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Report: California likely to have $25 billion budget deficit

 November 18, 2022 at 1:22 PM PST

S1: The $25 billion deficit facing California.

S2: This is a forecast is based low on no recession. So if we do have a recession , that would make the deficit even worse.

S1: I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen CAVANAUGH. This is KPBS midday edition. The cost of housing is dropping a bit.

S2: It's good on one hand for renters to see rents going down. It's very rare in San Diego County , but yeah , it's it's still up quite a bit from last year.

S1: The sexual harassment facing women , climbing the ranks of law enforcement and a conversation on travel in the age of COVID with Rick Steves. That's ahead on Midday Edition. $25 billion. That's the estimated deficit California's legislative analyst is projecting for the state next year. While legislative leaders have been hinting at this for months , the news sits in stark contrast to back to back years of record budget surpluses for the state. Joining me now to talk about what's behind the numbers is USDA economist Allergan. Alan , thanks for joining us.

S2: Thanks for having me.

S1: So California is coming off two straight years of record budget prosperity. But as Politico reports , last year , the state legislative analyst made a similar deficit projection.

S2: In particular , the revenue from people making more than $500,000 a year. What's happened is that we've had a decline in the stock market this year , so people are not realizing as many capital gains. We've also had some layoffs in the in the tech sector , and that has been caused the revenue revenue receipts then to to decline compared to what was forecast. And that's what's leading them to this projected $25 billion deficit.

S1: Let's talk more about the recession fears. The Federal Reserve has raised interest rates , I think , six times this year in an effort to stave off a recession.

S2: They're trying to control inflation. But the problem with that is that that might tip the economy into into a recession. So my my estimate is that we probably have about a 70% chance of having a recession in in 2023. So it's not 100% sure that there's still a possibility that we won't do that. But and we also don't know how serious that recession is going to be. So a lot of uncertainty right now. This forecast is based on no recession. So if we do have a recession , that would make the deficit then even worse.

S1: Last year's budget deficit projection quickly turned into a $97 billion surplus. But this year is a little different. There's lots of recession talk.

S2: Again , a lot of the revenue of the state gets is through the income tax and basically the tax on hiring the people. We have a progressive income tax in California , so people at the higher end pay a higher rate. And , you know , we have a lot of people working in finance and in tech and they're making a lot of money , and that has fueled them. The budget surplus has been in the in the past. So the worry is that if we've got any sort of downturn and there's a lot of layoffs in those sectors , that that could make the situation worse.

S1: Many people are still getting gas rebates from the state and they might be wondering how this type of spending factors into the deficit projections.

S2: Well , what's happened is that the state has , for the most part , spent money on one time , one time expenditures. And so that helps in the sense that they do not obligate the state for recurring expenditures in the future. One exception to that is the expansion of pre-K to four year olds. So that that was an investment and that obligated the state to spend money then into the future. But that that gas rebate is just a one time thing and would not have any impact in as far as the deficit is concerned.

S1:

S2: So we have a record reserve , about $37 Billion debt to deal with financial difficulties like this. So. So theoretically , the state could could just draw down that entire reserve and cover the deficit that is that is projected. But I think what's going to happen is that the that there's going to be some adjustments to on the spending side to cut back a little bit on that. But right now , we're we're a lot better than we have been in terms of dealing with with a budget deficit.

S1: And , of course , we'll have a better sense of the true numbers when the governor releases his first budget in January. But if the deficit does force the state to make cuts , how might the average resident feel those cuts.

S2: That will have an impact then in terms of services that that are provided , probably are aid to the local governments to fund the projects then are going to be reduced. And if the cuts are drastic , then that could lead to people then being laid off in the sense that it would slow the state's economy.

S1:

S2: So if the governor governor had some programs that he was going to try to push , he might need to cut those back.

S1: This is an estimated deficit as of now.

S2: Again , this deficit is based on the assumption that there's going to be no recession if there is a recession. And again , I think there's about a 70% chance of recession in in 2023. Then the numbers could be worse. More people could lose their jobs. There would be less revenue coming in. And as a result of that , the deficit could get worse. On the other hand , if things turn around , the situation could actually get get better. So so there's just a lot of uncertainty right now.

S1: I've been speaking with USDA economist Alan Jenne. Alan , thank you so much for speaking with us today.

S2: Thanks for having me.

S3: The good news is that rents are down in San Diego County by almost 5%. The not so good news is the same type of economic forces that are pushing rents down are also slowing. What was on track to be a record year for housing construction in the county. It's a trend being seen around the country. And here to break it down for us is San Diego Union-Tribune business reporter Phillip molnar. And Phil , welcome back.

S2: Thank you so much for having me.

S3: How much does this drop ? Bring the median rent down to in San Diego. Okay.

S2: Okay. So just from month to month , from September to October , our rent in San Diego City was down 4.6%. And that brings it to 2500 a month median. So it's still very high. That's a substantial increase even in a year , topping 20% by some accounts. So , yeah , I mean , it's good on one hand for renters to see rents going down. It's very rare in San Diego County. But yeah , it's it's still up quite a bit from last year.

S3: And that 2500 , that's for a one bedroom , one bath.

S2: Yes , that's a one bedroom apartment. Wow.

S3: Wow. Okay.

S2: I don't know for sure , But , you know , a lot of what economists are saying is there's the economy is facing some downturns right now , some pressure pushing it down , you know , inflation. So people don't have as much money as they might have had at this time last year. So I think that's just filtering out through the apartment rents in San Diego and Chula Vista. And also , we're having a lot more new apartments open. There was really , you know , a lot of housing advocates say we're not building enough housing in San Diego County. And by most mathematic figures , they're right. But , you know , it's been pretty steady the last few years , building probably about more than 10,000 a year last year. And , you know , keeping up that pace. So there is more for renters to choose from , even though sometimes it doesn't feel like it.

S3: Now , when mortgage rates go up , people who no longer qualify to buy usually move into the rental market and that drives rents up. But that's not happening this time.

S2: You know , that's a strange thing because even during the Great Recession here in San Diego , we did have a few months where rents were down. But , you know , rent prices were pretty steady all through the Great Recession because so many people left the housing market. But what we're seeing right now , at least in the short term , over the last couple of months , is , yeah , rents are actually going down. So we'll have to wait and see. You know , I mean , if this goes on even longer and more and more people can't buy a home , maybe we'll see rents change. But for right now they're going down.

S3: And some brand new apartment complexes are offering deals to new renters. Tell us about that. Yeah.

S2: Yeah. You know , it's kind of surprising because it's very common in East Village , in downtown San Diego. Any time a new apartment building goes up , they've got really great deals , like two months free. I've reported on all of them over the years , and some of them have kept them going , even though the building's been open , like for years. But you don't really see it in some of those areas that people really want to live , like Mission Valley UTC. And so one of them , the Townsend Complex in Mission Valley 277 Unit Townsend Complex is offering one month free for some floor plans. The jewel at Lux , that's a 220 unit project in University City that's offering six weeks free and some units in the residence at Cote Taveras , which is a new complex that it's very close to me here in Chula Vista. The residents at COTA , Vera 280 unit complex just opening up is offering one month free for some units. And believe it or not , here in otir ranch Chula Vista , there's not a lot of those offers going on. These apartment buildings fill up pretty quick.

S3:

S2: So if they can offer you like a month free instead of giving you a lower rent , that would be better over time , you know , especially if you stay in the place for two years. It's just a strategy developers use to get people in and keep the rents at an elevated level.

S3: Now , decreases in rents are not happening across the board in San Diego , are they ? Some areas are actually still seeing rent increases.

S2: That's kind of interesting. So Chula Vista has had the biggest percent decrease just month on month , 4.7% decrease in San Diego has had that 4.6% like I mentioned. Now , there's been no change in Escondido , Imperial Beach , Vista , La mesa. And tonight it's basically the same in alcohol , but. In Carlsbad , things are up 6.1% and Oceanside is up 1.8%. Wow.

S3: Wow. And that's on top of the way they have been increasing all year long , right ? Yes.

S2: Yes.

S3: San Diego has been building a lot of housing this year , more than 8000 units.

S2: And I'm going to try and frame it. Okay. So last week I wrote about all the building permits through the third quarter of this year , the city of San Diego built 48% of all the housing we've seen this year. And Chula Vista built 11%. Chula Vista is in second place. The rest of the county , it's all 0% , 1% , like not really contributing to the housing supply. So I'm like , okay , Chula Vista and San Diego are building the most housing. And then I get this rent report this week and I'm looking at the two places where things are down for San Diego and Chula Vista. I'm like , Well , it can't be that simple , can it ? You know ? And so I talked to an economist this past week and he's like , well , you know , there's a good sign that , you know , if you're building more housing in an area that's going to help stabilize rents and keep things lower. So , you know , it's not a scientific and I can't say for sure. But what I do know is the two areas where rents are going down in San Diego County is where we're building the most housing.

S3: And how many housing units does San Diego need to build to keep up with the demand for housing ? Okay.

S2: It depends on who you ask. One of the usual ones that we hear from housing analysts is that we need to build about 20,000 housing units per year. They've kind of tempered it. Some people put it at around , you know , 15,000. So that's sort of the mark that we're trying to reach to keep up with population and all sorts of other growth in the county to keep housing low. The best we've done in so long has been last year where we built just over 10,000 housing units. So that was pretty good. This year seemed like we were on track to build more than last year. So through the first nine months of this year , we build 8053 homes constructed in San Diego County throughout the entire county. However , I've talked to a lot of builders , a lot of housing analysts , and apparently things just slowed down incredibly over the last few months. So I don't know if we're going to build as much housing as we did last year. We'll have to wait and see.

S3: All right , then. I've been speaking with San Diego Union-Tribune business reporter Philip Molnar. Phil , thank you so much.

S2: Thanks , as always.

S3: A controversy at a high profile San Diego nonprofit prompted a board members resignation and concerns about retaliation. A new source , investigative reporter Jill Castellano , is back with the second part of her two part series. Let's start from the beginning. Save our Heritage Organization , or Soho , is a San Diego nonprofit dedicated to historic preservation. The husband and wife running it , Bruce and Alana Koons , have been accused of taking $70,000 worth of the nonprofit's antiques to their private home in Mississippi to display on a tour that was not associated with Soho. The Koons denies misusing any of Soho's assets. Christopher Pro , who worked with Soho for 20 years , said he chose to tell the board of directors about his concerns because he thought it was the right thing to do.

S2: Life's too short to keep feeling this and having this on your mind and and shoulders and everything. It weighs it weighs heavy.

S3: To figure out what happened here. Soho's Board of directors agreed to hire an independent auditor to investigate , but the auditor they chose was controversial. It was the certified public accountant who has worked on Soho's tax returns for more than 20 years. One board member was so concerned by this that she resigned from Soho. Another board member has continued to speak out against this decision. Mason Wilder , an expert on the misuse of assets , said he sees where their concerns are coming from.

S2: I think it could be argued that there wasn't an entirely independent inquiry because of the preexisting relationship that the CPA had with the nonprofit.

S3: In July , the auditor concluded that all the antiques were returned and none of them were misused. But the auditor was working off of incomplete records. A new source identified a number of antiques that the Kunz took to Mississippi without documenting them. That includes a $5,000 set of rosewood chairs and an almost $5,000 Victorian table clock. Experts said poor documentation like this can make it really hard for institutions to investigate possible workplace misconduct.

S2: It strikes me as a pretty good example of how , like smaller operations oftentimes are vulnerable to fraud because there's a lot of trust among the staff , and that trust can kind of be manifested in a lack of controls or policies.

S3: Given the lack of paperwork and how the audit was handled. Some people connected to Soho are worried more antiques might still be unaccounted for. Here's Pro again.

S2: So it was let's bury our head in the sand attitude. That's how I feel.

S3: Pro was let go from his position at Soho. Days after the auditor finished his review. Based on the timing , Pro said he believes he was retaliated against for speaking out. Here's some of a recording pro took at the time.

S2: So your position has been eliminated ? My position has been eliminated , you're saying ? Right ? Correct. Okay. So we're out. We're out of funds. The funds that we had for employees are so , you know , the 3 to $4 million that we have and assets and everything , we just can't use those. Your position has been eliminated.

S3: The Koons said Pro was not retaliated against. They said they had to phase out his job because of the loss of a major contract and the COVID 19 pandemic. Here's Elena Koons. We may still have more other work for him. I brought him over here and other work keeping people on as long as we could. That was the goal. David Goldberg , the president of Soho's Board of directors , said the audit was handled appropriately and independently. He said all the antiques have been returned.

S2: What were we dealing with ? Not an issue of misappropriation , but an issue of process policies and how we deal with sort of the internal controls and it continue to move in that direction.

S3: In October , Soho adopted new policies around accepting and loaning assets for CPB's. I'm a new source , investigative reporter Joel Castellano. To learn more , go to I News Source dot org. I News Sources an independently funded nonprofit partner of KPBS. This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen CAVANAUGH with Jade Heineman. Just one in ten law enforcement supervisors are women and women trying to climb the ranks sometimes have to battle sexism , toxic masculinity and even sexual harassment. KPBS investigative reporter Claire TRAGESER brings us one such story from the San Diego Sheriff's Department.

S4: Debbie , these Meyer always knew she wanted to be a police officer. My parents always said , no.

S3: You're not going to do that job. It's too dangerous.

S4: But Steve Meyer didn't listen. She became a San Diego sheriff's deputy and was eight years into a successful career. Then in April 2021 , she transferred to the police station as a detective. Her new supervisor was Sergeant Sean Silva. On her first day , he stopped by her cubicle and looked at pictures of her family and friends. And he sat down. He looked around and he said , Where is the picture of your boyfriend ? And I was very taken aback by that comment. And I thought it was highly inappropriate.

S3: And I just quickly.

S4: Said , I don't have a boyfriend. And then he said , well , if you don't have a boyfriend , you must be a lesbian. It was the beginning of a hellish three months. The harassment was constant , Steve Meyer said in interviews with KPBS. In a lawsuit nearly every day , Silva commented on her body , her relationship status , her sexuality. She was just one of Silva's targets. The department interviewed dozens of people , most of them Silva's employees , for an internal affairs report. They all either experienced or witnessed , quote , sexual harassment , discrimination , targeting and inappropriate racial remarks. Silva retired before he was punished and was allowed to keep his full pension. His attorney didn't respond to requests for comment.

S3: The culture itself is really dominated by masculine values.

S4: Ellen Kirkman is a clinical psychologist who treats police. She says many departments allow sexism and toxic masculinity to flourish.

S3: The emphasis on the physicality sometimes will cause. Smaller men and women to be held to different standards.

S4: Stacey Ralph also worked as a detective in the power station. In interviews , in a lawsuit. She says the same things as DS Meyer. The harassment from Silva went on and on.

S3: That if I would have just written down every inappropriate thing that he said , I have never got my work done. I would just be so stressed or I just feel like , okay , what is it going to bring today ? I mean , I would put my headphones on and pretend I was listening to something and hopes that he would just like continue by my cue.

S4: No one from the sheriff's department would do an interview for this story. A spokesperson sent a statement. We hold all of our employees to the highest standards and require our staff to treat everyone with dignity , respect and compassion , the statement said. Kirkman says it's common for officers to not report harassment they're experiencing.

S2: Very often if you report it.

S3: Nothing happens. And that's even that's even worse , because then you have sort of jeopardized yourself , put yourself out there for some retaliation and for.

S2: What they did , do you because. Nothing.

S3: Nothing. Happened.

S4: Happened. Ralph and Steve Meyer say that's exactly what happened. They say they were blacklisted and faced retaliation. Finally , they couldn't take it anymore. Both walked away from what had once been their dream jobs. Now Steve Meyer works as a server in the Gaslamp. She says her experience shows why more people in law enforcement don't report.

S3: I mean , I walked away from essentially $130,000 a year career.

S4: I wasn't vested , so I don't get a pension. I had nothing lined up. That's how bad and desperate I was to get out of there. And so it's hard to report that. And because there is this stigma that you're the snitch and then you're essentially blacklisted for the rest of your career. Meanwhile , Silver's pension pays him nearly $6,000 a month.

S3: That story was from KPBS investigative reporter Claire TRAGESER , and she joins me now. Claire , welcome.

S4: Thank you.

S3: So the alleged harassment of former detective Steve Meyer happened just this year.

S4: But but clearly , in her case , her alleged harasser was working for the sheriff's department for a long time. And from the internal affairs report that ended up finding sustained findings that he had committed harassment. He'd been doing it for a long time. I will say that , you know , at least once a few people complained he was removed from his position , allowed to stay on the force , and then they launched this investigation. So maybe you could see that as as some sort of progress. But again , that's just talking about her case. And , you know , there could be many other cases that we don't know about because people haven't filed reports for reasons that I talked about in the story.

S3:

S4: They're required to publish an annual report on complaints that they've received both internally and externally from members of the public about about people in the department. But they're not really broken down by any category other than unbecoming conduct , procedural and use of force. So it's hard to really tell , you know , what categories those those might describe. They also are now releasing records under this new state law , SB 16 , which requires them to publish any reports where there was a sustained finding of discrimination , which sometimes includes sexual harassment. So we're slowly seeing those records come out from the sheriff's department and other local agencies as well.

S3: In just about every other workplace , including KPBS , there are repeated trainings against sexual harassment.

S4: The state requires all employees of law enforcement agencies to get an hour of sexual harassment training every two years and then supervisors get an additional hour. And the sheriff's department does meet those requirements. A spokesperson for the department said they also have additional in-person sexual harassment trainings , but only , you know , when requested , not not universally across the board. And in this case , I got records that show that Sergeant Silva took the sexual harassment training in 2021 , and the two courses took him an hour and 39 minutes to complete. One of the detectives , Steve Meyer , says , you know , these trainings on the computer , in her opinion , aren't enough. They should do more like maybe an in-person training or hear from a victim of sexual harassment , things like that , to have it be more of an impact other than something that you just kind of try and breeze through on your computer.

S3:

S4: They both actually ended up leaving the department voluntarily. So it's not that they were fired or , you know , let go and they're not looking for their jobs back. They both claim that there was retaliation that prevented them from advancing in their careers and just that the workplace became so inhospitable that they couldn't continue to work there. They're asking for monetary damages and and punitive damages against Sergeant Silva. So they are they're not specifically looking for for their jobs back. I think that they both would potentially be interested in working in law enforcement in other capacities in the future. But that's that's not something that's on the table for them right now.

S3: Now , of course , there's an irony to this story , considering that San Diego has just elected its first female sheriff. Does incoming Sheriff Kelly Martinez acknowledge that harassment again ? Female deputies is a problem.

S4: You know , it's interesting. She is the first woman sheriff. She didn't make that a part of her campaign at all , as far as I saw. You know , she didn't she didn't talk about that aspect of it at all. And I did ask her during the election about this specific case because the sexual harassment lawsuit had been filed. And so she she spoke specifically about this case. And she said that the investigation was handled correctly. You know , that that it was brought forward. She says the department reacted immediately. I think Steve Meyer and Ralph would disagree with that. And then Martinez says , you know , the department conducted the investigation into the incident and that they don't tolerate that kind of behavior. And then I asked her about that potential legislation that Steve Meyer is proposing where people would not be allowed to keep their full pension if they had a sustained finding. And she Martinez basically gave a noncommittal answer , which is , you know , I would have to see how it was written before she would make any decision about that.

S3:

S4: And just it's interesting , I spoke to someone about the value of having more women in law enforcement. She says that they make really , really good officers. And so it's important that they're there and that they're able to be promoted and not not be forced out under under these kinds of circumstances.

S3: I've been speaking with KPBS , investigative reporter Claire TRAGESER. And , Claire , thank you.

S4: Thank you.

S1: A recent incident inside a UC San Diego chemistry class highlights the distance between where the university says it wants to be and where it is when it comes to respect , inclusion and race relations. And like on many campuses , there is now a debate over racist language and free speech. Gary Robbins has been covering this for the San Diego Union-Tribune and joins us now. Gary , welcome.

S2: Good afternoon.

S1: Remind us of exactly what happened inside the classroom that started this latest conversation over racist language and free speech at UCSD.

S2: It involved a lecturer named Robert ter Nancy. During class , he heard sound in a hallway next to the class and he went out to investigate. It wasn't clear who he was talking to , but he said Underlay , underlay a rebel , A rebel that he kind of turned back to the students , got back into the class , and he said , How do you say quiet in Mexican ? And then he said , Someone tell me if they're start if they start running in here with weapons. The implication was the language came across that he was implying that Mexicans were violent. And by saying , how do you say quite in Mexican , did you acknowledge that Mexican is not a language , that Spanish is what he should have been talking about ? These recorded these classes were recorded and that was picked up and put on the Internet later. And it caused quite a stir after he had Instagram. A lot of students were very , very angry. Some wanted him to be dismissed immediately. Some members of the administration also jumped in really quickly , including the chair of chemistry , who called it a racist incident. Some students were conflicted. They felt that he apologized and he should be forgiven. But it didn't turn out that way. The university suspended him or they released him of his duties of teaching. And that's kind of where it stands at this point.

S1: In your article , you point to a problematic environment at UCSD.

S2: There was a famous one in 2010 called the Compton Cookout , in which students had a cookout and they mocked Black History Month. Boy , that really went international as far as attention. It alienated a lot of black Americans. You know , it's something that people still talk about to this day on the class. You know , I talked to some black students a few years ago when we were doing a story about the small numbers of black students on campus , and they said they didn't feel welcomed. And even though years had passed since the incident , they were very familiar with it. So things like this can have a lingering effect. That's the worry here in the in the turnout students that this will linger on. In fact , it had quite an impact pretty quickly. I talked to a professor at San Diego City College and he said that some of his Hispanic students asked him whether they should bother applying to UC San Diego , having heard what occurred. So the professor's concerned that this will have a knock on effect and discourage some Hispanics from wanting to go to UC San Diego.

S1:

S2: UC San Diego is trying to achieve what's called Hispanic Serving Institute status if at least 25% of their undergraduates are Hispanic. They become known as an HCI , which is a very good thing. And it also brings in more money to the university , specifically to help Hispanic students. There are about 3% away from that right now. Something like this , I don't know if it will , but something like this could have the effect of discouraging Hispanics from applying in increasing numbers. And the university very much wants that status. San Diego State University , for example , has that status. It also just raises larger questions about how welcoming a place UC San Diego is. Of course , the instructor announced he has free speech rights , too , but he's an employee of the university. So it comes down to a question of whether is free speech rights trump any kind of code of conduct that he might have to adhere to as a faculty member. The university won't talk about that. I have not been able to reach Mr. Tomasky. So there's a lot of questions about , you know , what is free speech , Who is entitled to say what under under what circumstances.

S1:

S2: This is occurring all over the United States and in most cases , free speech does cover those kinds of things. What it comes down to in some cases is whether the speech goes too far. Does it become hate speech where in effect , the speech is a call to action to harm other people ? In most cases , that is that has not been the case based on the things that are read nationally. But that's what San Diego State has been. You know , they've had a series of things like this happen , and they come down on the strength of the First Amendment. But , you know , President de La Torre has made it very , very clear that she disagrees with what's being said and how harmful it is to both the university and to the community.

S1: I've been speaking with Gary Robbins , who covers higher education for the San Diego Union-Tribune , where you can find his latest articles. Gary , thanks for joining us today.

S2: You're welcome.

S1: You're listening to KPBS midday edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen CAVANAUGH. When Thanksgiving a week away , the holiday travel season is upon us. And also on board is the lingering threat of COVID 19. Rick Steves , author and host of Travel with Rick Steves , is an expert on all things travel. I spoke with him recently about travel in the age of COVID. I started by asking him to take us back to when the COVID 19 pandemic was halting all travel. Here's our conversation.

S2: Well , that was in early 2020. And what went through my mind was we had 24,000 Americans signed up on Rick Steves bus tours for that summer. And we had to cancel those tours and refund all that money and break all those travel dreams. And it just was it was heartbreaking. But I knew that no pandemic lasts forever. And we kind of hunkered down and decided we're not going to be traveling for a while. And thank goodness now and actually , since , you know , since the beginning of this year , travel has sprung back with with quite a vengeance.

S1: People are really easing back into travel at their own comfort levels.

S2: And if you're fully vaccinated and boosted and you just knew the bureaucratic hoops to go through , it felt to me that it was a very reasonable time to travel. On the other hand , I knew that for a lot of people it was something they couldn't relax. And if you're if you're anxious about something , you should probably wait until things calm down. But people did started going back late last year. I've been to Europe four times since then. I didn't travel at all for two years. I spent 100 days a year in Europe ever since I was a student. And so this is quite a change for me. But now we're all back to pretty much back to normal. And for me , the good news is that the vibrancy sort of in the streets , the energy of Europe is back. If you're dreaming of a Paseo in Spain or the passage Jato in Italy or licking an ice cream cone on the piazza in Florence , you've got it. If you want to go to a beer hall in Munich or clink glasses in a pub in Ireland , it's there. The question now is , are you comfortable taking the slight risk of getting COVID on the road ? Or if you're not. Do you want to wait until next year ? I'm going to Europe next week. I'm going to be barging through Burgundy and then hiking through the Swiss Alps. And I can hardly wait. I'm being more careful than most. You know , I'm going to be wearing my mask when I'm indoors. I'm going to be avoiding unventilated in crowded places , but I'm going to be enjoying Europe like I have several times this year.

S1:

S2: I was looking for Jade , and it wasn't a single country , but it was the energy. The thing I love about Europe is the energy in the streets , the vitality. And my concern when COVID hit was that all of the little entrepreneurial ventures , the the labours of love , the mom and pop , you know , guesthouses and cafes and restaurants , I didn't think I thought they very well might not be able to survive two years of no tourism. And , you know , that's what distinguishes a Rick Steves guidebook is all of these cute little , little vibrant places where you have those intimate experiences with local people , not not chain restaurants and high rise hotels , but little funky one off places. And I went to Europe just this last couple of months to update my books with my other researchers , and I was afraid we were going to be raking away the corpses of all these dead businesses that I just knew and loved so much. And thankfully , they survived Across the board. They survived. I was just it's far better than what I expected. And these little mom and pops and these little , little charming , you know , places where you can become a temporary European. They are just exuberant now. They've gotten through the difficult times and they're booming. And that vitality is there. So to answer your question , I want to go anywhere in Europe , and I want to be out there in the streets and enjoying that vitality. And we can.

S1:

S2: Be nimble. Don't check a bag. Carry on your bag. I never check a bag. Nine by 22 by 14 inches is my limit. That's what you can carry onto an airplane , get to the airport a couple hours in advance. Always book your connections with lots of time between the flights. When it comes to travelling around in Europe , remember now as opposed to a few years ago , major sites generally require a timed entry. Do your homework. Find out when you go to a city. Is it necessary to get my museum reservations in advance ? I just updated the chapters for my guidebooks in the top 15 cities in Europe. I spent six weeks doing that and the beginning of each chapter. Now I have a little sidebar that says , If you're going to Amsterdam or if you're going to Vienna , if you're going to Venice and you want to see this , that or they. You need to get your reservations online in advance. Pay for it with a timed admission. Then you won't be frustrated. Then you'll walk right up to the turnstile and you'll step in. For years , when I went to Amsterdam , I would just walk by Anne Frank's house just for kicks to see how long the line was. It would be 200 yards long. Now , when you walk by Anne Frank's house , there's 20 or 30 people outside the door because they haven't a timed entry. And every 20 minutes 30 people go in or something like that. And the chaos is gone. It's more efficient. But we need to embrace that new sensibility of outside things. So don't don't be hesitant to make your reservations for the blockbuster sites in advance. And those are just the big sites. Most sites , you can just walk right in. But , you know , this is the nature of our travel these days. We all want to see the same things hugely at the same time. And if that's if that's you , you better make a reservation.

S1: And , you know , being able to travel is such a privilege and one that's really enlightening.

S2: And it's the book that I think has had the most impact. I just produced a TV show called Why We Travel. And it aired all over the country on public television. And they both have the same theme. You know , the whole beauty of travel is getting out and getting to know our neighbors. We are 4% of this planet , we Americans , and there's 96% out there. And I've spent 100 days a year since I was a kid , you know , getting far away from home. And I realized that you need to broaden your perspective through travel. You know , there's a lot of people try to avoid culture shock. To me , culture shock is a constructive thing. It's the growing pains of a broadening perspective. And these days here in the United States , there's a lot of fear. And the most frightened people are the people with no passports , the people who are afraid of what's out there. You know , the flipside of fear is understanding , and you gain understanding when you travel. For me , travel is a really important act now more than ever. And I like to go far away. And I can look back at our country from a distance and learn more about it. And I can bring home that most beautiful souvenir , a broader perspective and an understanding that the world is filled with beautiful people. It's filled with joy and it's filled with love. And if you don't know that , then you're watching too much commercial television.

S1: I've been speaking with Rick Steves , author and host of Travel with Rick Steves. Rick , thank you so much for joining us.

S2: Thank you for having me. And happy travels.

State officials are projecting a $25 billion budget deficit for next year. The news is a stark contrast to back-to-back years of record budget surpluses in California. Then, rents are down in San Diego county by almost 5% but the same economic forces that are pushing rents down are also slowing what was on track to be a record year for housing construction in the county. And, women trying to climb the ranks in law enforcement sometimes have to battle sexism, toxic masculinity, even sexual harassment. KPBS investigative reporter Claire Trageser brings us one such story from the San Diego Sheriff’s Department. Next, a controversy at a high-profile San Diego nonprofit prompted a board member’s resignation and concerns about retaliation. Then, a recent incident in a UC San Diego chemistry class highlights the distance between where the university says it wants to be and where it is when it comes to respect, inclusion and race relations. Finally, Rick Steves talks about traveling in the age of COVID-19.