from the contracts, this was never disclosed. There’s a potential for a lot of inside information to be passed along with, to enact these lawsuits. So, according to all the experts we’ve interviewed, this is a huge problem. Tom: Okay. Well, it definitely got the attention of the City Attorney. Ah, Gretel, to you have anything to say about this subject? Gretel: I’m pretty immersed in military matters at this point. I will defer to the experts here. Alison: I was just wondering whether in fact the onus was on Cory Briggs’ wife and to disclose it or, or was the onus on him to disclose it? Tom: According to the experts, it’s on both of them. Female: Both of them, so they would both be _________. Brad: If you’re a lawyer that is suing, there was this case that these lawyers cited, I think it was Rico v. oh, [Rico v. Mitsubishi Motors] I can’t remember. Where it established that if you have inside information you have to disclose that in a lawsuit. You have to tell the other side I have access to this information. Not, but again on the record, not saying that he has inside information, just putting the facts out there in terms of what we know. Female: And he said if they did do what was necessary to avoid the conflict of interest but that’s not enough in this situation. Brad: Well, this open letter came out about an hour before we had the proof that that she worked directly on these projects he sued, but what he said in his letter I believe that he took all precautions to, yeah, avoid these conflicts and that there is nothing unusual about this arrangement. Tom: Yeah, and Brad, real quick. This is back in court because the City is bringing it to a judge saying is this legal? Is there a conflict of interest. Brad: No, actually the City is bringing a motion to court. They brought it yesterday morning. And what they’re doing is they’re asking a judge to unseal a deposition. And this is in response to our Public Records Act request and they believe that once this document is unsealed, it will explain a lot more. We can’t say for sure what is in this document, but the City Attorney’s Office feels very strongly that they need to get their hands on this. Tom: Okay. Well thanks very much, Brad Racino of inewsource. One Paseo Development This week the San Diego city Council approved a mixed use development in Carmel Valley called One Paseo. It will include 600 housing units buildings up to nine stories tall and 1.5 nine stories tall and one point 5,000,000 ft.² of floor space between the homes and shops and offices. One Paseo was thought by many in the area that saw it as a dance and urban but for the backers of the smart growth it became a symbol of the urbanism that San Diego needs in order to resist the expense and gas fumes that come with urban sprawl. Allison, let's start by talking about the vote and how it turned out. I'm interested in the politics. It was a dramatic evening at City Hall in the hearing lasted about seven hours. When the Council started to make their comments Sherry Leitner, the president, took her prerogative to go first. She represents the district and usually the Council President goes last but she laid into the project and said that the transportation management plan is a farce she said that the EIR is flawed and she proposed that they only approve it it if it was substantially reduced and she actually got Councilwoman Marti [last name indiscernible] to support her and Myrtle Cole. However, once it got to other members of the city Council it became obvious that people did not want to continue this and prolong the agony, if you will, it has been prepared for six years and this is been going on for so long that David Alvarez said let's decide to tonight. He came up with an idea of saying we will approve this if the developer agrees to have 10% of the houses affordable houses. 600 houses or living units and condos and 60 at -- 60 of them would have to be affordable. That was the cover my separate over-the-top? The developer scurried around and did the math to see if that would work out. I don't know if this was already in the cards or what but they came back and said yes, we could do that. Then the vote came down and Myrtle Cole switched sides and it was 7 to 2 -- Sherry Leitner and Marti Emerald a posted and everyone else approved it. The chief objection of the residence to the project is the traffic that it would create. Let's hear from one of them. The main objection to this site is traffic. They are generating 23,000 trips per day which requires them to widen streets and divert traffic through neighborhoods by schools, elementary schools. Kids will have to get to the elementary school walking across nine lanes of traffic. The issue with the traffic is the more development you have the more traffic you generate. So, we feel that by bringing the traffic levels down they would end up with a smaller, more appropriate project. Okay. Here's what developer John Kilroy had to say. The mitigation we are doing required to to do by the city is about $6 million. 40 intersections that we are improving. 40 intersections in the greater Carmel Valley area. We are doing about $3.8 million beyond that in our own election and what this will have is the most modern traffic signal system in the country. It's something, by the way, we did a test on this along with QUALCOMM. The city was involved and the city would like to do this throughout the entire city because it's the most advanced expedition management system or traffic flow system. The developer, John Kilroy. Now, Allison this has become -- One Paseo has become a symbol of smart growth to a lot of people. Can you talk about that? Yes, as you said in the introduction we do need to grow inside the urban areas because we can't just keep sprawling. We have to get more dense. In order to get denser, how do you solve the problem of public transit? I think that's the problem. I have to say that from the point of view of the developer it's a difficult a challenge because he's in a city which is a very car centric city. He was not selling this necessarily as a transit friendly project. He has agreed to put in a bus that will take them to the nearest bus station in Sorrento Valley but he is had to spend a lot of money on underground parking -- thousands of parking spaces -- 3000 -- more than 3000 underground parking spaces which cost a lot of money. Because he acknowledges this is a car centric project. Whenever you talk about public transportation is there a lot of agencies in San Diego and have a say in this. Caltrans, North County district. How do they fit in? Is interesting is that the land use decisions are made by one set of people -- the city's -- then, they transit decisions are made by another which is San Diego Association of governments which the cities sit on. Essentially the two are separate processes -- political processes. This is an example of how you can make a land-use decision -- the city on its own -- by the way, the other cities nearby -- Delmar and Solana Beach were unhappy because of the transit on I five., The people that manage the future transit plans were not involved in this decision and for example the mayor of Delmar said I'm on [indiscernible] and I have not seen any plans for public transit. The 2050 transit plan. To improve the situation. They will have to react to this once it's finished? Well, the theory is -- the chicken and the egg. Once you have enough density people will be crazy enough that they will say okay, I'll take the bus. [laughter] You have to force it until people are willing to take the bus and then it becomes financially viable. The other argument is that many other cities are putting in public transit with public money. Public investment in the public transit. LA, Seattle, a lot of cities have put it best when into the transit in San Diego. Looks here like that developer saying if we build it they will calm. Transit will come. He's saying I'll build it and I'll give you a shuttle. Essentially the transit will have to come from somewhere and no one is a saying okay, we'll extend the trolley. Okay, we are going to broaden I five but not for a decade or two. The last question for you, Allison. When you look at what is going to be in One Paseo, is it feasible to think that people who live there will actually shop and work in the same place? Yes, I think it is feasible that some of the people in the condos maybe senior citizens. That's the model that people talk about -- the smart growth -- as the generations get older they don't want to spend hours of their lives on the freeway or getting to where they want to go. They wanted to do it all by working out of their doors and going to the cinema in the park. There's a model for that. But, 600 homes is not a lot considering the number of cars that will be on the roads. That's Allison St. John from KPBS news talking about the approval of One Paseo. Women in combat By this time next year all jobs in the US military will be open to women including infantry and special operations positions. In the fall Marine Corps officials will decide if they think having women in these combat roles is a good idea. If not they must ask the Pentagon for a waiver. Rental, what positions in the Marines are currently off-limits to women? Three, 20 years ago the US military opened air combat and warships to women so we've had women serving as fighter pilots, attack helicopter pilots and in Navy warships. Back in 1994 they maintained a restriction on women in direct ground, at jobs these are the tanks and special jobs operation forces like Green Beret and Navy seal. In 2013 the defense secretary got rid of that last restriction and said services you have three years to open all jobs to women so that candidates we just on their ability and not gender. He said as you research the best way to end with integrate women into these all male units in occupations if you can convince us with detailed research about what is her to drop or unit should remain closed we will consider exceptions. The services have been doing a lot of research and the Marine Corps has been doing some unique research and some say controversial. We are waiting to see what the decision will be and whether or not, in fact, all jobs will be open to women. Rental, -- Gretel -- you spent a lot of time following the women what did you see their? Not just women -- I was following women in man in next gender the tunes of different artillery tanks. What the Marine Corps did is create a an experimental task force a ground unit similar to the Italian landing teams they would deploy on their Marine expeditionary units. And instead of having only been in the ground combat units they trained women to the schools and train as interim infantry riflemen and train as tank crewman and they've assigned them in the mixed gender units. They just deployed for three months to 29 Palms. They will do a combat assessment and there's a parallel army of researchers and scientists and they've got them hooked up to all the sensors and whatnot. They are tracking the combat performance and tracking their physical fitness rates. The injury rates. At the end of the day they will crunch all the data and say can successfully be integrated into the all male units? As far as you can tell, how's it going? How the morale? How are the women performing? There are skeptics who accuse the Marine Corps of setting the women up to fail in doing their research in bad faith saying they been trying to gather them over the last two years to get an exception and to keep women out. Whether or not that's true, the Marines say it's not true. What they are finding with this ground combat unit the task force that they created at Camp Lejeune and now we 29 Paul is that these women and the mixed gender units are performing extremely well. In some cases they are outshooting the mail tank crews at Camp Lejeune. They been able to quickly and effectively train these women in these jobs and they are seeing minimal problems with hazing. How applicable this is too real world conditions -- that's another argument, but so far it's going very well. There are two ways to look at this -- one is that it's like an equal right to wish you and women should have the right to be able to go where men go but the other issue is from a military perspective they need more people to be recruiting -- to recruit more people. To fill the ranks, as it were. So, you've got to ask yourself from the other perspective do you think that the luxurious doing enough to make sure they are to just doubling the population of people they can recruit from and perhaps putting women in situations they are more at risk because they don't have the same physical attributes that a man does? There are so many thorny issues in relation to the questions you're asking. Right now 50% of the US Armed Forces is female. We have many women serving in combat support positions with many of these units. Now, one thing we have to consider is what's called critical mass very. As long as you have a very small number of people assigned to a group then they will be traded -- treated as second-class citizens. In the case of the military and raises questions -- with a women the exposed to sexual harassment or sexual assault? Will they not be judged on the merits but on other reasons? The military, if they are going to make the change they want to to get a critical mass of women assigned to the units but where will they come from? We only have 2% of the entire Armed Forces right now is female. Critical mass. Says you need 20% to 30%. A lot of unknowns. Gretel, my dad is still alive and he served in World War II. One of his favorite stories is being on the coast of England and seeing a German war flay warplane fly overhead in a group of English soldiers jump onto a cunning placement and start to fire and shoot down the plane. My dad and his Navy buddies were putting -- whistling and gave them a big round of applause and they found out that these were women. They didn't know -- they were in uniform. My question is, we've seen women in combat in the past. What is the continuing argument that they are considered for this kind of work? There are a lot of opinions. What I'm trying to do in my series is sort of the facts from the emotional opinions about it. Many frame the issue as a question of civil rights versus combat readiness. They say we can't the and equal opportunity military. What is important is to continue to protect the nation in the most effective manner possible. On the one hand you have those that say if you allow women into the units standards will be lower. On the other hand you have the senior leaders of the US Armed Forces saying we will be a stronger more effective military if we allow the best candidate to fill in each job whether a man or woman. That's not what we have right now. Based on the order that they had -- the Marines have until when to prove this? All of the armed forces -- Army, Navy, Marine Corps, special operations have until October 1 to apply for an exception if they want. The senior leaders of the Army and even special operations command have been speaking publicly and it looks like they're not going to try to fight this. The Marines might, but it remains to be seen. Okay. That writes -- reps up another week of Roundtable. Thank you to Brad and Allison and tran24 joining me. A reminder -- all of the stories discussed the today are available on the website -- I'm Tom Such think you for joining us today at the Roundtable. Coming up on midday edition will examine some of the top stories in the state and region including a look at a landlord whose units have been the cause of many complaints despite his receipt of section 8 housing vouchers. Midday will continue. Stay with us. KPBS is supported by the law firm of pigs Fletcher end celebrating 75 years of continued service to San Diego with more than 70 attorneys and practice in over 20 different disciplines. Including over it, family law, intellectual property and is this litigation. Information is Support also comes from UC San Diego health system based on quality factors including skilled in patient care and patient safety and physician recommendation and the editors of U.S. News & World Report have ranked UC San Diego health system the number one Hospital in San Diego with national rankings and 11 specialties. Visit health.UCSD.EDU for more information. The department of homeland security maybe shut down this weekend but -- wait, don't tell me -- we will go punk rock with the aroma owns and that will meet Bill Curtis and I have to get out are shredded T-shirts. I guess you don't want to be dissuaded so join us for wait, wait, don't tell me -- a news quiz from NPR. Saturday mornings at 9 and Sunday mornings at 10 here on KPBS. For KPBS program highlights, use stories and upcoming events find us on Facebook. You are listening to KPBS where news matters. Welcome back to Friday Midday Edition. I'm Tom Fudge. Here are some of the headlines we are following. The former head of Britain's national terrorism security office as the case of G hottie John shows that intelligence agencies lack the resources to monitor a growing number of suspects. He says the number of people being radicalized the end the Internet is increasing. The US and Liberian governments are starting the first formal patient and testing of an experimental Ebola virus treatment that is been used on an emergency basis. The drug, see map, was developed by San Diego-based map pharmaceuticals. Leonard Nimoy, world famous to start that -- Star Trek fans has died. The actor died this morning of end-stage chronic pulmonary disease. He was 83 years old. You're listening to Midday Edition on KPBS. When schools need upgrades the districts turned to bonds. They are considered a relatively easy way to save money for big projects. Around 2008 district started to use a kind of bond that sells them with hundreds of millions of dollars in debt for decades to come. With more on this dark side of school finance here's KPBS -- I news source. I'm Joanne [last name indiscernible] and I [indiscernible]. We are going to talk about school bonds. We are we to talk specifically about capital appreciation bonds. We know that school districts all around San Diego County news these bonds but in particular unified -- they are famous for using capital appreciation bond. That's right the issue of this billion-dollar bond -- the big bonds. That bond had a debt ratio of nine dollars to one. If not actually the best the most expensive. 19 school districts in San Diego County used capital appreciation bonds -- places like Santa, [indiscernible] and Oceanside also issued response. More than 300 districts in all of California did this since 2007. That's right. [indiscernible] is a prime example. It's brand-new. The students score above average and it has an incredible view of the ocean. The catch is they have to pay for it. The school district issued a $15 million capital appreciation bond back in 2011. A 2050 -- by 2050 the district will have to pay $229 million for the one bond. That means the school district have to pay back about $15 for every dollar it borrow. That is a risk that comes with capital appreciation bonds. I talked to Dan [last name indiscernible], the treasurer and tax collector for the county to the distance at context he said they go bonds as a school district equivalent of a home mortgage. If you look at the normal payback ratio for a 30 year mortgage which any people are familiar with -- if you buy a house you finance for 30 years -- your payback ratio is going to be 221 or 2.52 1. That's it. To understand why they take on bonds with a 15-1 debt ratio test your mind back to a simpler time. It was 2008 -- [indiscernible] was dominating the airwaves with bleeding love. In the housing market it was dominating the headlines by bleeding money. At the same time school districts found themselves under intense pressure to build stuff. New schools, classrooms, upgraded aging schools. The magic of capital appreciation bonds is that districts that money to build stuff now but they don't have to pay a dime for years. Sometimes decades. That's exec what happened with [indiscernible]. But the time the $16 million bond is paid off the kids at this the Delmar will be middle-aged with kids of their own. Like other bonds residents pay the debt on their property tax bill. So, what do they say? I asked Deena Whittington -- she is the assistant superintendent of is this services. She says it's the communities bond program. We're not getting negative feedback in my office. I assume that everyone is happy. Is everyone happy? Let's go there and find out. Has a going? We are reporters for I New source. The parents in this unscientific survey had not heard about these bonds. It takes 30 or 40 years to pay this off. But it time you have grandkids in college it will not be paid off. Is that something that you were aware of? Not really, no. That's Arnel Olmedo -- is picking up his daughter from kindergarten. Does it trouble you? Right now, yes. I always wonder to -- the school is nice -- I'm speaking about it this morning, actually. Where the funds came from. For the parents that wanted to send their kids to a nice school they didn't realize their kid would end up footing the bill. To find out if your kids school district voted one of these -- go to INews. For more on this story go to I News stores -- ticking time bombs. A San Diego landlord has come under certainty for renting apartments with substandard conditions and some of the units are a part of the federal program to house low income residents. Speak city Heights says the landlord received more than one half-million dollars in public subsidies last year. Brian O'Shea has made his apartment a home. A large flag it covers the wall and framed structures remind him to be strong to kick his drinking habit and cowboy hats hang on the walls to commemorate his time as a bull rider. It did a number on his body. His knees are shot anywhere thing that race because of a spinal injury. He gets by a disability checks alone. He was living in a church when he got a call from the San Diego housing commission last fall. He was approved for section 8 he would get help paying rent on a home of his own. I was a super happy. I shared this at the church. When he moved into the new apartment joy gave way to stress. I had to hire a girl to come in and clean. She vacuumed and washed out the refrigerator. The top of the refrigerator was black -- dark black. Grease and dirt. There were holes. A lot of cockroaches. They would come out at night. Mice. Oh Shaye chose an apartment managed by -- he manages apartments for several property owners and owns close to 90 buildings of his own. He came under scrutiny under an investigation for maintaining substandard conditions in many of his apartments. When oh Shaye moved into his apartment he found a gas leak in the wall heater and a busted oven and refrigerator. They came in and cleaned it. They put hoses in the back and level do. Then it froze over in the back. It's barely as cold as a refrigerator. It takes forever to freeze water. It took a few days. He is jabbing his finger into it delicate layer of ice. The freezer is only really useful for keeping his milk from turning sour. He uses the refrigerator like a cabinet for dry goods. I go to the food drives -- you have to wait two hours in line. When you bring it home and it goes bad in a couple of days -- it is a waste of time and effort. He said he was baffled that the apartment past the inspection. A copy of the inspection form shows a pass with flying colors. Just a note at the bottom -- it says the perpetrator is older but in working condition. Oh Shaye contacted the housing commission for help about three weeks after he moved in. Forms of from three follow-up inspections team to the unit for the ghastly, lukewarm refrigerator, roaches and maggots all conditions that O'shea says were present when he moved in. It to be regulated. -- It should be regulated. It is what it is. The federal government does regulate subsidized housing. It is a unit has to have a safe heating system and operable with iterator and oven among other things to be section 8 eligible. Landlords the participate in section 8 receive public tax dollars to help low income tenants cover rent. He pays about $400 itself and the owner of the unit gets more than $700 in public funds to the press. Mr. Shaw received more than one half-million dollars from the section 8 program in 2014. [indiscernible] managed the section 8 program at the housing commission. She says the agency does initial inspections to approve a unit and then biannual and surprise inspections to make sure it remains in good shape. She said the housing commission doesn't look into a landlord background other than confirming that he or she owns the property being rented. If it did to date checkout landlords it would have found city documents detailing 62 complaints of code violations at the property of Mr. Shaw since 2001. A review of listing on the housing commission's website showed advertisements for 15 of the apartments the majority with a history of code complaints. [indiscernible] says the housing commission is not responsible for the listings. That is a third-party software system where owners the participate in the section 8 program to advertise their units to the public. It is up to the tenant to look into the landlords and look into the unit and they are the ones that ultimately decided where they will live in lease with. She had no comment on how the apartment made it past the first inspection. She said the housing commission acted quickly and appropriately when oh Shaye complained about the living conditions. Oh Shaye is still living in the apartment and he is picked some of the issues on his own time and Mr. Scheiber please the oven. O'shea said his milk still turns to sour and a can of bug spray stands at the ready on the windowsill. Megan Birks, KPBS news. Mr. Shaw appears to be getting out of the landlord business that he listed 30 of his buildings for sale late last week. The city of San Diego is working to update its plans for how to handle major disasters from terrorist attacks to hazardous materials spills. Earthquakes and wildfires -- this reporter reports the gaps in the city's emergency preparation and what's being done. We've just got word on not one but I explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. These are live pictures. It's horrible to imagine but what if there was a terrorist attack the Boston Marathon bombing next to San Diego City Hall? A lot of departments and the city Council would have to move to different locations so they could go on serving the residents. These alternate locations are supposed to be named in what are called the continuity of operations plan. Each city department is supposed to have one. An audit released last summer found that all but one city department either didn't name and location, picked a bad location or picked the same spot as other departments without knowing who would get priority. Suzy -- city Councilwoman Marti Emerald has the public safety committee. She says San Diego has always been behind the curve in the security plans. Not so much unsafe but not as prepared as we all need to be. Sometimes the message goes in one ear and out the other. We assume that disaster happens to somebody else. The audit was focused on the city's office of Homeland security. No, it's not a federal office but a city department. It acts as an umbrella coordinator for all city departments in an emergency. Director. John Valencia says he is now working to help update the city's emergency plan. He says the mayor's office got a complete plan in 2012 but at the city departments didn't. There were other offices that for whatever reason -- it might've been a lack of resources consulting support or office of Homeland security staff or availability that did not get fully resolved continuity of operation and it is. It's important to note that that is by no means ideal but giving the strained resources and staff availability back in 2012 that was what was feasible. Now Valencia says they are working on updated plans especially for city Council offices. He's waiting for Council staff to review them but he's not sure how long it will take. Once the template is determined there are a few items on our to do list that have a higher priority. The audit says that while the city requires new employees to get to training on what to do an emergency, no one checks to be sure this happens. City Councilwoman Lori South brought this up in October meeting on the audit. At the city we have mandatory training at the -- sexual harassment and trainees we need to do every year. And it looks like all the city employees are supposed to be trained for emergencies within 90 days of hire. But I've been here for years and -- 4 years -- myself or my staff has not been contacted regarding any kind of emergency preparedness training Valencia says training for the elected officials is over twice a year but is on his office is now doing additional training. We also finished instructing every single Council staff on the overview -- basically providing an overview on emergency operations in the city. That's something that we will continue to make available on a routine basis. Valencia says the changes are important because San Diego is vulnerable to disasters in numerous ways. In addition to natural disasters the city has big public spaces, a harbor and military bases that could be attacked. Councilwoman Emerald says she hopes the audit will help shake of San Diego and remind everyone to be prepared. Life is good in San Diego. And could change on a dime. We need to be prepared. I believe that the response to the audit is telling us that much closer to being really better prepared to deal with emergencies. Claire [last name indiscernible], KPBS news. You're looking to -- listening to Midday Edition. After a break we will talk about the DNA in your veins which isn't yours alone. Stay tuned for that and other stories on midday edition. KPBS is a supported by UST school of Law -- full and part-time evening progressed offering a degree with a concentration in intellectual property. Accepting applications at law.San Diego.EDU. KPBS invite you to meet the inhabitants of this planet and the US premiere of 7 billion others, a global multimedia exhibition that provides an immersive technology driven experience uniting the world using video interviews. On display at the Museum of photographic arts in elbow apart. More information at an OPA elbow apart. More,000,000,000 others. If you missed morning edition this week there is a surprising report from [indiscernible]. In an analysis of 1300 counties the amount of anger expressed on twitter is a powerful predictor of heart disease in those counties. In. Don't miss out on the next morning edition from NPR news. Wake up to morning edition weekdays from 4 AM to 9 AM here on KPBS. Where news matters. KPBS has a innovative way for you to listen to local news and programs that matter. Find us on iTunes radio -- search for KPBS I'm Tom Fudge and you are listening to Midday Edition The DNA in your veins is a yours alone. Her blood also contains what some scientists call alien DNA. New tests can isolate the DNA and tell patients a lot about their health, pregnant women have been the first to benefit from this kind of testing in routine care. Our science reporter David Waggoner says they've been the first to deal with the limitations of those tests. Melanie Christie's 14-month-old son Zachary has no trouble keeping up with the family dog while playing in a Claremont part. When to go the slide? He's a healthy, energetic toddler. Before Zachary was born doctors were concerned he might not turn out so healthy. Christie had already had three miscarriages before getting pregnant with him and 36. When I saw my doctor because of my age in my history she suggested that we do a maternity 21 test. Misty had never heard of this. It is made by a San Diego company called SQL noma. The doctor explained they would use her blood to screen for chromosomal problems. We went to the lab and they drew blood right away to send for the test. In about one week a nurse called Melanie with the results. The fetal DNA in her bloodstream looked perfectly normal. The test revealed the sex of the fetus months before an ultrasound could. The test was accurate. Our son is very healthy. He's smart. He's bouncing and great. We are so happy. For Christie one big perk was being able to skip amniocentesis a procedure that carries a small but real risk of miscarriage. Amniocentesis used to be the go to method for diagnosing down syndrome but when tests like maternity 21 became available in 2011 it started to change. We've seen a 70% drop in amniocentesis throughout the United States. The chief academic officer chalk this up to steep cuts in the cost of genetic sequencing. It's now easy to take a pile of blood and isolate the DNA that doesn't match the patient's own. It turns out there are a lot of other different types of alien DNA that should be in a to the blood. It could be a bacteria or virus or it could be the first sign of cancer. Early-onset Alzheimer's, risk of premature heart attacks, he says looking at the DNA in our veins can uncover a lot more than down syndrome. We haven't even touched the boundaries of where this can go. Tests like Maternity 21 aren't perfect. The marketing is ahead of the science. John [last name indiscernible] overseas prenatal like noses for Kaiser Permanente in Northern California at a recent conference he presented it data on the shortcomings. Buddies like this say that the results are more than 99% accurate but a significant number of his patients were not getting results at all. When patients get the blood test if they don't get a result that is a high risk group. We found almost 15% of the group had a chromosome abnormality. So, getting no answer is actually a cause for concern. Other results can be even more confusing. He said results for younger women flagging a rare and deadly condition called [indiscernible] syndrome are more likely to be wrong than right. In the early studies it showed high sensitivity but if you factor back in the low result patients the sensitivity is a somewhat lower. Still, a good to test. But it is not 99%. In my be 90%. There's a lot at stake when these tests deliver false positives. The New England Ctr. for investigative reporting found that incorrect results had led to abortions. Melanie Christie understand test results aren't always accurate. In her case, they were. I prefer having the power of knowledge before hand. I can prepare myself. For what is to come. For most women that is exactly what these tests do. Based on her experience Christie would recommend it to anyone who asks. David Waggoner, KPBS How important is it for children to have dolls that look like them? In exhibit at the [indiscernible] international Museum in elbow apart offers historical insight into this question. KPBS cultural reporter Angela Kuralt explores this and visits the exhibit of handmade lack of dolls. Some date back to slavery. [indiscernible] Nina and nine you are in their playroom in front of a type of Barbie dolls. We have a lot of different Barbies. That's Nina, age 10. None is for. They are of mixed race. The mom is black and the dad is white. Nino pulls out a light skinned like Barbie with short closely cropped hair. You can put a week on a but she doesn't. Like her without the hair. She reminds me of my mom. Well, we try and to choose dolls that represent the people in our house. Nikki is the girl's mother. They need to see themselves reflected in the toys of the play with as well as their family. Today they are able to find a dolls of different ethnicities in color. 10 years ago would've been hard. 100 years ago, practically impossible. Back then if you wanted to give your child a black doll that wasn't an offensive caricatured version of blackness you had to make the doll yourself. This one is amazing. It's fascinating to look into the past. Christine is the chief curator at the museum where hundred and 25 handmade black dolls are on view. Many date back to the late 1800s. There are male and female dolls. Some are dressed in fancy close and other in plain dresses or work close. They are made with the scraps of material and cloth. We have early seersucker, velvet, lace, there would've been remnants used. So perhaps from a sewing project, perhaps curtains or old clothing -- aprons. The dolls eyes are stitched or made with buttons and in some cases a coconut was used for ahead and their hair is made with everything from time to animal fur. The material help eight the dolls but we don't know much about who made them. Says Rebecca plant a professor of history at UCSD -- In the vast majority of cases we can assume that these are African-American women making the dolls and they are probably making the dolls for family members. In some cases, though, the dolls could've been made by black women the right of children they took care. Vintage photographs in the exhibit show white children holding lack dolls often lovingly. She says not to read too much into that. Dolls inspire and the affection but they are also props for children to dramatize the world around them. Abolitionist would write about seeing their children or other white children play with black dolls and enacting scenes of racial violence and abuse. Children play. They reenact the social situation they perceive. The dolls on view at the museum belong to collector Debbie Neff and she's been building her collection for 20 years. She is drawn to their expressions. They represent resourcefulness and craftsmanship against great odds. She said they were cherished. A child in the 19th century could very well have one doll. One toy, one possession. Nothing else. The importance of making them is, to me, really profound. [indiscernible] recently spent a couple of hours walk into the exhibit. She is black and her family from the south. She says the exhibit reminded her of her family history. It's very touching. I thought it was a little bit sad. I got a little we be. All of the history attached to the dolls. Mark believes it is healthy for children of color to have black and brown dolls. It helps with a child's self-esteem. They will feel okay -- it's okay to look the way they do. They will be more comfortable with themselves. Black dolls is on view through July 5 at the museum in Balboa Park. Angela Krohn, KPBS news. You've been listening to Midday Edition on Friday. Have a terrific weekend. I'm Tom Fudge filling in for Mark Sauer

Cory Briggs — Questions And Conflicts

KPBS news partner inewsource has found that Cory Briggs, a San Diego attorney who specializes in public-interest and environmental cases, is involved in some real estate transactions that some experts say are unusual, highly questionable and may even amount to fraud.

Briggs often files lawsuits against cities and developments based on their compliance with CEQA, the California Environmental Quality Act. inewsource discovered that Briggs’ wife works for Helix Environmental Planning, a company that has been involved on the other side of her husband's lawsuits. This fact appears to have been unknown until this week to the government entities that were sued by Briggs.


inewsource also uncovered that Briggs has filed unusual liens against homes in several California counties. Two liens were for $1.5 million each on houses worth considerably less. Legal experts question the ethics of such loans.

Briggs posted on his law firm's website an "open letter" responding to the first two inewsource stories. In it, he explained his practice of entering into deeds of trust with his clients, and wrote there is no conflict between his and his wife’s work.

One Paseo Passes

After months of campaigning, signature collecting, charges and counter-charges, the San Diego City Council approved the large, mixed-use One Paseo development for Carmel Valley.

The main issues for community opponents: additional traffic from the proposed 600 homes, shops and offices; the lack of public transit anywhere near the area; and the violation of the community plan, which calls for about one-third of the floor space approved Monday.

For the seven City Council members who voted yes, those concerns were outweighed by the city’s dwindling supply of land for development and the perceived necessity to build denser projects, as well as the addition of affordable housing units.


Construction is to start in the fall, barring lawsuits.

Marines Test Women For Combat

Only 7.6 percent of Marines are women, the lowest percentage of all the armed services. The entire Marine infantry is male. The Pentagon has eliminated restrictions on women in combat, and all services have been ordered to open all jobs to women by the end of the year or seek a waiver.

In 2012, the Marines tried to get females to enroll in its Infantry Officer Course. Few accepted, and none passed the course.

In 2013, enlisted women were experimentally allowed into infantry training, and 34 percent passed. U-T San Diego's Gretel Kovach spent time at the Marines Corps' Camp Lejeune in North Carolina with an experimental, mixed-gender ground combat task force that eventually will be rated for their readiness to perform individual and group tasks.

As the experiment goes on, questions remain. Are women strong enough for combat? Can they kill the enemy as readily as a male Marine? As a country, are we ready for women in the infantry?