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LATEST UPDATES: Election 2020: Live Results | Tracking COVID-19 | Racial Justice

Mayoral Candidates, Both Dems, With Different Ideas For San Diego, How To Vote In The Pandemic, As Wildfires Ravaged California Concerns Rise Over Where To Build And Local Film Screens At L.A. Screamfest

Cover image for podcast episode

San Diego mayoral candidates Barbara Bry and Todd Gloria are seen in campaign photos.

BARBARA BRY AND TODD GLORIA CAMPAIGNS

Among the most consequential races in San Diego this election season is the race for San Diego mayor. Assemblymember Todd Gloria and City Councilmember Barbara Bry are both Democrats but their priorities are different. Plus, the November election is just around the corner, but polling sites will be different this year than in the past. We explain the ins and outs of voting. Also, California’s disastrous wildfire season is now one for the record books. Roughly 4 million acres have burned — the most in one season in modern California history. That is bringing attention to where California is building new homes and the fire safety measures required in that construction. And, a local filmmaker’s short horror comedy is being screened at L.A.’s Screamfest next week.

Speaker 1: 00:01 The San Diego mayor's race offers voters. A choice

Speaker 2: 00:04 Who occupies the most powerful position in city government matters now more than ever.

Speaker 1: 00:10 Hi, I'm Alison st. John, along with Maureen kavanah. This is KPBS midday edition. Our ballots are arriving in the mail and voting begins this week in San Diego.

Speaker 2: 00:29 We are only as going to be as good as voters once they receive their ballot to vote it and get it back to us for us to be able to process it all the way through it. That is verify it, opening it, extracting the ballot out.

Speaker 1: 00:41 How do wildfire risks currently affect decisions about where to build new homes and the lack of affordable housing as affecting thousands of children growing up home insecure. That's all ahead on mid-air edition. Among the most consequential races in San Diego. This election season is the race for San Diego mayor, both candidates assembly member, Todd, Gloria, and city council member Barbara Bree are Democrats, but KBB S Metro reporter. Andrew Burns says their priorities are quite different.

Speaker 2: 01:11 Halfway. What I made an omelet it's just past 10:00 AM. And Todd Gloria is volunteering at a North park cafe preparing meals for seniors. He's still working on his omelet, flipping technique. Do you see that anybody, anybody did you catch that the program is called great plates delivered. The state of California pays restaurants to prepare and deliver meals to older adults who are stuck at home because of COVID-19. Gloria strikes up a conversation with the chef who says he's working three jobs to keep his family afloat. Gloria later tells me he can sympathize. I grew up in a working class family. I rode the bus, has a young man. I understand what a lot of folks must do to get by before he was elected to the state assembly. Gloria served on the San Diego city council for eight years, including six months as interim mayor as the COVID-19 pandemic takes its toll on the city budget.

Speaker 2: 02:05 Gloria says, this is an area where he has relevant experience. I served as the city's budget chair for six to eight years that I was at city hall. We were able to take the city from massive budget deficits, resulting from the great recession, turn them into surpluses and reserves that thankfully will help mitigate some of the cuts that will be necessary going forward. I would point out that the city was running a deficit prior to the pandemic, but really reflection of, I think the poor fiscal stewardship over the last four years by this mayor and by my opponent, who is the chair of the budget committee.

Speaker 1: 02:37 Great. Well, I'm honored to have your vote and thank you very much for coming to get a yard sign.

Speaker 2: 02:41 Gloria. His opponent is city council member, Barbara burry. We meet her at the home of a supporter as she's handing out yard signs and talking with a group of her backers.

Speaker 1: 02:50 You have a cat too. We have two cats or dogs.

Speaker 2: 02:55 Bree was elected to the council in 2016, before politics. She had a successful business career. Co-founding an eCommerce company and incubating other tech startups. She says she's proud of helping sink the soccer city ballot measure in 2018, demanding an independent audit of the city's overbilling of water customers and asking tough questions about the city's bad record on real estate deals.

Speaker 3: 03:20 So I'm running for mayor, first of all, to bring accountability and transparency to city hall, to lead an inclusive economic recovery. As we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exemplified our existing inequities. And it's why I believe my private sector experience is so important in creating jobs, in terms of how we're going to have an economy. That's going to get everybody back to

Speaker 2: 03:48 Breeze. Platform includes banning dock lists, scooter sharing companies and short term home rentals. She says she supports increasing density near public transit stops as a way to alleviate the city's housing crisis, but opposes allowing duplexes in neighborhoods otherwise restricted to low density housing brief still hasn't decided how she'll vote this election on measure a which would allow the city to issue bonds to fund affordable housing. She says the measure is increased. A property taxes gives her pause

Speaker 3: 04:18 And Andrew, when we raise property taxes, somebody pays, I mean, homeowners pay renters pay. It's all passed on. So we're in the middle of a pandemic. What I might have done six months ago, different than what, why I'm still thinking today because we still have many San Diego runs out of work. And this, this is could be a very challenging time to raise taxes.

Speaker 2: 04:41 Gloria supports measure a and says when San Diego is tasked with tackling big problems like homelessness later too often becomes never, you know, even in this pandemic, even in this recession, even with people marching in the streets, the most common thing that is shared with me as a concern by San Diego is homelessness. They see thousands of our neighbors sleeping, outdoors, unsheltered, and they want something done about it. This is a way we can do something about it. San Diego's next mayor will face more than just a massive budget deficit at the city. Unemployment is still higher than its peak during the great recession. Thousands of families could face eviction making the homelessness crisis even worse who occupies the most powerful position in city government matters now more than ever Andrew Bowen KPBS news.

Speaker 3: 05:29 We're joined now by KPBS Metro report,

Speaker 2: 05:32 Andrew Bowen. Andrew, thanks for zooming in pleasure. My pleasure, Alison.

Speaker 3: 05:38 So now as you point out in your piece, both of these candidates are Democrats, but they have different backgrounds and priorities. You know, Todd Gloria has been volunteering for political causes since his teens and his whole career in public office and lives in mission Hills while Barbara Breeza successful businesswoman who lives in LA Jolla, how would you say their backgrounds affect where they're coming politically?

Speaker 2: 05:59 Well, Brie definitely talks about her private sector experience a lot in that business acumen, uh, you know, preparing her for, uh, running a government, knowing how to run a budget. Um, she also founded, uh, more than one organization to empower women in leadership. Um, uh, both in the government and in the private sector, um, in her announcement video, which was, uh, gosh, all like January of last year, I think, um, she acknowledged her own privilege. She said she's white. She had an MBA from the Harvard business school when she was starting a career as an entrepreneur. And so there were a lot of open doors and she wants to make that opportunity available to everyone regardless of their backgrounds. Um, Gloria often talks about his humble beginnings. He says, he's the son of a maid and a gardener. And, um, you know, his family was able to work its way into the middle class at a time when home ownership was more accessible in San Diego.

Speaker 2: 06:50 And he wants to, um, bring that back. He, um, you know, you can see that background in some of the issues that he's advocated for, for example, the minimum wage increase in San Diego, which he passed as, um, interim mayor. It was then, uh, excuse me. He passed when he was on the council, it was vetoed by the mayor, then overturned by the council and eventually referendum and approved by voters. And he says, you know, that's kind of an example of his stick to witness. And, um, in regards to his public service career, he says, he, you know, Bree has criticized him as being, you know, in government his whole life. And he says, well, he shouldn't be expected to apologize for that. He's proud of the work that he's done. He has very direct experience doing this job, running the city. He was interim mayor for six months. And, um, I think it's worth saying also that he would be the first gay mayor in San Diego, openly gay mayor. And he's definitely been drawn to issues affecting the LGBT community, um, including access to HIV treatment at the state level.

Speaker 1: 07:49 Okay. Now a key issue in the race. Is there a vision for how San Diego grows sum up how they differ on where to increase housing density?

Speaker 2: 07:58 Well, the whole discourse around housing and density has really shifted in San Diego recently to the point where it's no longer acceptable to just say no to it. And both of them say they support adding density near public transit in general. Um, but when you get to the specifics, Bree, I think is pretty clearly the less friendly candidate to growth and development. She points to her support for our community plan updates, which have increased density in a lot of neighborhoods as evidence that she's not anti-growth. Um, she also voted against a parking reform, which would have allowed more homes with fewer parking spaces. When a project is near a transit, Gloria supported that she opposes measure E to raise the height limit in midway that would allow for a lot more density there. And, uh, Gloria supports that, um, she's voted against some pretty controversial, uh, housing proposals and projects, for example, a 400 unit complex in Claremont that was a hundred percent affordable and low income. And she was the only no on that one. Um, just last week she voted against a 50 unit, a mixed income apartment building and Carmel mountain ranch. Um, so I think Gloria actually has a track record of supporting growth and density even when it's upset some of his own constituents. And so when you look at their records, the way that they talk about housing and growth, I think if the question is who is more pro housing and more willing to make the sometimes unpopular decisions around growth? I think Gloria is probably that candidate.

Speaker 1: 09:23 Now they're different on prop eight, that's the measure on the ballot that would raise $900 million from increased property taxes to build thousands of new subsidized, affordable housing briefly, where do they differ?

Speaker 2: 09:35 Well, Gloria supports it and Brea hasn't decided yet as, at least as of when we spoke a couple of weeks ago, um, she voted to put this measure on the ballot, but she, um, is, uh, concerned about, uh, raising property taxes at this time. And I think, um, her hesitation, uh, is, is kind of where you see breeze moderate to conservative side coming through. Um, she's definitely appealed to more conservative voters in the city and in the rhetoric and the position she's taking. You can, you can see that, um, Gloria says, you know, this is the best chance that San Diego has to make a serious dent in our affordable housing shortage and our homelessness crisis. And, and we just have to, to say yes, because if we wait too long, you know, sometimes as, as you heard in the feature, um, never become, uh, later becomes never in San Diego.

Speaker 1: 10:23 Finally, in the half minutes we have left Todd Gloria came out ahead in the primary, but Bree managed to defeat Republicans, Scott Sherman to come in second. So how has their fundraising going on? What do polls say about their chances? Yeah.

Speaker 2: 10:35 Poles are kind of a mixed bag. You know, um, there was a poll earlier that was done by the UT and 10 news that showed Bria head by a few points. It was later criticized as over representing Republicans. So not sure, you know, how much we can read into that. Um, and as far as fundraising, there was, uh, one report where Brie was ahead. And then the following fundraising report, Todd Gloria was ahead. So, um, in terms of money, uh, I think Gloria clearly has more money in the bank and he's definitely got more support from these outside, um, political action committees that will be spending on his behalf. Uh, but you know, obviously the most important poll is the one on election day,

Speaker 1: 11:11 An exciting race. Andrew, thanks so much. Thank you. Alison, we've been speaking with KPBS, Metro reporter, Andrew Bowen,

Speaker 3: 11:23 After the strangest election season in living memory voting finally begins this week in San Diego, registered voters can drop their mail in ballots in the mail or deliver them to various drop off locations as soon as tomorrow. And there are some important changes involved in the voting process this year, especially for people who choose to cast their ballots in person at a polling place. KPBS reporter Shalina Chet Lonnie is here to explain Angelina welcome. Hey, glad to be here. Now you spoke with San Diego County register of voters, Michael VU about the changes in this year's voting. First of all, is voter registration up in San Diego since 2016. Yeah, it's up about 13%. So the number of registered voters in San Diego County hovers around 1.9 million people, and what's the expected turnout in this election. So from his latest briefing, a registrar of voters, Michael booze, as he expected turnout is at about 80%.

Speaker 3: 12:25 Now this year because of Corona virus, every registered voter is getting a ballot in the mail. What do voters need to know about those mail in ballots? What you emphasize is that as soon as voters get them, they can fill them out and return it to the mailbox or whatever pooling site is close by. Um, you know, as soon as they can. And, and one of the ways that he emphasizes by which voters can return those ballots is through USBs, the us postal service. And he says, it's very safe. Um, it's going to get to the location it needs. Um, and they're going to be falling safety protocols as they normally do in every election year to make sure that the ballots are opened and verified and processed appropriately, but there are also other ways to return those mail in ballots besides the post office. Yes, there are different ways of returning those ballots and Michael VU kind of explains how that's different from the years prior,

Speaker 4: 13:20 Where we've doubled the total number of drop off locations than we did in March. And the total amount of time that there will be open is four times as long compared to March.

Speaker 3: 13:29 So that's a big change from 2016, even 2018. And this year, the registrar's office was given a much longer stretch of time to actually receive mail in ballots. Tell us about that. Right? So he says that balance can be received up to 17 days after November 3rd election day, as long as it's postmarked by them. And so he says, it's the responsibility of voters to make sure that the ballot counting goes as smoothly as possible. And the way they do that, he says is by getting it back as quickly as they can,

Speaker 4: 14:03 We are only as going to be as good as voters once they receive their ballot to vote it and get it back to us for us to be able to process it all the way through that is verify it, opening it, extracting the ballot out.

Speaker 3: 14:14 So people also have to take responsibility to make sure their ballot is counted as smoothly as possible to let's. Let's talk about in-person voting because that of course is still available, but it's different this year. How is it different? So in-person voting will be different for some obvious reasons. For example, if you decide to go to the County registrar's office, of course you will be asked to wear a mask and socially distance. And if you decide that you don't want to wear a mask, you will be directed to a site called curbside voting, um, where you can cast your ballot without a mask. And there will be people who are around who will be handing out PPE personal protective equipment, like gloves and masks. If you don't show up with those items and people sort of dieting voters on what they should be doing. Now, another big difference is that because of these regulations, normally there are over a thousand polling locations, but this time those are being consolidated into large spaces where people can socially distance while they're inside casting their ballot. Here's what VU has to say about that.

Speaker 4: 15:23 There will be fewer polling locations than there have been in the past. Um, normally we would conduct this upcoming election with approximately 1600 neighborhood polling places, but because of the pandemic, uh, we are now consolidate those into 235 super poles locations.

Speaker 3: 15:41 How do people find out where these super pole locations are? So if you go to the County registrar of voters website online, you'll see a link that, you know, gives you options for how to return your ballot. It'll tell you where you can return it by mail, but it also tell you where you can go to your polling location. So if you click on that link, you can enter your house, number, your street name, and your address and submit it. And it'll tell you where your closest polling location is an in person voting at these polling places is not restricted to election day on November 3rd this year. Doesn't it begin earlier. It does begin earlier. So it will begin four days before election day on October 31st. And that's to give people the option to socially distance more. So there's not going to be a surge of people all at once on election day.

Speaker 3: 16:35 And so that's giving people a little bit more flexibility if they don't feel like they want to return it by mail, they do want to go in person. That's going to open up the time for them to do it safely. Thank you so much for explaining that to us. I've been speaking with KP vis reporters. Shalina Chad Lonnie Shalina. Thanks. Thanks for having me for information on the candidates and issues on your ballot. Check out the KPBS voters guide at kpbs.org/election. This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh. California's disastrous wildfire season is now one for the record books. We're roughly 4 million acres have burned that is far and away. The largest area destroyed in one season in modern California history. Climate change has been named as the major culprit in the States, bigger, hotter, faster moving wildfires in recent years, but a new report finds another and potentially manageable cause of these tremendous fires. That is where California is building new homes and the fire safety measures required in that construction journey. Meet his reporter, Elizabeth while co author of an investigative report on wildfire and California housing policy published by pro Publica and Elizabeth. Welcome to the program. Thank you so much. Attention has been given to climate change as the crucial element in our devastating wildfires and rightly so, but what role does back country development play in sparking those fires?

Speaker 5: 18:10 Well, it plays a very large role. Um, climate change, of course, underlies this, all our heating planet and weather patterns are making it worse, but where humans live in our environment makes a tremendous difference in both where wildfires start, how many homes and lives are lost in those fires, how difficult those fires are to fight once they do start and how possible it is to manage the landscape well in a sort of preventative medicine way before fire starting. All right,

Speaker 3: 18:46 In your article, there's this figure that 95% of wildfires are caused by here?

Speaker 5: 18:52 Yes. So the landscape does need to burn. California is a Mediterranean landscape and fire is a natural part of that landscape, but yes, 95% of fires are sparked by human. Someone drives down the road, a spark flies from something, somebody start to barbecue. As we all know, PG and E has started an awful lot of fires in the state. So the ignitions almost always are human caused. So when you have more humans living in an environment, the more likely it is that fires will start.

Speaker 3: 19:29 What's driving the development of homes in the back country or the wild land, urban interface area as it's called

Speaker 5: 19:37 Yes, it's a mouthful, the wild land, urban interface. Well, the California has a housing crisis, as we all know. So the state desperately needs housing housing in a lot of coastal urban centers is extremely expensive. So people for financial reasons often move further and further away from those cities into areas that are now known as the womb, the wild land, urban interface. And of course those areas are often beautiful and people like living there. So there are many reasons people are getting pushed outward, but housing policy is a very large part of it.

Speaker 3: 20:17 When housing developments are planned, is there any state requirement that the wildfire risk needs to be assessed?

Speaker 5: 20:24 You know, there are many different requirements and different municipalities, but this week Newsome vetoed a bill that for the first time would have made wildfire risks are part of what's known as the housing allocation process. It's very detailed in arcane and that part is not important. But as of now, wildfire is not whilst our risk is not considered in warehousing needs to be developed in California. And the experts you spoke with said that it's really necessary to have a requirement at the state level about that. What is their reasoning? Well, most, most housing decisions are made on the local level and therefore are very influenced by local politics. So for better or worse, a lot of more affluent suburbs and cities are very resistant to housing. There are a lot of underpinnings to this, but people will say traffic is already bad and their schools are already underfunded and their public transportation already.

Speaker 5: 21:25 Isn't good enough. And many other reasons that often housing is resisted. So that becomes part of the issue at the local level, that if you leave it up to the locals and they don't want housing, it won't get built. But if there's state oversight sort of looking at the big picture in California and what needs to happen, we might move in the right direction more quickly. Now in your report, you say that it would not be possible to stop people from living in these remote areas, 11 million people in this state live in the wild land, urban interface, but are there ways to make the houses safer? Yes, there are many ways to make the houses safer and I highly recommend to listeners if they live in a fire prone area to just, you know, look it up. But the first and most important thing to do is make sure you have a good roof, that you have a roof that is flame resistant, most houses burn, because embers blow in the wind and land on somebody's roof.

Speaker 5: 22:28 And the house burns down as fire people often like to say, how's this don't burn up. They burn down. So that's the first thing. And then people will find that they should clear vegetation out from around their houses. So if an Ember flies, the house is less likely to burn. There are a lot of fairly simple things that homeowners can do to make their own home safer. And a lot of experts believe that the community level of organization is really the most important thing relative to keeping our neighborhood safe. That if one house burns, the next house is more likely to burn, but if your neighborhood can get together and everybody make your homes, fire safe together, you'll really put yourself at far less risk. I have been speaking with pro public, a reporter, Elizabeth Weil and Elizabeth, thank you so much for speaking with us. Thank you.

Speaker 1: 23:26 A whole generation of children is going through the coronavirus pandemic. The educational challenge of distance learning is talked about a lot, but an even more basic challenge is facing the thousands of children who are chronically homeless and don't have anywhere safe and secure to quarantine San Diego's housing Federation, which advocates for the construction of affordable housing is holding its 30th annual conference this week. And one of the keynote speakers is dr. Megan sandal, who is co-director of the grow clinic at Boston medical center and has been researching children and homelessness for years. Dr. Sandel, thanks so much for joining us.

Speaker 6: 24:03 Thank you so much for having me.

Speaker 1: 24:06 So start off how, how much of the homeless population around the country is estimated to be children?

Speaker 6: 24:12 Yeah, so we estimate actually that they're close to 8 million children that are both either homeless or housing unstable. What we now understand is that simple things like falling behind on rent often force families to make tough choices between say rent and food or heat or cooling costs. And so I think it's really essential for us when we talk about the impact on children and families, we don't just isolated to homelessness. We talk about all forms of housing instability.

Speaker 1: 24:43 Yes. Good point. Because when people think about homelessness, they often think of people living either on the streets or in a shelter, but that may not be where many children, children who are homeless are actually living. Um, our regional task force for the homeless in San Diego said there were 223 homeless youth on the streets at last count. But the San Diego unified school district says up to 9,000 of the 100,000 children they educate are technically homeless.

Speaker 6: 25:10 Yeah. I think that what's really important to understand is that you're right. There are many forms of homelessness. There can be the Frank homelessness where you'll see a family out in a tent or on the street, but there also are people that are moving frequently. They may be sleeping in a family member's living room and moving from house to house. They may be living over crowded in a single room, in an apartment that they're renting and that overcrowding can place them at risk for typically right now, as we understand the virus and how it can spread in housing apartments when families are overcrowded. And so when you think about kind of what we're asking home to be right now, it is supposed to be where you learn. It's supposed to be sometimes where you work from it's where you need to rest. And our understanding of the toxic stress, the stress of always being worried about where you're going to sleep at night is something that not only affects, you know, a children, but it affects their parents and affects all interactions.

Speaker 1: 26:14 What effects does this have on their health specifically now during the pandemic?

Speaker 6: 26:20 So our understanding is not only that it can affect their physical health. So say kids have asthma and they're living in overcrowded situations where there may be other toxic exposures can affect their sleep. It can affect their food insecurity, it can affect their mental health. And then we understand that it affects their parents. Their parents may have higher rates of depression or anxiety, and that can impact how they parent and therefore how their kids are doing. Um, I think that what's really important is that we not only understand it for the physical health, but we understand it for the mental health aspects. And we know that it can affect everyone in the household itself. You, you

Speaker 1: 26:58 Written that during this pandemic, we've seen families who are homeless presenting to the emergency department without any medical complaints, simply because of a lack of housing. So some families are so desperate just to find a place to be. They go to the hospital emergency.

Speaker 6: 27:13 I think our emergency departments are on the front lines where families have no place to go and don't have a safe place to sleep. And so they'll come and sleep in our ed overnight. And so we really need to be able to invest in important measures. I'm in San Diego measure a is going to be really critical for investing in those housing prescription

Speaker 1: 27:34 [inaudible] would raise about 900 million in order to build, uh, hundreds of affordable homes. Uh you're in Boston. And you talk about a program in your hometown where the, the housing authority and the public schools partnered to house a thousand families of public school kids, uh, at risk of homelessness, where did the money come from that? And has it been effective?

Speaker 6: 27:54 Yeah, so we have started, um, uh, partnerships between our local housing authority, our hospital, and other, uh, important social service agencies where oftentimes housing vouchers can be difficult to use many landlords, um, may not be ready to accept them. And so we created a special partnership where we were able to identify the families, get all of the, um, paperwork and other types of certifications they needed, and be able to identify the landlords that were then willing to take those vouchers. And we actually showed in a health affairs article that we were able to start to reduce, um, families, anxiety, and depression symptoms. And we were able to improve children's health just by being able to get them that stable, decent, affordable home.

Speaker 1: 28:40 The, the pandemic is of course, shedding lights on the pace of racial and economic disparities that we experienced in our communities. Um, what, uh, what is your research discovered about this and how it's affecting children?

Speaker 6: 28:53 Housing is probably the biggest illustrator of, of structural racism, um, because of historical ways in which certain families were preferenced to be able to buy houses and build a generational wealth and others were really functionally shut out of those systems. I think what's exciting about being able to potentially build more affordable housing is, is that it gives that opportunity for families to be able to get into those systems and to be able to create some of that wealth. And it's something that actually stimulates the economy. Those are jobs that people are going to be able to have, so that I think it's, I often say affordable housing is the triple bottom line, right? You have a stable home, it improves people's health. You actually create jobs and you actually stimulate the economy and actually improve being able to have kids in school and to be able to have their parents at work.

Speaker 3: 29:47 We're going to be a keynote speaker at the San Diego housing Federation conference this week. They, they are advocating for more affordable housing being built. What is the main point that you want to get across?

Speaker 6: 29:59 I do think we need to kind of reframe this from kind of the zero sum game. What do you get? What do I give up to? What do we all gain by being together? San Diego is that a real cusp point where the community can really pivot up and, and be able to start to, to build that foundation for everyone to be safe. Um, or I think that we can continue this kind of spiral of just skyrocketing rents people, not being able to stay in the community, people not being able to find jobs.

Speaker 3: 30:28 Well, thank you for your perspective on this very challenging problem, dr. Sandal, thank you so much for having me and I hope people will join us on Wednesday for the keynote. We've been speaking with dr. Megan sandal co-director of the grow clinic at Boston medical center.

Speaker 6: 30:45 [inaudible] About six

Speaker 3: 30:52 Undocumented immigrants held by us immigration and customs enforcement have tested positive for COVID, including hundreds detained in California. And some detainees said they were quarantined in solitary confinement for weeks. [inaudible] spoke to one of those detainees and has this story

Speaker 7: 31:14 On August 4th, at least six people in dorm B at Mesa Verde at detention center in Bakersfield were diagnosed with COVID-19 and staffers cleared the dorm to house only sick people. Alton Edmonson, a construction worker from Jamaica had tested negative, but guards didn't move him to another dorm. They took him to an intake cell Edmondson says it's a small windowless room with a toilet, but no bed. It's a standard. Say people must not be kept in one of these hold rooms for more than 12 hours. But Edmondson says, officials left them there for seven days. Then core documents show. They took him to a cell ice uses for disciplinary segregation, detainees call it the whole.

Speaker 6: 32:13 I didn't do anything.

Speaker 7: 32:15 I said he was being isolated for his own safety. As dozens of people elsewhere in the facility got sick. They wouldn't explain why he could not stay in a dorm with others who tested negative. Edmondson says in total, he spent three weeks confined alone for more than 22 hours a day.

Speaker 6: 32:34 Yeah. I

Speaker 7: 32:40 Send the geo group, the company that owns and operates my software. They declined to comment on Edmondson's case ISIS pandemic rules say people and medical isolation must not be treated as if they're in solitary confinement. They must get access to medical and mental healthcare, TV and reading materials. But advocates say ICT NIS report, widespread use of solitary confinement for quarantine during the epidemic. And some don't disclose covert symptoms for fear of being thrown in the hole. Elizabeth Jordan is an attorney with civil rights, education and enforcement center in Denver.

Speaker 8: 33:17 This is the practice that they're allowing their contractors to, to use. And this is really dangerous because it places a serious strain on people's mental health

Speaker 7: 33:27 That's drain war and another detainee at [inaudible] says his attorney, Trevor Cosmo of central [inaudible] Oakland [inaudible] was 74 from South Korea in may. He committed suicide in a medical isolation unit. I knew he had a history of suicide attempts. Cosmo says, but didn't check on him as required.

Speaker 8: 33:50 I believe that John died due to negligence in solitary confinement.

Speaker 7: 33:58 The United nations says solitary confinement should never be permitted for people with mental illness. Cosmo who also represents Alton Edmondson says ice doesn't actually need to lock up people awaiting immigration court hearing

Speaker 8: 34:13 It's completely inhumane, right? To put people in a windowless room for 23 hours to quarantine them. If you can't properly quarantine them, like they need to release everyone.

Speaker 7: 34:24 December 23rd, Edmondson became one of 140 people. A federal judge ordered ice to release from Mesa Verde due to the

Speaker 8: 34:33 Yeah, I feel great.

Speaker 7: 34:39 He's quarantining at a hotel in Bakersfield and the judge's orders. Next he'll head home to Georgia where he's lived most of his two decades in the U S he has three U S born sons.

Speaker 8: 34:51 Yeah. I want to see my kids.

Speaker 7: 34:54 He says he hopes talking about his experience will make ice detention more humane for others.

Speaker 3: 35:01 That was KQBD reporter for Rita Debra Romero. This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Alison st. John tomorrow night, screamed Fest LA kicks off a season of horror film festivals for October this year, local San Diego filmmaker, Pia Thrasher will have her vampire comedy things. We dig receive its world premier at a screen Fest drive in event on October 13th, KPBS arts reporter, Beth Armando talks with a filmmaker about her work PA you and I share a love for horror.

Speaker 9: 35:38 And for Halloween, this Halloween, though, you do have something to be excited about, which is the fact that you have made a film things we dig that has been accepted to a number of festivals. So tell me where you're going to be having your world premiere.

Speaker 8: 35:54 We finally do have one festival that does kind of a in person event, which well it's a drive in theater and a it's going to be in, um, LA [inaudible] for the screen Fest LA film festival. And it'll be making its world premier. And we're super excited. I'm going to bring some cast and crew with me. It'll be a chance to see the film with a bunch of other horror fanatics. I'm really excited about it. We're going to have our, we actually have a real premier with a bunch of other really cool horror flicks. So that's yeah, finally, I'm glad we have that. Then there's going to be a few other, um, uh, there's going to be the horror house festival, which is later in October and we'll have also the Northern frites, which is in Canada and it'll be, uh, shown there.

Speaker 9: 36:48 We dig is a mockumentary. And I have to say, it's probably influenced a little bit by what we do in the shadows, big time deals with vampires. So tell people a little bit about the story.

Speaker 8: 36:59 When I first saw what we're doing, the shadows, I just loved it. I loved the whole format, the whole idea about just a bunch of ordinary ordinary vampires living together and having to deal with regular life stuff. And it made me think, God, what would it be like for four female vampires with all their female issues or whatever you want to call it, living together. And, um, and dealing with it now modern times because they have different ages. You know? So when I saw that movie, but we do in the shadows, I just had a few ideas and I started writing and I'm like, okay, I'm not going to make another film. No, but then I kept writing and finding more stuff and making myself kind of giggle. And I'm like, Oh my God, I need to do this. So, so I wrote a script back in 2016 for what would have been probably more like a 40 minute movie. And, uh, and then, you know, over four years being, cause we have all these problems with locations and everything and, and uh, then I got sick and Oh, all that stuff. So finally we filmed it and um, and then of course the TV show, what we do in the shadows came out and I was scared to watch it. I was like, Oh my God, what if there's stuff in there? That's in my short film. And, but it wasn't. So it's all good. It's all good. So, um, that's how it happened. And we're here now.

Speaker 9: 38:19 All right. I'm going to play a little clip from the film just so people can get a feel for the flavor of it.

Speaker 10: 38:24 Uh, so, um, yeah. Do you, uh, have a favorite blood type favorite blood tap? No, but we have favorite victims. I like the, that are out on

Speaker 11: 38:36 The beach all day know drunk people are good. Ooh, nice buzz on those drugs. Surfer dudes, do you surf fangs off guard?

Speaker 9: 38:51 He's mine for full disclosure. I have to say that I contributed some coffins to your film. And I want you to talk a little bit about it because I gave you some very plain bland Pinewood coffins, and you have an amazing art director or production designer who dress those up quite a bit.

Speaker 8: 39:11 So yeah, when, uh, when I was trying to get all my props together and I need, I knew I needed a coffin and I needed a child size coffin. I'm like, where am I going to get a child size coffin? And so of course I asked on Facebook and of course the first thing like, hello. So I asked, you know, and you were like, you saved my day and you, I came over to your place and you had this firewood, um, child sized coffin. It was perfect, but it was very plain. So we knew were going to have to dress it up a little bit. So you gave me that and you gave me this really thick sheet, um, of, of, um, his cardboard. It's like probably an inch thick or so, and says, you know, see what you can do with that, make a lid out of that.

Speaker 8: 39:56 And so I brought it all to my production designer. [inaudible] who is, if you're in the San Diego film industry here anywhere, you would know her because she's amazing. She's done so much stuff. Uh, she built the entire vampire coven, like the whole, their whole place in their house. So she basically took this, this coffin and created this amazing, uh, elaborate coughing with the lid that has so, so many, um, ornaments. And, and then she made it golden and then she aged it. And I don't even know how she did it, but she did layers of that cardboard sheet and somehow put it all together. And it's amazing. I still, I can get over it. It doesn't, it does not look like it's made out of cardboard. It looks like it's made out of some kind of an old metal, you know, and it's all shiny and golden and it's, it's incredible. I couldn't believe it's, she's amazing. Elsa Mickelson production designer. Extraordinary. All I can say it wouldn't look the same in honor.

Speaker 9: 41:03 What are some of the challenges of making a comedy like this, where you are using a film crew within a film crew and trying to make it all feel spontaneous and what are some of the challenges of doing that and pulling it off?

Speaker 8: 41:18 That was hard because first of all, you have to find a balance of, of kind of creepy and humor. And it turned out to be a little bit more funny than creepy. I didn't want to do like just the found footage style. So we actually breaking a bunch of laws here where we're having found footage a little bit from the crew's point of view, but also a narrative camera that is just there to kind of capture everything. So we also like wanted to leave it open for some improv here and there. Yeah. It was definitely not what I first imagined. Cause at first I wanted to have it kind of like what we do in the shadows, just constantly talking to cameras on, like, we didn't have that time. We had three days to film.

Speaker 3: 42:01 And can you remember what got you interested in horror?

Speaker 8: 42:05 There wasn't really a specific moment. I think I didn't realize that gravitated towards the dark side until somebody pointed out to me that I'm like Wednesday Adams that I grew up like her and I'm like, what do you mean? And she said that, well, your dad made tombstones for a living and he had tombstones all over the front, you opened a backyard and all these graves, you know, things that you put on a grave like lights and little water, only water containers. And this was in Germany. So, and I was like, yeah, you're right. I think to me it was always normal to deal with the dark side of the desk unspoken. And we always had people come to my dad's house to talk about the funeral and the planning. And so I grew up with it and to me it was normal and I never liked romantic comedies because I thought they were just, just they've made me die, which is what she's I couldn't take it. So I would go anything but that, and of course the natural reaction is the opposite. So which was usually the darker side. It made me think more and made me get into it. It made me focus on my own dark side. Cause we all have fun. Some suppress more than others. It's just not good for you. You have to let it out.

Speaker 3: 43:28 That was Beth Armando speaking with filmmaker, Pia Thrasher, her film things we dig has its world premiere at scream Fest LA on October 13th, you can look for Beth's fleeting appearance in the film as a creepy clown.

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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.