San Diego Unified Superintendent Questioned By Senators In Confirmation Hearing
Speaker 1: 00:00 A Senate confirmation hearing for San Diego, Cindy Martin, Speaker 2: 00:04 I've dedicated my life as an educator to improving educational opportunities and outcomes for all students. Speaker 1: 00:12 I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Jade Hyman. This is KPBS mid-day edition discussion on the racialized sexism faced by many Asian American women. Right now it's impacting our mental health, um, and, and our ability to feel safe out, out in the world in the U S San Diego's Catholic Bishop launches, a COVID vaccination campaign and a new podcast spotlights a shameful episode in Las history. That's ahead on midday edition, the woman who leads San Diego's largest school district faced questions from senators today during her confirmation hearing for deputy us education, secretary here's San Diego unified school district superintendent, Cindy Martin, Speaker 2: 01:15 I'm honored enough to be confirmed. I will work to use my experiences in San Diego to help support efforts across the country, to reopen schools safely and bring children back to the classrooms. This pandemic did not create the inequities in our education system, but it has highlighted just how much work remains to be done. I've dedicated my life as an educator to improving educational opportunities and outcomes for all students. Speaker 1: 01:42 Martin has received praise from prominent educators across the country, but there are local voices raised in opposition to her nomination charter school advocates, and the local chapter of the NAACP have taken issue with some of her policies as superintendent. And joining me is KPBS education reporter Joe Hong. Welcome Speaker 3: 02:03 Jo. Hi Maureen. Thanks for having me. Speaker 1: 02:05 How did this morning's hearing go for Cindy Martin? Speaker 3: 02:08 Yeah, so the, the tone and tenor of sort of the questioning, um, was divided across partisan lines today. She received a lot of praise from Democrats for shipments at San Diego unified, particularly in the area of, you know, raising graduation rates and college readiness rates for students of color and low income students. I'd say the part where she struggled the most was during questioning about her experience with higher education specifically in regards to, uh, managing the student loan portfolio and managing student loan forgiveness, which was a big issue. It was a Republican Senator bill Cassidy from Louisiana, who was really grilling her on her lack of experience with higher education. And when he asked her about her thoughts on student loan forgiveness, she gave an answer that sounded, you know, very rehearsed and Cassidy called her out on that. But she ultimately kept saying she would refer to her staff experts on the subject. And, um, she ultimately didn't give her own opinions about student loan forgiveness. So I think that was a little frustrating for, for the Senator Speaker 1: 03:07 And outside of that, what were the other topic areas that she was questioned about in this morning's hearing? Speaker 3: 03:13 Yeah, so the, the main issue obviously was the, the various aspects of, of post pandemic recovery and what public school is going to look like, um, in the coming months, making sure students get back on campuses as soon as possible. Um, making sure they're back safely, she talked about the need for standardized testing this year. So we know how much work educators have to do once they come back to campuses and making sure that students are taken care of both academically, but also in regards to their mental health. So making learning enjoyable again, when schools reopened and, you know, the need for more investments in STEM education, as well as, uh, CTE, uh, career and technical education, uh, which were both big, big topics in the Senate hearing for secretary Miguel Cardona as well. And of course, you know, making sure students with disabilities are getting the resources they need. That was also a big topic Speaker 1: 04:07 If confirmed, what will Martin's role be as deputy education secretary? Speaker 3: 04:13 Yeah, so I'm deputy education secretaries, they play a key role, you know, they're the second in command of the agency. They help set policy and, and lead major initiatives. They're basically next in lines, take over the agency of if the secretary leaves it's often referred to as the, uh, the chief operating officer of the education department sort of overseeing the day-to-day operations. Speaker 1: 04:35 And why did the Biden administration say she was chosen for this position? Speaker 3: 04:39 Yeah, it goes back to her success, moving the needle with vulnerable student populations, uh, students of color, low income students seeing measurable progress, both in terms of literacy rates, math scores, and just her success in this sort of challenging area of public education of, of really seeing progress with those student groups. Speaker 1: 05:03 Can you remind us about Martin's background in education? Speaker 3: 05:07 Sure. So, uh, she spent 17 years as a teacher, um, and she was later eventually promoted to a principal, uh, at a school in city Heights. Uh, she was praised for, you know, starting a gardening program and really seeing a lot of success there at a, at a more localized level with again, students of color and low income students. Then, uh, she was promoted as a superintendent and she's been superintendent for about eight years today. Um, and often she, she talks about her brother who has special needs and who has been an inspiration to her as an educator. Speaker 1: 05:42 Now Martin has gotten criticism from charter school advocates. Is she against charter school? Speaker 3: 05:49 If you'd allow me to provide some background, you know, before the pandemic charter schools were probably the hot button issue in education. And I'd say that most school district administrators are not big fans of charter schools because they take students away from the traditional public schools and the money goes along with them. And, uh, additionally teachers unions often oppose charter schools because, uh, teachers at charters are usually not in the union that said, Cindy Martin did say today that she believes parents should have the choice to put their children in the learning environment that's best for them. Uh, she said, ideally, that would be the neighborhood public school, but she said she supportive of parents seeking alternatives. Speaker 1: 06:32 Now the San Diego chapter of the NAACP also criticizes Martins charter school policy, but they also take issue with the number of suspensions of black and Brown students at San Diego unified. Tell us about that. Speaker 3: 06:47 Yes. So, uh, today there was a small protest, uh, at the district office and the disparities in school discipline at San Diego unified was a big issue for the protestors black students. And, uh, often Latino students are more likely to be suspended and expelled, particularly in the, uh, the youngest grades. And, uh, this has been a problem. I mean, this is a problem across the country. Uh, this has been a problem for San Diego unified, but Cindy Martin has seen, um, uh, a little bit of progress in this area, but her critics say it hasn't been significant enough. Speaker 1: 07:26 And so was Martin asked about that? And what was her response? Speaker 3: 07:30 She didn't directly address the issue of racial disparities in school discipline, but she did cite a study, uh, finding that SD, uh, as the unified is an outlier, when it comes to urban school districts who have moved the needle in regards to black student academic success, um, in terms of reading and math scores, Speaker 1: 07:51 What do we know about the timeline for the confirmation vote for Cindy Martin? Speaker 3: 07:55 So comments can be submitted by by centers until tomorrow. Um, the, uh, the Senator, uh, who chaired this committee said she wants to vote as soon as possible. So, uh, Cindy Martin can get to work right away, but there's no, there's no set date yet for the vote. Speaker 1: 08:14 So back here at San Diego unified, any word on who the new school superintendent might be, Speaker 3: 08:20 No permanent replacement yet. Um, Lamont Jackson who, uh, served as an area superintendent under Cindy Martin will serve as interim superintendent while the district conducts a nationwide search for a permanent replacement. Um, the, the district did form a committee of close to 50 people last month who will select 10 semi-finalists for the position. And then the school board will then narrow that list down to three candidates. And, uh, then the new superintendent is expected to start at the start of the 2022, a calendar year. All right, then I've been speaking with KPBS Speaker 4: 08:56 Education reporter, Joe Hong and Joe. Speaker 5: 08:59 Thank you. Thank you, Marie Speaker 6: 09:13 [inaudible] Speaker 5: 09:17 For Asian American women, racism and sexism are two things experienced at the same time last week, shooting rampage in the Atlanta area, underscored that when eight people, six of whom were Asian women were killed, law enforcement immediately took the shooter's words as fact stating his motive was sex addiction and had nothing to do with race, but many people in the Asian-American Pacific Islander community say racism and sexism have a long interconnected history in this country. Joining me to discuss is Kristin Sasaki PhD, who is an assistant professor of ethnic studies at UCS de Kristin. Welcome. Speaker 4: 09:56 Hi, thanks for having me. Speaker 5: 09:58 Can you describe the ways in which Asian American women experience racism and sexism? Speaker 4: 10:04 Sure. So the recent Atlanta killings, I think exemplify the intersection of racism and sexism that Asian-American women deal with in this country on a daily basis. And I really don't think that you can disconnect race from sexism or racialized violence from gender based violence. And we see this narrative that is coming out of the shooting in Atlanta with the shooter, telling the police that the spas he opened fired on represented, you know, this temptation he wanted to eliminate, and these were working class Asian American women, women with lives and loved ones. And longs defense reduces these women to an embodiment of his sin and this, this conflation of massage parlors and sex workers without any nuance, I think, is, is something very specific to anti-Asian racism against Asian women. Speaker 5: 10:56 And have you personally experienced this? Speaker 4: 10:59 I mean, sadly, yes, I have, uh, a lot of times in places I think where you least expect it, like while grocery shopping, someone will make a massage monistic comment while I'm, you know, picking out apples or something. So growing up as a Asian American woman, I mean, you know, this is our reality. We are, invisibilized in so many different ways where views viewed as a fetish, um, and exoticized eroticized sexualized object that on one hand is expected to be quiet and on the other is understood as, as you know, this dangerous temptation, Speaker 5: 11:37 Where does this racialized sexism or racialized misogyny against Asian-American women STEM from? Speaker 4: 11:44 That's a great question. You know, I think our country has had a long history of sexual violence against Asian women. And we see it as early as the 1875 page act, which is a us federal law that was directed at barring Asian women in general and Chinese women in particular, from entering the United States under the assumption that they were sex workers or apt to become sex workers. So, you know, this is not something you at all it's been going on for centuries. Speaker 5: 12:15 And, you know, when you heard police in Georgia say the shooting wasn't about race, but about an alleged sex addiction, the shooter said he had, what were your immediate, Speaker 4: 12:27 I mean, honestly, I thought they're wrong. And my second thought was, you know, I know our community is going to speak out about this. And so, uh, I, you know, I'm, I'm glad we are, and I'm glad we're having this conversation. Speaker 5: 12:40 What do you think of the way the Cherokee County Sheriff's office responded to the rampage shooting? Uh, the officer said the shooter had a bad day, the same officers' Facebook page revealed racist post about the Corona virus. I mean, do you think he, or even the way this has been investigated is one example of a larger problem in terms of getting needed attention to justice when it comes to violence against the AAPI community? Speaker 4: 13:05 Yes, I do. I think the Asian-American community in general has been told that we don't really experience racism and this type of violence against our community is oftentimes swept under the rug by political authorities. And, you know, although we've been voicing our concern for decades and centuries, even it's gotten little media coverage or, or any political attention. Speaker 5: 13:27 And do you think that the, the model minority myth feeds into that idea that the community does not experience racism? Speaker 4: 13:35 Definitely. I mean, even if you look at one of the first times it's used, you know, in 1965, by Daniel Moynihan who was then secretary of state, he uses the term model minority as he compares Asian Americans, you know, quote success in this country to what he calls the failure of, of black America. And I think that type of discourse continues to haunt and hurt our BiPAP communities today. Speaker 5: 14:01 And what do you think needs to be done to help people better understand how Asian American women in particular experience racism in this country? Speaker 4: 14:10 You know, um, oftentimes when we complain about anti-Asian racism and gender violence, our concerns are brushed away and minimized. And I really hope that starts to change. And what we need to do is understand the intersectionality of these types of systemic violence against BiPAP communities, um, and Asian American communities, and, and be in solidarity with each other. And for the past year, there's been a lot of media focus upon particular individual acts of violence against our communities with organizations like stop API hate, um, reporting individual acts of violence against Asians and Asian-Americans, and this has been a really useful tool, but I think what has happened is that the ways that this is covered is as individualized acts of violence. And what we need to do is demonstrate that they are really symptomatic of systemic racism and violence against our communities. And how has this history of racialized sexism harmed AAPI women in the U S I mean, I think in general, you know, we are invisibilized, um, and right now it's impacting our mental health, um, and, and our ability to feel safe out, out in the world, out in the U S I've been speaking with Kristin Sasaki, P H D, who is an assistant professor of ethnic studies at UC S D Kristin, thank you very much for joining us. Speaker 4: 15:40 Thanks for having me. Speaker 6: 15:53 [inaudible]. Speaker 4: 15:56 This is KPBS mid day edition on Maureen Cavenaugh with Jade Hyman, the seat for the 79th assembly district, which runs from OTI ranch all the way to Lamesa is now vacant. After Dr. Shirley Weber was confirmed as the new secretary of state KPBS reporter max Rivlin Nadler looks at the race to replace her where early voting has already begun. Speaker 7: 16:18 The special election comes at a pivotal time for the heavily democratic 79th district. When federal COVID recovery money will now flow through the state to communities that desperately need it. Akilah Weber is a Dr. Lamesa city council member, and daughter of the woman she's now running to replace. She says, she'll be up to the task of making sure these funds hope a community that's hurting because she's already working in government. One of the things that, um, is beneficial about being elected official at this time is that I have already the relationships with the elected officials that actually govern these individual areas and these individual cities, national city resident Leticia Mongolia is a lifelong organizer in San Diego and has worked on behalf of a public employees union. For the past 16 years. She thinks relationships at the community level will prove valuable to distributing much needed resources. Speaker 7: 17:12 Immediately. When I look at the short-term impact to small businesses, my, my approach is going to be being able to leverage public, federal state resources, to make sure that we provide immediate injection of relief to our small businesses, where there's an opportunity to have them reopen their doors, that we're there to support them. Aramaic gloss. Blake is a criminal justice reform advocate whose previous run for public office was derailed by a cancer diagnosis. She wants to make sure that communities know how beneficial policies in both Washington and Sacramento are impacting them, and that they feel those impacts these Speaker 4: 17:50 Communities never actually feel the policy changes. They never actually see the results of what was created for them to change and make their lives better. Speaker 7: 18:02 Two other candidates, middle school teacher, Shane Parmelee and Republican Marco Contreras are also running for the seat. Early. Voting began on March 8th with the primary election concluding on April 6th. If no candidate wins, the majority of votes or runoff will be held on June 8th, either way, the assembly member will have missed the bulk of an important legislative session, and we'll need to get up to speed quickly. That's where Mongolia believes she has an advantage as already a veteran of what goes into deal-making in Sacramento. Speaker 4: 18:32 I really feel that I'm prepared, I'm experienced, and I've been a champion for workers. Speaker 7: 18:37 Weber says her immediate focus would be on helping improve public health through tackling longstanding social problems like school funding, Speaker 4: 18:44 Making sure that resources and funds are equitably, distributed, and money is able to be given to those who need more so that schools, whatever school your child goes to, regardless of your zip code, that every child has an equal opportunity to create a healthy future. Speaker 7: 19:04 Well, both Weber and Mongolia have picked up coveted endorsements and financial support from local political leaders and labor organizations. Glass Blake feels like her political outsider status will allow her to more directly serve the community Speaker 4: 19:17 To bypass all the politics within politics. Because many times we, again, don't get that sustainable change because our politicians are bought and paid for and their boss, Speaker 7: 19:29 Former assembly member, Dr. Shirley Weber passed a series of police reform bills, which one, her accolades from across the country. Each candidate says they'll continue her work in their own way for Dr. Akilah Webber, the protests from over the spring and the riot in her hometown of Lamesa reminded her that social justice issues in the district must be continually listened to and addressed at the state level. Speaker 4: 19:52 What we saw in may and June, it was not due to a single incident. It was due to years of people not being heard. It was due to years of people feeling marginalized and treated differently. Speaker 7: 20:07 Three of the four democratic candidates will participate in a forum on Wednesday evening, focusing on gun violence and the district organized by San Diegans for gun violence prevention. The forum begins at 6:00 PM. Speaker 1: 20:20 Joining me is KPBS reporter, max riven, Nadler, and max. Welcome. Good to be here now, just to follow up on that last point, you made the gun forum tonight, do the three democratic candidates taking part, have similar positions on gun laws. I believe it's pretty close, uh, in terms of their they're all in favor of California's course, that has been on the past few years for stricter gun laws. They're in favor of federal gun. Um, and Speaker 8: 20:48 Especially in the wake of what we've seen over the past two weeks, uh, after George had in Colorado. So, um, I don't think there's going to be a lot of daylight between them in terms of, of guns. Speaker 1: 20:59 Okay. So the lone Republican in this race, Marco Contrarez pushed for faster reopening of schools and businesses during the height of the pandemic. I'm wondering now that schools and businesses are reopening, what's his message. Speaker 8: 21:13 He is staying on the reopening message. He wants five days a week, a full reopening. He just posted on his Instagram, a slickly produced video calling for that. Cause right now there's some schools that are going to do a blended learning. People are going to be able to stay at home. He just wants a full reopening. He's been an advocate for keeping churches open as well. He's a member of awaken church, which has run a foul of the authorities, uh, during this, uh, COVID lockdown. Um, but you know, he's, he's an interesting guy. He's been running a really, uh, social media savvy campaign. And I think as the Republican party in San Diego looks to build, um, essentially from scratch over the next couple of years, uh, he might be somebody that sticks around for a while. Speaker 1: 21:57 And can you tell us a little more about the fourth democratic candidate in this race? Shane Parmley Speaker 8: 22:03 Shane permanently, she's a longtime teacher and local activist a few years ago. She was actually part of the group that continued to feed homeless individuals in the park and alcohol and in defiance of kind of city ordinance. And she was ticketed because of that. Ultimately that policy was overturned. She's been a staunch supporter of teachers during the pandemic, making sure they get all the PPE that they need and the resources that they have as well as focusing on the development of young people who are feeling a ton of mental health impacts of the pandemic. Speaker 1: 22:33 And from your report, it seems the top two contenders, the candidates with the most money and endorsements are Akila Weber and Latisha Munguia. Is that right? Speaker 8: 22:43 That's right. Uh, Akilah Weber has the endorsement of the mayor, the union Tribune and the backing of some unions. So it's definitely, um, a lot of local politicians choice, but Mongolia is really the labor leaders choices. And especially when it comes to teachers and police unions, she has their support. And she also has the backing of Lorraine and a Gonzales, you know, a neighboring assembly woman for this district. And right now a really pivotal voice in the assembly, given how much power she has over the budget process, Speaker 1: 23:12 Hilo webinar's mom, Dr. Shirley Weber, sometimes anger unions with things like our support for charter schools, for instance. So therefore our unions showing any support for Akilah Webber, Speaker 8: 23:24 Some arts, it's definitely not a monolith. The labor movement in San Diego, the carpenter's union, the California nurses association is backing Akila Weber. But again, Mongolia has the majority of the labor groups behind her for this race. Speaker 1: 23:38 And how important is that support in the 79th district? Speaker 8: 23:43 Yeah, that really remains to be seen. This should be an interesting test because labor's picks and especially in this assembly district for a lot of other overlapping races have, have not done well recently, Monica Montgomery, uh, step one in this district going against, um, labor support, Georgette Gomez, who was their pick for, um, uh, the congressional race lost to Sarah Jacobs and Kelvin Barrios. Again, same district area, um, blew a lead in the primary to Sean at ULA Rivera. Um, after some standards came up. So really they've kind of had a tough time recently. There's been some, you know, notable successes. Um, and you know, that could signal a difference though, in terms of what union leadership thinks is a good choice and what the rank and file believe are the rate choice for that district. Speaker 1: 24:31 And what's the level of campaigning like in the 79th district are for instance, voters seeing a lot of mailers getting a lot of robocalls Speaker 8: 24:40 Mailers are definitely going out. Um, and, and one thing that's really important to note is everyone is getting their ballot mailed to them because they're still operating under the pandemic rules that were created last year for the general election bill expire for 2022, but for 2021, everyone should have their ballot mailed to them. So that could counter a little bit, um, the, the impact of, uh, this being special election in April. Um, and, and so people are sending out mailers to try to take advantage of that have looked for your ballot in the mail. Um, there's even been some television support during the Grammy awards, uh, a coalition of doctors, dentists and domestic workers paid for an ad in support of Akila Webber. Um, so you know, the fact that that's, uh, from a national broadcast, obviously there's only bra, um, broadcast in San Diego, but still that's a lot of money being spent. Speaker 1: 25:27 And as you said, early voting is already underway. Can you tell us again about how the winner will be decided Speaker 8: 25:35 Early voting began on March 8th? The primary election now concludes on April 6th. So really soon, um, if no candidate were to win a majority of votes, so over 50%, which is definitely a possibility, then there would be a runoff held on June 8th. So this would extend even further. There'll be seated in the assembly immediately following the certification of a winner. So it's very possible if there is a runoff that this assembly member doesn't actually play much of a role in legislating this year, because by then the budget process and a lot of the legislation will have already gone through the deliberative body in Sacramento. Speaker 1: 26:11 Okay. I've been speaking with KPBS reporter, max Rivlin Nadler, max. Thank you. Speaker 8: 26:16 Thank you. Speaker 1: 26:22 Let's turn to faith. And the pandemic as public health authorities try to convince reluctant Californians to get a COVID vaccination, powerful allies in that effort could be religious leaders who use their authority to assure people about the vaccines, effectiveness and safety. One person who wants to play a role in that effort is the Bishop of San Speaker 9: 26:44 Diego and Imperial counties. Robert McElroy, here's the California report host Saul Gonzalez with more is archdiocese has launched a campaign to promote COVID vaccinations among San Diego Catholics saying it's the moral thing to Speaker 10: 27:00 The overall and nearly unanimous position among the bishops has been that the bottom line is Catholic teaching strongly, strongly encourages everyone in the Catholic community to be on, to get vaccinated, whether it be Pfizer or maternal or Johnson and Johnson, because the imperative to heal our society is so strong. It is an act of charity to everyone. We care about that we get vaccinated and to the, to the society as a whole Speaker 9: 27:35 Speak, just more generally about what you think the church's role should be in promoting vaccinations. And what's happening on the ground, say in San Diego and Imperial counties, what is the Catholic church doing to make sure that as many people as possible get vaccinated and also countering any vaccine skepticism that might be out there because of maybe language barriers in the immigrant community or people's ideology what's happening there? Speaker 10: 28:02 Well, we have put out to our websites and communication vehicles in the strongest possible terms, exhortations to get vaccinated. And then we are going to have a more formalized and comprehensive effort to speak to our parish communities. I have written a letter it's going to be read at all the masses in every parish of the diocese, and it's a moral good to do so it serves God and it serves our neighbor to do so. We're also sending out materials to try to dispel some of the false narratives that have circulated, uh, in particularly the averages, which is circular. They do within cultural communities where it has been rumored that these vaccines have various defect or conspiratorial elements installed these things. So we're going to try to combat that directly Speaker 9: 28:58 Out of this pandemic. Of course, I think a lot of institutions are talking about how they did things before the pandemic and how they want to do things post pandemic. Do you have any thoughts there as a religious leader? Are there things that you think just are going to have to change or are there things that have happened the last year that you would like to see continued? Speaker 10: 29:15 Yes, there are. And precisely we begun a process here in our diocese to focus on the question, how should the church emerge post pandemic? And part of that is going to be reclaiming elements that we've always had in the life of the church that are vital, but have been diminished during the spirit of time. And part of it will be learning from new things that we have done because we were forced to do the online masses of forms of communication. For example, zoom will diminish in our life once this is over, but it still will have an ongoing role that we'll add things that we never had before and new ways of people relating to each other, which we want to continue and integrate into the ongoing life of the church. That is Robert McElroy, Speaker 5: 30:12 The Roman Catholic diocese of San Diego and Imperial County. Thank you. Speaker 10: 30:17 Great. It's been great to be with yourself. And Bishop Speaker 5: 30:21 McElroy was speaking to the California Speaker 11: 30:23 Port host, Saul Gonzalez. Speaker 5: 30:32 The program tasked with preventing the flow of toxic sewer water into the Pacific ocean is failing to adequately identify industrial polluters. That's according to a new city audit, which also points to outdated methods of staffing issues as part of the programs failures in recent years, joining me to discuss the findings of the audit is David Garrick, a city hall reporter for the San Diego union Tribune. Speaker 11: 30:55 David, welcome. Thanks for having me. So this program Speaker 5: 30:59 Question here, the industrial wastewater control program is tasked with overseeing industrial pollution and prevention efforts. How successful has it been in preventing this kind of pollution? Speaker 11: 31:11 Yeah, well, according to the city, auditor, not as successful as it, as it should be, or is it as it could be. Uh, they apparently use sort of an outdated inefficient way of tracking who, uh, you know, which particular industrial businesses should be monitored, uh, and, and w whether or not those businesses are complying is another other issue. Cause they have some staffing problems. So it doesn't, it doesn't sound like the program's going on as well as it should be going. Does it seem like Speaker 5: 31:35 There's been a failure to properly hold industrial polluters accountable? Speaker 11: 31:39 I think so. I don't think it's necessarily letting anyone off the hook. I think it's just that when your program is inefficient and it's not finding the right people that need to be monitored, you're letting them off the hook by not really even starting the process. So, Speaker 5: 31:50 And the reaction from lawmakers, I mean, have they indicated how they'd like to see the program step up? Speaker 11: 31:56 Yeah, that's probably program it's actually generated controversy in the past because it's sort of a separate issue that a separate audit found is that the fees that the city charges, uh, for these inspections are not that updated since 1984, which is a really, really long time. Uh, and it appears that it's just sort of a lack of prioritization is why they haven't been updated. I mean, we, we tried to look and see if the industry had lobbied the city not to update them and we couldn't find any evidence, tangible evidence of that. So it appears that this is just hasn't prioritized updating the fees. Cindy says they're about to start doing that, but a lot of city officials now because of that last audit are more vocal about the fact that that needs to happen. We need to have enough fees being charged at the city can inspect these people businesses and make sure that they are compliant. And Speaker 5: 32:40 So, as you mentioned, those fees haven't changed in over 30 years. What are some of the other ways that this report indicated the program was outdated? Speaker 11: 32:48 Well, just how they find other businesses, the highly fine businesses that they need to potentially monitor the County has a database of businesses and they didn't even use it. Apparently according to the audit to determine which businesses might be eligible or might need to be, um, inspected. Uh, so just simple stuff like that. And also they have a lack of staff and if they are actually going to end up inspecting the number of businesses that they ought to be inspecting, which might be four or five times as many, we're not sure then they're really short-staffed because they can't even get all the inspections done. Now, even though they're doing a limited number of businesses, Speaker 5: 33:23 So why has the staffing been an issue? Speaker 11: 33:26 You know, uh, sit with it. When the, when the response came from the city's, uh, public utilities department, they said COVID had created some turnover. Uh, they use sort of the ordinary, uh, you know, there's been a lot of turnover, a lot of flux, so they weren't really as specific. Um, but it seems like that right now, the workload is low enough where the staffing is somewhere in the neighborhood of where it needs to be. But as the audit points out the workload, it shouldn't be much higher because there's a lot of industrial businesses that aren't being inspected. And one thing the audit pointed out, which is pretty important is that sort of creates an uneven playing field because if you're an industrial polluter and I'm an industrial polluter and we're in the same industry and you're being inspected and I'm not being inspected well, that's a leg up for me and my competition against you. Speaker 5: 34:08 Now, has there been a discrepancy in how the program monitors pollution based on federal versus local regulations? Speaker 11: 34:16 Yeah. Apparently according to the audit, they do a much better job of businesses that are subject to federal requirements. That means the clean water act. Um, basically that has to do with the volume of pollution that you, that you, that you put out, um, whether you you're forced to comply with that when a particular industrial business is not subject to federal rules, because they don't produce that kind of volume and they're only subject to local ordinances, then it appears that the city program has even even more lacks in sort of making sure that they're in compliance, at least according to the audit, Speaker 5: 34:48 The previous success of the industrial wastewater control program in preventing harmful chemicals from polluting our ocean water, um, has helped the city received federal waivers relating to the requirement to update the point Loma sewer plant, uh, could the findings of this audit jeopardize those waivers in the future? Speaker 11: 35:06 Yeah, the audits said it could, it didn't, it wasn't really specific about how that process would work. You know, the federal government has been giving San Diego waivers for several years, uh, for upgrading that point Loma plant, primarily because the city has made of out, uh, to start recycling its sewer water into drinkable water and their program called pure water. Uh, but in addition, the city has gotten waivers in the past, partly because of this, because this program reduces the amount of toxic stuff like benzine or arsenic that gets in the water, which is a good thing. Uh, but apparently if the city says they're doing it and maybe they aren't Speaker 12: 35:38 Really doing it at a high level, the audit says then maybe the city will lose the waiver. So that that'd be a huge jeopardy because the estimates of the costs that the city would incur to upgrade that point Loma plan or 2 billion, even $3 billion. So that be a huge burden for sewer and water rate pairs. I've been speaking with Speaker 1: 35:54 San Diego union Tribune, city hall, reporter Speaker 13: 35:57 David Garrick. David, thank you very much. Speaker 12: 35:59 Thanks for your time. Speaker 1: 36:06 This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Jade. Heinemann the podcast blood on gold mountain debuts today. It tells the story of the 1871 LA Chinatown massacre through the eyes of yet ho a young woman who arrives in California as a refugee KPBS arts reporter. Beth haka, Mondo speaks with two of the podcast creators. How Wong, who is a professor of music and humanities at scripts college and serves as the story's narrator and his son, Micah, who is the show's artistic director. How, what was the historical incident that inspired this podcast blood on gold mountain? And how did you first hear about it? Speaker 13: 36:51 Well, I love that question because I was here for at least 15 years before I even heard about the 1871 LA Chinatown massacre. This focuses not only on that event when it was a mob of about 500 people, which comprised about 10% of the entire population of LA at that time who dragged out and lynched about 20 Chinese. And that was a huge proportion of the Chinese in LA at the time. And in Chinatown, there were only about a hundred people. So that was 20% of the population of Chinatown was killed in two hours. I never heard of this massacre on these coasts. My children were never taught about it in their LA district schools, uh, even through through 12 years, primary and secondary. So I wanted to know why. And, um, this podcast in certain ways is one of a series of, of things we've done to honor those dead by remembering their past Speaker 1: 37:54 And Micah, how did you tackle crafting the narrative for this? What was important for you in terms of how the story was told Speaker 12: 38:02 For me, even though I have so much reverence for the tragedy of the deaths that are involved in the massacre, I felt like the lives of the characters were at least as important from the point of view of somebody looking at it over this long span of history. I really wanted to bring to life really vibrant and to my mind, realistic Chinese American characters whose personalities and the experiences that they talk about in the story are based on a combination of his historical information that I've gathered through research, but also family stories from people who I'm very close to having to do with the refugee experience, having to do with being an immigrant in the United States. And also unfortunately having to do with racists, violence, and hostility Speaker 14: 39:01 Here, you see Chinese in this country live outside the moon. We can't speak to a judge unless it's to accuse another Chinese man Indian or Mexican of a crime. That means anyone can bring down the law on us at any time and the claim jumpers, but almost certainly enlist the Sheriff's help to run us out of town. Speaker 15: 39:23 I got to listen to the first podcast. I like that. It's not strictly about the massacre that you bring us in first through the characters and developing this whole sense of what life was like for those people. At that time. Speaker 12: 39:36 The story of the massacre is a very, very fast moving violent story. And it's, it's all, I think dad called it a blood and guts kind of kind of sequence it's, it's very horrific, but the sequence of events leading up to the massacre, which has a lot to do with the characters and their decisions and their actions. There's a love intrigue. There is like a conflict between these two gangs who are struggling for control over Chinatown. And this woman yet ho is just right in the middle of it all. It's like she's thrown into this crazy situation without even knowing ahead of time. And so I really felt that the more that we could give back out and the more that we could give a sense of what was going on with her and with her brother and with some of these other characters who were going to meet the more, the story would feel real and feel engaged. Speaker 15: 40:27 I understand this all started in 2019, this project. So how did current events at that time influence the creation of the podcast? Speaker 13: 40:35 You know, this was at the time when a lot of consciousness about racism was raised by black lives matter, but also it was just felt like the right time to find out they'll local history. Why, why was it neglected? I think this is something that's really pivotal to, to understanding race relations. Um, why do we neglect? Or even in certain ways erased the memory of something that happened in LA, which was the bloodiest race ride on the West coast. Um, and I think that ignoring 20 people being murdered in two hours seems to be callous. You know, and the other part, I just want to talk about, um, why a story instead of a historical documentary. No one really knows what's happened even right afterwards, eye witnesses, contradicted each, they changed their own stories. So not even scholarly articles can agree on what exactly happened. It doesn't seem productive to decide exactly what happened in terms of the massacre, but to try to develop characters as Mike is saying to, to explore why this happened. Speaker 12: 41:55 I think that the primary sources such as they are, are all so biased and so sensationalized that when we do make choices, we are making them based on a history, the suppression of which has already begun even, even right when it's happening. And there is really an element of, of reconstructing and of understanding, you know, what do we think happened? What makes sense to have happened. And also what makes sense to, um, put in a narrative that's going to be comprehensible and relatable to a 21st century list. Speaker 15: 42:42 This podcast debuts this week. And this is right on the heels of the incident in Atlanta where eight Asian women were killed. How can looking at the past, in this historical event help inform how we look at what's going on right now? Speaker 13: 42:58 Yeah, I mean, it relates in certain ways to personal histories. Um, I myself grew up in a racist little town in New Jersey, uh, where the sheriff and mayor were publicly members of the KKK. So I have some inkling about what pervasive racism does. And I think one of the things that really is sad to me is how it has not stopped in many ways. I think that it's COVID, but also there's been this kind of suspicion of Asians in America ever since the first Asians came here. And so we're trying, I think, to, to counter that by emphasizing humanity, um, because by denying the humanity of others, we destroy our own humanity and everybody winds up less than Speaker 12: 43:53 If I may add just one more kind of detail that connects the time of the massacre to now both in the early 1870s. And now are times when there's a lot of economic and social insecurity in the United States and in California. And also in both cases, we have had public figures most recently, former president Donald Trump, but I'm back then soon to be California, governor Leland, Stanford who have publicly made statements about the inferiority or the dangers posed by Chinese or Asian immigrants. And I think that, um, history kind of moves in these cycles sometimes. And, and it's, it's very much by being conscious of the cycles as they've happened in the past that we can get a handle on what's happening now and what we are trying to do. Speaker 15: 44:54 And in doing research for this, was there anything you uncovered that really surprised you either in terms of the people that you were looking at or the actual incident, or just something that you didn't really know about? Speaker 12: 45:08 Unfortunately, I was not surprised to learn about any of the racism and prejudice. I mean, the, the history of the United States is so shot through with that kind of thing in so many different ways. I was surprised to learn of some of these characters in particular. Um, there's a character who we haven't met yet in episode one, but who's going to figure big and later episodes, whose name is [inaudible]. He was one of the leaders of the two gangs who ended up fighting over ho in the lead up to the massacre. And he is just such a rogue. He is like, uh, he's scary, but he's also very relatable. He used his knowledge of not only Chinese culture, but the American system up to, and including the court system to kind of leverage for power in the struggle. And I feel like he's just something out of like a gangster movie or something, and it's so much fun to be, to be writing, you know, about these things that he did and, and, and trying to bring him to life among, among others. Speaker 13: 46:12 Yes. I think what was surprising to me was during the mass occurred, there were a number of bystanders, wide bystanders. Who's tried to stop the violence and that's who we need. We need people who care enough about other people to, to work towards reestablishing a human connection. And that's what this podcast is trying to do. We're trying to re-establish so that Chinese are not considered the other, or even as victims, but as people whose stories are worth telling and listening to Speaker 15: 46:51 What was the research process like on this and what kind of archival materials did you have to turn to? Speaker 13: 46:56 Yes, when I started researching this, uh, massacre probably about 10 years ago, I was really struck by the fact that there are only a few academic, uh, publications that were addressing the details of the massacre per se. There, there are plenty that talk about anti-Chinese violence. I think in the 1880s, a decade later, um, over 35, uh, towns were witness to attacks against Chinese. Um, and also we know about the 1882 Chinese exclusion act. So what's really important is to understand that this is not an isolated incident. This is part of a movement in California, and even across the country to really try to deny not only citizenship, but to deny the humanity of these people, they're considered the yellow peril as they were called. And I think that this is why it's so incumbent, especially for us, especially now to really speak up, not only as Asian Americans, but as human beings who are trying to connect with other human beings in this country. Speaker 12: 48:08 Well, fortunately the, um, newspapers at the time jumped on this story actually, as it was developing, even before the massacre, um, in particular, I think there are two papers that covered it. Most of all, and they were called the Los Angeles star and the Los Angeles sun. And, um, they were kind of almost competing in terms of how you read and how, um, sensationalized their coverage was. So in terms of primary sources, that's been mainly what there really is or what I've been able to get my hands on. Um, there are excerpts from those papers contained in books and, um, also even just present online in, um, online archives, um, even though those, those papers in those 1870s incarnations no longer exist. Um, my favorite book and one actually from which I've been able to find a bunch of other secondary sources on this is one that's called the Chinatown war and it's by Scott Zetsche. Speaker 12: 49:15 Um, it's very, very dedicated to trying to figure out the truth and also trying to elucidate some of the cultural background of the immigrants at the time. Um, so that one's been hugely helpful in particular to me and Micah, can you talk a little bit about the sound design for this and the music that was created? I, um, have been interested in Chinese music particularly because a friend of mine who I met in grad school, who's an amazing, and still is she lives in London now, she moved, but, um, she's an amazing good young player, uh, which is a Chinese harp. And I have been on the back burner studying our who, which is, um, Chinese fiddle for a couple years. And then there's also the piece, which is like, this is set in a wild West type environment, um, which is very much kind of my wheelhouse in terms of, um, playing and, and designing. Speaker 12: 50:11 So what I really want to do is to get a sound that was combining Chinese and American slash Western, um, sound aesthetics in a way that felt smooth and natural. And I think in, in certain it's almost embodying a certain kind of the, the vibe if I may, of, um, my Asian American experience as a young person in California. And I'm also in other places on the West coast, in the West, just inhabiting this very, very stark, very, very quote unquote American environment, but bringing a little bit of, uh, a Chinese sensibility to it. It's East, East, West, and in a big way. Well, I want to thank you both very much for talking about the podcast blood on gold mountain. Thank you so much for having us. Thank you so much, Beth. We really enjoyed, I really enjoyed talking to you. Speaker 6: 51:15 That was Micah Huang and his father. How long speaking with Beth haka Mondo about the seven part podcast series blood on gold mountain that debuts today [inaudible].