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California's program to fast-track wildfire prevention work hasn't finished a single project

 April 12, 2022 at 3:30 PM PDT

S1: A program to fast track fire prevention needs to speed up.
S2: They really expected that this program would get work done and get work done quickly.
S1: I'm Maureen CAVANAUGH with Jade Heineman. This is KPBS Midday Edition. Questions remain about a police shooting during an eviction in Little Italy.
S3: They want to know more about the decision to enter her home in the first place and how they created this plan and why they didn't take more time.
S1: San Diego has spent millions of COVID relief funds on law enforcement. And we'll speak to the creator of the comic character , Angry Little Asian Girl. That's ahead on Midday Edition. California has millions of acres of overgrown forest land primed for fueling catastrophic wildfires. In late 2019 , Governor Gavin Newsom announced a new program to dramatically speed up the state's wildfire prevention work. But an investigation from KAP Radio and the California newsroom found the program hasn't resulted in a single completed project. Reporter Scott Rod has this story.
S2: It's called the California Vegetation Treatment Program , or Calvert TWP. It was designed to fast track the environmental approval process for fire prevention projects without compromising environmental protections. And if you ask state leaders how it's going , they'll paint a pretty rosy picture. Here's Wade Crowfoot , who leads the State Natural Resources Agency at a legislative hearing in February. This California vegetation treatment program. That's essentially one stop shop for permitting for Sequoia , for Fish and Wildlife Permits and for water board permits is now in action and it's starting to be used. Here's what he didn't mention. The state originally anticipated the program would result in 45,000 acres of completed forest management work in its first year. But more than two years in Calvert TWP. Hasn't led to a single completed project. A few dozen projects have been approved. The Newsom administration declined repeated interview requests. In an email , a spokesperson characterized the program as a success , claiming it has expedited approval times. But that's not what the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office says.
S3: We didn't find clear data.
S4: Showing that it had.
S3: Significantly expedited projects.
S2: That's Helen Kersten with the L.A.. Testifying before state lawmakers in December. She added that it's still early days with the program. The idea behind Calvert is pretty straightforward. The state performed one massive environmental review on over 20 million acres of state land. If a new project falls in that huge footprint , it can use the state's existing template instead of starting from scratch. But project managers I talked to around the state weren't convinced.
S3: I would love to use it if it was , you know , a straightforward path to the projects we're trying to do.
S2: Nadia Haney is a professional forester on the Central Coast working on a series of ten prescribed burns. That's when you intentionally set a fire to benefit the landscape. Haney says she planned to use one culvert application for all of the burns. But she hit a bureaucratic wall. Now she's doing ten separate applications using the old system. Forest health manager Jamie to Tally Lewis in Monterey County says there's a steep learning curve to Calvert. Basically , we just haven't taken it up yet and felt comfortable enough with it to use it yet. And project manager Keith Rutledge in Mendocino County told me he hadn't even heard of it. So it's news to me. Nobody at CalPERS brought anything up. I'll read about it for sure. I'm just looking it up over talking. Rutledge is leading a project to clear new evacuation routes where two years ago , the Oak Fire destroyed dozens of homes and buildings. His team has completed a few miles under the old review system , but he says approvals have taken a while. The Newsom administration suggested we reach out to the Yuba Water Agency. Joanna Lessard is overseeing a 5400 acre project in the Yuba County foothills , one of the roughly two dozen projects approved through Cal VPP. She estimates the program reduced their approval time by about a year.
S3: We had the money , we had the people. We just needed the ability to get out there by completing environmental compliance. And that's really the streamline that.
S2: The state knows it needs to do more to ramp up its fire prevention efforts. But it's a sluggish process that has 85 year old Luis Zelaya in Mendocino County worried. It makes me very angry , very cynical , frustrated. When the Oak Fire hit , Zelaya and thousands of others had to evacuate using the one road that leads down the hillside with potential so high.
S3: The farm.
S2: Could happen , that could be disastrous.
S1: Joining me is Scott Rod with CAPP Radio and the California NEWSROOM. And Scott , welcome to the program.
S2: Thanks for having me on.
S1:
S2: So it's really supposed to cover a broad range of projects.
S1:
S2: You know , and there's a range of just how intense the environmental study would have to be , depending on the project. You know , sometimes if it's a low impact project , it's supposed to be fairly straightforward. If it's a much bigger , more involved project where there's maybe a lot of digging , a lot of machinery , it's a full on environmental review. But even the projects that are. To go through the old process in a more straightforward , simpler way. Some of them are getting hung up for more than a year , so even those simple processes are still hitting a bottleneck.
S1:
S2: Some folks I talked to said that , you know , there's a steep learning curve and they were a bit intimidated by trying to use this new program. They had felt like there weren't adequate resources out there to fully understand how to engage with this new program. And some folks that I've talked to simply said that they just hadn't heard of it , which two years into a program's existence , a program that was supposed to double the state's output for fire prevention and forest management. You know , that's pretty remarkable.
S1:
S2: You know , I've tried to find outreach materials put out by the state and there definitely have been some. But it doesn't seem like it was a very sort of timely and coordinated push to get these materials out. For example , the earliest webinar that I could find for this program was released more than a year after the program had launched.
S1: Now , the Newsom administration is telling you that this new program is speeding up the approval process for fire prevention projects. The state legislative analyst says that it is not.
S2: They just stuck to their talking point that it has accelerated the timeline for these projects. And I did talk to one or two project managers who said , yes , we've used this program and it did move our project along more quickly. But others that I talked to said , you know , we've used this program. It helped in some areas , but it wasn't necessarily faster. And again , a big part of this is not just the speed with which the program helps shepherd these projects through , but there has to be a kind of scale to it in order for it to make a difference. And that's really what this program was about , was not just moving these projects through quickly , but moving many projects through quickly. And that's what's not happening.
S1: Now you report that last December , when the legislative analyst testified before lawmakers , she qualified her remarks about the program's lack of results by saying that it was still early days.
S2: Two years may seem like a short amount of time , but I would respond to that by saying the state and specifically the Newsom administration had expectations that this project , this program , rather , Calvert , would hit the ground running , that it would result in tens of thousands of acres of completed forest management work in its first year alone. So even if that is a short time window in kind of the from the government's perspective , they really expected that this program would get work done and get work done quickly.
S1:
S2: There is a desperate need to do more of this work. Fire experts say that we need to be doing about a million acres a year for many years ongoing and currently both combined with the state and the federal government. They're not getting anywhere near that number. And there's also an issue , sort of a curious issue , where money isn't the problem here. The state set aside the Newsom administration set aside $1.5 billion last year to essentially invest in forest management , forest health and fire prevention. So the money is there and they're scrambling to get this money out the door. And they're saying that there have been hundreds of projects that have been funded. But the problem , again , is that even if a project is funded , it can't move anywhere if it doesn't get the necessary approvals. And that's what this program was supposed to do.
S1:
S2: I will note that from the beginning of when I was working on this project , which was late last year in December , to , you know , more recent days , it seems like the number of folks , number of project managers who have started to utilize this program , that number seems to have picked up a bit. So hopefully that's an indication that word is getting out there that this program exists. Hopefully , this means that maybe the state is trying to reconfigure how this program works and trying to kick start it. So there is a glimmer of hope there. And the fact remains that , like everyone wants this work to get done for the most part , you know , if you live in a vulnerable community , you want to be protected by fires. No one wants to see or hear that a program isn't setting out what it intended to do. So hopefully that's a trend that continues and it picks up.
S1: I've been speaking with reporter Scott Rod with CARP Radio. The California newsroom. Scott , thanks so much.
S2: Thank you for having me on.
S5: It's been a month since Little Italy resident Yan Lee was shot and killed by law enforcement after being served with an eviction notice. A news story by San Diego Union-Tribune watchdog reporter Lindsey Winkler is shedding light on who Lee was and what led to her death. Meanwhile , community members are demanding more information about what happened while policing experts are questioning how the situation was handled and why it escalated so quickly. Joining me now with more is reporter Lindsey Weekley. Lindsey , welcome back to the program.
S3: Yeah , thank you for having me.
S5: Video from a body worn camera of this shooting shows sheriff's deputy Jason Bunch threatening to shoot John Lee 12 seconds after she opened her front door. Well , you describe how this incident began.
S3: So this incident began when Deputy Bunch went to Dr. Yun Lee's home to deliver something called an eviction notice. And essentially that is the first step in a two step process to initiate an eviction. The sheriff's department is required to notify individuals that they are being evicted , and after delivering that notice , they will return in no less than five days to perform the eviction should the tenant not vacate the property. So when Deputy Bond approached the home , that is the notice that he was delivering. And as the video makes it quite clear , things escalated very quickly.
S5: Policing experts you've spoken to are critical of how this situation was handled , particularly about how they communicated with John Lee and how quickly it escalated to a use of force.
S3: It's at her side. And when he notices , that is the moment that things ratchet up. Within 12 seconds of her opening her door , Deputy Bunch was threatening to shoot her. So when we spoke to experts about that interaction , that is one of the first things that they criticized. The deputy bunch didn't do enough to create space to effectively de-escalate the interaction between himself and Dr. Lee. The sheriff's department said after the shooting that while they were working to persuade Dr. Lee to cooperate with them , they spoke with a maintenance worker who said that Dr. Lee had threatened him with a knife the day before. There are a lot of questions surrounding that. It's very unclear if the police were notified of that incident the day before , if they took a report. However , many of the experts we spoke with said that even if some sort of altercation had happened the day before , the wiser move would have been to obtain arrest warrants and go in at some other time. It's also very unclear if an arrest warrant was received in this particular incident. There were other criticisms of criticisms as well.
S5: There have also been questions about whether officers and deputies had the right to make this entry at all.
S3: Essentially , officers and deputies can't just go into a home without a proper reason to do so. One of those reasons is called exigent circumstances , and that basically means that there is an immediate threat that officers and deputies need to respond to. The experts that we spoke to said that Dr. John Lee , standing at her door , even with a knife at her side , would not have been enough of a threat to make it illegal for officers and deputies to enter her home. So the idea that this threat that happened the day before would have given them reason to do that was something that was criticized.
S5: And you report that family member said John Lee had been diagnosed with a mental health disorder.
S3: There was another resident in the condominium complex who heard about the incidents and ended up going over to John Lee's condominium. He was a former member of the Condominiums Homeowner's Association. And so he actually knew that Lee was in the process of being evicted. And during his interaction with the deputies , he made it clear that she suffered from some sort of mental health condition and that they really needed to call for psychiatric assistance.
S5: And you reported that according to archived radio traffic of the incident , officers did contact the county psychiatric emergency response team for help.
S3: We do have some archived dispatch communication that seems to suggest that. The sheriff's department inquired about having a team show up to the scene. It is unclear if they ever did , and it's unclear why they didn't. If they did not , we don't have a surplus of teams across the county , so they very well could have been tied up on some other call. But it was brought up at the very least.
S5: In the months since this happened , you've been able to learn more about John Lee.
S3: They say that she was very bright. One of her friends described her as sort of a straight forward person , but also somebody who was always willing to help her friends. We know that she was a mother. We know that she was successful when she was working professionally as a biostatistician. At some point , she did move back to China , and her ex-husband says that that is when she was diagnosed with a mental health condition. It's a little unclear as to the specifics surrounding that.
S5:
S3: The full incident was a little bit less than an hour , and the body worn camera footage that was released spans about 10 minutes. So people want to see the interaction that deputies had with this neighbor. What they were told by the maintenance worker that apparently gave them reason to go into her home. They want to know more about what the sheriff's deputies knew at the time. It's interesting because some of the people that I spoke with pointed to a very recent SWAT incident that lasted more than 10 hours. So why was this one so rushed ? Both the sheriff's department and the senior police department say that more information won't be released , however , until the investigation is presented to the district attorney's office.
S5: I've been speaking with San Diego Union Tribune reporter Lindsay Brinkley. Lindsay , thank you for joining us.
S3: Thank you so much for having me.
S5: You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen CAVANAUGH. As the pandemic impacted people across California , an investigation finds some cities across the state spent more COVID relief funds on law enforcement than housing , food and health services. San Diego was no exception. Sam Levin , a journalist based in Los Angeles , broke the story for The Guardian and joins us now. Sam , welcome.
S2: Thanks so much for having me.
S5:
S2: And I was interested to see how this was playing out in California. One activist in Los Angeles who's running for comptroller had uncovered here that the city had spent basically half of its COVID relief funds in 2021 on police. And so that got me super interested in seeing if there were similar patterns at cities across the state. So I decided to sort of reach out to the ten largest cities in California to get as much information as I could on how much money went to law enforcement. Hmm.
S5: Hmm.
S2: And in San Diego , I saw that the city spent roughly 60 million in the first fiscal year on police , which was about 64% of all of the funds that year in COVID relief. And then the following year , they spent 52.6 million on the police department , which was 33% of the cares funds allocated for that year. So in both fiscal years , we saw that it was the largest expenditure of CARES dollars by a significant amount.
S5:
S2: It's difficult at times to compare because every city has a sort of complex budgeting process that makes it hard to sort of do a side by side comparison. But in most of the major cities in California , we're seeing them spend millions of dollars of COVID relief on police. And in some cases , that's tens of millions. And for the major cities , it's hundreds of millions. And so in many of these cities , it is the largest single expenditure of COVID relief going to police. And in some cases , it's the majority , if not close to all of the funds.
S5: And by comparison , do you have any sense of how much of that relief funding was spent on things like rental assistance , for example.
S2: In San Diego ? You know , you see that the city spent more of the cares dollars on police than on the fire department , Parks and Recreation and Operation Shelter to Home Homelessness Initiative , child care vouchers , emergency medical services , small business Relief Fund. And so I think with rent relief , the city spent something like 9.7 million on rent relief specifically , which is obviously significantly less than the 50 million that was spent on the police department.
S5:
S2: And so it's just going into the police department and they don't sort of specify exactly where these dollars are going. This is just just sort of continuing the budget of the police department , San Diego specifically , and some of their reports on their budget have said that there's been overtime costs due to civil unrest events in 2020 and then , you know , additional staffing needed in response to the COVID pandemic. And so they've suggested that these funds are helping to support those increased costs of police during the COVID crisis.
S5: Activists have been critical of this , given that there are such deep issues of income inequality , homelessness and a need for resources to address these things and much more. Talk a bit about that.
S2: Yeah , so there's been a lot of backlash and scrutiny of cities spending so much money on law enforcement from COVID relief money , which was supposed to go towards direct pandemic response. You know , whether that is helping folks dealing with the economic crisis and of course , the homelessness crisis in California , which is , you know , the number one issue across the state. And so there's a lot of anger that these cities spent so much of their money on police and that these police departments really sort of made no cuts during these difficult budget times and on the contrary , in some cases were essentially increasing their budgets during these just extraordinarily difficult times.
S5: Increasing their budgets and refusing to get vaccinated in some cases.
S2: Yeah , I mean , in Los Angeles. Where I'm based. You know , there was a lot of scrutiny of the fact that there were such a high rate of officers who were refusing to get vaccinated. And there were also a lot of instances of officers refusing to wear masks , which was documented on video. And so to see that the city was giving so much of its money to a police department that in some ways could be contributing to the problem by not being vaccinated and not wearing masks was especially upsetting to activists who who follow this.
S5:
S2: I've certainly seen , you know , activists who follow this stuff closely , express a lot of shock about this. You know , even people who who sort of closely follow the budgeting issues were not aware of this. And I think part of that is because , you know , there is a real sort of lack of basic transparency. And so I think , you know , people are not necessarily surprised , but certainly there's a lot of frustration and anger about it that I'm seeing.
S5: I've been speaking with Sam Levan , a correspondent with The Guardian. Sam , thank you so much for joining us.
S2: Thanks for having me.
S5: In a statement , the city of San Diego says the budgets for 2020 and 2021 fiscal years were crafted by the previous administration. Unlike the American Rescue Plan , the CARES Act was narrowly focused on emergency response in which our public safety departments played a key role and expressly barred cities from using the funding to replace lost tax revenue but allowed broad use for public safety personnel. For the full statement , visit KPBS dot org.
S1: An effort to ensure more safety for bicycle riders on San Diego streets was shut down in Mira mesa last week and its future is in doubt. Earlier this month , street striping on Gold Coast Drive was changed to provide wide bike lanes on either side of the road , but only one lane for two way vehicle traffic. It's called an advisory bike lane design , and it took residents by surprise. Mira mesa resident Gary Sharp is just one of those neighbors who isn't a fan of the new design.
S6: Won't be happy. Totally unsafe , stupid and ridiculous.
S1: The outcry was loud enough that Mayor Todd Gloria announced Friday that Gold Coast Drive would be restricted with a dividing line for two way traffic , and the planned advisory bike lanes for other areas of the city would be put on hold. So what happened to cause this public relations mess ? Joining me is KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen. Andrew , welcome.
S7: Hi , Maureen. Thanks.
S1: So on the face of it , having a single lane for two way traffic seems like poor planning.
S7: And advisory bike lanes are meant for slow neighborhood streets with relatively low traffic volumes. They're probably too narrow to give bikes a dedicated lane unless you remove parking. And of course , removing parking is just as controversial , if not more so , than a new and novel design like this. So the design is unfamiliar and confusing to some people in cars , certainly. But what do you do when you're confused behind the wheel and you see something on the street that you don't recognize ? You typically slow down and you pay attention. And while advisory bike lanes might seem unsafe , at first glance , data suggests that they're actually safer. There's a study from San Jose State University last year that found a 44% reduction in the likelihood of collisions , comparing streets before and after the addition of advisory bike lanes. And the reason was precisely because this novel and unfamiliar street design really forces drivers to slow down and be more attentive.
S1:
S7: So this is a very small portion of a much larger road. But when you look at all of Gold Coast Drive since 2015 , there's been 72 crashes causing 38 injuries. It's unclear from the data how many of those involve someone riding a bike. But anecdotally , I can say that cyclists I've spoken to and heard from say that drivers tend to use this street as a cut through street to avoid traffic on Mira mesa Boulevard. And so even though this street is officially designated in the cities , documents and signing and everything , a bike route , the city is essentially telling cyclists this is where it's safest for you to bike on Gold Coast Drive.
S1: Now , there was an outcry on social media as soon as residents saw the new advisory lane striping.
S7: We don't have any evidence to suggest this was an attempt to sneak through , you know , bike lanes without people knowing about them and hoping no one would notice. It's more just a really glaring oversight. But people might need a primer on how advisory bike lanes work. And , you know , they want to know , you know , what's happening in their neighborhoods. The city has discussed advisory bike lanes at the city's mobility board , but that's a city wide body. And unless you're attending every meeting , you're probably not aware of what's going on there. And I think one of the biggest mistakes the city made was not even informing bike advocates of the coming change. By the way , bike advocates have been trying to raise awareness and educate people on advisory bike lanes for months. There was a demonstration of advisory bike lanes in Pacific Beach late last year. So it's not like these things are coming totally out of left field. And I think it's also important to acknowledge that opposition to bike lanes happens regardless of how much community outreach and education there might be.
S1:
S7: People need to be aware of what advisory bike lanes are and how to use them. And until the city does that outreach and education , which , by the way , it's very unclear what that campaign is going to look like , how long it's going to last , who will be involved. Until that outreach and education happens , there won't be any more advisory bike lanes painted in the city.
S1:
S7: The city couldn't provide me a list of where they have been planned so far. But I know speaking with advocates that there were plans on Evergreen Street in Point Loma , and there had actually been some outreach with the community planning group there. There's an advocate there who's been asking for them on that particular street for quite a while. And it's I you know , I have to imagine whether that spin on this whole story would be different if these advisory bike lanes had come to Point Loma first , where there were folks already ready and waiting to be their cheerleaders.
S1:
S7: They're upset that the city's poor planning may have soured San Diego on this type of bike lane that really , truly can improve safety. And , you know , they're thinking back to 2021 , which was a very deadly year for people riding bikes. There were multiple deaths. I can't recall the exact number , but far and above previous years , two very high profile deaths on Pershing Drive in Balboa Park. The mayor reacted to that by ordering the installation of protected bike lanes there in pretty short order. So , you know , I think cyclists are looking at what's happening in Mira mesa and wondering , do people actually have to die in order for the city to improve bike safety or will the city be proactive and prevent crashes and deaths before they happen with these safety treatments ? And those are the questions I think that they're they're asking the mayor's office.
S1: I've been speaking with KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bone. And , Andrew , thank you.
S7: My pleasure , Maureen.
S5: A lab on the San Diego State campus is working on a way to figure out if there are molecular traces of life on Mars. It's part of NASA's Mars mission to land on the planet and examine its rocks and soil and maybe answer the ultimate question of whether we are alone in the universe. KPBS science and technology reporter Thomas Fudge has the story.
S2: PhD student Jessica Torres , in a chemistry lab at San Diego State , shows me a tiny glass tube she uses to sort through molecules. She can tell by their movement what kind they are and whether they are biological. Ultimately , she hopes to see those signs of life in material gathered from Mars. And where might you find those life signs on the surface of Mars , where there is no water. Punishing solar rays in a high salt content.
S8: It's going to be very harsh environment. So if there was life to be detected on Mars , it likely would be in porous rocks or on the underside of rocks somewhere that's kind of shielded from like the harsh environment that is Mars.
S2: Life on other planets is something we imagine or something we may assume , but so far there's no proof that life exists anywhere but earth. Analytical chemistry professor Chris Harrison says the goal of his lab is not so much to find life on Mars , but to find evidence it once existed. We're looking at the building block molecules that make life function , so specifically amino acids. And these are like little Lego blocks that you assemble them in the right sequence and you get different proteins or enzymes and the functional components of cells. The glass tube they use to try to sort out the life building molecules has a channel that's more narrow than a human hair. Molecules pass through it at different speeds , depending on their size and their electric charge. And that rays through the tube can determine whether you're looking at , say , an amino acid. Nassar has been successfully landing on Mars since the 1970s , and the first images from the planet showed a perfectly barren landscape. But eventually , they did find evidence of old riverbeds likely formed by past water flows. Today , the Mars rover perseverance is up there. It's parked on one of those dried up river deltas , hoping to collect sedimentary rocks that show signs of life. Michael Meyer is NASA's lead scientist for the Mars Exploration Program. He says if we find proof that life once existed on Mars , that could change our conception of life in the universe. What is life ? What do we know ? All we know is us , right ? We have one example as any scientist. One example is not enough to constitute a way to understand the totality of what life is. Finding proof of life on Mars could demonstrate that there is nothing unique about life on Earth , that in fact , the creation of life is just a natural part of a planet's physical and chemical evolution. As an example , if you have volcanoes and you have water and you have these elements , given enough time , life will start. It could be that easy. The human relationship with the Martians , we imagine , dates back to the 19th century. That's when H.G. Wells wrote War of the Worlds. Science fiction author and NASA consultant David Brin says Mars is one of the logical places to look for life if we find life elsewhere. It'll be basically a pretty cool thing. And the number one candidate is not Mars right at this moment , but the ten ice roofed water worlds we know we have in the solar system now. He's talking about , for example , Saturn's moon , Titan and Europa , one of the moons of Jupiter , moons that are known to have or are believed to have liquid oceans. Let's say we find that life did evolve on its own elsewhere. Well , that suggests that life is everywhere in the cosmos , just bloody everywhere. And that's what I believe to be the case. Astronomy is also identified 5000 planets that exist in other solar systems. So the possibilities are great. But for now , we're just looking at what may exist on our next door planetary neighbor , Mars. Thomas Fudge , KPBS News.
S1: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen CAVANAUGH with Jade Hindman. Lila Lee created the comic angry little Asian girl back in the year 2000. Moments with My Mother is her latest collection of comics , this one featuring the series titular character , a grade school Korean girl and her mother. The comic is fueled by humor and insight that is both very personal and universal. KPBS arts reporter Beth ACCOMANDO speaks with Lela Lee about creating her comics character and what makes them both angry.
S4: So , Lila.
S3: Tell us how angry little Asian girl started.
S4: And my friend who took me in challenged me to make a cartoon about myself. And so I went home and I drew angry little Asian girl. The first episode was the first day of school where she's going to her first day of school , and she encounters a classroom where she's the only Asian person. I had just had so much bottled up angst about trying to fit in and then also going home and not being good enough there. So I had a lot of material from just my inner life to draw from.
S3: And for people who may not be familiar with the character , describe her.
S4: So those are the things that really , I think , made me angry , but I couldn't articulate it. So it's been this long process of drawing comics to sort of unearth what it is and what the reasons were. That made me angry and made her angry because she's sort of like the voice I wish I had. She , I guess , has the an ability to discern what is actually really happening and distill it into sharp , short words and to speak her mind , which are things that I actually do not possess , although I've gotten better at it because of this character.
S3: You have been using this character for decades now.
S4: How has she kind of evolved.
S3:
S4: I have grown in a way that I am more aware of the workings of sort of what's making her and I both angry. She's evolved in a way that she's more insightful. And I think because of how I am able to use her or or how I've used her is to really sort of translate my feelings in the world in a way that I can express it in writing. She's been a really sort of like my teacher a little bit. She's definitely not my student. She's my teacher because I think she is finding out and forcing me to really analyze what's going on and what.
S3: Things that are making you and her angry have changed and which things have been kind of the constants.
S4: What has changed has been the awareness and you know , the things that I was learning in college. I took an Asian-American studies class , I took a women's studies class , I took sociology. So all the things that I was learning in those in those classes from professors. Those are things that were really academic and sort of not mainstream. But now they are in the mainstream and there's so much talk about it from maybe I'm living in a bubble because I follow people on their feeds and I'm I'm sort of like living in an echo chamber of people that are like minded. But I do think that representation has changed. Awareness of inclusivity has changed. Our awareness of beauty standards have changed. Our awareness of what women have to deal with has become really it's burst out onto , I guess , the dinner table. People are talking about it in a way that's a lot more sensitive. However , you know , the things that have stayed the same , I have noticed that there's still a residue of patriarchy and a residue of mansplaining , I guess , happening. I think I detect that sort of corporations are. UDALL Like using women and putting them up. It is like window dressing , but. But maybe the back end is not really changing. But that's still progress. It's putting lipstick on a pig , is the phrase , I guess. But it definitely feels like there's some progress , which is good. But it's it hasn't really been systemic , I guess.
S3: So one of the things that's been consistent for you is family life and your mom.
S4: I started compiling them into different folders , and then I realized that I had enough comics for that folder and it had to deal with the mother. What I'm working out is sort of the , I guess , generational conflict and also just kind of like the needs that are different from , you know , an immigrant first generation to the children , the second generation immigrant parents are so focused on survival , food , clothing , shelter , education. They want their kids to do better than them. And then oftentimes when the immigrant kids get educated , they have new ideas , which I think really frighten the immigrant parents obedience hierarchy. It's so funny how I see immigrant parents sort of like cherry picking what things they will adopt into the family. And it's the irony of like immigrant families and parents that have left a country that oppressed them. They have obviously had to leave because something wasn't working there. And then when they come to America , they focus on economic progress. But a lot of times social progress is not prioritized. So I found that as a child of immigrants , that I was straddling two worlds. One was really old and the other one was new. And I had to do a lot of code switching when I went from home to school. So the family , I think , holds dear these traditions that actually have ingrained in them a lot of oppression. You know , the the traditions of daughters being a certain way or marrying by a certain age or marrying in order or , you know , having a son and the gender preference. I mean , those things are are ingrained in the culture. But how ? I mean , so the fight is always like , how do you separate misogyny from the culture ? Like , how do you extract those ? Keep one and keep not the other. And also the Korean culture. In Asian cultures , there's so much obedience in the way that you even speak. The language is imbued with obedience. Bowing is also very obedient. So it's just it clashes , I think , with the the American values of being like a cowboy and a rebel and speaking up and fighting for your rights. You know , Asian families. How do you fight for your rights when you're not allowed to speak at the dinner table ? You know.
S3: And would you mind reading a little bit from one of your.
S4: Comics ? I can. Oh , I'll read the Mother Lee's nursery rhyme. What happened to Mother Goose ? No Goose. No. Jack and Jill take a pill. Jack ? He fell down on the ground. And Jill , too. She fall down , he get up. Jack , go home. He no care , Jill. He labored there on Hill , so no trust. Boy , that.
S3: Encapsulates the lesson. That's right. That's right. I love those. Yeah , those were great in there.
S4: Yeah , the the Jack and Jill one is actually one of my favorite comics because I think it was around the time my first was born , I got a lot of baby gifts , so I got these nursery tales and I was like , These are funny because they're kind of like cautionary tales , but. But I was like , What ? Oh , if it was told in the voice of the mother character , that would be so fun. So that's how I think I came up with it. But it was a long time ago , so I think that's how I can't remember.
S3: What I really love about your comics is the way you use humor , because it's not mean spirited , but you are very like kind of pointed in highlighting these kind of ironies and hypocrisies and kind of bringing them to light , but with this great sense of humor , too.
S4: Thank you. Yeah , I. I don't know how I , I mean , I guess I , you know , I mean , I'm observing things. I think a lot of times I'm always like , that's weird. Or , you know , I think maybe we all do that. But I , I just , I just took two paper and pen. I started trying to figure out how to make it funny because no one likes being yelled at. I certainly don't. But I think that the language of Asian families is there's a lot of criticism. So I have that critical streak in me.
S3:
S4: I hope so , yeah.
S3:
S4: And she's often asked me to get a job. Oh. Oh. I just. You know , I'm an adult. So I decided I was like , you know , I'm going to just do what I'm I'm passionate about.
S3: And how has your work been received ? Because you are challenging stereotypes and dealing with cultural stereotypes.
S4: If I it depended on what kind of an audience I screen to. So generally , if it was like a all white audience , they're really quiet. And then if I screen to an Asian audience , I mean , it was like people were hugging me and like crying and saying. I'm.
S3: I'm.
S4: She saying everything I wanted to say. So it's it's so specific because I think outsiders don't understand. I was actually hanging out at the beach with some parents for like a like a fifth grade end of the year celebration. And a non-Asian mom was kind of surprised that the Asian parents were normal and had problems. And I was like , Well , what did you think that we were ? I mean , we're we're humans just like you. We have our problems. She's like , Well , I just thought you were all , like , rich and successful. And I was like , Yeah , well , that's the image that our parents want you to think we have , but we're like really dying inside. So , yeah , I think that with outsiders , they're , they're kind of intrigued like , oh , is that is that how you guys think ? But I think that we can sort of all relate to having a generational conflict with parents. I mean , kids and parents having different ideas about how to navigate the world. I mean , that's universal. But I do have a lot of Asian fans that really feel very passionately about my work and loved my work for a really long time because it speaks to them in such a specific way that they really feel seen. So I'm getting more and more of those in the beginning when I launch my website , like around 98 , I came out with angry little Asian girl dot com and I got so much flak and like , you're such a bad girl or whatever. And like 95% of those were from Korean people. Well , I just.
S3: Love the fact that from the beginning you called it angry little Asian girl , because it just really kind of challenges people's perception of a story. A type because , you know , everybody always thinks , oh , Asians are going to be quiet or they're going to be , you know , polite or whatever. And I just loved that image because like I said , I had one of your T-shirts and it's angry little Asian girls double flipping you off. And it was just such a nice little challenge to like what perceptions were.
S4: Well , you know , that perception , it starts in the home. You know , the parents are raising the daughters to be that way. So I find it really ironic that a lot of the Asian activists are like yelling outwards and blaming white people for their perception. But I'm like , that's like displaced anger. You should be yelling backwards to your parents because they're the ones that are teaching us this. So I think that it's good that I'm bringing. A contrary combination to to people's awareness in the pop culture. And how does it feel to.
S3: Be releasing this book right now ? Because we are seeing a rise in Asian hate crime and attacks on elderly Asians. And , you know , it just feels like there's a moment to focus a little bit on , you know , that community and try to get some awareness. And your books seem to be able to kind of I mean , humor always seems to me like a great way to bring people in and kind of get them to see a different perspective.
S4: Yeah , I think generally in my observation of human groups , there's like the alphas and the betas , there's always a scapegoat in the scapegoat is usually the weakest , quietest group person. So it makes sense that Asians would get bullied because they're seen as quiet and good and they won't complain. So maybe the Asian community is collective , should really look to think about the imaging they're putting out of , Oh , we're very good , we're obedient , we're studious , we're hardworking because our culture wants us to look that way. But it's not helping in in America , in this in any culture. It's it , I think , to hide the dark parts , your anger , your strength , your flaws or problems , we're actually dehumanizing ourselves by saying by putting out that we're perfect. So when we have that model minority image of being quiet and studious , other groups could get jealous of that and think that , you know , you I hate that guy , they're so perfect or whatever , and then come out with this aggression because they're so angry. But I think , like going back to that interchange that I had with the mom at the fifth grade beach party , when you humanize and share problems and you show that you're actually not rich and you're not perfect and you have problems with your family and your problems with , you know , like , you know , being taken seriously or , you know , like it just sort of humanizes you and it shares sort of like this empathy. I guess you can't empathize with someone who's perfect and quiet. You know , you've got to get loud and you be like , I have a problem. This is my problem. And this always happens. And I overcome it. And I don't know. I think that that to me is is the solution in how Asians have been being targeted.
S3:
S4: I really love interacting with fans who tell me that they've been reading it for , you know , so over many years. And so a lot of times they'll say , Oh , I felt so seen. I felt like I wasn't alone. I know I really , really resonate with it. And so in that moment where they're saying that they felt seen , reading my work actually makes me feel seen because I'm like by myself destroying it on my own. And I all along I thought I was the only one thinking these things. But , you know , we're not we're not alone.
S3: Well , I want to thank you very much for talking about your latest edition of Angry Little Asian Girl.
S4: Thank you. Thank you both for having me.

In late 2019, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new program to dramatically speed up the state’s wildfire prevention work. But an investigation found the program hasn’t resulted in a single completed project. Next, it’s been a month since Little Italy resident Yan Li was shot and killed by law enforcement after being served with an eviction notice. Meanwhile, community members are demanding more information about what happened, while policing experts are questioning how the situation was handled and why it escalated so quickly. Then, San Diego spent 64% of federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act dollars on policing an investigation by The Guardian found. Then, an effort to ensure more safety for bicycle riders on San Diego streets was shut down in Mira Mesa last week, and its future is in doubt. After, San Diego State University scientists are working on a way to figure out if there are molecular traces of life on Mars. Finally, author Lela Lee talks about the latest installment, “Angry Little Asian Girl: Moments with My Mother,” in her popular comics series.