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County supervisors change policy to limit disruptive conduct at meetings

 November 11, 2021 at 2:37 PM PST

Speaker 1: (00:00)

New rules for public testimony at the board of supervisors.

Speaker 2: (00:03)

The public comment part of board meetings lately has gone way beyond criticism. And name-calling

Speaker 1: (00:09)

I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Andrew Bowen. This is KPBS mid-day edition. San Diego and Tijuana are named the next world design capital

Speaker 3: (00:28)

In order to really it's really make design. And this platform, the world design capital, um, meaningful it's important that we were really deep into what it means to be our region, and then how we can then move

Speaker 1: (00:43)

Celebrations and ceremonies. Mark veterans day aboard the midway museum and a new artist emerges into Juana that's ahead. On mid edition,

Speaker 1: (01:01)

The San Diego county board of supervisors has approved new rules of conduct for public testimony at board meetings. The new rules include shorter speaking times and more discretion by the board chair to address threatening or profane language used by speakers. The changes come after a series of hostile public meetings, culminating in a threatening and racist rant. Last week by one public speaker, the new rules were approved on a three to one vote with one supervisor absent. Joining me is KPBS reporter John Carol and John. Welcome. Thank you, Maureen. Now nobody likes to be the target of hostile comments, but did the board outline why the public testimony rules needed to be changed?

Speaker 2: (01:44)

Yeah, a board chair and Nathan Fletcher and the vice-chair and Nora Vargas really have taken the lead on this. They went to great lengths to say they understand is public officials getting criticized. And even to a point, getting insulted just comes with the territory, but Fletcher's, so's the public comment. Part of the board meetings lately has gone way beyond criticism and name calling. He said, things have really been getting worse for the last couple of years, but he said over the last couple of months, it's gotten to an unacceptable level with people yelling at speakers, whistling, stomping, their feet. I think that's all really culminated in what you were just referring to Maureen and the testimony from a man last week, identifying himself as Jason robo, that meeting had to do with COVID safety measures. He said that supervisor Lawson reamers should hang from a tree. He called supervisor Vargas fat. He said, Fletcher should blow his brains out. And then he turned to county public health officer Dr. Wilma Wooten, who he called an out Jamaima, which has of course a reference to a black woman who was a servant to white families for all those reasons, Fletcher, Vargas, and loss, and reverse say, it's gotten to the point where all the bad behavior is affecting the ability of the board to get things done. So of course these new rules are intended to put an end to that kind of disruptive behavior.

Speaker 1: (02:58)

How our public times shortened by these new rules.

Speaker 2: (03:01)

Well, public speaking time has typically been limited to two minutes per person. These new rules allow the board share Fletcher to determine if they should be limited to just one minute in circumstances where there's lots of people who want to address one topic, like for instance, COVID rules, the new rules also allow the chair to change how group presentations patients go. The way it has been is that one person could theoretically speak for seven or eight minutes. Just leaving a few for the other people in the group. Now Fletcher will be able to make it so that everyone in the group is limited to four minutes. The idea being to make group presentations more equitable for everybody in the group, the potential change to just one minute per person definitely received the most pushback from collars. Some of whom said they agreed with some of the other rule changes, but people saying one minute, just isn't enough to say once piece

Speaker 1: (03:50)

And the board's new rules also restrict the behavior of the audience at meetings. Tell us about that.

Speaker 2: (03:56)

Yeah. That's going to be interesting to see how that plays out. If you've attended any board meetings of later, if you've watched them on the live stream, you know, they've really become rowdy events where people are constantly making noise. They're either cheering, speakers or cheering them on. Fletcher says he's even heard from a number of people that say they'd like to participate in the meetings, but they don't feel safe coming down to the county admin building. So it's just not a conducive atmosphere to conduct the business of government.

Speaker 1: (04:24)

Now, the public got a chance to comment on these new public comment rules. What did people say foreign again?

Speaker 2: (04:31)

Well, first of all, there were about an equal number of colors, which I thought was sort of interesting. Now, since yesterday's meeting was remote, that's why they were callers. The people expressing support said what you'd might imagine agreeing with the supervisors who support the changes, but things have just gotten out of hand collars against the changes, had a variety of reasons for opposing them. They ranged from what you might've mentioned. Freedom of speech concerns to the potential. One minute rule, a one color did have a rather colorful way to describe what will happen. He says when people are limited to one minute blast from the past, you might say

Speaker 4: (05:06)

The roof we'll turn board meetings into a modern version of the gong show. If you're old enough to remember what the gong show was, two minutes is short enough. There is absolutely no justification for reducing it to one minute,

Speaker 1: (05:19)

No vote from the board came from supervisor Joel Anderson. Why was he against the changes?

Speaker 2: (05:24)

His opposition stemmed from the amount of time the county has between posting an item, uh, sending out a letter, they say for public comment and the actual day of the meeting Anderson wanted 30 days for that time window. He says people that live in the rural areas that he represents need more lead time to prepare to drive into San Diego. But Fletcher said that would be very difficult logistically for the county to do so. It's going to stay right where it is right now, which is three days.

Speaker 1: (05:51)

And now that the new rules have passed, when do they go into effect? They

Speaker 2: (05:55)

Go into effect immediately. So the next meeting of the board, which is this next Tuesday at 9:00 AM will be in effect.

Speaker 1: (06:02)

I've been speaking with KPBS reporter, John Carroll, John. Thank you. Thank

Speaker 2: (06:06)

You, Maureen.

Speaker 5: (06:09)


Speaker 1: (06:14)

Some critics of the new rules for public testimony at the county board of supervisors say it limits the public's right to free speech reigning in speech and behavior at government forums is a tricky issue. One that can raise concerns about first amendment protections. So I spoke with an expert on the subject attorney David Snyder, executive director of the first amendment coalition, David, welcome to the program. Thank you.

Speaker 5: (06:39)

Thank you for having me.

Speaker 1: (06:40)

As we just heard, the San Diego county board of supervisors is making an effort to create public testimony rules that will maintain civility and order is a government body imposing stricter time limits and telling folks how to behave is that compatible with the first amendment.

Speaker 5: (06:58)

It can be, but it really depends on the details on what exactly their rules say. A government body is permitted to impose restrictions on public testimony. So long as those restrictions don't directly restrict or purport to punish the content of the speech. The content of the speech in this context is mostly sacrosanct under the first amendment, but the courts have recognized that an elected body has the need, the obligation really to maintain order.

Speaker 1: (07:33)

And let's talk about that. So crackdowns on the content of the speech, let's say crackdowns on individual words to, when does that come up against first amendment protections?

Speaker 5: (07:44)

I hesitate to say always, but I would say almost always. So for example, there is no exception for first amendment protections for what we think of as hate speech, you know, 99% of the public would view as a Borat, as inappropriate as uncivil that is likely protected under the first amendment, given the specific circumstances again, unless it leads to an actual disruption of the meeting. So the first amendment is broadly protective of speech, even that speech, which, which a vast majority of people would find harmful or offensive. Now, one thing that elected bodies have the ability to do is to counter that kind of speech with more speech, to condemn it, to strongly encourage, let's say people in a public meeting to maintain civility. And I know that in the case of the board of supervisors here, several supervisors have done that. They've said this kind of speech is inappropriate. It's harmful to the civil discourse going on here. It's apparent we shouldn't tolerate this kind of speech. So that kind of is not only permissible under the first amendment, but in some ways it's the desired outcome. When you hear speech that you find offensive or disagree with fundamental tenant of the first amendment, is that the best response to that is more speech rather than having the government step in and decide what speech is appropriate or not.

Speaker 1: (09:16)

Could that kind of speech and behavior directed towards county staff constitute a hostile work environment

Speaker 5: (09:22)

If this kind of speech happened in an office setting, if somebody used racial slurs or what have you in an office setting, I think that certainly could constitute a hostile work environment. This however is, uh, a public forum. Um, and technically it's, it's called a limited public forum under first amendment jurisprudence. And the context here is very different, the kinds of speech that are permitted and the kinds of limitations that are put on government's ability to stop that speech are quite broad. And so I'm not an employment law expert, but I think a hostile work environment claim in this kind of setting based on, for example, a racial slur would probably have a hard time in the courts, given the context,

Speaker 1: (10:06)

We've heard reports of people making threats, cursing, even mob type takeovers of public meetings in various parts of the country. Do you have any insight as to how we got to this and, and how we move past it?

Speaker 5: (10:20)

I agree with the premise that we've seen a real explosion. And one thing that I think is absolutely crucial is that the response to this kind of behavior not be trying to shut down the expression by folks who were, who are using insulting and even harmful language. I think when government goes to the extreme of saying, we're not going to let you speak that not only is probably a violation of the first amendment, but in a way it actually fosters the kind of polarization that, that I think these kinds of disruptions flow from when government acts in a heavy handed way. I think that ultimately causes a worst backlash in the end. I think government should be in the position of letting speech go forward, but then condemning from, from their positions of relative power and making clear, at least in a rhetorical way that this kind of speech is not going to be tolerated.

Speaker 5: (11:20)

Now that's different again from saying that we're not going to tolerate it as a legal matter. We're not going to let you say it literally that's a first amendment violation, but I think government can go a long way to setting the parameters of appropriate civil discourse by speaking, and by saying, we won't be tolerating this kind of language now, do they actually enforce that as a legal matter again, that's probably a problem from a first amendment perspective, but the government is in a position kind of uniquely powerful rhetorical position to set the parameters and the boundaries of speech.

Speaker 1: (11:56)

Well, the attorney general Merrick Garland recently directed the FBI to work with jurisdictions where unruly school board meetings are taking place. Now he's received a lot of criticism for that. Many people think that's government overreach. What's your opinion?

Speaker 5: (12:13)

Well, I think in instances where speech from the public amounts to actual threats, well, then there's a reason for the government to get involved in potentially a heavy handed way. But if what we're talking about are actual threats, then the first amendment does not protect those, but it actual threat is quite narrowly defined under first amendment law. It means the threat of violence against a specific individual that is capable or likely to be carried out. So rhetorical statements, those would generally be protected, but actual threats or intimations of physical violence. Yeah. I mean, those can, can cross the line. And, and I do think it's appropriate where there are those kinds of threats for law enforcement to get involved in some capacity. But again, the threat is very, very narrowly defined under first amendment law

Speaker 1: (13:04)

Or new rules and regulations the county or any other government agency comes up with to try to maintain orderly public comment. That will probably be challenged in court. So my question to you is what do you see as the best argument in support of making those kinds of changes,

Speaker 5: (13:23)

Rules of decorum in the abstract, at least there's no problem with those from a first amendment perspective. It really depends on how specific they are and how they are enforced. I think civil discourse is absolutely crucial and sort of setting aside my first amendment advocate hat. I would say that civil discourse and refraining from the use of racial slurs and insults is absolutely the best course. You know, we sort of all learned that or most of us do in kindergarten. That's the best way to go in the extreme instances where the public comment really gets out of hand. Sure. Then rules of decorum can be important to ensure that the board of supervisors can conduct its business in an orderly and efficient manner. I think rules of decorum are not necessarily problematic. And there are many models of these all around the country. Many of these models have actually been tested in the courts. So there's a fair amount of case law about how far these rules can go and how they can be enforced. So in drawing up these rules, I suspect the board of supervisors has looked at some of that case law and determined what passes the test legally and what does not. But I don't know.

Speaker 1: (14:33)

I've been speaking with David Snyder, executive director of the first amendment coalition. David, thank you very much.

Speaker 5: (14:39)

Thank you for having me.

Speaker 6: (14:41)


Speaker 1: (14:51)

This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Andrew Bowen. Jade Heinemann is off today. This veteran's day, we bring you the story of an American veteran. It's part of a series of veterans stories from American Homefront army specialist. Shashauna Johnson was traveling in a convoy in Iraq in 2003, when her vehicle was attacked, Iraqi forces killed 11 soldiers in her company and captured six, including Johnson. She was held for 22 days becoming the first black female prisoner of war in American history. Here's her story told in her own voice,

Speaker 7: (15:31)

There's a vehicle, a civilian vehicle that pulls in front of us. I think it was a dump truck or tow truck or something. And we ended up going to the side of the road and I jumped out the vehicle here comes Saren Riley Hernandez comes flying out of the vehicle and we go underneath the vehicle to take cover and return fire, I think is not even a minute underneath the vehicle. I get shot both my legs. Then Hernandez gets hit in the arm. Sergeant Riley says his weapon is jammed. And I hand in mine and I remember I gave it to him flat down, which is totally wrong. It gets dirt in the mechanism. And of course it wouldn't fire. After that. Next thing you know, Saren Riley says, you know, we're going to have to surrender. It's part of the Geneva convention. You're supposed to separate the male from the females, but as the only female I'm I'm alone most of the time and it's hard.

Speaker 7: (16:30)

Um, the only human contact you have is, you know, my guards or the doctor would come in to look at my leg, sitting there alone, having to think about everything. I went through, every thing I had ever done wrong in my life and apologized to God, um, and you know, thought about my daughter and God willing. If I got to go home, what would I do? What myself and I thought of those who I knew were dead and wondered about the rest of them. They started moving us from prisons to homes. And that's very scary because the military was checking prisons. You can't go and check every house in a city. So it was getting harder to find us and the dread start setting in. I remember the night before we, they had given us this really cool meal with soda and chocolate, and I was thinking, it's the last meal they're going to kill us. This is your last, you know, but Nope, the Marines came to the rescue on Palm Sunday. I thought I was fine. And I kept saying it, I'm fine. I'm fine. My aunt, my family said, no, you're not, no, you're not.

Speaker 7: (17:47)

I was different. They expect you to come home the way he left and that's not possible. You're not the same person. My parents were like, your daughter comes to us, talking about mommy, cries all the time and stuff. So they guilted me into being more diligent about my care. I get excellent care. And, and I still have issues. I've been hospitalized three times in El Paso. They keep a military wing. We are all like housed together and get our treatment together and so forth. And I think that does more for me than the actual therapy. And the doctors is that structure of that military life back, that really helps more than anything because they understand like nobody else. I wouldn't change going in the military, being a soldier for anything in the world. The only thing I would change is that day, if I could go back and unring that bell and have all of us come home, that's the one thing I would change.

Speaker 1: (18:51)

That's Trisha Johnson recorded by insignia films for WGBH Boston. You can hear more on the PBS series, American veteran and the podcast, American veteran unforgettable stories.

Speaker 1: (19:11)

Veteran's day will be commemorated around the county today. And ceremonies ranging from somber memorials to family events like the fleet week veterans day boat parade along San Diego bay visitors at the USS midway museum are getting a bird's eye view of that parade this afternoon, along with several veterans day themed events onboard the museum. It's a special veterans day for the midway. The aircraft carrier turned Naval history museum at Navy pier last year was shadowed by pandemic closures and travel restrictions. Now the midway is set to regain its place as one of San Diego's major tourist attractions. And joining me is retired Navy commander, David Koontz, director of marketing for the USS midway museum and David, welcome to the program.

Speaker 8: (19:58)

Thank you very much, Maureen, happy to be here with you. Now, this

Speaker 1: (20:00)

Veterans day, people are just starting to get used to getting out and about again, do you have any estimate of how many people might be visiting the midway museum? The solid

Speaker 8: (20:10)

Well, uh, we hope that we're going to see a really good visitation today, as it is veteran's day. We are offering free admission to military veterans as well as members of their family. And we also offer free admission to active duty military. So we're hoping that with today being a federal holiday, everybody's taking the day off that we're going to see a good crowd this afternoon. And the weather of course, down on the bay is just perfect.

Speaker 1: (20:31)

Did the museum go through last year? Was there a cycle of closings and reopenings

Speaker 8: (20:36)

Th there was, it was a very, very challenging year for the entire tourism industry and we're still not out of the woods. Completely. The midway was fairly fortunate in that we are considered an outdoor museum because of our flight deck and our very open air hanger deck. So we were able to open for the first time in July of 2020. Uh, we had to reclose when there was a surge in December. We were closed for a couple of months, but we were able to open up in early 20, 21 and we've been open ever since. And one of the great things is for the midway is that while we were having to able to have our hangar deck and our flight deck open during the heart of the pandemic, we have since been able to now open a lot of the below deck spaces. So the entire museum is now available for the public to

Speaker 1: (21:16)

Tour. And how much revenue do you think was lost?

Speaker 8: (21:19)

Like everyone, there was significant revenue loss, and there was a significant impact on the, on the workforce. But what we're happy to see now is just sort of a continuing trend of more people, as you indicated, are really willing and wanting to get out and about. So we're happy to see actually more, uh, San Diego visiting the midway because it's an easy thing for them to do. They don't necessarily have to travel very far to get out and enjoy something right here in their backyard. And we're also seeing, especially over the summer months, we did see a fair number of travelers coming down from the Los Angeles area and out from Arizona, where of course it's 115 degrees every day. So we did see a nice mix of, of local visitation with some, some near drive market. And we think as we proceed into 2022 with restrictions on international travel and sort of the longer haul domestic travel that we'll, uh, start to see our trends continue to move on.

Speaker 1: (22:08)

Now, besides being able to see the veterans day boat parade, there's a salute to service celebration today aboard the midway. Tell us about

Speaker 8: (22:17)

Correct. Yes. We've sort of turned the flight deck in with some of our sponsors into a giant festival. So again, with free admission to our active duty into our veterans, you know, everybody can come on board and enjoy a really family friendly festival environment. We've got live music, we've got food vendors on the flight deck and really enhances the experience of just getting to see the exhibits that we have here on the ship. And some of the interactive experiences that we have here on the ship. And I think one of the funner things about today's festival is that this afternoon we will have a doughnut eating contest with our sponsor Dunkin donuts. So that's going to be a very fun event this afternoon.

Speaker 1: (22:53)

Now later today, there's a panel discussion sponsored by SDSU, featuring veterans from the war in Afghanistan. What will that discussion cover?

Speaker 8: (23:02)

Yeah, that's going to be a very powerful event. It's called the third squad. And as you indicated, it's a, it's a reflection on, uh, the fierce fighting that went on in, uh, in the war in Afghanistan, specifically in 2011, with a squad of Marines, uh, 12 Marines who were in helmet province, which is where some of the fiercest fighting took place in the war in Afghanistan. So, uh, Elliott wood, who was a former, who is a veteran former military member himself, uh, turned journalists, was actually embedded with the third squad and has over the past several months gone back and has interviewed a number of those Marines, getting their reflections on their experience in Afghanistan and how life has been for them since they've gotten out of the Marine Corps over the last 10 years. So the podcast that he has produced is a 12 part podcast series. And tonight we will have two of those Marines from the third squad, onboard the ship to discuss their experience as part of a panel. And we'll also have excerpts from the podcast that Elliot has produced. David,

Speaker 1: (23:57)

Were you hoping for, as the midway museum continues to get back up on its feet, any new exhibits at any events plan that we should take? No,

Speaker 8: (24:06)

We're actually hoping to have a traveling exhibit early next year. That's going to focus on women in the military and actually on women in the military with sort of a diversity background. So we're still working on that with the women's military Memorial in Washington DC. So we're excited about that possibility, but I think overall, what we love about the midway is even though it's a museum it's sort of a hybrid between a museum and an attraction. And so we're not as static experience. We have a number of experiences on our hangar deck that are very interactive. And I think one of the best things about the midway is our volunteers. We have a volunteer force of about 700 and most of them have a military experience and some of them actually even served on the USS midway. So the great thing about the midway is it really brings history alive in a very exciting and dynamic and engaging way. And just, just a visit to the midway. You get a chance to kind of step back in time and experience more than 80 years of Naval aviation history.

Speaker 1: (25:01)

So much for coming on the show and talking to us about this today, I've been speaking with retired Navy commander, David Kuhns, who is director of marketing for the USS midway museum. Thank you and happy veterans.

Speaker 8: (25:13)

Thank you very much. And I appreciate you having us on, on the broadcast today.

Speaker 9: (25:22)

The world design organization announced yesterday, it's selected San Diego and Tijuana for the title of world design capital in 2024, the organization said it chose the two cities for their commitment to human centered design and their legacy of cross border collaboration. So what does it mean to be a world design capital joining me with more is Michelle Morris co-founder and president of the design forward Alliance, which spearheaded the region's bid. Michelle. Welcome.

Speaker 3: (25:49)

Thank you so much, Andrew. It's wonderful to be here and it's a great day for the San Diego Tijuana region.

Speaker 9: (25:54)

People might assume that being a world design capital has to do with how our region looks visually, but that's not really the whole story. So how would you describe what it means to be a world design capital

Speaker 3: (26:07)

Question? Because design, you know, something that we encounter everywhere all the time, uh, and products and buildings and websites, et cetera, experiences. So what we like to, we call it to talk about it as it is the pretty and the gritty. Um, it's, it's everything that you can see and things that you want to, uh, to enjoy, uh, the physical products and, you know, we have an amazing, amazing creative community and design community here in San Diego to wanna, uh, but it also is taking some of the tools and techniques and leveraging those practitioners to not help with solving the problems, but delving deep into what are some of the ways that we can transform our region with the wicked problems that the world currently faces things like homelessness, climate action, cross border, uh, immigration, uh, food insecurity, just social justice, inequity. So, uh, it really is a whole spectrum. And, uh, there's a lot of untapped potential here in our region.

Speaker 9: (27:09)

The idea to pursue this designation first came about several years ago, but it wasn't until the pandemic that your organization decided to apply for this designation. What about the pandemic drove that idea forward?

Speaker 3: (27:23)

Well, you know, right now the entire world is thinking rethinking pretty much every facet of life, whether it be because of that pandemic, um, or things that emerged through, uh, through the course of the last 18 plus months. And so there's no better time for design and for designers, uh, then when you have a complex problem or when you have a, you know, a canvas that has a lot of questions and you need to get deep community voices, which is one of the reasons, for example, we partnered with the Burnham center for community advancement in order to really, to really make design and this platform, the world design capital, um, meaningful, uh, it's important that we, that we go really deep into what it means to be our region and then how we can then move forward, um, with the design lens, um, but into, into the future. Um, and that's also why, for example, we partnered with the design lab at UC San Diego, which is really the driver behind the design forward movement. And co-founder of the design forward Alliance. It's having capacity to really research and look into problems in a different way, bringing together different stakeholders, um, so that, uh, we can move forward. And what better time than, uh, when the world has, is in an unprecedented unchartered territory,

Speaker 9: (28:41)

The other finalist for this designation was Moscow. What do you think gave San Diego and Tijuana the edge in this competition? Well,

Speaker 3: (28:49)

You know, Moscow is a force. Yeah. They have such a strong legacy and tradition of design and lots of in lots of categories like architecture and industrial design, and they have a really robust design community. Now, I think it was a few things that, uh, allowed us to, to, to be crowned the world design capital 20, 24, uh, one being our binational, uh, narrative it's unique. Uh, in fact, the world design organization said, we weren't sure if that was just something that you said in your written bid or if it was real, but when they came for the site visit, um, you know, the, the interconnectedness of, uh, of our region is, is palpable and very authentic. I think it was a, this, this partnership between the design Ford Alliance, the UC San Diego design lab and the Burnham center and the two cities, and then lots of other, I mean, innumerable organizations throughout that really gave texture to our bid, uh, well beyond just showcasing, um, you know, design and focusing on the ceremonial part. And I think, um, also the, just the transformative piece that we talked about using design as a practice, because we have a flourishing design community here, but also really looking to it, um, for business value and economic development for environmental development and social.

Speaker 9: (30:12)

So on that note, what are the material benefits of being named the world design capital?

Speaker 3: (30:17)

Well, I mean, we, you know, we actually get put on the map in a different way. I think that will draw a lot of people to not only focus on our region, but then also to, uh, to come here. And then I would say finally, I think one, one real benefit is that we'll be able to convene these global and diverse stakeholders because it's not just any one, uh, any one entity or even a binational bid, uh, that's going to be able to address the problems that our globe faces and our region faces right now.

Speaker 9: (30:48)

Designation starts in 2024. What kind of events will be happening in the region that year to mark this designation?

Speaker 3: (30:54)

So Andrew, I'm going to correct you there. It doesn't start in 2024. Our designation starts in 2024, but the work, the actual transformative work is it starts in a cup in a week, if not now, but before the event side of this, um, there will be, uh, seven signature events that are part of every world design capital, and they range from a signing ceremony to a convocation ceremony. There will be a policy conference, um, uh, network cities meeting, which brings together the cohort of other world design capitals, and also street festivals and celebrations of design in the region. So it's going to be a very packed year on top of all of the amazing initiatives that already exist here, that we will be showcasing during that year.

Speaker 9: (31:38)

The first time that this designation has been awarded to two cities in two countries, why is that significant and how do you think San Diego and Tijuana will be sharing the attention? You know, I think

Speaker 3: (31:50)

Difficult because I think it really makes a statement about how, how cities and how regions need to move forward in the 21st century. Um, but I also think that it's significant because it tells a different narrative about what design can mean and what, what, you know, what a world design capital could mean. You know, San Diego is not San Diego without Tijuana and Tijuana is not to wanna without San Diego in many ways. So while we have lots of, of differences to celebrate, there's, there's a synergy and a symbiosis that exists. And so I think that it's significant because like many things that we do in this region, we're, we're changing the game. We're, we're asking, we're pushing paradigms, uh, differently. And I think that's, that's really important. And, and part of why we won the bid,

Speaker 9: (32:34)

I've been speaking with Michelle Morris, president of the San Diego based design forward Alliance. Michelle, thank you so much. Thank you very

Speaker 10: (32:41)


Speaker 9: (32:48)

COVID-19 has brought change to the so many lives. Sometimes the change has led to rebirth KPBS reporter. John Carroll tells us about a local nonprofit that figured out how to survive during the pandemic to continue bringing the arts to school children across San Diego county.

Speaker 10: (33:06)

You know what tomorrow's going to bring. You need something to bring you back and ground you. And that's what we get from the art

Speaker 11: (33:15)

That was Adrian Valencia last year in a story we did in the early days of the pandemic then, and now Valencia led an organization dedicated to bringing the arts to school children. What she didn't know at the time was the extraordinary challenge COVID would present like so many others. The group went virtual.

Speaker 10: (33:35)

Our teaching artists were absolutely brilliant and made those changes very quickly,

Speaker 11: (33:40)

But more changes would have to be made. COVID meant a significant loss of funding.

Speaker 10: (33:45)

We're finding that they had to put their funding in different places. And so we lost about 50% of our income, uh, pretty quickly

Speaker 11: (33:59)

Valencia and her staff knew that for the organization to survive some difficult decisions were ahead,

Speaker 10: (34:06)

Let go of our office space. And we've been working remotely since the end of October, 2020. Um, we took a few elements of our business practice and put them in house such as our grant writing and our accounting,

Speaker 11: (34:22)

But all that wasn't enough. One more big change, a painful one was still to come. The group had been affiliated with young audiences of America. Since the late sixties, the national group has branches all over the country dedicated to bringing the arts to school children, Valencia and her board decided retaining membership with young audiences just wasn't worth it.

Speaker 10: (34:44)

We just found that it made more sense for us to separate

Speaker 11: (34:51)

Separating from young audiences meant change from top to bottom, the group rebranded itself. They're now known as arts education connection, San Diego, a new name, a new logo, but the mission has not changed a dedicated group of teaching artists still share the arts with children through five disciplines, music, theater, dance, visual, and literary arts sharing, teaching the arts to children during the darkest days of the pandemic revealed a silver lining. The separation from our friends and family was eased a bit by the kind of togetherness that only the arts can bring.

Speaker 10: (35:28)

And that really relates to our new name because the arts really do connect us to one. Another connects us to history, connects us to science, connects us in so many different ways

Speaker 11: (35:41)

As COVID recedes and arts education returns to libraries and classrooms. Adrian Valencia says she's more confident than ever about the future.

Speaker 10: (35:51)

You know, the whole rebranding thing was a very intense process. It has actually re-energized us. And re-energized our name in the community.

Speaker 11: (36:03)

We interviewed Valencia in the Malcolm X library. One of many locations where arts education connection, San Diego has conducted their programs. The process of returning to places like this is now underway.

Speaker 10: (36:17)

Schools are very excited about having in-person programming again. And so that is getting off the ground. Um, some venues are still requesting virtual programs. And so we will continue to do that.

Speaker 11: (36:32)

Continuing to do that takes financial support if you'd like to help out. Or if you're just curious about arts education connection, San Diego, you can check out their newly redesigned website, arts ed The first thing you'll see is their mission statement. Arts are essential. Learning is critical and art in learning is transformative. John Carroll, KPBS news.

Speaker 1: (37:09)

This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm worrying Cavenaugh with Andrew Bowen. Jade Heinemann is off today. Victor Lebowski is an artist who goes by the name T1 outa. He's known for capturing the beauty of the borderlands and his detailed ink drawings, which often are a mishmash of U S Mexico icons like star wars with taco carts or astronauts eating Carnegie Assata. But for a long time, he went out to refuse to sell his art or make art his day job in part because of his lifelong struggle with anxiety. So instead he hid behind the safety of an office job and spent a decade in a cubicle at a call center in Tijuana. But recently he went out to took the plunge. He became a full-time artist and had his first ever art show in Tijuana over the summer KPBS, his port of entry hosts, Alan Lillian Thall and producer Kinsey Moreland went to see the show and talk to the border artist about his big life change.

Speaker 12: (38:18)

Almost, almost move in [inaudible]

Speaker 13: (38:22)

It's been nearly a year since Victor made that leap to being a full-time artist. And over the summer, he actually had his first ever solo art show in Tijuana. So my producer Kinsey, and I went to check it out. It was a collection of those drawings he did at that Korean restaurant. And I gotta say, Victor's drawings are incredible, so detailed and funny and just perfectly precisely drunk. Actually,

Speaker 14: (38:48)

All I can see is errors. Wow. No, no. I mean it, I know it looks like if you, if you stare at it, you will probably see you won't see an error, but the way I see it, every line on its own, it's imperfect. Every, you have, you look at it too close. Yeah. But altogether you can't even notice it. And, but I mean, all I see are lines that are not aligned or a little bit longer than they should have been.

Speaker 13: (39:21)

Victor. His work is very border centric, a really modern mashup of Mexican and American culture.

Speaker 14: (39:27)

Sure. So we have the Mandalorian characters posting in the, in the classical Tiquana picture where you have the donkey and you have the chariot and everybody are holding like guns. We have the, uh, the new hope characters in a taco stand that goes into us Bonanza, which should translate to tacos. And you hope you got

Speaker 13: (39:50)

Luke, Luke cutting

Speaker 14: (39:51)

And trompo, right? Cutting the trompo. I was about to use the lightsaber, but I made a, um, I made a, another one. We have another, uh, taco, uh, piece with Yoda. And he's the one cutting the trompo where the lightsaber, as you can see,

Speaker 13: (40:09)

Victoria's creative alter ego is [inaudible], it's a nickname. He came up with actually back in college because alongside his star wars characters, he's always drawn a lot of astronauts immersed in traditionally Mexican scenes. He says the concept is 100% a shout out to how he feels growing up at the border, a place that's neither fully the us or Mexico

Speaker 14: (40:32)

Because we live in a world between two worlds. Like we have, we are highly influenced. We have the greatest economy in the world next to us, culturally, it's the most influential country in the world. So obviously we're going to pick up on that. It's a different world.

Speaker 6: (40:48)


Speaker 13: (40:56)

[inaudible] is its own wonderfully weird world, a beautiful living microcosm that makes big door and me and so many multicultural people feel like we belong. It's interesting because this thing Victoria's art. It used to be something he escaped and withdrew into something. He used to hide away from the world, but now it's become this great connector for him.

Speaker 14: (41:22)

Whenever what I do has a certain connection with others, it's probably my favorite thing. Like when I get messages of people saying, I saw your work in this piece, something for me to me, and they start telling you their life history and what they went through and how, what you did connects with them. It's, it's insane. That alone is incredibly rewarding. I'm glad that I'm able to do something that, that has a certain resonance with people and that people want. And that's just great by itself. So it's been a crazy ride. I've been doing this for just a couple of months. And I I've said a couple of times that I haven't even had like a lift off and I already feel lucky among the clouds.

Speaker 13: (42:24)

These days, big daughter's biggest battle is still the invisible one happening inside his own head. But his new found power of helping others with his drawings. It's really helped him recognize that he doesn't have to fight his battle alone.

Speaker 14: (42:43)

The reason why it took a long time for me to kind of see the light at the end of the tunnel. It's because I had always been reluctant to seek help. You know, my work is a way to digest reality and experience into something that I could control, you know, like a language like it's my own way of expressing life experiences and in a very wrong way. I think that it was important for me to kind of try to handle it myself, whether it's a cultural thing or like a male thing, you know, being proud or whatever. Obviously I see that it was wrong of me not to reach out because when you reach out, there's a lot of people who are there to help

Speaker 13: (43:41)

Recently, finally, Victoria, God, that help, he started treating his anxiety through a mix of therapy and,

Speaker 14: (43:50)

And I've been feeling great. I've been doing things that I was afraid of doing in so far as you know, it hasn't been great. The universe kind of self-corrects and I was not living in my gift in all of the things that happened ultimately was in a way to push me to the right course. You know how the Eagles they're young liens, they will throw them off cliffs. Either you fly or you die. That's what I feel that happened. Like at some point it was my time to either make it or break it. That's amazing. You're flying now. You jumped in. Well, here I am

Speaker 6: (44:26)


Speaker 1: (44:35)

And that was the artist known as T went outta talking with port of entry, host Alan Lillian Thall to hear more about the cross-border artists, listen to the full episode online at port of entry,, or listen to wherever you get your podcasts.

Speaker 6: (44:50)


After months of vitriol, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved rule changes that they say will make meetings more civil. Critics of the rules change say it limits the public’s right to free speech. Plus, on Veterans Day we bring you the story of the first Black female prisoner of war in the country’s history. Meanwhile, the USS Midway celebrates Veterans Day with special in-person activities after being sidelined last year because of the pandemic. Also, San Diego and Tijuana were recently announced as the 2024 World Design Capital, beating out Moscow. It’s the first time a binational region has won. And, the pandemic hit many small arts organizations especially hard, but one organization figured out how to survive and thrive. Finally, meet Tijuanauta, a Mexican artist who took the plunge and made art his full-time job after years of hiding in an office cubicle, in this excerpt of the latest episode of the Port of Entry podcast.