Comic-Con is back
S1: The costumes , the stars , the madness of Comic-Con returns to San Diego.
S2: I'm just getting goosebumps even thinking about how amazing this place is.
S1: I'm Maureen CAVANAUGH with Margie Perez. This is KPBS Midday Edition. The January six hearings explore the results of extremism.
S3: For a long time , you had the sort of extreme right in this country kind of licking its wounds , and it sort of retreated away a little bit. But it never , you know , never went anywhere. I mean , these ideas are still out there.
S1: The brief Hilton Bayfront Hotel strike underscores tough economic realities for San Diego workers. And heat waves are sparking a second look at the power of shade. That's ahead on Midday Edition. San Diego Comic-Con is back. More than 130,000 people are expected to attend the four day Pop Culture Party , which begins today. It's the first full scale , in-person Comic-Con since 2019. Old fans , new fans , movie streaming and TV stars and of course , the bedrock of the can. Comic book creators , artists and writers will all be on hand for the reemergence of San Diego's largest annual convention. KPBS reporter Kitty Alvarado spoke to Comic-Con attendee Cristian Ramos from Texas who summed up the atmosphere pretty well.
S2: It's I'm just getting goosebumps even thinking about how amazing this place is and how special this little section of San Diego is to all of us.
S1: Yesterday , a strike at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel threatened to put a hitch in the Comic-Con reopening. But last night , the union reached a tentative agreement with management. We'll have more on that outcome later in the show. And of course , the pandemic will not be entirely forgotten. The crowded main floor of the convention center will be a bit less crowded with vendors this year. People must show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to get into the halls , and even the masked crusaders attending will have to wear masks over their faces. And speaking of the costumes , some of the Comic-Con cosplayers you'll see downtown are hardcore. The five oh first Legion is a worldwide costuming or cosplay organization run by fans dedicated to creating screen accurate bad guy costumes from the Star Wars universe. The volunteer group is not affiliated with Lucasfilm , but its members have appeared as extras in the recent Obi-Wan Kenobi show and do appear at events , especially charity ones , for Lucasfilm. When KPBS arts reporter Beth ACCOMANDO got her own Stormtrooper costume , she decided to attend an armor party and check in with Lindsay Spock of the local Imperial Sands garrison to find out about joining the Legion.
S4: First of all , explain who you are and what your role is with the five of first.
S5: So I'm the Legion executive officer for the five of first Legion. So basically means I'm the second in command for the global organization.
S4: Explain what's going on right now behind you.
S5: So this is what we call an armor party. It is what we do at the local level to get members together. But it's not only for members , it's also for potential members who are looking to join the five first or any of the other associated clubs , which would be like the Rebel Legion or the Mandalorian Mercs. So if you're looking to build a costume , you're not quite sure how to build it or you're working on something and you don't know how to do this , but you know , somebody else will know how to do it. You come here and everybody gets together and works on the costume together , and it's basically just a big community event that we have every couple of months , maybe once a month , every couple of months , depending and get together and just have a really good time working on costumes.
S4: So to the outside world , the five offers may be a little intimidating. First of all , you're all stormtroopers wearing masks that we can't see your faces.
S5: If there is a character who's a bad guy in Star Wars , there's probably someone for you in the five first , it could be a Mandalorian. We have The Mandalorian , Boba Fett , a lot of the bounty hunters , they're part of us. If you want to be a Jawa , a Tusken raider. There are lots of just jumpsuit type characters that are also really easy. You don't have to wear a helmet and you can join us. You can actually , like , buy kits that can help you get into the Legion. Obviously , you can't just buy it and immediately get in , but you can buy it and then we can work and help you get in. If you just want to cosplay , you want to be part of the fire first , that's completely fine. Like go out , find a costume you like just get with your other costumers at conventions , just dress up in your favorite costume. It doesn't have to be accurate. It doesn't have to be perfect. It's whatever you want to do for Star Wars and whatever makes you feel good representing a character that you love.
S4: Now with the five first , talk about how you guys really want to do screen accurate and what goes into creating the costumes that are approved for five offers.
S5: So when we mean screen accurate , we are trying to get something as close to what you actually see on screen as possible. Now , that could be an actual movie or television. It's a live action that could be a comic book , that could be cartoons , that could be video games. So what happens is we try to get angles from all the sides. Sometimes we even have to use action figures if we don't have all of the sides that we need , though , we. Try to rely on action figures a little bit less , but we'll take that and then people will get together on the what we call a detachment forum , which is basically people who are dedicated to just that type of costume. So , for example , if you're looking into Boba Fett , you're going to go to the Bounty Hunters Guild , and so you go to the Bounty Hunters Guild , and there are going to be people who are devoted to just helping figure out what is Boba Fett , where , what type of material is it , how exactly does his shoulder cauldron set ? Basically what our guidelines are called the costume reference library. And so the five oh first has costume reference library and also the Rebel Legion , which are the good guys. So if you're looking to do a good guy costume , you're going to go to the Rebel Legion. And they also have a costume reference library , and that's going to tell you what you need , what type of materials ? It's a Boba Fett , what your helmet supposed to look like , what the paint colors are supposed to be in the range of and things like that. And they're basically a guideline. But also , again , the detachment forms is where you can go and go , hey , I'm working on this. I've painted this helmet. I'm not quite sure. Does this look okay ? Or you can come to an armor party like this and bring your helmet and go , does this look okay ? I need help and we'll help you get it up to snuff. But again , if you're not , you're not looking to get it up to like five or four standards , that's completely okay. Sometimes the difference between getting in and getting out is a stitch in the right place. And you know what ? If your stitch isn't in the right place , it doesn't make your costume any better or any worse than anybody else's. It's all about what you're feeling comfortable with and what you want to do with your costume.
S5: Basically , we do a lot of charity. We help raise money for different groups. And we also , you know , we'll troop at San Diego Comic-Con , we'll do stuff like that. And also occasionally , if you're really lucky , occasionally we will be asked by certain organizations to do it. Sometimes Lucasfilm will ask us to do certain things with them. That is a that is pretty rare. We are more lucky here in Southern California that we get to do that kind of stuff because we have a good relationship with Lucasfilm , but we are not affiliated with them directly. That is one thing that I think people always get a little bit confused on. We are we are not directly associated with them. We do not work for Lucasfilm , but because we have a good relationship with them , they will ask us to do stuff like that. Also , I forgot to mention it. We will. We get to do soccer games , we get to do the hockey games , we get to go to the goals. We also get to go to the Padres. So if you see us at the Padres , that's us. So we could do fun stuff like that. But my favorite thing is just the charity work. We get to work with a lot of kids. We do. My favorite are always the libraries. We get to go to the libraries , read books to the kids. It's great.
S5: But I have a lot of fun being really , really bad.
S5: I've always really been into costuming , and I've been doing costuming for about , oh , probably 11 , 12 years now. But I had never really thought about joining the five first until The Force Awakens came out. And I fell in love with Hux , for better or worse. And I really wanted to get into the fire first with Hux. And also I had just recently moved to San Diego and I had heard really great things about our garrison here , which is called Imperial san's garrison. And so I really work to get approved and my Hux and I never looked back.
S5: No matter where you live , there will be a500 first around somewhere for you to join. So if you are unsure , there is information on the five first website that you can find out about. Also , we have a ton of military members. If you're in the military and you join the well first , you will automatically have a five of first group wherever you go at your your new place. And I think that that's always great because we have a lot of military members who will transfer and they'll immediately have a base that will take them up when they transfer to their new base. No matter where you go , if you're in the five first , you're always going to have a ready group of friends , ready group of people that like the same things as you. And you can immediately hit the ground running and have like , you know , community events. You can do the armor parties , you can do troop what we call troops , which is our charity events. And so no matter where you go , you're going to find friends. So that's the best part about it is I can go anywhere in the world and I'm going to have friends. Now.
S1: That was Beth ACCOMANDO speaking with Lindsay Park. The five first will have a panel tomorrow at comic. A con on villainous costuming and they have a fan table at the convention for anyone who wants to get more information about the organization.
S6: Last month , the Department of Homeland Security issued a terrorism advisory warning that in the coming months , they expect the threat for extremist violence to rise due to high profile events that could be exploited to justify acts of violence against a range of possible targets. The targets include public gatherings , faith based institutions , schools , racial minorities and religious minorities. Will Karlis , who covers extremism and emerging issues nationwide for USA Today , spoke with Midday Edition's Jade Heineman about the ideology driving extremism and how some of those ideologies are homegrown here in San Diego. Here's that interview.
S3: Well , glad to have you with us. Always a pleasure. Thank you.
S5: So the Department of Homeland Security says.
S3: They expect the threat.
S5: For extremist violence to heighten over the next.
S1: Six months.
S5: From what you've been reporting on. What do you see driving this heightened risk.
S3: I mean , firstly , you have the far right in this country coming out of a period in which they've really sort of been cowed. I think it's fair to say by the January 6th insurrection and the and the preceding hundreds of indictments and arrests that came out of that. You saw a massive sort of cleaning up of social media accounts. A lot of these movements were kicked off of social media accounts. And so for a long time , you had the sort of extreme right in this country kind of licking its wounds , and it sort of retreated away a little bit. But it never , you know , never went anywhere. I mean , these ideas are still out there. And this group has sort of been waiting for the opportunity to reemerge. And I think we've started to see more and more examples of that reemergence in the last few months. And I think we're going to see more in the coming months and years. And there.
S1: Is yet another.
S5: Hearing before us on the January six insurrection.
S3: Which was driven by extremism , as you've touched on. Can you talk about how these people were emboldened ? Certainly. I mean , in the weeks leading up to January 6th , extremism researchers and journalists like myself were watching as these groups really were grouping together and discussing their plans for January six and what they were going to do. And it was clear that they were being they very much felt like they were being invited to the nation's capitol by the president and being asked to do whatever needed to be done to ensure that Donald Trump remained president. I mean , I think that that was clear to a lot of people in the run up to January 6th. And I think it's been made clear to most members of the American public at this point through the commission hearings and the subsequent legal action that's been brought against the protesters. So , I mean , they were they were emboldened by the entire Republican Party to some extent , but certainly by the president himself. And , you know , many who.
S1: Stormed the Capitol subscribed to this great.
S5: Replacement conspiracy.
S1: Theory , which is the same thing that motivated the terrorist attack in Buffalo.
S5: New York.
S3: What it is kind of developed into these days is , is there's a more mainstream version of it that is pushed by people like Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham. That essentially leaves out the anti-Semitic side of things. But it's still essentially the same idea , the idea that immigrants of color are being brought into this country by an organized kind of cabal of of leftists , and that they're being brought in because they're more likely to vote Democrat and kick the Republicans out of out of power forever. You know , this theory has really been mainstreamed.
S5: By people like Tucker Carlson , as you touched. On.
S3: On. Peter.
S3: Navarro and One America.
S5: News , all of which.
S1: Have ties to San Diego. What is it about San Diego that seems to.
S3: Breed a culture of extremism ? So I remember 20 years ago reporting on the Minutemen who came to the border in San Diego to kind of defend the borders against the invaders. And I think that San Diego , obviously , it's geographically a very interesting , very fascinating place. It's right here on the border. And I think a lot of Americans look to San Diego as sort of one of these watershed places where the changes that they're not okay with in this country are happening just by virtue of the fact that we have a border here. I mean , for what it's worth , I lived I've lived for a long time in San Diego and always found it to be a very kind of politically neutral place itself. But I think it's more just kind of seen as a beacon of change that that people aren't too happy about around the rest of the country.
S5: You know , as the January six hearings come to an end , as we head into the midterm elections , how much.
S1: Does our current political climate play into this elevated risk for.
S3: I mean , it was in in 2016 , but I think even more so now. Look , if President Trump announces that he's going to run in 2024 , then you're going to see just an absolute ramping up of rhetoric , ramping up of hate , ramping up of of political ideologies from from both ends of the spectrum. And I think it's I'm sorry to say , I think it's going to be a really rough couple of years. I think we're going to see a lot of , you know , an uptick in hate crime. I think we're going to see an uptick in political violence and civil disobedience. I mean , it's it's going to be rough , guys. I mean , I would I would strap in.
S1: I've been speaking with Will Karlis.
S5: Reporter for USA Today , who.
S3: Covers extremism and emerging issues nationwide. Well , thank you.
S5: Very much for joining us.
S3: Thank you , Jake.
S1: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen CAVANAUGH with M.G. Perez. Jane Heineman is away today. It's been two months since Will Rodriguez Kenedy , chairman of the San Diego County Democratic Party , took a leave of absence following allegations of sexual assault. He denies the allegations , but said he would step down while the party's ethics committee investigates him. Now , court and police records obtained by KPBS show Rodriguez Kennedy was in a relationship ten years ago that included mutual accusations of abuse. KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bone uncovered this story and he joins me now. And Andrew , welcome.
S7: Hi , Maureen. Thank you.
S1: Let's start with who made these accusations against Rodriguez Kennedy ten years ago and what they entail.
S7: The accusations were made by an ex-boyfriend in a sworn statement that accompanied a request for a restraining order. And they surround an altercation that happened , he says , in August of 2012. The ex says that Rodriguez Kennedy came home that night drunk. They lived together at the time and that he accused him of cheating , which the boyfriend denied. He then says that Rodriguez Kennedy cornered him in the bathroom , kneeled on his neck , pulled his hair , poked his eye , and briefly strangled him with his forearm. The accuser says he then managed to escape and jump off the second floor balcony , which he said caused an ankle injury. And he says he slept at a bus stop that night and chose not to call the police at the time because he was afraid if Rodriguez Kennedy was arrested that he wouldn't have a place to live. The accuser also said that this was part of a pattern of abuse and that the relationship was over at that point. But he still feared for his own safety.
S7: It's it's important to note , do have a lower burden of proof than regular restraining orders. So this one was granted solely based on the ex-boyfriend's testimony. And there were there was a photo of his face that apparently showed some signs of abuse and a screenshot of some text messages. But neither of those things you can actually make out in the court records because they were photocopied and they're just too dark to actually see anything there. So after this temporary restraining order was granted , a judge set a hearing a few weeks later , but sheriff's deputies were actually unable to locate Rodriguez Kennedy and serve him with court summons. At one point , they say in their records that a roommate of Rodriguez Kennedy's said that he was out of town , which appears to be true based on our efforts to corroborate that. So it's very possible that Rodriguez Kennedy just never heard about this. The ex-boyfriend showed up at that first hearing on the whether to make the restraining order permanent. But Rodriguez Kennedy was absent because he hadn't been summoned. So the hearing had to be rescheduled. And then at that rescheduled hearing , neither party showed up , neither the accuser nor Rodriguez Kennedy. And after that point , the judge dissolved the temporary restraining order and the case was effectively over.
S1: Now , Rodriguez Kennedy denies these allegations.
S7: He also says that he was a victim of domestic violence in this relationship and that the temporary restraining order was his ex-boyfriend's attempt to use the court system to further abuse him. He did provide us with a police report which we verified with the police department is authentic. And so Rodriguez Kennedy filed this police report three weeks prior to that incident with his ex-boyfriend. And in that earlier incident , Rodriguez Kennedy said he went to speak with his then boyfriend at the time , who was at a friend's apartment , but he said the boyfriend was ignoring him. So he grabbed his arm to get his attention and that grabbing caused the boyfriend to lose his balance and fall to the ground , at which point he said , You pushed me. So Rodriguez Kennedy says his boyfriend at the time , then charged at him and punched him in the face. RODRIGUEZ Kennedy says he pushed him back again and the boyfriend came back at him with punches a second time. And the police officer who wrote this report said Rodriguez Kennedy didn't have any visible injuries and that he refused medical treatment.
S1: And remind us what Rodriguez Kennedy is accused of doing more recently.
S7: There's a lot less that we know about those accusations which surfaced earlier this year in May in a Facebook post from an activist named Tasha Williamson. The accuser himself in that incident hasn't come forward publicly , although I have spoken with his attorney. He's another ex-boyfriend. And he says that Rodriguez Kennedy had sex with him while he was intoxicated to the point of being unable to give consent. And that's about all we can report around those allegations at this time. It's important to note Rodriguez Kennedy denies those allegations as well. He says they're totally out of character for him and he says he has evidence to corroborate his version of the events , although we haven't seen that yet. He also says the uncovering of the older accusations against him from 2012 are a smear campaign and that he doesn't feel like they are newsworthy.
S1: Well , that that's my question. Rodriguez Kennedy is not an elected official.
S7: And probably the the the clearest example is with the county Democratic Party's endorsements. They endorse mayors , city council members , candidates for elected office of all kinds. And while endorsements aren't made by the chair alone , the party chairs in the past and currently can and do steer the party in one direction or in favor of one candidate or another. They also have some degree of control and influence over how the party spends money. And it's not exactly a secret that Rodriguez Kennedy wants to run for office someday in the future. These allegations are ten years old. They are complicated. But we feel that given the recent accusations , they are at the very least worth reporting on in all of their complexity.
S7: That case now appears to be in the hand of the district attorney's office , which has to decide if there's enough evidence to actually prosecute. And the county Democratic Party , meanwhile , says it can't conclude its investigation into these accusations until law enforcement has included their investigation. So they're waiting on that. And in the meantime , well , Rodriguez Kennedy is still on leave from his position with the party , and the party itself is still declining to comment.
S1: I've been speaking with KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bone. And , Andrew , thank you.
S7: Thank you , Maureen.
S6: Striking Hilton Bayfront workers reached a tentative agreement with management last night , just before Comic-Con started up. The hotel employees , some 600 unionized workers who have gone without a contract since November. The details of the new agreement will not be made public until the deal is ratified by union members. That strike underscores the harsh economic realities that workers face here in San Diego and across the county. Joining us now with more is Allure Calderon , director of the Employee Rights Center. Allure. Welcome to the program.
S3: Thank you. Thank you for the invitation. And thank you for this very important topic.
S6: So you are director of the Employee Rights Center.
S3: So the employee center started in 1999 , supported by local unions , local foundation , intellectual state with foundations to be the place where both union and non-union workers can confront or help deal with their issues at work.
S6: So this strike really highlights what a lot of workers are facing right now. Their jobs simply aren't paying enough to keep up with the high cost of living and inflation.
S3: The fact of the matter is , the economic issues are local and not national. That is the cost of living in San Diego , especially one of the most expensive counties in the country , is higher than most other places and even higher than other places in the state. That means that even when you say , well , $15 an hour , it's a lot it's a larger amount that you would have expected even five years ago. The truth is that that is not nearly enough to allow for a family of four for a full time person to cover , maybe just rent.
S6: You are very much an advocate for employees when we talk about economic recovery from the pandemic.
S3: And we very much appreciate the state of California. You know , the past governor , the current governor there , you know , the legislator that they have moved in that direction , but is not the only place where we can go there. And both the county of San Diego and the city of San Diego , to mention two of the of the largest players in this field , have the ability to raise the wage through particular law changes in their county or in the in the city to bring the minimum wage to a living wage. We'll give you a let me give you a quick example. If you work for a contract for the city of San Diego , something that most people haven't heard and it's part of this issue is because it is not spoken enough. You will get a living wage , not a minimum wage. That is jobs that are directly contracted out out of the city of San Diego. And so they get not only a higher pay that the minimum wage , but they also get an extra amount of money for health coverage or other expenses. And so this is definitely the two places that we would advocate. In fact , we will be advocating in the in the future that it's not enough to have a minimum wage. You should we should have a living wage in this county and in all the cities.
S6: And we have seen union workers wearing T-shirts and hats with the slogan , One job should be enough.
S3: It's not in I mean , again , there's so many measurements that you can go at it. But we just talk about the whole point of a living wage and a great partner of us. The Central Policy Initiative gets a yearly bi yearly report , and they say a local calculation of how much a living wage would be as opposed to a minimum wage. And it's many , many , many dollars above 50. So I would say probably couple of years ago was 21 , $22 an hour. We're probably now in the range , given specially the high inflation that we are under now , given the situation. But nationally , we probably are talking more in the range of the 23 to 25 and in that is just calculating basic expenses. So a living wage is not a well , a living wage does mean that I can save a lot of money and living , which means at the end of the month , I am not in debt.
S6: So we know the situation is dire. I know that you talk to a lot of workers in your job.
S3: So what does that mean ? We don't want to face it , but there's too many people living and of course , way too many people. And we don't we don't track this because the political will has not been there to really , you know , not not prosecute them. Because if you're living in your car , the police will say , you know , either Lieberman , I'm going to give you a ticket to many people. I mean , you know , obviously clear to the homelessness. But I think that that's sort of a an albeit. Somebody who can't even afford to have any kind of roof over their head. But there's too many people living in carts. There's too many people living in garages are not supposed to be rooms. There's way too many people more in in this. I would say families. I would say there's whole regions of of the county. I would say southeastern San Diego , where single family homes have two or three families. And so this this , you know , places are you know , are low rent , but also high density. And so , for instance , employer accelerated to heights. Civic Heights has a lot of this. It's a how do they provide multiple jobs for family. Children are not really dedicated as much as they should to school , and everybody's working just to keep up with expenses.
S6: We are moving through the pandemic. COVID has affected so many people's ability to work and earn.
S3: I know we are a resource and a hub for , you know , several things we can help you with issues of work. We connect you with other institutions , including with training , working or finding job kind institutions. So we ourselves , we do not provide job related services. However , we do something that is very much related to that , which is if you're new to the country , if you are not aware of this institution , and if you need to know exactly how to interrelate , we do do the case management that needs you to do that. But I would say to the large institution that deal with the probably the biggest and the most important is the continuing edge , you know , education from the community college district that is by far the largest in free training or sort of training facility capacity that we have in the country.
S6: I've been speaking with a law , Calderon , director of the Employee Rights Center lawyer. Thank you for joining us.
S3: Thank you.
S1: How far should society go in trying to help the most severely mentally ill ? There's a bill making its way through the state legislature that aims to create a new kind of court system in California , one with the authority to compel some people to receive mental health treatment even if they don't want it. The proposal has sparked intense debate about personal freedom and how best to protect people from the toll of mental illness. From Los Angeles , KPCC , Robert Grover reports.
S7: The plan , first introduced by Governor Gavin Newsom in spring , is called the Community Assistance Recovery and Empowerment Act or Care Court for Short. And the basics as currently written are this People living with a serious , untreated mental illness could be referred for a court ordered care plan. The court intervention could be initiated by a family member , county behavioral health workers or even first responders. If the care plan fails , the person could be hospitalized or referred to a conservatorship. That might mean force treatment , stripping some of the patient's individual rights. The secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency , Mark Ghaly , says part of the goal is to make sure people living with a serious mental illness don't have to get to that most drastic step.
S3: One of the key tenants of camcorders to prevent or avoid conservatorship.
S7: Ghaly , says there's broad agreement that something needs to change. He says care court could help between seven and 12,000 Californians. But not everyone agrees.
S3: Care , not cages.
S7: Protesters in front of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors called for the county to bring thousands of mental health treatment beds online. They say that would divert some of the people in L.A. County jails living with a serious mental illness. Some 40 groups , including disability rights , California and ACLU , California Action , signed a letter opposing care cord. California Senator Tom Amberg , co-author of the Care Card Bill , says he's fully aware of those concerns.
S3: And those particular family members who had tried everything and now are tearing their hair out because they don't know where to go and they don't know what to do.
S7: New York University sociology professor Alex Barnard is currently researching involuntary treatment in California. He says it can be difficult to untangle where family struggles are tied to their family members , not realizing they need help and refusing treatment.
S3: And the fact that the system is just incredibly complicated for families to navigate and often isn't providing what they think they need and what their family members might actually accept if it was given to them.
S7: Experts estimate California should have at least 50 psychiatric inpatient beds for every 100,000 people , according to data from 2016. It had less than half of that. Barnard says in places like France , which has a public mental health care system , they don't need judges ordering people around because treatment is guaranteed.
S3: I think in the U.S. , we believe we can innovate our way out of crises.
S7: Scarlet Hughes is executive director of the California Association of Public Guardians. She believes CARE Court would open the door for more conservatorships in the state without any long term funding for a system that's already struggling.
S3: Every single county is having enormous problems finding appropriate placements for their clients at all levels of care.
S7: Mental health advocate and writer Victoria Maria Alonzo grew up in Downey and now lives on the Central Coast. She's also a new grandma.
S3: My family is my most important thing , Alonso says.
S7: She suffered through hallucinations and thought she was receiving messages from God two decades ago. In 2008 , a team of doctors eventually diagnosed her with schizoaffective disorder , which she says is now in remission. About ten years ago , she was part of a mental health crisis team , which went out on calls in Santa Barbara County.
S3: You know , I had to go like two or 3 hours away to find them a bed and they were suicidal and they needed help right away. And so , like crisis teams , I mean , their hands are tied when there's no bed.
S7: Alonzo likes the idea that care cord would allow family members to bring up concerns about their loved one's mental health.
S3: Because so often , people who suffer from a serious mental disorder that's untreated have no way to advocate for themselves.
S7: But Alonzo worries that people could have unfair restrictions put on them if family members or other care card petitioners don't have their best interest at heart. She says she'd like to see more investment in preventative care and education so that maybe a court never has to enter the picture.
S1: That was KPCC's Robert Grover reporting. This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen CAVANAUGH with M.J Perez. Jade Hindman is away with a heatwave scorching the West. Environmentalists are looking for ways to cool things down. One way for urban areas to beat the heat is to consider the power of shade. Under the unsheltered sun , people can feel as much as 20 degrees warmer than a shady area. The obvious way to provide this free and natural cooling is to line a neighborhood with trees. Except quite often that's not what's happened. Last year I spoke with climate journalist Alejandro Barunga about the role of trees to keep neighborhoods cool as the climate warms. Here's that interview. Let's talk for a minute about the power of shade.
S3: It's one of the easiest ways we have to keep our bodies cool during a hot event. I mean , you probably have this experience , right ? You can know exactly what it feels like to go stand under a tree and cool down and then you go back out into the direct sun and it gets a lot harder to temperature regulate to keep your body at a comfortable temperature. And this is true for for bodies and this is true for cities as well. The more shade there is in an area , the less heat , the concrete , the asphalt. All of these different parts of the city end up absorbing , which means that they can stay cooler.
S1: And when you are do not have that shade cover , you have an increased likelihood of having some sort of illness because of heat if it gets too hot for too long.
S3: Heat is actually the most deadly natural disaster kind of natural disaster we face every year in the US. It has huge public health impacts and can be incredibly devastating to people who are living in too much heat. And the disparity is really unequal. People of color are much more likely to suffer from all kinds of heat related illnesses and problems than wealthier people , often who are white.
S1: Right now in this article , in examining the benefits of trees and shade in cities , you do find a distinct divide between rich and poor across America so that the amount of shade can almost be seen as an index of inequality. Tell us about that.
S3: Yeah , so there's been some really , really fascinating research that's been happening for a long time , but that has kind of accelerated in the last few years , looking at the distribution of trees across different cities all throughout the US. And there's this really clear pattern that emerges in areas that were formerly redlined or kind of denied investment from the federal government over many decades in the past in a way that has continuing impacts today. There are a lot less trees and in neighborhoods that were not redlined , there are many more sometimes up to , you know , around 40% tree cover. So if you imagine the sky above you covered with with leaves and trees , that's a lot. That's a totally different experience. And that has a really clear impact on temperatures. The differences between these formerly redlined areas and not redlined areas can be over ten degrees Fahrenheit.
S1: A lot of your article focuses on the city of Los Angeles and what kind of statistics do we find when it comes to the shady divide throughout Los Angeles.
S3: For this story ? We spent quite a bit of time in different parts of South Los Angeles and other parts of the city as well. And in particular , we drove along Vermont Avenue , which cuts south to north through the city and in some of the neighborhoods that we started in in south in south central L.A. , the tree cover was about 3% , always kind of in the single digits. So that means there's basically nothing between you and the sunshine when you're standing on the street there. And that was mostly in neighborhoods that were formerly redlined and denied investment for many , many years and decades. And as you drove north towards Griffith Park , you started to encounter more and more trees , both on the sides of the street and in people's homes and backyards. And by the time you get up essentially to the park , there are these big , beautiful , big trees that are were planted in the early 1900s and have canopies that cover 80 feet at this point. So these big , giant , beautiful trees that create this incredibly comfortable , shady environment beneath them.
S1: Now , according to a study by the group American Forests here in San Diego , we are among the 20 cities in the nation that need to plant more trees to achieve , quote , tree equity. And that group says we need to add 4 million more trees. That seems like a tremendous amount.
S3: That's a that would be a really big effort. I mean , I think trees and thinking about kind of the public spaces that we inhabit more generally and how to design those in a way that takes people's comfort and safety into account is a really important project for us now , especially as climate change kind of exacerbates in the future and its impacts become clearer. We often think of these spaces or over the decades we kind of ceded a lot of our public space , especially in California , to cars. And that was a thing that definitely happened in L.A. , even in areas where there were trees in the past. Often as streets got widened and parking spaces got added , public street trees got taken out. And so anything we can do to kind of keep the trees we have in good shape. And to add to that and to really prioritize people's experiences in public spaces , I think is a hugely important project.
S1: You know , as temperatures continue to rise and of course , trees take time to grow and they need infrastructure to keep them more watered and healthy.
S3: And Miguel Vargas , who is one of the people I spent quite a bit of time with , had a great answer to this. He was just thinking really far ahead. It's like climate change isn't going to stop. This is only going to become a bigger problem. And if we don't do it now , do we want to be looking at the world we're going to inhabit in 30 years ? Like I'm doing this for the future , even though we know it's a slow project ? And I just thought that was such a wonderful way to look at the question , like , of course this isn't going to be enough. Of course this isn't going to have impacts tomorrow. But the way that we address climate change and its risks has to be forward thinking. It has to take this really long view.
S1: That was climate journalist Alejandro Wonder.