County Steps Up Protection For Workers In Updated Health Order, PPP Loans Not Going To Underserved Communities, Roberto’s Taco Shop’s Matriarch Dies And Summer Concert Series
KPBS Midday Edition / July 30, 2020
PHOTO BY ALEXANDER NGUYEN
San Diego County amended its public health order to require all employers to inform anyone who could have possibly been exposed if three or more cases of COVID-19 occur at the workplace in a 14-day period. Plus, South of Interstate 8 is the dividing line in the wide gap in the number of Paycheck Protection Program loans awarded to small businesses in San Diego County. Also, a new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California shows that a majority of Californians take the coronavirus pandemic seriously and also believe racism is widespread and a long-festering problem. And, Dolores Robledo, the matriarch of Roberto’s, one of San Diego’s favorite taco shops and the first Mexican fast-food chains, has died. The impact she had on the community. Finally, KPBS’ Summer Music Series is back. The series is to highlight and support San Diego’s music and artists. On today’s episode is blues artist Whitney Shay, a four-time San Diego Music Award winner.
Speaker 1: 00:00 A new County health rule on informed me workers of Corona virus, exposure, and employers now have to alert their entire workplace. If there is an outbreak, I'm Mark Sauer with Maureen Kavanaugh. This is KPBS midair, Struggling. Small businesses failed to get federal loans, to keep them afloat.
Speaker 2: 00:29 According to them at the time I didn't fall under one of their qualifications, which was having employees
Speaker 1: 00:36 Plus a poll shows, Californians, strongly support wearing masks and remembering the woman who founded Roberto's taco shops. It's a head on mid day edition.
Speaker 1: 01:01 Our top story as the single day, Corona virus, death toll in California breaks a record for the fourth time. This month, San Diego County officials are beefing up enforcement on employers compliance with public health orders and effective today. The County is requiring employers to notify all their workers. If there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in their workplaces, joining me to sort out the ramifications is legal analyst, Dan Eaton partner in the San Diego firm of seltzer, Caplan McMahon, and Vtech. Dan, welcome back to the program. Good to be with you, Mark. Well, let's start with this new County order, uh, prior to this update of the county's public health order, what were the requirements of businesses in terms of reporting coronavirus outbreaks? Well, not outbreaks so much, but employers have a statutory duty to provide their employees with a safe and healthful workplaces. And so that required employers to alert employees who had been in contact with someone, the employer learned to tested positive for COVID-19 that they had tested positive without identifying the employee who had actually contracted COVID-19 due to privacy concerns, this expanse, that duty to notify somewhat.
Speaker 1: 02:17 Okay. Yeah. What's the, what's the difference here with the county's action today? Well, the difference here is that you have to employers now have to alert their entire workplace. Uh, if there is an outbreak as defined in the public health order. And that is because the assumption is it could affect more people. And this Corona virus is something that everyone has to take seriously, as we have learned over the last few months. And, uh, when we're talking about an outbreak here, it's three or more people, right? Who an expose, right? That's right. The thinking is that if you have that many people, you are going to talk about all that. More people who have been exposed and people who have to take precautions, even potentially shutting down the workplace.
Speaker 3: 03:06 Are you surprised it's taken this long to require employees be notified of an outbreak at work?
Speaker 1: 03:11 Not necessarily. And I'll tell you why because of the Corona virus, as I have said before, is moving faster than the speed of law. Regulators, legislators, even the courts are doing their best to catch up with coronavirus, but we're sort of learning as we go in responding as legal matter to the ramifications of the Corona virus.
Speaker 3: 03:35 And what rights do employees have to refuse to return to work if there's a covert exposure in the workplace?
Speaker 1: 03:42 Well, the key to that sentence, Mark is if there is a COVID exposure, the fact is that employees cannot be required to return to our workplace, that they reasonably believe is not safe. And if someone continues to be in the workplace who has contracted COVID-19, then an employee may refuse to return. But if, as usually happens, the employer sends that person home right away, sanitizes provides the appropriate alerts. There really would not be a right for an employee and the private sector out will workplace to refuse to return.
Speaker 3: 04:20 And if a workers are concerned about their safety and all, but the job is open and there can, they still claim unemployment benefits if they refuse to go back to work after learning of an outbreak.
Speaker 1: 04:32 So your trickier question Mark than you think it might be because the bottom line is if they voluntarily refuse to come into work and it is not viewed as one that is compelling or justifiable, then they may not be entitled to unemployment benefits, pure fear of getting the Corona virus without a R an articulated reason for believing there is a fear of contracting. It may be treated as a voluntary job abandonment, and in that case, unemployment benefits would be unavailable.
Speaker 3: 05:05 And I want to talk about liability. We're hearing that a lot in the national news. Now with the, uh, the discussion in Washington over the latest COVID supplements, that's being worked out, how exposed are businesses to lawsuits. If employees get sick after a workplace outbreak, and how tough would it be to prove such a claim?
Speaker 1: 05:23 Well, those are excellent questions. And the bottom line is that, uh, for the vast majority of employees, if they get sick in the workplace from COVID-19, they're limited to workers' compensation, but governor Newsome made, uh, the ability of employees to collect workers' compensation somewhat easier. Uh, in recent weeks, when he said that in the reopened workplace, if an employee contracts COVID-19 having returned to the workplace, it's going to be presumed that the employee contracted COVID-19 in the workplace, meaning that would be a work related injury for which they would be able to get workers' compensation.
Speaker 3: 06:03 And would that be a, the extent of the damages there? They could get a competent worker compensation benefits, and would there be other, uh, damages that might be claimed
Speaker 1: 06:14 For employees? Yes, but here's the interesting thing about your question. What about those with whom the employee comes in contact? What about vendors who do not have an employment relationship and therefore are not limited to workers' compensation? That's why the scope of the potential liability is so troubling. And so destabilizing to employers who really don't know exactly how far their liability will extend workers' compensation, provide some assurance of a limit of liability to employees themselves. The problem is how far beyond that and to whom employers may also be liable for exposure to the Corona virus that is traceable in some ways to the work environment.
Speaker 3: 06:56 And I imagine that might chill some business owners who are considering reopening.
Speaker 1: 07:00 Oh yeah, sure. Well, uh, this, uh, Corona virus has children, awful lot of activity. And, uh, the fact is that there are all kinds of other legal ramifications because if you're allowing a workers to work from home, then there's a duty to reimburse for work-related expenses. Uh, and if you don't, there is liability for failing to provide that reimbursement for necessary work expenses for working remotely. We have, we can only imagine the full extent of the legal liability that will come from this Corona virus. The health effects of, of the coronavirus are about enough. And in some case, mortally tragic, the legal consequences are also very serious and will be with us years after science finally conquers this awful, awful scores that we are facing.
Speaker 3: 07:53 And a one to ask about the legal liability issues for businesses, sharing health information about employees is that waived in a, in a pandemic crisis.
Speaker 1: 08:02 It's not. And some employers seem to think that by having their employees sign a health waiver, they are somehow excused from liability. That's just not correct. Uh, and the fact is that you can't just have your employees sign a health waiver and hope that you're going to get out of potential workers' compensation liability with respect to privacy. It's very important to understand that even if an employer learns that an employee has contracted COVID-19 and therefore has a duty to at least alert those with whom even an individual employee who's contracted has had contact, they cannot identify the worker who has contracted COVID-19 because the employee has privacy rights and there are serious damages to the employer beyond workers' compensation for violating an employee's rights in that regard and how important enforcement be in terms of this public health order change enforcement is going to be critical. You've heard about how a V County is going to ratchet up the enforcement of the public health order. Now, there are some talk that in the early stages, they are going to use the carrot to encourage voluntary compliance, but let's be very clear given the gravity of the situation, the carrot is going to yield soon enough to the stick, especially for willful offenders. I've been speaking with San Diego legal analyst, Dan Eaton. Thanks Dan. Thank you, Mark.
Speaker 4: 09:36 Small businesses are bleeding in San Diego County as the pandemic rages on more Corona virus relief is likely in store though, as Congress works on another round of loans under the payment protection program, known as PPP, our partner station, KPCC mapped the winners and losers in the race for those loans, KPBS investigative reporter on ether, Sharma notes, some businesses in underserved communities, South of interstate eight, had a tough time getting any money.
Speaker 2: 10:09 My name is Andrew Benevidez. I own a cafe and I applied for a PVP loan back around April
Speaker 4: 10:16 One month into the pandemic. And one year into his long held dream of owning a business. His city Heights coffee shop sales dropped by half
Speaker 2: 10:25 People would decided not to go out anymore.
Speaker 4: 10:28 26 year old Benevidez hoped to use the federal loan is a lifeline to cover rent utilities, inventory, everything that keeps the business afloat, but officials told him he wasn't eligible
Speaker 2: 10:41 To them at the time. I didn't fall under one of their qualifications, which was having employees,
Speaker 4: 10:48 Mom, and pop stores, and one man shops such as Benevidez Kathina often have fewer than 10 employees. Having fewer workers made it harder to qualify for badly needed government aid.
Speaker 1: 11:02 Also, the rules kept changing
Speaker 4: 11:04 Enrique. Gonorrhea is executive director of the city Heights business associates.
Speaker 1: 11:09 It's just not a good situation for small businesses
Speaker 4: 11:14 In some poor communities of color like city Heights, which received a total of 317 lungs. That money, according to federal data helped save around 1500 jobs in contrast Claremont North of eight. And we're more than half the population is white, got 800 loans and retained over 3,600 jobs. Claremont's population is actually just under a quarter smaller than city Heights. Gonorrhea, blamed that wide gap on many small businesses, lacking access to accountants, lawyers and bankers who can help navigate what may be for some, a complex process. He also blamed poor loan outreach in areas that are low income of color and ethnically mixed
Speaker 2: 12:01 City Heights. We have a community that is extremely diverse with many first generation immigrants that are entrepreneurs, very entrepreneurial, but they come from countries where they don't trust the government for very good reasons. And they're not used to dealing with government agencies.
Speaker 4: 12:18 There are also big margins and the number of PPP loans given out to some cities North and South of the eight freeway Chula Vista got 2200 PPB loans and saved over 21,000 jobs. Carlsbad businesses obtained 3,400 lens preserving more than 38,000 jobs as Candido appears to be an outlier. The North County ethnically diverse city secured 2100 lungs and held on to 32,000 jobs. It's one of the cities that was more efficient in a key goal of the program. Job preservation,
Speaker 2: 12:56 CDs like Escondido alcohol and Lamesa they're small businesses saved over six and a half jobs per loan. Whereas in Encinitas, for example, it was only 4.4 jobs.
Speaker 4: 13:10 SDSU business lecture mirror COPEC says overall, the distribution of lens was aligned with the distribution of businesses in the County. COPEC agrees. The government should have done a better job in letting underserved communities know the loans are available and how to apply, but he adds that the PBP still served its mission in getting small loans out to small businesses
Speaker 2: 13:35 Long, less than 150,000 is 85% of the PPEP loans that were processed in Sandy.
Speaker 4: 13:41 As for Benevidez. He says, he'll apply for the next round of PPP loans.
Speaker 2: 13:47 You don't need too much, but we still need a lump sum just to keep our lights on.
Speaker 4: 13:52 Joining me is KPBS investigative reporter of Meetha Sharma I'm Etha. Welcome to the program. Thank you. It's good to speak with you, Maureen. So a business needed employees to qualify for the paycheck protection program. Is that right? That's right. I mean the whole goal of the program was to save as many jobs as possible basically to make the most of the loan. And I believe across the County businesses that received the P P money saved an average of 5.5 jobs per loan. Um, I think in the city of San Diego businesses saved an average is 5.1 jobs per loan. And then there were businesses in Escondido, in El Cahone that were actually able to save six and a half jobs per loan. Wow. But that lose out single or two owner businesses to the people you spoke with know about the qualifications when they applied.
Speaker 4: 14:51 Well, I don't think that Andrew Benevidez knew he's the owner of Kathina, but in talking to him and others, one of the criticisms they had about these lens is that look saving the most jobs per loan, not withstanding the feds have got to acknowledge. They've got to consider that there are sole proprietors and others who have plunked down their life savings into these businesses. Like Benevidez his coffee shop and mom and pop shops. And even though they may have no employees or just a few workers, that doesn't mean that they haven't been effected by this pandemic and they need financial help. They've lost customers to, you know, uh, there are lawyers and accountants who are one person businesses they've lost clients. And that should be a factor when giving out these loans,
Speaker 5: 15:48 What were some of the other qualifications that small businesses may have had a difficult time with when applying for these loans?
Speaker 4: 15:56 Well, the rules kept on changing on the maturity date of the loans, um, and how much, and under what terms or circumstances the loans would be forgiven. I think people had to provide documentation that their businesses had fallen off by a certain percentage. And again, when you're a tiny business outfit, your payroll, your accounting records may not be as complete or as well documented as some of these larger businesses.
Speaker 5: 16:24 What else can you tell us about the disparities revealed in this map of who got PPP and who didn't? Well,
Speaker 4: 16:32 Tula Vista received 2200 PPP loans and saved over 21,000 jobs. Uh, Carlsbad businesses got 3,400 lens and they were able to save 38,000 jobs. We cannot explain that difference to live. This is a huge business hubs. You know, Maureen, so is Carlsbad, but it's, it's, it really is hard to draw any hard and fast conclusions because we don't have any information on how many businesses in these areas applied for the lens and were actually turned down. I do know nationally there has been a lot of concern that minority owned businesses weren't getting access to PPP money. But the problem as I've said is we just don't have enough information on the PPP borrowers. Although there has been quite a bit of reporting on minority owned businesses, complaining that they were just rejected off the bat when they applied for these loans. And I know that there have been many news articles saying that minority owned businesses were not prioritized in a way that certain bags prioritized wealthy businesses. Were there any other
Speaker 6: 17:50 Sources of relief that these smaller businesses could draw on? There were, uh, the city of San Diego, um, set aside $6 million to create the small business relief fund. The state of California has set aside $50 million, um, for small businesses. And, you know, Angie Benevidez, he received a small grant from just a group of groups. If you will, who came together to raise money for small businesses in underserved communities, because they knew that they would be shut out by these loans. They weren't going to be able to compete for these loans for all the reasons I've outlined. Now, where can people see this interactive map of PPP loan distribution in San Diego? Well, they can go to our website, KPBS dot Oregon, click on my story. And the map is embedded in that story. I've been speaking with KPBS, investigative reporter Amica Sharma Amita. Thank you, Maureen. Thank you.
Speaker 3: 19:06 This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Mark Sauer with Maureen kavanah large majority's of residents in very blue California. Take the Corona virus and its effects on health and the economy quite seriously. Majority's in our state also believe racism is widespread and a long festering problem. Those are the results of newly released polling. And joining me to dig into the numbers is Alyssa Dykeman, a research associate at public policy Institute of California and the lead researcher on their latest survey. Welcome to the program to be here. Well, the poll comes as California is unfortunately seeing a record number of COVID-19 cases that found that the majority of Californians worry about getting Corona virus. And what did your poll find regarding attitudes toward wearing masks and public among our state's residents?
Speaker 6: 19:53 Yeah, so an overwhelming majority of California and say that people in their local area should always wear masks and few say never. When they go to public places where they may be in your others, nearly three and four Californians say people in their area should always wear a mask in public as a means of preventing COVID-19 spread, including solid majorities across regions, and only 3% say that people should never wear a mask in public.
Speaker 3: 20:23 They also asked about if they practice wearing mass mass themselves as well,
Speaker 6: 20:28 We were just asked whether they thought it would be a good idea to wear a mask. They were not asked about personal usage.
Speaker 3: 20:34 Do we know how this compares with attitudes toward masks in other Sunbelt States that are experienced a spike in cases like Florida, Texas, recently, Arizona?
Speaker 6: 20:43 Yeah. So when we look at a national comparison from a June Pew research center poll, we find that Californians are far more likely to say that they should always wear a mask when going outside. And so that really just signifies to me, California concerns about the issue and their seriousness about it.
Speaker 3: 21:04 And we see stories in the news about people being resistant to wearing masks and not following public health orders. What's the aim of the survey. Is it to give a glimpse of the bigger picture?
Speaker 6: 21:14 Yeah, it is. So we asked about a number of timely issues, including the Corona virus, um, and that included questions relating to Californians concerns about their own health, as well as their mental health, as well as just general policies surrounding where it going Basque also in regards to whether their finances, uh, will be affected by the criminal.
Speaker 3: 21:36 Right. And I wanted to get into a, to that this survey comes a mid terrible economic news regarding second quarter gross domestic product that came out today, record high unemployment claims. Uh, this week, last week's numbers were bad as well. What did your new finding show regarding Californian's views on their financial outlook amid the pandemic?
Speaker 6: 21:56 Yeah, so the COVID-19 crisis has shaken public confidence. Um, 80% of Californians expect bad times financially in the next 12 months. And Californians are divided on whether the state government should take action right away to reduce greenhouse gas emissions rather than wait for the economy and jobs situation to improve, uh, nonetheless, uh, solid majorities of California adults and likely voters say stricter environmental laws and regulations in California are worth the cost.
Speaker 3: 22:28 And you mentioned that the poll found the majority of Californians worry about getting Corona virus, but the poll also found it varies by ethnicity with one of the hardest hit groups, Latinos being the most worried.
Speaker 6: 22:40 Yes. So Latinos continue to be, uh, affected severely in the dimensions, including getting sick as well as financial, um, having a negative financial impact in our July survey, we find that Latinos are the most likely to say that their lives have been disrupted a lot by the coronavirus outbreak and Latinos are also the most likely we have about 61% of Latinos saying they are very worried about getting sick from the Corona virus, um, compared to far fewer in other racial and ethnic groups.
Speaker 3: 23:12 And what about looking ahead? How optimistic are Californians about when the pandemic might ease up and when we might return to some kind of normalcy, like more businesses and schools reopening
Speaker 6: 23:24 Well, gauging Californians on their readiness for the coronavirus outbreak, two seas, um, I'd say in general, California, his outlook is very pessimistic. Um, for most, again, we look at the consumer confidence and our indicator for that, and that is that 80% of Californians think there are bad financial times in the next year. So Californians are very much concerned about the coronaviruses fallout on the economy, uh, as well as the environment and their just society in general,
Speaker 3: 23:59 The whole also assessed California residents attitudes toward the black lives matter movement. What did, what did you find in yours?
Speaker 6: 24:06 Yeah, so we found California and strongly support. The black lives matter movement about two and three, um, say a somewhat or strongly support black lives matter. Of course, this varies widely by racial and ethnic groups, but we found African Americans are the most likely to say that they support black lives matter movement
Speaker 3: 24:27 And attitudes toward racial disparities in our society.
Speaker 6: 24:31 Yeah. So with long standing, you know, health disparities, exacerbating racial disparities, um, we find out about more than eight and 10 California and say racism is a problem in the U S including six and 10 who say it is a big problem. Uh, again, African Americans are the most likely to say racism is a problem with 86% of African American saying it is a big problem. This is followed by Latinos, Asian Americans, and then whites.
Speaker 3: 25:01 I've been speaking with Alyssa Dikeman of the public policy Institute of California. Thanks very much for joining us.
Speaker 6: 25:07 Thank you so much. The matriarch behind San Diego's fast food, Mexican restaurant chain Roberto's will be laid to rest today. Delores Robledo died earlier this month at age 90, she worked with her husband, Roberto to develop the recipes and locations for one of the nation's first chains of taco shops. Her lifetime of hard work brought success to her family, created an iconic San Diego business and brought a new popularity to Mexican food in California and beyond. Joining me is Pam Craig and feature writer at the San Diego union Tribune, who wrote an obituary for Dolores Robledo and Pam. Welcome to the program. Thank you very much. It's great to be here. Also joining us a San Diego food writer, Mario Cortez, Mario, welcome to the program. Thank you, Pam. Tell us more about the life of Dolores Robledo. Well, I spoke with three of her children earlier this week for the obituary that I wrote for the union Tribune.
Speaker 6: 26:09 And, um, they, they all talked about her as a very loving and hardworking mother. She was a mother of 13 children. Um, she and her late husband, Roberto, both grew up in this tiny ranching village in a town called saddle SIM one day, a lotto and the central Mexican state of sin, the wee Potosi. And he came to the United States in 1944 at the age of 14 to, to, uh, pick cotton in Texas. And he was an itinerant worker. He worked in the bursary program in California for awhile, and he go back and forth to visit, uh, visit Delores in Mexico. And they had seven children by the time she immigrated to the, to California back in, uh, 1957. And, uh, they eventually moved to San Diego and, uh, opened up a tortilla. And that was the beginning of their restaurant empire. Yeah. Pam, what did you learn about how Roberto's got started?
Speaker 6: 27:07 Well, uh, it, they started out with a tortilla Rio and San Ysidro. She would get up at the pre-dawn hours and go in and make the tortillas with some of their older children. And then he would drive a delivery route of these tortillas to, uh, San Diego, Mexican restaurants. And one of the stops that he made was delivering tortillas to the immigrant detention center in OTI Mesa for the U S border patrol. And the border patrol agents would ask him, Hey, can you package up some beans and rice and bring those along as well? And they got the idea, well, why don't we open our own Mexican restaurant rather than purchase this material from restaurants? And when one closed on his route, he bought the lease for it. And, um, they opened their first Mexican restaurant with family recipes that they had, and they didn't the first few restaurants, they just kept the names. One of them was called LA Lomita. One was a Frosty's restaurant, but when they got to the fifth restaurant, which was in Talmudge area, uh, it was called Jessie's burger stop or something like that. And they thought, well, we can't have Jesse's burger stop split. We've got to buy a new sign. And she said, well, why don't we just name it after you? And they called it Roberto's and the rest is history and the rest is history, Mario. So as a food writer, what do you think made Roberto so popular in San Diego?
Speaker 7: 28:22 You got to start with the, uh, the lineage of the food that they were offering. It's all high quality ingredients that the Robledo did start in distribution. You know, mrs. Robledo made the tortilla it's at the beginning, they used their family recipes in the restaurants. They were all well received at the beginning. And, um, eventually they started offering this poor man burrito at a very low price point and, uh, you know, just through volume and they kind of solidified their precedence. And, uh, eventually, you know, as the chain evolved, it came to kind of define the San Diego style taco shop. You know, like taco shops, aren't quite decliner style taquerias. They're not quite sit down Mexican food, they're their own genre. Um, you know, they focus on the role tacos. They focus on the larger burritos. Uh, they have combo plates and, uh, as time went on, you know, like the California burrito emerges and it just kind of sets the standard. It sets the pace for all the other, um, San Diego style taco shops that were to come. And a lot of them were opened by the family members and relatives of [inaudible].
Speaker 6: 29:36 Well, according to Reynaldo, who was the youngest son of Roberto, he told me Monday that as the family's business grew and the number of restaurants grew, he wanted to provide jobs to other people from his state and in Mexico. And, um, each of the children, as they got old enough, got their own restaurant, their own Roberto's. Um, and then one of his cousins came up and he opened a Roberto's, but the cousin started changing the recipes. Um, and Roberto did not feel that that represented the quality of what he thought Roberto's should represent. So he said, you need to change the name. If you're going to change my recipes, the story goes that his cousin didn't have money to change the Roberto sign. So he got a can of red paint, any repaint, and just the first two letters, um, and turned it into an Albertos. And after that, anyone who came to San Diego that was not a family member and was going to open a restaurant, they had to change the name. So that's where the Jill Bertos and the Philly Bertos and the everything else Bertos. And, and, uh, what I was told is that there's more than 70 different variations of the Roberto's name.
Speaker 5: 30:46 Let me ask you, let me ask you Mario, specifically about the California burrito, which has becomes a standard and apparently was invented by Rebecca.
Speaker 7: 30:56 It does it's unknown, which Roberto's had it. First of all, I've heard that the one in national city had it first that the one in Talmage headed first, but it will stop by the genitals book, taco USA. Um, the family reveals that they had it before anyone else it's unknown, which cook at which, uh, Roberto's location invented it, but around the mid eighties, um, all the locations had it.
Speaker 5: 31:22 Pam, do you have a fond memory of eating at Roberto?
Speaker 6: 31:25 Yes. Yes. I, well, I grew up mostly in San Diego. My father was in the Navy and we arrived in the early seventies. And, um, you know, when you're a poor college student, you know, you sort of live on Roberto's burritos. So, uh, yeah, cardia, SATA burrito's are where my favorite back in the old days. And they're still my favorite. And I do think Roberto's quality just like Mario said is superb for the price. Maria, do you have a favorite?
Speaker 7: 31:50 So I moved here from China when I was nine. And I remember the first time I saw a Roberto's, um, it was a, Roberta's two blocks from where I used to live, uh, back in golden Hill. And I remember walking in and like seeing the big burritos, you know, seeing like their take on a role tacos, which is a very into like the Mexican flag. Uh, and, uh, it just kind of showed me how different Mexican food can be North of the border while still feeling very familiar living North of the border. Pretty much my whole life ever since it's just a familiar sight, you know, it lets me know that I am here in San Diego, that I am home and that, you know, if I'm hungry, I can just stop in and get no kind of salad burritos. I can get like some goodness out of fries. Cause some of these Diego standards that
Speaker 5: 32:40 I just, I just love, uh, Pam Roberto Robledo died in 1999. So Dolores has been head of this family for quite some time. How is the Robledo family remembering their mother? Well, as you mentioned, there was going to be a Catholic Memorial mass for her this afternoon. I'm in Chula Vista followed by her burial and, uh, Juanita. But what those, what the children told me is that the way they remember their mother is gathering for big family meals like Christmas and Thanksgiving. So she said that all of the siblings are going to be gathering for a big family events at her home in Escondido. And when we say big, we may mean big. She leaves a lot of people behind her. That's right. I guess for her 85th birthday, there were more than 200 people gathered for her party. I've been speaking with Pam, Kragan from the San Diego union Tribune and San Diego food writer, Mario Cortez. Thank you both so much for speaking with me. Thank you for having me anytime.
Speaker 5: 33:46 This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Mark Sauer. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot of things about our world, but thankfully we've discovered that it can't stop. The music musicians have been hosting virtual performances, getting together with each other and their audiences online. It's not the same as it used to be, but it's happening and we're grateful for it. So this year, without the usual in-studio performances, we wanted to do our part to support San Diego's music and music artists with a virtual KPBS summer music series. First up is a four time San Diego music award winner, including best blues artists and 2019 artist of the year. Whitney Shay, she's known as a blues vocalist, but her style goes beyond any one genre. She joins us to talk about her new album, which debuted at number one on the billboard blues charts and about what it's like being a musician. During these uncertain times, we begin with our song far apart, still close
Speaker 8: 34:58 To have someone that we miss
Speaker 5: 35:16 That was far apart, still close by Whitney Shay off her new album. Stand up. Hi Whitney. Welcome to the show. Thank you so much. And so happy to be here. Your new album, as I said, stand up is very positive and fun. What inspired it? I really just wanted to make music that made people feel that made them dance
Speaker 9: 35:38 And really just kind of communicated an overall theme of empowerment, whether that's female empowerment or just empowerment to people of all races and genders. And I'm just really excited that this album being my first, all original album has really given people, especially in this current world that we're in just something to look forward to a breath of fresh air. Shall we say,
Speaker 5: 36:08 How do you describe your music?
Speaker 9: 36:11 Zandra's is our kind of something the labels kind of created to market and sell music. So for me, it's been interesting in my journey since I love the roots genre and specifically black music in general, but I love jazz, jazz music, blues soul. And so it's hard for me to just say, I like this and this is what my music is. So that's why I say high energy Redmond blues that makes people dance.
Speaker 5: 36:36 You said that you have a real affinity for black music and white artists like yourself who sing in traditionally black music genres like blues are sometimes accused of cultural appropriation. Have you thought about that and how do you respond to that criticism?
Speaker 9: 36:55 I've thought about that a lot. And especially in the current political climate that we're in, um, I feel, and I've always felt that I'm a guest in the musical art form that I'm in. I always like to say appreciation, not appropriation. And I realized that, you know, growing up in Southern California, I don't have the same experience that, you know, a black person living in the 1950s in Mississippi does. And I recognize that and I recognize my own personal privilege for that. Now does that mean that I don't completely love the music and find some, you know, glean some personal relationship to it? Yes, I do. I love it. But I realized that I'm a guest in the genre and I never tried to claim it as something that I, I have any ownership to. You said
Speaker 5: 37:46 Your new album stand up was full of new songs, stuff that you've written, but you started out playing cover songs. So how difficult was that transition?
Speaker 9: 37:58 It was interesting because coming from a theater background, the text that you interpreted as an actor is usually not your own. It's usually something you're interpreting. So when I first started, I always considered myself an interpreter of other people's music. And I think that there is beauty to that. And a lot of people are very successful and I definitely started my career doing that. But for a long time, I didn't really feel that I could consider myself in some way, a true artist until I was making my own music. And so that's a really important part of my journey the last few years, especially that I really wanted to focus more on crafting songs and spending time on writing. And so that's why it was so important to me to really carve out a significant amount of time before we started this album, just so I could craft the songs. And luckily I have a wonderful composer and songwriting partner that I got to do that with
Speaker 5: 39:03 Sierra. Another song off the album, stand up. This is you won't put out this flame,
Speaker 8: 39:09 Thanks in the dog. And you'll notice this box. The fuse has been lit must be with, but now you battled back [inaudible]
Speaker 5: 39:38 That was you. Won't put out this flame performed by Whitney Shay, your new album debuted at number one on the billboard blues chart. At the same time you filed for unemployment, how has this pandemic affected your career as a music?
Speaker 9: 39:54 There was an article that came out with the, with the headline, you know, singer hits number one on billboard files for unemployment at the same day. And at first I was a little taken aback and embarrassed even by that headline. But then I realized, well, unfortunately this is the reality that we're all facing right now and not just in the entertainment industry, but in every industry, people have faced challenges, finding work and finding full time employment. Well, this year 2020 was going to be probably my biggest year yet. This was my chance to really tour in the rest of the U S and really establish myself in the European market. But I like to say that the universe teaches us balance and we kind of have to learn to adapt. So artists really have turned to live streaming turn to learning, recording software and video editing.
Speaker 9: 40:51 And we've had to become more well rounded artists, but what do we do when the world doesn't come back when Broadway theaters and music venues, aren't able to come back after this pandemic? I mean, that's the question that we're all asking ourselves. And unfortunately, none of us have the answer, but I am seeing that people really, especially online, they desperately need music and they desperately need art to pull them away from what's going on in the world. And I really hope that society as a whole will recognize that and we'll be able to, as artists continue to make living
Speaker 5: 41:34 Well, you know, despite the unanswered questions you were talking about, it's, it's obvious you can just hear it in your voice, that you've stayed positive and productive through this quarantine. Why don't you tell us about the song you're not alone and what inspired it?
Speaker 9: 41:49 So this project was just an important way for us to say thank you to all the essential workers that are out there on the front lines. During this pandemic, we recorded the song all sheltered in place during quarantine, with musicians from the United Kingdom, Brazil, Austin, Texas, and here in San Diego, California. It's a way for us musicians to come together and collaborate on a project and just really to bring people joy and this time, because if anything else, people really need something entertainment, music, art to look forward to during these dark times. So this is just our way to say thank you and bring joy to people.
Speaker 8: 43:28 [inaudible]
Speaker 5: 43:31 Your not alone by Whitney Shea. You can watch the video online and kpbs.org/summer music series at Whitney Shay performs August 15th at chords and cars, a drive in concert at the Del Mar fairgrounds. Join us next week as our summer music series continues with guitarist Israel. Moldenhauer
Speaker 8: 44:31 [inaudible].