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Roundtable And The Big Stories: Campus Rape, Police Profiling, SONGS, Drought

Student activists rallied on the campus of San Diego State University Tuesday to fight sexual assault.
Katie Schoolov
Student activists rallied on the campus of San Diego State University Tuesday to fight sexual assault.
Roundtable And The Big Stories: Campus Rape, Drought
Roundtable And The Big Stories: Campus Rape, Police Profiling, SONGS, Drought
2014: Campus Rape, Racial Profiling, SONGS Closes, Drought PersistsHOST:Mark SauerGUESTS:Angela Carone, KPBS News Megan Burks, KPBS News Alison St. John, KPBS News Susan Murphy, KPBS News

Mark Sauer: This week we are looking back at some of the important stories of 2014; the debate over campus rape from San Diego to the East Coast, the abandonment by San Diego Police of a program to address racial profiling, the concerns about the cost and plan to decommission the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and the prolonged drought that continues in spite of some welcome rain. I am Mark Sauer in the KPBS roundtable sites now. Welcome to our discussion of some of the top stories of 2014. I am Mark Sauer and joining me at the roundtable today are KPBS Reporter Angela Carone. Hi Angela. Angela Carone: Hi Mark. Mark Sauer: KPBS Speak City Heights Reporter, Megan Burks. Good to have you here Megan. Megan Burks: Hi Mark. Mark Sauer: Alison St John, North County Editor for KPBS News. Hi Alison. Alison St John: Good to be here, Mark. Mark Sauer: And KPBS Enterprise Reporter, Susan Murphy. Hi Susan. Susan Murphy: Good afternoon, Mark. Mark Sauer: Well, in 2014 the spotlight was on one issue that was hardly news sexual violence on college campuses. It*s an ugly alarming story that permeates college life here and across the nation. Now, Angela, you invested one case of alleged rape here at San Diego state, went through two systems of the Criminal Justice System and of course the University Justice System. Explain why the victim in the end didn*t really feel justice was served? Angela Carone: Well, I think justice first of all is everyone has their own sense of what justice is going to look, it*s an elusive term, right and people are going to make a situation, it*s just difficult to achieve justice in some of the systems. So people have to make it work for them. And in her case when it came to the criminal system, the DA*s office told her that it*s really difficult to proof the sexual assault within the context of a dating relationship. So the case went no further other than the prosecutor*s office. It stopped there. With the College Judicial System, she filed a Title IX complaint and the college campuses they have to address these issues through their campus judicial system. And what happens once you filed a complaint then the case is investigated and it went to a hearing, and in this case her alleged assailant was found guilty and later expelled, but she did feel the process was fumbled along the way. Mark Sauer: And give us a high points to that case, we don*t have time of course get into all the details. You did a terrific job on the reporting and the storytelling there, but this was, as you noted, a dating relationship. Angela Carone: It*s a dating relationship. It was the woman who is in a relationship for nine months. Over the course it all kind of culminated in the course of one weekend in which she alleged that her boyfriend raped her and then beat her up. So it was a case of both sexual assault and dating violence. He was arrested and spent the night in jail and then as I said it was dropped by the DA*s office and then he was expelled from school at the end of the school year. Mark Sauer: Okay. And we do a clip from Jo Cohn at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. You talked to him via Skype. Now here is what he thinks about the academic institutions trying to investigate cases like this. Jo Cohn: Without the benefit of forensics evidence, without the benefit of years of expertise and without the benefit of the tools that law enforcement professionals and courts bring to bare to sort out fact and fiction. Expecting them to do this well is crazy. Mark Sauer: All right. So he obviously doesn*t think that colleges can do this very well at all. Angela Carone: No, he is very critical of college campuses handling these kinds of complex cases and he is also very concerned, Jo Cohn is, about the rights of the accused in this situation. Mark Sauer: Well, give us an idea the scope of this problem. What are the best estimates about how many college students experienced sexual violence during their college careers? Angela Carone: This is a very difficult question to answer. You*ve probably heard the oft-cited statistic by the White House that one in five women will experience some kind of sexual assault in their college years. That has been questioned. That study is based on* Mark Sauer: It*s an enormous number. Angela Carone: It*s an enormous number. It was based on a 2007 study that only looked at two universities and men extrapolated from a small pool of respondents. So that study is being questioned. Experts that I*ve spoken with have said that one in five women will experience some form of sexual violence which is a much broader terms. So that can be anything from dating violence to sexual assault to inappropriate comments to stalking in a much broader range. The real answer is we don*t know. We actually really don*t know and the best way to find out is something that colleges have been, not a lot of colleges have done which is to conduct what*s called the campus climate survey. And what that does allow people to respond anonymously and it*s the best indicator for college administrators to find out what*s actually happening on their campus. Alison St John: One of the comments that was made in your piece that I found really interesting was the campus Title IX person saying that the main goal for the university was to turn this into an educational experience. I think that*s the problem is that the university or the college their priority is education not necessarily social justice. So, I mean do you think that it*s possible for academic institutions to really deal with these cases in a way that is really going to bring people to account rather than try to make it into a learning experience for the people involved. Angela Carone: Well, and I think that*s just it. I think they won*t say their goal is to not necessarily bring someone to account but rather preserve this if this person was found guilty then to preserve the safety of the victim, to preserve the safety of the college campus and have that student removed from campus and to have if it*s a situation in which this person is not necessarily violent or a safety issue to the college campus then it would be educational. So this process is set up to handle all kinds of different kinds of breaches of conduct on campus. And so it could be if they were found guilty of hazing or drug abuse or something like that then they maybe would have to go to counseling that would be, what they would have to do at the end of the hearing. Alison St John: The culture on campus could actually change if there isn*t some hard and fast holding people accountable, I mean if it*s just being treated as something that you learned from it doesn*t seem like that would change the culture and for the fraternities especially of feeling like what*s acceptable. Angela Carone: Well, and I do think that in the case of SDSU for example, and in this case this young man was expelled. So he was held accountable. Now, is that the kind of accountability and justice that you would want to follow him through, I mean it hasn*t really followed him through the rest of his life. I mean he sat for the California Bar. He went on to get another college degree to go to law school. So I mean that*s where the justice idea gets slippery within the confines of SDSU and the college campus, they did what they had to do to get him removed from campus. Mark Sauer: And Alison touched on this in her question a moment ago and that is so many of these incidents seemed to involve the fraternities and that culture in campus, why is that? What are the elements there? Angela Carone: Well, I would just say that I think that the college party scene is just as much a culprit as the fraternity parties* Mark Sauer: The parties in general. Angela Carone: Yeah, I mean sexual assault happen in dorms. They happen in off-campus parties. So I think if you have a very active and large Greek life on your campus then your fraternities are your most high profile host of that party scene. And I also think that there are, fraternity parties are ideal environments for predators. Those parties are dark, they are crowded, there is lots of drinking, there are college kids trying to hook up. If you are a predator then that would be a great cover. Susan Murphy: You think universities will play a bigger role now in channeling those parties, the party scene, the alcohol scene. Angela Carone: That is a very good question and I think that there are lots of reasons why universities might be reluctant to do that, I think in the case of SDSU for example, we saw them recently shut down a fraternity for an issue related to this, but it's a difficult thing. They have, you know fraternities are very powerful on campus. There are lots of alumni who come out of the Greek system who give to the universities. And universities do not want to single someone out unless it's a fully investigated situation. There are also liabilities there, liability issues there. So if they crackdown, if they establish a more firm what's called the legal duty of care over what*s happening in a fraternity house then they are suddenly more liable for what happens and that fraternity happens. Mark Sauer: All right. We*ve got to move on but I'm sure we'll see in 2015 the reporting continue as the spotlight continues on this issue on campuses. Well, unarmed black man dying at the hands of police in Ferguson, Missouri, New York, LA and other cities sparked protests and outrage across the nation in 2014. Months before this story broke, KPBS reported on how San Diego police all but abandoned its efforts to track data on a racial profiling by officers. Megan start by telling us what that program was about in terms of tracking that racial profiling. Megan Burks: Sure. The San Diego Police Department was actually one of the first in the nation to start collecting racial data on those they stopped for traffic violations and for enforcement reasons. And so it's actually a policy on their books to record this information on every stop, but over time the officers had kind of stopped and so Liam Dillon and I, Liam Dillon at Voice of San Diego, we found that only that the information was recorded for fewer than one out of five stops as of late last year. Mark Sauer: So they went for kind of this model program of community relations in this regard to kind of abandoning it. Megan Burks: Right, they just, they weren't keeping track and one of the reasons that Liam and I looked into this was because we were hearing from community members that they felt like racial profiling was happening. Mark Sauer: Now this must be something that if the leadership, if the chief and the assistant chiefs want this to happen and keep it going, the officers will do it, but the leadership must have thought well it's not a priority any longer. Megan Burks: Right. We were able to sit down with former police chief William Lansdowne and his assistant chiefs and what they said was that there wasn*t a demand for in the community, they weren't hearing from people that it was a problem and so they just didn't feel like it was a problem and so they just kind of let up, they kind of slacked in on that policy to collect the data. Mark Sauer: It started to shift to the backburner. We had a clip from a young man. He describes his experience being stopped by San Diego police. Tell us who he is and where he lives here. Megan Burks: Sure. This is Abdihakim Afewerki. He is a resident in Encanto so southeastern San Diego which is where we heard from a lot of people that racial * they felt like racial profiling was happening. Abdihakim Afewerki: It*s not usual can I have your license or registration. It*s usually for me, it*s, are you in a gang, are you from such and such gang, are you on parole, are you on probation, are you carrying a weapon, do you have drugs in your car before they even ask me my license. Mark Sauer: All right. And this has happened to lots of folks including a city councilman. Megan Burks: Yeah. Well this is what people told us time and time again. The first question is always are you on probation or parole, are you in a gang, and just this barrage of questions when you think you're just pulled over because you rolled through a stop sign. But we heard from David Alvarez in 2013 at a mayoral debate. Mark Sauer: City councilman? Megan Burks: Yes. He said that he has been * he believes he has been stopped by police based on the color of his skin. And Chief William Lansdowne had said we haven't heard this in a long time but we spoke with a Lei-Chala Wilson, who is the president of the NAACP and she had said really we had a meeting that he was at and we talked about this there. Mark Sauer: Now there were some things that happened after the story came out and this became a focus here in our community, Chief Lansdowne is no longer chief for one thing. Megan Burks: Yeah. We have to remember that the story came about at a time where we are also talking about the Arevalos case, a lot of misconduct cases involving some sexual assault cases and that sort of thing. And so Chief William Lansdowne abruptly retired. He said that he felt he was kind of a lightning rod for criticism and that would distract from fixing the department. So Shelly Zimmerman took his place as Police Chief and she actually implemented some of his suggestions at the time that this article came out. So we now have police officers who are wearing cop cams or body cameras and that*s going to go department-wide. The police department is collecting data on all traffic stops again. Shelly Zimmerman amended some policies so officers are no longer supposed to ask, are you on probation or parole, right out at the gate that was considered really offensive in the black community. And they also amended the policy saying that officers shouldn't sit people on the curb unless it*s for safety reasons. People in Encanto, southeastern San Diego were tired of being sat on the curb or driving past and seen their buddies sat on the curb for no real apparent reason. Mark Sauer: Kind of a humiliating situations symbolic thing there. Megan Burks: Right. Mark Sauer: Alison. Alison St John: It seems like neighborhood policing was big a decade ago and I don't know if it was budget cuts or what, but I mean to start a conversation saying are you on probation is not exactly the way to make you feel like you're police force is an advocate for you in the community. Has Shelly Zimmerman said anything about returning to more of that neighborhood policing approach? Megan Burks: Yeah. One thing to say is that asking that question can tell an officer a lot about the encounter they're about to have. So they*ll argue that there are safety reasons behind why they asked that, but Shelly Zimmerman said no we need to get back to building this relationship with the community. And so they already held a lot of community meetings before our story came out but the people at those meetings were people who supported the police. It wasn*t Abdihakim, it wasn*t these people who didn't want to talk to the place because they felt harassed and so she*s really kind of increased efforts to have these community forums where people can bring these concerns forward. Mark Sauer: Now after your story came out, there was the kind of the first round renewed racial profiling data that came out in May. What did that show? Megan Burks: It showed that black drivers were pulled over at a rate three times, actually double their percentage of the population. Hispanic drivers were also pulled over more than they should be based on their percentage of the population. But the police department and then even researchers who are kind of critical of the police say you can't tell a whole lot from stop data, that doesn't take into account what kind of neighborhood or what kind of crime was happening at that time. The ACLU actually zeroed in on one piece of the data that was released on searches and it showed that black drivers were three times more likely than white drivers to be searched, but their searches were far less likely to results in an arrest. And so they said you know there's a problem here we must, black residents in San Diego must be subject to more arbitrary searches. Mark Sauer: All right and we will look forward to your follow-up reporting in 2015. I'm sure as you will look and see how this story progresses. Megan Burks: Yeah, we will get more data in early 2015. Mark Sauer: All right, thank you. Well, there is nothing cheap nor easy about shutting down a nuclear power plant. Questions and controversy have persisted since Southern California Edison decided to close the San Onofre Plant in, that*s the generating station SONGS as it*s known. They closed that plant in June of 2013. A settlement has been reached on who will pay for the faulty steam generation, generators at the shattered plant. And Alison, let*s talk about that settlement a little bit, who gets to short-end of that. Alison St John: Well, it*s interesting because the first thing that*s going to happen is that ratepayers are going to see a reduction in their electric rates probably starting in January because that is the first part of the settlement, but actually ratepayers will end up by footing about 3.3 billion of the 4.7 billion dollar cost of what happened at San Onofre in 2012, 2013 when it was shut down. So, even though there will be some rebates that will show up in our bills right away, right at the beginning of January, as the year progresses our bills are going to go up and the only thing that the rebates will do is slow the progression of the increase in our electric rates. And some people aren*t actually still complaining that the settlement was reached before anybody actually established who was at fault for what happened at San Onofre and that should be established before ratepayers are stuck with any bill. Mark Sauer: But we did a lot of the folks or the groups that were advocates for ratepayers kind of signed off on this deal. Do they not? Alison St John: That's true, yes. The consumer advocacy groups, four main ones including Friends of Earth and TURN, all said yes this is a good settlement. So, the ones that are still agitating for more investigation into the causes of what happened are in San Diego, Michael Geary, the attorney and Ray Lutz of COPS, that*s Citizens* Oversight Committee, so they argue that in fact there was some sense of collusion with the CPUC and the company Edison of course SDG&E are company, they own 20 percent of the plant, but Edison owns most of it and that there was a judicial or judge who actually phoned Edison and arranged for the way that the process went if you reached a settlement that meant that you could avoid going into an investigation actually establishing who was at fault. Mark Sauer: Yeah, I will remind us briefly I should step back and say what caused the plant to shut down, what was the basic problem? Alison St John: Well, the plant there was, they had installed this new steam generators at a cost of 700 million dollars. And after less than two years like a year after being installed there was a minuscule leak but enough to shut a radioactive steam. So they had to shut it down. And it stayed shut down for about 18 months until they decided finally that it was just going to be too expensive to fix it, I mean essentially there wasn't really ever a talk about being able to fix it, it was more a matter of some we could say Band Aid measures to try and make it work. And the NRC would never (the Nuclear Regulatory Commission) would never sign off on that. So the company decided that to cut its losses in June of last year took to shut it down. Mark Sauer: Okay, and meanwhile the plans to decommission the plant are continuing, the big problem is spent fuel on storing it, right? Alison St John: Well exactly, I mean I think that*s the thing is that people feel like perhaps that it shut down we can stop talking about this story, but the fact remains that we will have tons of radioactive spent fuels stored on our shoreline indefinitely as a result of the fact that the federal government has not come up with a permanent storage site. Mark Sauer: Some neighbors are worried about that we've got a clip from a San Clemente resident Donna Gilmore talking to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission about safety standards. Let's hear the clip. Donna Gilmore: Set higher storage standards. Now we have this extended storage requirement, we need you to take the leadership role to raise the standards. Don't worry about what we have now, what everybody owns, we have to think in terms of what we need. Alison St John: And she was talking about the canisters to store the spent fuel and I think you know the company has just awarded a contract to HaulTech to store the spent fuel in canisters underground. Mark Sauer: Okay. Last question, I get a couple seconds left on this topic, go ahead, Angela. Angela Carone: So these canisters, that situation does seem problematic and there's not really any way to inspect them in years to come, right? Alison St John: Well, this I think you*re absolutely touching on what is concerning some people is that we've only had nuclear waste stored in canisters for about 30 years and now we are looking at having to do it for decades if not centuries. So they haven't yet develop the technology and even the NRC and Edison admits that they're going to have to work very hard in order to come up with new ways to make sure that this stuff is safe. Mark Sauer: Well, I'm sure we're going to be reporting that as we go along because that story is the one that doesn't go away absolutely. Well, we have had a few storms lately and the rain and snow here and across California have been most welcome, but it's not nearly enough we remain gripped by one of the worst droughts in state history weather events top the headlines in San Diego throughout 2014 from severe drought to record Santa Ana winds, average ocean temperatures are very high and now this week low elevation snow. We've been all over the place. Susan here gives a quick roundup. What was this year like in the weather? Susan Murphy: It*s definitely been a year of extremes, I mean we're seeing this week people building snowmen in their front yards in one thousand foot level elevations, but the fact is that we still remain under a severe drought. And if we look back to January we started the year with a high pressure dome that just wouldn't budge. In January, we got 0.01 inches of rain. That's unheard of and I think it rain just a tad the last hours of January. February we got 1 inch. Combine those two months the wettest months of our year usually bring 4 inches of rain. By the end of our rain year June 30th we were down I think about 6 inches, nearly 6 inches deficit. Mark Sauer: So normally we get around what, say 10 inches as a* Susan Murphy: Normally our annual rainfall is about 10 inches. Mark Sauer: And now we are down around 3-4 inches, that*s it. Susan Murphy: And so it*s actually an accumulation of three years of drought which we are about a little bit more than a foot of rain below where we should be. On top of our rainfall, it was one of the warmest years ever. In California, they have said that it is the warmest year ever on record, globally is the warmest. San Diego they're still crunching some numbers but it is believed that San Diego also top out if you combine the highs and lows for the entire year I think it was 67-68 degrees which is very warm. I don*t know how much higher than the average but it*s going down as the warmest year on record as well. Mark Sauer: Even with these very cold temperatures that wrapped up the last few days of the year. Susan Murphy: Yes, so we will see what these frigid temperatures this week will do to the overall totals. And the results of this as we know were extreme wildfires in May, in April and May. Mark Sauer: Yeah we*d never seen a week of Santa Anas like that. Susan Murphy: We had two back to back Santa Anas. We had winds up at Sill Hill which is in the Cuyamaca Mountains at 87 miles an hour, that*s unheard of. Mark Sauer: Especially in May, yeah. Susan Murphy: So the parched hillsides and the combination of 3percent humidity levels 100 degree temperatures in May, I mean just explosive fires and we saw that. Mark Sauer: So that's a huge effect and the obvious direct impact that happened here in 2014, but also in this year and ongoing the impact on the average San Diegan is going to be felt as well. We're in water restriction territory right now and we're seeing the signs and the campaigns for that. Susan Murphy: Our overall water supply statewide is down to a third. We have a one-year reserves left of water supply so hopefully we will get some rain to replenish those, but we did enter mandatory water restrictions this year watering your grass three times a week, no spring down sidewalks, lots of other impacts. Now if we continue on this trend of droughts hopefully we will continue with rain, but there will be more cutbacks. We are seeing cutbacks now for 2015. So the next level of drought for San Diego County is a level 3 which would mean 40 percent conservation. Mark Sauer: Now Alison, you had done some stories of course where I think were unscheduled yet for the desalination plant which is going to help, but it's not going to solve all these problems. Give us the thumbnail on that. Alison St John: Well, it's interesting because it is going to come online. The largest desalt plant in the Western Hemisphere should come online probably October-November of this coming year 2015 and that will provide 7 percent of the water for San Diego region. So 7 percent is not to sneeze at but I mean that's not going to solve the problem, it*s just it's some reliable water that that we know is not going to go away. Susan Murphy: And we also, the San Diego City Council recently approved a 3.5 billion dollar waste water recycling program so that will increase our water use. I think they say 30 percent by within 25 years, I can*t remember the date but*. Mark Sauer: All right. Well, are as you noted here and we got just a short time lap but we are coming into the two wettest months. What are the folks say that dweebs are [indiscernible] [00:24:52] you and I look at the long-range forecasters. Are we hopeful here that we're going to get some miracles before March, maybe January and February miracle this year? Susan Murphy: If you look at the Climate Prediction Center, they are saying that we do have an above-average chance for rainfall for the coming months but there's definitely no guarantee as is always. So we'll just have to wait and see. This month has been great we've gotten 5 inches of rain in December alone. That's more than the whole year combined I think. So we are on the right track and let's just hope that continues. Mark Sauer: And we are certainly not saying that huge persistent ridge that we saw last year that you referenced earlier on. Susan Murphy: Yes. It seems like we've gotten a little bit more activity as far as storms that are able to come down the down the coast from Alaska. We've gotten some monsoonal moisture from the tropics, those atmospheric rivers. Let's just hope that those continue. Mark Sauer: All right. We are out of time. That does wrap up another week of stories at the KPBS roundtable and I would like to thank my guests, all from KPBS News, Angela Carone, Megan Burks, Alison St John and Susan Murphy. And a reminder, I am Mark Sauer. Thanks for joining us today on the roundtable.

Looking back at the year just passed is useful on a number of levels.

It focuses our attention — and our analytical skills — on the events that shaped and continue to shape our region.

A review can show us where we don't want to go or what we don't want to be in the coming year.

And of course, year-end reviews make it easier to produce programs when half the staff is on vacation.

Here are four important stories KPBS reporters covered during 2014. Pair these up with the Roundtable editors' show of Dec. 26 for a more complete look at the way we were last year.

Campus Rape At SDSU

It’s no doubt it's been a problem since colleges went co-ed, but in 2014, rape on campus became one of the top media stories in San Diego and across the country.

Here the story was that this crime occurs with regularity.

Angela Carone found a young woman who reported to police and SDSU officials that she was raped and beaten by her boyfriend on campus.

Her story was depressingly typical, showing that when victims rely on law enforcement and academic institutions for justice, they often get little from either.

SDPD and Racial Profiling

Seven months before Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson, Mo., KPBS and Voice of San Diego looked at whether San Diego police were continuing to collect racial data on traffic and other stops.

Megan Burks and Liam Dillon found that while the SDPD was once a national leader in collecting and using data to address community concerns about officers targeting minorities, the department had mostly dropped the effort. Then-Police Chief William Lansdowne and his then-assistant Shelley Zimmerman said, essentially, profiling was no longer a problem or a community concern.

But the minority community and a federal court begged to differ, in no uncertain terms.

A Painful Song of SONGS

The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station is shut down, but the fallout continues.

Alison St. John has been following the fortunes of the worrisome plant for several years. This year she and KPBS reporter Erik Anderson analyzed the California Public Utilities Commission's approval of a deal in which Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric would pay $1.4 billion of the cost to decommission the plant.

That sounded like a good deal for electricity users, until they reported that rate-payers (that's us) will pony up twice as much, $3.3 billion.

And speaking of worrisome, some of San Onofre's neighbors are not at all happy that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will allow spent fuel rods to be stored on-site in stainless steel, rather than in heavier cast iron tanks.

Yes, There's Still A Drought

We’ve had a couple of decent rainstorms so far this winter, but we and the rest of California are still stuck in drought mode. In fact, San Diego County is in the “severe” drought category.

Susan Murphy, who reports on weather and climate for KPBS, has Alex Tardy of the National Weather Service on speed-dial. According to Tardy, a complete recovery from the three-year drought this year is unlikely.

Trees in local forests are dying, reservoirs are low, and because of the rapid depletion of groundwater, even the earth is being deformed. Murphy will continue to report on the likely outlook for the rest of the season and what will happen – especially to agriculture - if the drought continues into 2015.