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Roundtable: Homeless Count, Government Shutdown, Marines United, Secret Service

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Roundtable: Homeless Count, Government Shutdown, Marines United, Secret Service
Roundtable: Homeless Count, Government Shutdown, Marines United, Secret Service
Homeless Count, Shutdown, Marines United, Secret ServicePANELSusan Murphy, reporter, KPBS News Chris Jennewein, publisher & CEO, Timesofsandiego.org Steve Walsh, military reporter, KPBS News Tony Perry, freelance journalist

MS: It's no suprise the number of homeless has gone up, but why, and what is being done about it? The proposed border wall almost shut down the government, could it still happen? Women in the Marine Corps, are they still harassed and degraded? Are things different now? And a retired marine general with San Diego ties will try to shape up the US Secret Service. I'm Mark Sauer KPBS Roundtable starts now. MS: Joining me is Susan Murphy. SM: Hi Mark, glad to be here MS: Glad you're here today. Chris Jennewein, publisher & CEO, Times of San Diego. Hi Chris CJ: Great to be here. MS: And reporter Steve Walsh of KPBS News. SW: Hi Mark, how are you doing? MS: Good, and Tony Perry. How are you? TP: How are you. MS: Glad to have you back again. Well it's a tragic story in the world's richest nation that keeps getting worse. More people are homeless this year in San Diego. More are living in tents on the street, plagued by addiction and mental illness. The Mayor says this can't go on yet the stock of low-cost housing dwindles. Susan, let's start with this year's annual count. Gives us the basic numbers. SM: Well the number is that we have 9100 people that are homeless living in shelters and on the streets. Overall county wide that is a 5% increase. The big story is that there are more people living on the streets. 14% increase, a lot of them are in tents, especially in downtown have doubled. These tents are not just single tents. You drive down the East Village and you see these expensive, handmade structures that can stretch 50 feet with multiple people living inside. MS: Breakdown this a little bit more. Are a lot of these homeless folks are considered chronic? Are they hard-core homeless? Explain this more. SM: Right. We have had a surge in chronically homeless by 61% across the county and they describe chronically homeless is somebody who is living outside for one year and has a disability. That is a huge number and disheartening. We have lot of vulnerable people living on the streets. It equates to 1 in 3 people living on the streets are chronically homeless. MS: And that's a real difficult population to get help for. Now in your three part series with KPBS this week you talked to assistant SDPD chief Chuck Kaye about the type of people on the streets. Lets here a little bit of that. (Pre-recorded): Somebody gets arrested and their property is impounded. Oftentimes they are in jail for 3 days. I've seen where this is a failed effort in cities across the country. I hate to see us go down that same failed path. We're filling up our County jail beds using the jail as a shelter for people. SM: That was the wrong bite. Let's go on to this one. I talked to an advocate, and he's been waging this online Facebook campaign against the city. MS: That is who we just heard from? SM: Yes. That's who we The city is criminalizing these people. They are being pushed block by block as police clear the sidewalks. They do citations. They lead to stayaway orders and arrest. Our jails are being used as a shelter. That is just the process? Basically, pretty much every day you can go out early in the morning and police are out and they are enforcing policies by the city because we have ordinances on the books that say we can't block the right-of-way for people. When I was out there the other day and I've witnessed one of these, children were walking through the middle of the street because the tents were lined on at least one side. They were walking to school, straight down the middle of the street. That is all over the East Village. That we have one of the largest populations in the country's? Yes. We do. I think we are number five overall in the nation. It is a huge problem. Downtown the population has spiked to 27% over the year before. We have social services there and outreach. People can get meals there and there are some shelters. Sometimes I am hearing that went people first become homeless, that is where they go. What is the mayor doing X He had some press conference -- press conferences. He said will do something if somebody else gives us money. There are many committees being formed. They will announce actionable steps. Many officials have said that we have hit rock bottom. We are going to be seeing improvements to getting this year. They have vowed to increase the permanent support of housing stock five 2500 or more. That will take time. In the meantime he has proposed a hotel tax which would trickle down money into the homelessness issue as well. The advocates you interviewed in they talked about what a difficult situation it is on the street. This is the assistant police chief. When you look at the population, you can see their people who suffer from drug or alcohol dependency or both. There is a portion that also is faced with debilitating mental illness issues. Then there are people who have part of the population coming out of the prison system that are not fighting a safety net to get up and out of the street. Okay. That is the police view. As I said, the advocates you speak with, they say this is not working. The police play a lead role. Like I said, they are following policies. They also have a homeless outreach team. Last year they successfully took 800 people off the street. They say they have very compassionate side and link people to social services. The problem is that people deny these services. It is very challenging. It takes repeated contacts. There are vacancies in shelters and spots going unused. That surprising. I just recently did a story about shelters being full. I don't know which beds are available but I have talked to many homeless people who basically say they don't like shelters. I have heard everything from bedbugs to they can bring their pets. Every other person has a puppy or dog. He said visitor tax will be voted on. In LA, they hitched up their pants and Public support for property tax and a sales tax increase. Is that likely here? We will have to wait and see. It is likely going to go to the voters soon. It needs 2/3 to pass. It would bring in $10 million a year initially, I believe this would charge tourist and not local taxpayers. Who knows? We will have to see how that vote goes. I'm sure we will do many more segments on that. Let's move along. The government won't shut down this week. President Trump in Congress funded federal agencies through next Friday. There was speculation he would have to withdrawal the demand for the border wall. Secretary. Kelly is doing an incredible job. I was just with him a little while ago. He said, we definitely desperately need the wall. We will have the wall built. I watch the shows in the morning. I don't know what they're talking about. The wall will be built. Thank you very much. The wall is not funded this week. Much is made about the hundred day mark it has been an eventful but no legislative triumphs 2.2. What is he saying are his accomplishments so far? You're probably disappointed at one level because you -- or big signature promises have not come to fruition. No border wall. Obama law -- Obamacare is still the law of the land. The refugee ban is in the courts. The efforts to penalize sanctuary cities have been held up. On the other hand, you can point to a number of executive orders in things like canceling the transpacific partnership, the walking back of a number of Obama era regulations especially on the environment and the stock market. The business community is very happy so far. So, while you might disappointed if you are President Trump, a lot of Americans are quietly satisfied with how things are at this point. The wall, this was a signature issue. Rally after rally. Mexico will pay for it and they're not going to. Apparently he can't get a lot of Republicans in Congress to be real enthused about it. Where are we on the wall? It will be very difficult. The problem for Trump is it was his signature campaign promise. People would just build the wall and there is nothing practical about it. It was all a motion. It was the idea that I'm going to protect you from immigrants who might change the character of the town you live in. In a most -- most immigrants who are here unlawfully came and stayed past their visa time. Putting up a wall is not going to change the dynamic. I think we will see a greater bit -- there is wall. I think we will see some built but to get a full wall will be very difficult. There is a push in the legislature to punish people. This is a real controversial issue. The school board will not work with anyone who contributes to building the border wall. There are twentysomething bidders who will assemble bits of wall so we can take note look. Homeland security is supposed to make a decision on which walls are the winners sometime in June. Even the Secretary. of Homeland security has said he doesn't think a wall makes -- the county says it's probably going to be a wall and high-tech It's getting more and more and expense -- more and more expensive. The president is just in 100 days and he is under 50% already. Record low. Even Republicans, those interested in making sure his campaign promises are fulfilled, are they afraid of him? A lot of Republicans are against the wall because it will take land from landowners. They don't want to lose land for this. You don't just take a couple feet, you take a half a mile in some cases. That is a real fundamental problem. It will get tougher and tougher. Our democratic Congressman, peters said last week, for the same amount of money of building a wall, we could bike an aircraft carrier and have. I think that kind of stark realization that in the impractical idea that is taking money away from building up the Navy or bringing down the debt or building lots of interstate highways, that is a difficult thing for a lot of Republicans to champion. I thought it was interesting when the Attorney General and John Kelly came out at the border to do press conference. I looked at him and I said who is this man? He was from Wisconsin. There it is. no one in California is willing to stick their head up and say I like that wall. The farther you get, from the border, the more you want the wall. It is a massive trade opportunity with Mexico. The problems we are dealing with is not individual people crossing a border but through the ports of entry. What keeps us in business. Let's move on. Honor in the tradition of Semper Fi have been tarnished by a scandal that has shaken the Marine Corps. It is Marines United which shares images of female servicemen at -- members without their consent. Steve, start with a background on what is this website? About a month ago there was reporting that came out that there was a private Facebook page called Marines United. 30,000 people were members of this and they were sharing photos. Even more so, tons of derogatory comments directed at female Marines. Hundreds of people were doing that. It was not the majority. Thousands? Okay. This is pretty shocking and a big black eye for the corporate The real issue here is that this is not the first go around. The Marines have had a very similar scandal about three years ago. It was called just the tip of the spear. Again, lots of photo sharing and derogatory comments aimed at women. The Marines about to crack down back then. Three years later we're right back. The only thing that they have learned is to make the Facebook site private. How the new policy, will it work? That is a situation. Is this any different? They made a lot of these, the couple years ago. I have General. Miller out here . He has a new social media policy. This could be criminalized. We talked to a kernel from Pendleton. She says this seems very different to me. They are taking this much more seriously. When you take -- talk to a lot of other women, they say that will believe it when we say it. This is not about sharing photos. This is about the way women are treated in the Marine Corps specifically. I went out to Pendleton and I talked to women who had been integrated I asked if they were worried about sexual harassment on the battlefield and sharing bugs in their reply was they had earned the respect and they had to work for that initially. When they are out there, they are Marines. That is all they see. They are Marines. This kind of thing seems like a real setback. Do you see this as a call for women, should the boot camp at San Diego remain all-male? That is a question. We talked to a captain who had been out at Parris Island which is the only place where women can go through boot camp. Her feeling is that it starts with boot camp. There is a feeling and impression among women and men that the standards for women are different. They are not real Marines. Some of that comes from the separation at boot camp they don't go through the training together and so they don't come out of this feeling equal. Men come out thinking women are less than Marines. Let's get a woman's point of view. Crochet? Perhaps in the past we have hit on the wrong target. This is an issue of respecting each other. It is an issue of teamwork. How we treat each other, cohesion and teamwork is a hallmark of how we get our mission done. Our mission is hard. There is no room, just no room for Marine to want to hurt or humiliate their fellow teammates. I guess the big question is, is the -- this whole culture in the Marine Corps. Will this work? The experiment? This is not an experience best experiment. This is the way things are. We just opened combat roles to women. This is something that the Marines will have to grapple with. More and more female from -- Marines will be in higher ranking positions. Sexual assault in the military has been an ongoing problem. The Marines seem to deal with this that struggle with this more than other services. The U. S. Secret Service has been reeling in recent years. The agency's black knight is Basha has undermined their confidence. A new chief has been named to restore the reputation. The new chief has San Diego ties. What kind of guy is the? Very candid and straightforward. He was the point man in having to explain how the Marine jet crashed and killed for civilians. Earlier he had to explain how seven people were killed in Pakistan. He will work for a retired Marine general. You have to Marines essentially who are going to try to clean the agency up. The fellow who jumped the wall and spent 16 minutes wandering around, another guy actually got into the White House. The lost laptop with information about Trump Tower and security. Then we had the hookers. It has had issues. This is an agency that has to be on target, right, 100% of the time. 1% bad It's too much. Isn't this a challenging time? You have president who is a different kind of president been in the past. He is always down in Florida and tweeting a lot that creates a trail. Politico had a strong story. They talked about a tidal wave of threats against Tom -- Trump. People feel they have a personal content -- connection with him because he tweets all the time. They have to protect him when he goes on a moments not notice to somewhere -- notice to somewhere. These are international travelers and the Secret Service, there is some question about how much the growth children are to be protected. Morale has been a problem. This general has been in charge of other agencies. He was the head of the third Marine aircraft wing when it was here in San Diego -- San Diego. He knows large organizations. They brought them one is acting Commissioner for border and protection. He did a lot of work with drones. He knows how to deal with large -- large organizations. He will work with John Kelly. He was Kelly selection. Kelly has a history of, when people don't get things done, he removes them. As I understand, there is some discord, there will be employees as they why it wasn't it one of us. Suck it up. It is what it is, move on. All the other people had come up through the Secret Service. What is the solution? Taller fences and more people in a factor that says you mess up and you're gone. They fired two people after one of the jumpers wandered around before being apprehended. 1% wrong is a total failure. It is either pass or fail. This is an agency that most people have a lot of respect for. I remember the Kennedy assassination. Yet, I think people are shocked when the prostitute scandal came out and letting people run around the White House grounds, -- we are all thinking about in the line of fire? That is a movie. The reality is different. We will see. These are special times and he presents special challenges. There are always challenges. That tidal wave of [ Inaudible ]. You can look and every one of those tweets. We have to look at a lot of people who are lunatics and figure out which ones are real. Who knows. Sometimes they might just need to tell the president know. We will have to wait and see if anybody tells President Trump no. That wraps up another week of stories. I would like to thank my guest. All the stories we discussed today are available on our website Www.kpbs.org. Thank you for joining us today.

MORE HOMELESS, MORE MISERY

The Story

We all knew the numbers were going to be bigger, and they were.

The county’s annual point-in-time homeless count found that 9,116 people were living in shelters or on the streets, an increase of 5 percent.

Worse, the unsheltered homeless, people in tents or encampments, increased 14 percent countywide and 104 percent in the city of San Diego. Many of them suffer from addition or mental illness or both.

Some advocates for the homeless say the city of San Diego and its police are criminalizing homelessness through citations and arrests. But the police say the issue is complicated and they are acting compassionately while looking out for public safety and health.

The Conversation

-Why are there more unsheltered homeless and fewer in shelters?

-Why does the city periodically make the homeless move on? What purpose does it serve?

-There's a lot of talk, but what's being done to find permanent housing for the chronically homeless?

Related: Advocate Wages Social media Campaign Against San Diego's Homeless Enforcement

Related: Policing San Diego Is Much More Than Citations

Related: Some Homeless Policies Need Updating, Says San Diego Councilman

ARE WE SHUTTING DOWN? APPARENTLY NOT

The Story

Here's a riddle: When is the U.S. Government like a fast-moving ping-pong match? Answer: right now.

A month ago it looked like appropriations to keep the government going for another year were a done deal.

Then President Donald Trump suddenly demanded that funding for the border wall be included and subsidies for Obamacare be excluded.

So it looked like the government might indeed shut down today, since those proposals were non-starters at this point.

But now it looks like the government will stay open at least for another week, via a short-term funding bill.

The border wall, cause of the original hiccup, is proving a problem for the administration, mainly because many border-area Republicans don't want it. Regardless, prototypes for the wall may be built near Otay Mesa this summer.

Meanwhile, a bill preventing the state from doing business with any company or person that so much as glances at the border wall is making its way through the state Senate.

To be continued.

The Conversation

-How did it happen that the border wall became part of the appropriations bill?

-Is the wall looking likely to be built, or not so much?

-If the Freedom Caucus is pleased with the new version of the American Health Care Act, what does that bode for passage?

Related: Congress Likely To Avoid Government Shutdown (At Least For Another Week)

Related: New San Diego border wall a priority for Trump administration, documents say

MARINES UNITED SCANDAL HANGING ON

The Story

The Marines United scandal – the posting of sexually denigrating photos of and remarks about Marine women to a private Facebook account shared by some 30,000 Marines — continues to have fallout.

The Navy and Marines have made it a crime to post such photos without consent for purposes of humiliation, harm or harassment.

Violations can now be enforced with the full weight of the military justice system. So far, two Camp Pendleton Marines have been demoted for comments they made on a Facebook page after Marines United was shut down.

At a press conference Thursday attorney Gloria Allred said the new regulations were not enough and asked that women harmed by Marines United testify before the House Armed Services Committee.

The Conversation

-Why — and how — are the Marines taking this scandal seriously? Why didn't they when the same thing thing happened three years ago?

-Is this type of incident a result of men and women serving together?

-Is there any discussion of once again separating the sexes in the military?

Related: Alleged Victims Of Nude-Photo Scandal Push Marines To Do More About Online Misconduct

Related: Two Camp Pendleton Marines punished in sex-shaming, cyber-bullying scandal

FORMER MIRAMAR GENERAL TAPPED TO HEAD SECRET SERVICE

The Story

Retired Maj. Gen. Randolph Alles, who led units from Miramar Marine Air Station in Iraq and was the Corps' public spokesman during the investigation into the 2008 University City jet crash, has been named to lead – and try to clean up – the U.S. Secret Service.

The Secret Service seems to be in deep trouble. There have been multiple incursions on White House grounds, the latest in March of this year, and several incidents of agents partying with prostitutes.

Morale is said to be quite low, while attrition is at a record high.

The agency is in a funding crisis because of cutbacks and the increased expense of guarding the far-flung Trump family and the president's weekend travels.

The Conversation

-Randolph Alles is an outsider. Is this a good or bad thing for the Secret Service rank-and-file?

-Why have previous efforts to reform the service failed?

Related: Former Miramar general to lead Secret Service

Related: Randolph Alles, Retired General, Is Chosen to Lead Secret Service