Skip to main content

Senate Begins Q&A In Trump Impeachment Trial, Tasha Williamson On Her Bid For San Diego Mayor, Measure C, San Diego County Supervisors District 1 Candidates On The Issues, And San Diego Black Film Festival Preview

Cover image for podcast episode

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 Today, the impeachment trial of president Trump moves into a new phase now that the president's defense team has ramped up their case. The next couple of days will provide an opportunity for senators to ask their questions of both legal teams and then we'll come the big decision of whether to call witnesses. That question has gained new significant since revelations from former national security advisor, John Bolton leaked and volt and still unreleased book. The former national security advisor says Trump told him he did withhold military aid to Ukraine to get the Ukrainians to investigate Joe Biden. Let's talk about all of it now with former us attorney and you, CSD constitutional law professor and host of the podcast talking feds, Harry Littmann. Harry, welcome. Thanks very much. Good to be here, Jane. So what can we expect to see on the Senate floor today?

Speaker 2: 00:50 Well, you know, people have not thought very carefully about this. They said, Oh, we'll have a, you know, they've thought very much at length about the evidentiary presentations and then very much at length about the w the witness battles to come. But this is gonna be something of a food fight. I think you know that Republicans from the start have sought to change the narrative to all kinds of different, um, accusations insinuations about the democratic efforts themselves. So they're going to look to put, uh, Schiff, Adam Schiff at all on trial. That's something you normally can't do. It's not, it's not relevant what a lawyer or prosecutor thinks it's not relevant what the investing [inaudible] was. What's relevant is the facts. On the other hand, it's the Senate, it's impeachment. There's not much, um, in the way of precedent. So it's kind of a wild West. And to make things more complicated, the person who's presiding and is supposed to probably call balls and strikes is John Roberts, who AE hasn't ever been a district court judge and B wants, I'm sure no part of this if he can avoid it, but I don't know if he can,

Speaker 1: 02:09 and the senators will have to ask their questions on cards. These cards are anything but high tech. They kind of look like something right out of the 19 are right out of the 17 hundreds rather. Tell me about those.

Speaker 2: 02:19 Yes. I mean the poor senators will actually have to write things out, but it doesn't mean that in the normal fashion of things that staff et cetera haven't told them what to say. So there is a quaintness to this uh, ceremony, but a very kind of a, you know, modern day aggressiveness, uh, as well. But that's right. They'll, they'll continue their um, uh, enforced silence. Uh, the questions will be read out by the chief justice. I believe they will identify the questioner though even that wasn't, um, certain. And for those who are always looking for TV moments, you know, to date we haven't seen the senators. I've been fiddling with things and leaving the chambers and the, and the like, it's not clear, um, whether we'll see them even now.

Speaker 1: 03:07 Right. The LA times a is out with a story today that says, after saying she would vote against impeachment, California. Senator Dianne Feinstein now says she's undecided. What do you think changed your mind?

Speaker 2: 03:18 Well, I'm not sure what she meant in the first place. They, cause the evidence is always seemed overwhelming. So you wouldn't have thought it would have been the evidence in the first place, but rather some kind of, you know, statesman, like, uh, considerations of what's best for the country. Now, why the evidentiary presentation would have changed her mind. I think it would've changed many reasonable minds. Um, it was very, very strong, uh, presentation. But, uh, I don't know what's, what's happened that's new except to Steven's stronger. It's clear through, uh, to the extent maybe she had any kinds of hesitation, uh, centering on say what was Trump's mental state. I think the newest Bolton revelations would have sealed the deal there. So it just might seem overwhelming to me. Um, it, you know, what really comes home and is so sober about this is when you think about the implications and consequences. So what's most I think, troubling about the Republican failure even to engage is w, you know, the, the different aspects of the impeachment, the um, uh, harnessing of public funds for private gain, the political intrigue and probable dishonesty of it and the, um, uh, active efforts to get a foreign power to interfere with an intervene in our own elections.

Speaker 1: 04:48 You mentioned John Bolton's revelations, you know, with the reported revelations from the manuscript of former national security advisor, John Bolton's book. Uh, do you think there's enough support among Republican senators to call one or more witnesses at this point? And when do we think they'll take a vote on that?

Speaker 2: 05:04 Yeah, yeah. Boy is that nip and tuck and of course McConnell said last night, he doesn't have the votes to prevent it, but of course he's such a master, you know, tactician and parliamentarian. The immediate supposition is, Oh yes he does and he's just taking the heat off the Susan Collins is and Barbara Murkowski is of the, of the world. Uh, I, you know, I think the vote will come after the senatorial presentation. So we're looking at Thursday or Friday. It is really tight. I've gone on record as saying they need three, not 4:00 AM and it may come down to that if I had to guess. Uh, you know, and it's, and it's really I think changing every hour there. But if I had to guess the, uh, I would say that the trend for calling at least a Bolton will be two, two, the tide will be too strong for, for all the Republicans to buck. Uh, I'm thinking it'll be so clear if they don't call them that, you know, Romney in particular and Collins, again, the people who really did it said no witnesses. And how do you face, how do you justify that kind of a decision? But obviously, um, McConnell has pulled many, many an iron out of the fire, uh, before and he's really a master at sort of gently corralling his, um, his folks. So I, you know, I'm not, I'm not betting real money on it.

Speaker 1: 06:38 All right. I've been speaking with former us attorney and UCS D constitutional law professor Harry Littmann, also creator and host of the podcast talking feds. Harry, thank you so much for joining us. Thanks for having me.

Speaker 3: 06:53 Uh.

Speaker 1: 00:00 This March, voters in the city of San Diego will go to the polls to pick a new mayor. There are four major candidates in the race so far. We've heard from two establish candidates, council members, Barbara, Brie and Scott Sherman. Today we're going to hear it from an outsider, Democrat, Tasha Williamson. She is a community activist from Southeast San Diego. And while she may not have a lot of experience in public office, she has a voice in the community. Tashia Williamson joins me now. Tasha, welcome.

Speaker 2: 00:27 Thank you. Thank you so much. I'm glad to be here. Why aren't you here? Why do you want to be San Diego mayor? Yeah. I want to be San Diego mayor because I want a corruption free city. I want to end homelessness. I want to make sure that people understand. Uh, a mayor does not have to be, uh, someone who is wealthy. Uh, someone who is middle class that, uh, people who qualify to do the job of the mayor, uh, should come from all walks of life. Uh, should have all different types of diverse cultural backgrounds. Uh, and that we can have a city that believes in everyone. What would your top three priorities be as mayor? Top three priorities, uh, would be housing. Uh, we are in a housing crisis that is also, um, uh, considered a homelessness crisis, but we are forgetting about, uh, people that are the working class, uh, that fall in both. Uh, and I also think that we need to look at, uh, how we have economic growth. Um, how we are having the environmental issues that we're having. Everybody keeps saying we're doing studies on, we know that we have the climate action plan that has not been implemented. Uh, we have a green new deal, uh, and we keep waiting for things. Uh, I think that we need to have somebody who is going to be action oriented and get it done. We have not. And so I'm in the race, you know,

Speaker 1: 01:52 longtime community organizer and activist. You've helped organized protest after Earl McNeil died in the national city police custody. How does your experience as a community activist and organizer translate into the job of mayor?

Speaker 2: 02:05 So, before I did all that, I actually, um, help to create programs. Uh, I ran a, uh, community center, uh, in Southeast and I've helped people to write grants, um, develop programs, uh, help them to organize and communities to create their own plans for thriving communities. I've helped people, not just with criminal justice but with education, uh, with work, um, justice as well, employment. Uh, so I have a wealth of experience, uh, in making sure that people and services actually work. I have experience in creating real budgets and I have experienced and making sure that, uh, the right people are hired, uh, for the right job so that they can get the work done.

Speaker 1: 02:51 And let's go back and talk about some of those major issues facing the city. A, you mentioned homelessness. If you were elected, what sort of solutions would you propose

Speaker 2: 03:00 to address the homeless crisis? So we already have, uh, four cities that have ended homelessness. One of the things that I want to look at is built zero. A built zero has been, uh, one of the things that has assisted with, uh, the four cities in, uh, or at least three of the four cities, uh, in ending homelessness. I want to dive more into that. Uh, I want to make sure that we're putting people into permanent housing, not, uh, temporary shelters and transitional housing that has been ineffective and has wasted a lot of money. I want to make sure we're providing wraparound services for people that don't know what that is. It means that we are providing services based on the need of the individual and not putting everybody in a box. However, when you have homeless camps around the city, is there any room for increased enforcement?

Speaker 2: 03:48 I don't think that for someone who has dealt with police in the levels that I have dealt with police, that police should be used, uh, to criminalize the poor. I think if we go back and we look at how that has been used, uh, we've wasted money. We've placed them into a jail cell that costs us more money. And then we have the highest in custody death. Uh, and so I don't think that criminalizing people in arresting them and putting them in jail. It has helped. Now on housing, there's a new report about how San Diego lost out on $14 million in state grant money for affordable housing. What would your approach be to the state housing crisis? Yeah, I think that, um, as as far as fees, fines or taxes, um, and, and the money we need to sit down and change the way the state, uh, the local city, uh, the County and the federal government look at collaboration.

Speaker 2: 04:53 We don't do that well. I think that the state says here you can get this money if you do X, Y, and Z, but the city is not prepared for X, Y, and Z. And so, Nope, you can't get it. Let's move on. I think that we need to contort your funding, uh, to the different areas. All areas are very different. I don't think that we should be losing money, but figuring out ways how to develop policy and, and services so that it actually meets the needs of the people. You've been critical of the San Diego police department, and you're not a fan of chief in his light. What would you change about the department and how would you go about doing that? The first change would be chief needs light. Uh, he is, uh, a chief who was a assistant chief before he became chief.

Speaker 2: 05:37 He was a part of, uh, the disproportionate rate of stops. Um, he believes in the, uh, chokehold, uh, or carotid restraint, as they call it. Uh, I questioned his ability to understand cultural diversity, uh, because he hasn't readily admitted that there is a problem within his own department. So his time is up. One of the things I want to do for the police department is called it's police reform. Looking at the police records of all officers, uh, and making sure that we don't have rogue officers. We don't have clansmen uh, in our, uh, SDPD that people who do not believe in diversity, who do not believe that, uh, people should be treated with dignity no matter who they are, uh, should not be police officers. Uh, so we should also be providing training deescalation, how to call and cover what that means, how to save a life, uh, when we respond to scenes, especially scenes when there's mental health issues.

Speaker 2: 06:37 And then also looking at who we hire and how we hire. Uh, so that we have a commission board that has firing, hiring as well as charging. So it's going to be a little bit different. The latest San Diego union Tribune 10 news poll shows you're behind with less than 5% support among likely voters. And when you look at the latest fundraising data, you're struggling there too with no cash on hand. How do you plan to get around that? Yeah, so it's pretty hard. I'm a brand new, a person stepping into the race and um, I don't take it lightly. And as the outreach has just been connecting with people, uh, doing it in a very different way, in a, in a grassroots way, uh, getting close to the people where they are, uh, and making sure that they know me. Showing up at the forums, showing up at, uh, stores, parking lots in the streets and neighborhoods, um, making sure that I get, uh, everywhere I can. I'm one person. Uh, I don't have one point $5 million. I don't have $500,000, but I am the realest candidate, uh, and the candidate that is educating the community everywhere I go. I have been speaking with Tasha Williamson, community activist and candidate for San Diego. Mayor Tasha. Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate it. Always.

Speaker 3: 08:03 [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 00:00 San Diego's tourism industry is hoping to convince city voters to approve a tax hike to raise money for a major convention center expansion. KPBS reporter Eric Anderson reports measure C also promises money to fight homelessness and paved local roads.

Speaker 2: 00:19 The yes on measure C kickoff event happened across the street from the San Diego convention center last December.

Speaker 2: 00:27 Tourism officials, politicians, and union workers hailed the potential economic windfall of a new hotel tourist tax that could raise billions. The money would go for convention center expansion, homeless programs and street repairs. I've been involved in a lot of campaigns and ballot measures. I have never seen more diverse and stronger coalition that cuts across all portions of San Diego because we need this funding source. Kevin Faulkner is the mayor of San Diego and a big backer of the initiative. We need a permanent source of funding for homeless services. We need to expand our convention center and the dollars. This will mean for road improvement. These are the issues that San Diego is care about. Faulkner has long pushed for a convention center expansion, but several attempts to make it happen in recent years have failed. Just getting this measure on the ballot stumbled two years ago when the first petition drive didn't collect enough valid signatures.

Speaker 2: 01:20 Faulkner says, the city deserves this redo. It's the first time that it's actually going to be on the ballot and I think that's why you're seeing so much enthusiasm. Measure C asks voters to boost the city's hotel room tax between one and a quarter to three and a quarter percent depending on how close the hotel is to the convention center, which is a tax that visitors poll when they come to stay in San Diego and they stay in one of our hotels. Carol Kim sits on the convention center board and works for the building and construction trades council. She says the tax hike would raise more than $6 billion over the next four decades and the tax hike doesn't expire.

Speaker 3: 01:58 We're telling voters upfront, we're saying we're not just going to raise this tax and let anybody do what they want with it. We're going to raise this tax and spend it specifically on three things to be specific buckets, the convention center, expansion, homelessness, streets and roads,

Speaker 2: 02:12 but that plan doesn't sit well with everyone. Community advocate, Donna Frye says people have to remember they're voting on a new tax and they're getting only limited input on where the money will go.

Speaker 3: 02:24 If you had $1 billion in new tax revenue, do you think the best use of that would be to expand a convention center or do you think that it should be used for other purposes?

Speaker 2: 02:39 Fry says people should not be misled. The bulk of the money raised by the hotel tax, 59% will pay for the convention center expansion and then the operation of the facility. Fry says that's a huge tax subsidy.

Speaker 3: 02:52 What they've done is they've tried to combine it. The hotel guys have tried to combine it with homelessness roads and make it sound like it's really for homeless people and for roads when there is no guarantee, there is absolutely nothing in the measure that says any housing mobile built for the homeless.

Speaker 2: 03:11 The measure doesn't outline how any of the money raised for homelessness will be spent. Instead it relies on the city council to decide whether it will fund services or housing or some combination of the two. San Diego tax fighters founder Richard rider says San Diego already has too many taxes on the books and he's not a fan of bundling issues together. Lovey attacks, what the voters decide on that tax based on what it is being used for. If we're going to have a separate tax for the homeless, okay, put a separate tax for the homeless on the ballot. Don't try to fool people into thinking this will pay for everything. Writer says the tax will create billions in new revenue for the city, but he worries city officials are playing a shell game by creating dedicated revenue streams for the convention center. Homelessness and road repair. The city frees up general fund money. We spend a tremendous and ever increasing amount of our money on pensions. So when we spend more money on on the homeless here, it frees up money for what government's number one priority is, which is paying for the pensions. And retiree healthcare because measure C is a dedicated tax increase. The ballot measure needs a two thirds majority vote to pass. If approved, the initiative would raise the hotel tax rate and allow the city to borrow money for the convention center expansion.

Speaker 1: 04:33 KPBS environment reporter Eric Anderson is joining me. Eric, welcome. Thank you Eric. Mayor Kevin Faulkner has pushed for a convention center expansion for years. Talk about some of the stumbling blocks that this proposal has previously faced. How did we get here?

Speaker 4: 04:49 Um, it's been a long and torturous road, uh, for the effort to upgrade the convention center to expand the convention center. Um, the last, uh, kind of a stumbling block was the failure to get a measure like this on the ballot a couple of years ago. Um, the petition effort failed to get enough valid signatures to do that. Previous efforts, uh, to work, uh, uh, outside of the ballot, uh, outside of the ballot box to find ways have fallen short. Um, there have been land sales, uh, there have been deals where it's cost the city money, uh, to, to acquire the land for the expansion. And then it turned out that they didn't get what they needed to make it happen. So, so many, many different failed attempts to get this convention center expanded, have fallen short. And this is the latest version.

Speaker 1: 05:36 So why do supporters of major see, say a convention center expansion is necessary in the first place?

Speaker 4: 05:42 Yeah, this is a big thing, a big point of emphasis for a San Diego tourism industry. The hoteliers are also interested in increasing this and what they say is that big conventions that the facility is not big enough to handle big conventions. They point to which spills out outside of the convention center. They have many venues, uh, nearby now and they like to be able to consolidate, uh, that convention under one roof in one space. Uh, and that's where they say at lax and they say that by not expanding you don't have the capacity to keep these shows and the economic boost they bring to the region in the area.

Speaker 1: 06:21 And as you say, this is a tax hike for visitors who are staying in hotels within the city of San Diego. How much of an increase are we talking about?

Speaker 4: 06:28 Uh, well, I want to make a point of clarity there. It's not necessarily a tax hike for visitors because locals also stay, uh, in local hotels. Um, if a family wants to go to paradise point, for example, uh, for a long weekend, uh, as part of their summer, uh, they will be paying that tax as well. What it taxes is every time there's a stay in a hotel room, San Diego charges somewhere around 10 and a half percent. Uh, tourist, uh, occupancy tax is what it's called. It's a hotel tax. Uh, this would increase the tax rate three and a quarter percent for facilities that are near the convention center and then a declining tax. The further you get away to one and a quarter percent for those that are [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 07:07 pretty far away. As Carol Kim mentioned in your story, measure C has the potential to raise $6 billion over 40 years. I do supporters have a sense of how the funds would be allocated. For example, how much money would be dedicated to the convention center expansion compared to a homeless services?

Speaker 4: 07:24 Yeah, that's actually very well defined. Uh, the convention center expansion project will get 59% of that pie moving forward right into the future as long as the taxes on the book and it doesn't expire, uh, homeless services will get 41% of that pie for five years. And then after that five year period, a 10% of that 41, a quarter of that 41% would be dedicated to roads, uh, road improvements, uh, around the city of San Diego. And those numbers where that money goes, uh, seem to be, uh, finite.

Speaker 1: 07:58 So would any of the money then be used to specifically pay for housing for the homeless?

Speaker 4: 08:04 So the homeless money that's generated by this, uh, tax hike, if it is approved, uh, will, the city council will determine how that money is going to be spent, whether it's going to be spent on, uh, services for the homeless, whether it's going to be spent on programs designed to get people off the street, whether it's, uh, going to be spent on building actual housing for the homeless. That's something that, uh, is in the city council's purview to decide how that money is spent, but they have a definite amount of money that they're working with.

Speaker 1: 08:34 And what about homeless advocates? What are they saying? Do they believe this could make a dent in the homeless crisis at all?

Speaker 4: 08:40 Well, I haven't looked into this terribly deeply, but I do know that people who advocate for the homeless and, and wanting to try to work with them say it's great to have this dedicated funding stream there. They applaud the fact that that money will be available. Uh, but I think there have been some questions raised about exactly how that money's going to be spent and whether or not it will be spent in a way that, uh, everyone sees that it's making a difference.

Speaker 1: 09:05 And what about measureL , which says that all ballot measures should be voted on in November. Why is measure C then before voters in this March primary? Well, the conventional wisdom about having a tax

Speaker 4: 09:18 measure ballot initiative in November is that in an off year, non November election, you have fewer voters at the polls. And the voters that do come tend to be more conservative. So you have a better chance of getting that passed. Measure L says that on the whole initiative should be held in November, but it also allows for initiatives to be held, uh, in off, you know, off primary years as well. So having this in March doesn't violate the letter of the law when it comes to measure Alba perhaps. Uh, it doesn't quite match up with the spirit of the law.

Speaker 1: 09:56 I've been speaking with KPBS environment reporter Eric Anderson. Eric, thanks so much for joining us. My pleasure.

Speaker 1: 00:00 The San Diego County board of supervisors has long been a conservative body with a tight grip on millions of dollars in reserve funds, but at least one of the four red seats is set to turn blue. This election. KPBS reporter Taron Minto says democratic candidates in San Diego's South Bay are raising nearly a million dollars to win the seat in district one and maybe tap into the saved up dollars.

Speaker 2: 00:25 The birds and squirrels on San Diego side of the Tijuana river are soaked with Mexico's polluted water. Nearly every time it rains, the flow brings trash closes. Beaches and County supervisor candidate Rafael Casta Yanos says, residents

Speaker 3: 00:40 are sick of it. We're getting dumped on literally in South San Diego County.

Speaker 2: 00:46 [inaudible] is campaigning to change that. He's one of the three leading democratic candidates, jostling to replace the current Republican supervisor who was terming out after more than 20 years. Casta yanno says a top priority will be curbing the cross border sewage that has made federal employees sick.

Speaker 3: 01:03 It's the biggest ongoing, uh, water quality and environmental justice issue in the entire country. And it's happening right here in South San Diego.

Speaker 2: 01:11 The real estate attorney wants to spend County reserve funds to begin development on sewage control projects. That officials have already identified.

Speaker 3: 01:19 The County can just move forward with those projects and can seek reimbursement from the federal government, including in court if necessary. He wants the County to Sue the federal government by joining lawsuits that have been filed by local cities, the state and the San Diego unified port district where he's a commissioner

Speaker 2: 01:37 opponent. Nora Vargas says, diplomacy is better for that problem and resources should be focused elsewhere.

Speaker 4: 01:44 What we need are the basic resources that our communities need to be able to provide healthcare.

Speaker 2: 01:49 South Bay communities have some of the worst healthcare access in the state. Vargas says she has personal experience with this problem. She says her mom was denied Medicaid while battling cancer before the affordable care act was approved.

Speaker 4: 02:02 That feeling of hopelessness, I never want anybody else to feel

Speaker 2: 02:05 the former planned Parenthood executive and president of Southwestern community colleges. Governing board says she's looking at using reserve funds to better support community health groups and expand outreach efforts to enroll more people in public programs.

Speaker 4: 02:19 I've done this work and I know that when people from our communities are out there sharing what resources are available, people will make sure that they have access to them.

Speaker 2: 02:28 Costa Yano says he too wants to boost enrollment in public programs that bring reimbursements and he also plans to tap reserves to add more staff. To do that work,

Speaker 3: 02:36 we need to prioritize this in the budget and that really comes down to making sure that we have the right number of people, that they're not burnt out, that they're properly staffed

Speaker 2: 02:45 and while Casta Yanos is focused on water pollution, Vargas says she's looking at air quality,

Speaker 4: 02:51 try to get more people out of their cars, but we can't do that unless we have better transportation, right? We have to make sure that we create initiatives like I really do believe everybody should be able to ride a bus for free.

Speaker 2: 03:02 Both concerned about the housing problem that exists County wide. Gus pianos put forth a four point plan that calls for cutting regulatory hurdles and includes a $1 billion bond to offset infrastructure costs that he says developers pass on to buyers and renters.

Speaker 1: 03:16 Based on my experience as a land use and real estate and finance attorney

Speaker 2: 03:21 Fargus hasn't proposed a formal plan, but says she supports building more homes and wants to help keep people in the ones they already have.

Speaker 4: 03:28 And I think the County can create a tenant rights, a part of their housing authority, creating a tenant rights, uh, advocacy piece.

Speaker 2: 03:35 The other leading candidate is state Senator Ben waySo. He canceled an interview with KPBS and did not respond to follow what messages, but he told the San Diego union Tribune editorial board that quality of life was San Diego's biggest issue.

Speaker 5: 03:48 We need good leadership, good government to represent the interests of the people locally. What do they want? They want to have clean beaches. They want to have jobs.

Speaker 2: 03:56 Wait, so is second in the money race. He raised just over 200,000 while Casta Yanos raised 450,000 Vargas his third with around 150,000 but she still has a few more days to file details of additional contributions. The three were invited to a forum next week, but waySo declined gusta Yanos and Vargas will be joined at the forum by a fourth Democrat, Sophia Rodriguez, who has received about $7,000 in contributions. Taryn mento, KPBS news,

Speaker 1: 04:26 and one Republican who received nearly $2,000 from the County party was unable to provide an interview by deadline for more election coverage, go to kpbs.org backslash election.

Speaker 6: 04:45 [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 00:00 From award winning films to documentaries that reshape the way we see America. San Diego's black film festival has been a platform for nearly two decades tonight. This year's film festival kicks off. Karen Willis, director of the San Diego black film festival joins us in studio with what we can expect this year. Karen, welcome. Thank you. Hello Jay. Hey there. So this year is pre opening focus as a film called the Evers, a new feature documentary on the life of Medgar Evers. Can you tell me about it? Yeah, we're really excited about, I'm premiering this film on the life of a civil rights pioneer Mecca Evers, um, who as you know, was tragically, uh, assassinated, um, during the early stages of the civil rights movement. And so there's a new documentary focusing on his life. Uh, and so we're really excited to have his daughter to come down to San Diego. Um, she's going to, um, participate in a panel discussion on the film and also on the life of Mecca Evers.

Speaker 1: 01:04 So we're really excited about that in the film itself. Screens on Saturday, uh, of, um, this week. And then we were hoping that miss Myrlie Evers, who's the widow widow of a mega Evers, will be in attendance to for that screening. And so why did you decide to set the tone for the festival with this documentary? You know, we, um, the San Diego black film festival, we always look for a film that we sort of identify as a signature film, although it's not the opening day film, you know, um, but it's certainly one of our signature films in that we felt that, um, the subject matter, um, is something that would be of interest, um, to, you know, moviegoers. And so that's why we decided to focus on it this year. What other films and documentaries can people expect to see this year? Oh my goodness. We have over 120 films to choose from, from features to documentaries to shorts, um, comedy, drama.

Speaker 1: 02:09 Um, a couple of films that I'm excited about. One in particular also is a film called louder than rock. Uh, and that film is about the, um, original guitar player for Elton John who happens to be black. And so he sorta telling the story in a documentary about his life with Elton John. And so we're really excited about that. And also, um, our opening day film and our opening day film is pink opaque and it's about a film student, um, who's trying to complete a project, you know, or fail, uh, while balancing, uh, his love life. And also, um, uh, with him sort of coming into the, coming back into the life of a relative that he's not seen in a while. And so, um, our films run the gamut and you the film

Speaker 2: 03:00 louder than rock. I know there will be several panel discussions as well. I noticed music seems to be a big part of those discussions. What's the connection?

Speaker 1: 03:09 Well, you know, it's interesting because, um, the San Diego black film festival, we've had a long, you know, I guess a relationship with music. You know, we've had quite a few, um, African American, um, um, music. The stars here like Bobby Brown, I mean, you name it, they've all had movies. Um, we've had ice tea. And so this year we also have films by, um, King Bach, who's a very, very trendy type comedian and hip hop star. So it just happened that the San Diego black film festival, um, you know, get a lot of films, uh, uh, based on, uh, recording artists. Yeah.

Speaker 2: 03:53 And I want to take a listen. Here's a clip from louder than rock, a documentary playing at the San Diego black film festival on Caleb K, a legendary guitarist who helped usher in artists like Elton John and really the British invasion of music here in America. Take a listen.

Speaker 3: 04:29 [inaudible]

Speaker 2: 04:30 how much of an influence do film festivals like yours have in terms of providing a platform for black films, artists and black stories to be seen and heard?

Speaker 1: 04:40 Oh, black film festivals are very important. And of course, we're proud that the San Diego black film festivals, one of the larger black film festivals in the country. In fact, we are known as an Oscar watching type festival whereby by a lot of the films that come through the San Diego black film festival, uh, you know, the Oscar, the voters, they're paying close attention. You know, we've had a few like Selma that came through here, you know, that were Oscar contenders and stuff. And so when you think about it in that sense, it really gives the black filmmaker an opportunity to exhibit his craft. I mean, when you come into the San Diego black film festival and you are a African American director or even a, a white or Asian director who just happened to be producing a film on the subject matter of, of African Americans. When you come into this festival, you are treated like you at any, uh, big, um, uh, film premiere.

Speaker 1: 05:44 You know, you get the red carpet treatment, uh, they get to actually premiere their film with an audience. They get the Q and a. And so it's, um, it's a very important component. Uh, African American filmmakers, uh, excuse me, African American film festivals to promote the very art of black filmmaking. And is that what drives your passion to do this? Every year? It's been 18 years going into 19. So yeah, if I did not have that total passion, I sorta like it. You know, it's more of a charity thing for me, but, um, there's a passion there and, and I do it really actually for the community. You see. Uh, and we are the really, we're the largest, uh, black cultural event in San Diego and we've in, it's been that way for quite a few years. And you mentioned the askers earlier, you know, in the past there's been criticism around the Oscars for not being diverse.

Speaker 1: 06:39 Uh, what do you think of this year's nominations? Well, you know, a few years ago there was the hashtag of, you know, Oscar, so white and, and everything and Oh wait, there's any good black film festival. I remember we had a panel on that for years ago and I don't know, it's um, it's not as diverse, you know, that I think it should be and hopefully, hopefully this, some things going on behind the scenes to correct them. Anything else you want to say or add about this year's festival? Well, you know, we are looking forward to the event, which runs January 29th. I pre opening all the way to Sunday, um, the 2nd of February. And on Sunday, we're excited because what, that's the day that we do the African diaspora films. They're all foreign films on Sunday, and on Thursday through Saturday, they're more mainstream. You get into everything from, uh, the Evers into our opening day, found pink opaque, and then into films like hip hop related films. So we're excited about that and we hope people come out. I've been speaking with Karen Willis, director of the San Diego black film festival. Karen, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you.

After the president’s defense rested, the impeachment trial has shifted to questions from senators with former national security advisor John Bolton’s book adding a new wrinkle to the GOP’s hopes of ending the trial with a quick acquittal. Plus, community activist Tasha Williamson talks to Midday Edition about why she wants to become the next mayor of San Diego. Also, San Diegans will go to the polls to decide whether to approve a hotel tax increase to pay for the Convention Center’s expansion, along with homeless services and road repairs. And, in the District 1 San Diego County Board of Supervisors race, cross border pollution and equity are the top issues for candidates. Finally, the San Diego Black Film Festival opens Wednesday.

KPBS Midday Edition podcast branding

KPBS Midday Edition

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.