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San Diego City Council OKs Water, Sewer Rate Increases

 September 22, 2021 at 12:16 PM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:01 Sewer bills are going up for San Diego, single family homes. Speaker 2: 00:05 We're still struggling from the economic impacts of COVID-19. And this is definitely not an ideal time to do that. Speaker 1: 00:11 I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Jade Heinemann. This is KPBS mid-day edition. The desperate situation of Haitian refugees at the Mexican border Speaker 3: 00:29 Shaping up to be one of the largest expulsion efforts of migrants and refugees in the United States to in decades, Speaker 1: 00:36 Suicide prevention month finds the number of San Diego suicides declining, and the latest cinema junkie podcast traces the evolution of Asian images on film that's ahead on midday edition, Speaker 1: 01:01 Single family homeowners will bear the brunt of our sewer rate increase approved by the San Diego city council Tuesday, but council members who approved the hike unanimously say that's only because single family units have not been paying their fair share of the bill. The rising rates are aimed at updating an old sewer infrastructure, which could collapse in some areas. The height will also add funds to the city's pure water sewage recycling system. Joining me is San Diego union Tribune reporter David Garrick. David, welcome. Thanks for having me now, rates will start going up for single family homeowners next year, but not for multifamily units and businesses. Why is, Speaker 2: 01:42 Well, it turns out they did an analysis, which is required by state law to make sure that they're not overcharging or undercharging anyone. Uh, and the analysis showed that the people live in condos and apartments and businesses have been overpaying for a long time, uh, based on the city's previous calculations and that people who live in single family homes have been underpaying by a significant margin. Speaker 1: 02:02 How much will rates increase for a single family payers? Speaker 2: 02:06 17% immediately. That's in January of 2022, and then it's about 31% over a four year period. Uh, so that's a pretty steep, a steep increase. Speaker 1: 02:15 And how much has that in dollars and cents? Speaker 2: 02:18 Uh, well, if you take a typical single family that uses, I guess, 700 cubic gallons, I always get confused about what they use, but basically a typical family, uh, in a single family home, their bill now is about $40 and 52 cents a month. And that'll go immediately to $47 and 64 cents. And then it'll slowly climb up to like 49 51. And then by it'll be $53 in January of 2025 Speaker 1: 02:44 And then rates actually go down next year for businesses. And multi-families tell us about that. Speaker 2: 02:50 Yeah, well, I mean, you could look at it as, wow, that's a frustrating if you live in a single family home to see if the other people go down on the other hand for about the last 10 years, it, that people in condos and apartments have been overpaying. So in a way you look at it from either direction, but yes, they will see an immediate dip, uh, 10 to 12% for people in condos and apartments and then 5% for businesses starting in January. Speaker 1: 03:13 The rates eventually go up over the five years for businesses and multi-families, Speaker 2: 03:18 They want to try to correct it as soon as possible. So what happens next year? So I think that that is correct, although it kind of flattens after that initial increase or decrease. So I would say if you're in a business or kind of department in the next five years, mostly stays breakeven. Speaker 1: 03:32 It just doesn't seem like a particularly great time for the city to raise rates as people's struggle out of the pandemic. What kind of rationale did city council members give for their vote? Speaker 2: 03:43 They certainly recognize the fact that there are folks who are still struggling from the economic impacts of COVID-19 and that this is definitely not an ideal time to do that. Uh, unfortunately the city's in a weird spot on sewer rates. They haven't raised them in about 11 years and they haven't actually studied the issue since 2007. And that's partly because of the great recession that happened back in oh 7 0 8. Uh, they had just adopted new rates at that time. And that turned out that the rates were probably too high. Um, so they didn't feel they had any need for additional revenue. So they just left it alone. And now 14 years later, it's time to, to figure out what's been going on with sewer rates. Uh, and so it really is, they say a really needed increased infrastructure has aged a lot in that 14 year period. And the city has moved forward on this pure water program as a sewage recycling system, that's going to make San Diego more water independent, but it's also, Speaker 1: 04:35 Here's something council member Raul Campero said about raising the sewer rates. Speaker 4: 04:40 We live in one of the least affordable regions in the United States, but we have a duty as elected officials to make those hard decisions that councils pass a fail to do, which is to present you the public with the current reality. Speaker 1: 04:52 Let's talk about that pure water program. David, how will the city's pure water program benefit from this rate hike? Speaker 2: 04:59 Uh, this rate hike will provide a lot of the money needed to build the pipeline and the treatment facility that are the key elements of pure water. Uh, pure water is part of the city sewer and water system. So it's going to be funded by rate payers and raising rates on rate payers as part of the way to pay for Speaker 1: 05:15 And how important is pure water to the city's long-term sewage structure. And I guess overall a water structure Speaker 2: 05:22 It's essential. We live in a desert and we are constantly facing the threat of drought, that's people and businesses and our economy. Uh, and this will create some water independence for San Diego. Uh, we'll be less reliant on imported water. Uh, but on the other hand, as, as critics will say, is it is, it is quite expensive to do it this way. Uh, and so this is sort of the, the, the bill has come due on these, these rate increases. And for Speaker 1: 05:44 Anybody who feels there was a certain unfairness in the sewage rate hike, it's good to know a water rate hike is for everybody. It was approved by the council yesterday. How much was that and why Speaker 2: 05:55 It's a 3% increase, it's a pass through, they call it a, which means that it was basically an increase in the cost of imported water from the county water authority. And that the city says we're just sort of passing it on to customers. And they also sort of to their own horn saying that it was a 5.6% increase and they only pass down 3%. Um, but yeah, that, that that's going up in water as continues to go up here for sure. Speaker 1: 06:17 And is there any help available if these increases, present a hardship to re-pay, Speaker 2: 06:23 You know, more so than ever. I mean, the city has had a long time program called help to others, which, uh, you can go and sign up if you're a lower income, uh, that doesn't get as many participants as the city has always hoped that it would, but now there's a special COVID assistance, uh, for people who struggle covering rent utilities or internet services or other essential items during COVID, uh, and on the city's website, there's a website that they give for you to go to. Uh, if you feel like you might, uh, qualify for that. Speaker 1: 06:49 I've been speaking with San Diego union Tribune, reporter David Garrick, David, thank you. Speaker 2: 06:54 Thanks. Speaker 5: 07:06 [inaudible] Speaker 6: 07:10 In recent days and international bridge along the us Mexico border and the town of Del Rio, Texas has become the epicenter of a wave of migration by Haitians attempting to reach the United States. Haiti faces ongoing instability due to the assassination of the country's president earlier this year, along with echoes of several natural disasters, going back to the devastating earthquake in 2010, these and other factors have led citizens of the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere to seek opportunities elsewhere, including in the San Diego Tijuana border region. We are joined today by Elliot SPAG at San Diego correspondent with the associated press who has been covering this developing story. Elliot, welcome. Speaker 3: 07:54 Thanks. Good to be here. This Speaker 6: 07:55 Latest wave of Haitian migration is centered near a bridge in a small town in Texas called Del Rio. What is the situation here in the San Diego Tijuana border? Speaker 3: 08:06 There's a very large camp, uh, probably, uh, 2000 migrants, uh, largely the were initially Haitians and central Americans have not been there myself recently, but I understand it's become more Mexican. Of course, Tijuana was the initial. Uh, it's still probably the most popular destination for Haitians who left the country after the 2010 earthquake, uh, for south America, mostly Brazil and Chile, and that they make their way up by foot on bus through about eight to 10 countries to the U S border. The first large influx that we saw was in 2016 in Tijuana, uh, most people were, were released into San Diego on humanitarian grounds and then president Barack Obama shifted course, and a very large population was sort of stranded at the border. Uh, in Tijuana, they have many Mexican they've they've married and had children in Mexico, uh, working at the Makilah Dora's Haitian restaurants, a very vibrant community, a little neighbor, Haiti neighborhood, but then the other thing that's happened is they've moved to different locations along the border with the ultimate goal of getting to the United States. So there was a large presence in Ciudad Juarez earlier this year across from El Paso. And then of course, this very sudden arrival in Sudan, Kuna, which is across the border from Del Rio as town of 35,000, that as of last week had 15,000 migrants camped under the bridge. So equal to most half the town, mostly Haitian migrants. Speaker 6: 09:34 Um, and are we seeing an influx of Haitian migrants here? Yeah. Speaker 3: 09:38 Uh, I don't have the numbers in front of me, but there has been an increase not just of Haitians, but, uh, you know, every, every nationality in particular, the people from countries outside of the traditional sending countries, which would be Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, from those four countries that I mentioned there, they're going to get most likely, or certainly if you're a single adult will get expelled back to Mexico under this pandemic related authority, but they cannot do that with the, uh, Haitians and people Ecuadorians is another very large presidents in the United States. Uh, they just don't have the, the resources, but on Sunday, the, uh, we could be in response to this very, very unusual, uh, situation in Del Rio. The U S started a deportation flights today it's or expulsion flights. I should call them as this, the technical term to Haiti. There were supposed to be seven today. There were three on Sunday they've been building up. So it's, it's shaping up to be one of the largest expulsion efforts of migrants and refugees in the United States in decades. Speaker 6: 10:38 What is the root of the latest wave of Haitian migration to the U S Speaker 3: 10:43 And the nineties? It was by C uh, they were intercepted by the coast guard and taken to Guantanamo bay, or just sent back since the earthquake in 2010 had been flying to central America. They were many, many in Brazil, uh, until the Olympics, uh, ended and the jobs dried up. And that's again, when I mentioned the, uh, this, this large push to Tijuana, that was people, many people who had been working in Brazil. And then when the economy went south, they, uh, they came up to Tijuana Speaker 6: 11:12 For a Haitian migrant who arrives at the U S Mexico border today. What can they expect and what options do they have? Speaker 3: 11:20 Uh, great question. Um, the short answer is, I don't know, because the abide, the administration has been very opaque about what, what is planning, what is doing, uh, even, you know, the question of who is being put on the flights to Haiti and who is being released, uh, as far as I can tell from the two U S officials, it's predominantly single adults that are getting expelled. If you're a family, uh, especially, you know, one with the young children pregnant, LGBT disabled, uh, I would think, and this is just based largely on past practice. You're, you're more likely to get released in the United States. Speaker 6: 11:57 Hmm. What are you hearing from Haitians living in Tijuana about the current situation? Speaker 3: 12:01 We had a reporter there on Monday who was, went to a restaurant there on the border, a Haitian restaurant, and there were a lot of, a lot of patients there who were just trying to get the latest. Um, they tend to communicate on social media, Facebook, WhatsApp, telegram, uh, even YouTube videos. Uh, and, you know, the, the one person we talked to, uh, in depth was, uh, had just arrived in Tijuana Sunday night, had hoped to go to Del Rio, but had picked up on social media that, you know, everything that was going on and decided that it wasn't, it wasn't the best place and, uh, and came to Ana. So I think, I think people in Tijuana, um, you know, need to do a little more reporting, but I think they're probably reluctant. The Haitians in Tijuana are reluctant to go to Del Rio at this time, given, uh, given the expulsion flights and all of the chaos there. Speaker 6: 12:50 Um, and what is the outlook for Haitians here and the local border region? I mean, our officials expecting an influx similar to what has been seen in Texas. Speaker 3: 13:00 No. Um, but you know, the Texas situation happened very, very suddenly. Uh, and as I mentioned, it's a population that moves around a lot. We'll move from Tijuana to El Paso to Yuma is another area where they've been maybe back to Tijuana and, and it's really kind of a mysterious how they make these decisions. So some kind of group psychology. So I wouldn't want to predict. Speaker 6: 13:25 And do you see anything to suggest that the current wave of migration to the U S will slow anytime soon? Speaker 3: 13:31 No, I don't. Um, you know, uh, Biden president Biden, uh, ended a number of policies that were, uh, that he considered cruel and inhumane most notably the remain in Mexico policy where, uh, asylum seekers were forced to wait in Mexican border cities like Tijuana for their court hearings in San Diego, and in very dangerous conditions that was taken away, but there was really no system putting in its place. I mean, president Biden has talked repeatedly about creating a humane asylum system. We don't know what that looks like yet, uh, eight months into his term, and he's made some moves, uh, but really what needs to happen, I think is a wholesale reconfiguration of the asylum system. If what we're seeing today, uh, and in the last several years of these, these periodic increases very large increases in people. If that's going to change, um, they need to sort of remake the asylum system. Speaker 6: 14:29 I've been speaking with associated press correspondent, Elliot SPAG at Elliot. Thank you very much for joining us today. You're listening to KPBS midday edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen Kavanaugh with extremely high COVID hospitalization rates. The central valley pediatricians are warning local doctors to be on the lookout for a related condition, found in children who have been exposed to the virus, Marty [inaudible] from valley public radio reports, Speaker 7: 15:06 Six year old Bryce, more shouts from one side of the small soccer field, where he is practicing for his first game. His mom, Fresno resident, Jennifer Moore describes him as a happy go lucky kid, but nine months ago he was anything but that she says more and her husband tested positive for COVID in November, 2020. She says Bryce, then five years old, tested negative and didn't show any symptoms associated with the virus. Speaker 8: 15:35 My husband and I got through that and recovered. And then at the end of January, we picked him up from school on a Friday, and he had a little bit of a headache Speaker 7: 15:44 That was nearly two months after she and her husband contracted COVID over the next few days, his headache got worse. He developed a fever, refused to eat and could barely walk. It was quite Speaker 8: 15:57 Difficult to see him go through Speaker 7: 15:58 That. It took three visits to the emergency room at valley children's hospital in Madera, before his doctors finally asked more. If Bryce had been exposed to COVID in the last few months, and through that, Speaker 8: 16:12 It came up to my husband and I had COVID and it was like, it clicked right away. They knew exactly what Speaker 7: 16:18 Doctors diagnosed Bryce with multi inflammatory syndrome in children or Missy, a post-infectious phenomenon that is occurring in children. According to Dr. Rashmir Patel, pediatric rheumatologists at valley children's hospital, Speaker 9: 16:34 Not a disease or syndrome itself. It is essentially what I like to call a tornado or cascade of events that's happening when the immune system is on overdrive, Speaker 7: 16:44 The schools reopened a midday surge driven by the Delta variant Patel says she's been working to educate pediatricians across the state on how to identify and treat Ms C. Speaker 9: 16:55 So right now, we are seeing a big surge in the Delta variant and Ryzen COVID 19 infection pieces now, especially in, in vaccinated populations. And so we are bracing ourselves for a mic surged syndrome. Speaker 7: 17:11 The symptoms were Missy include fever, headaches, neck pain, and sometimes even vomiting or diarrhea because it's a new phenomenon. Doctors have a hard time diagnosing it. She says, but the most obvious sign is if a child has these symptoms and has been exposed to COVID, Speaker 9: 17:29 It is occurring about two to eight weeks after the initial COVID may have been present in that child. They were Speaker 7: 17:35 Nearly 5,000 reported cases of Missy and 41 related deaths in the nation. As of August 27th, the CDC said that included nearly 600 cases in California while miss C is considered fairly. It is disproportionately hitting black and Latino children. And given the number of total COVID cases in the central valley, Jennifer Morris says, she's concerned about Bryce's health as he enters kindergarten. There is that Speaker 8: 18:02 If you're there, because I know we do our best to stay safe, but we don't always know what everybody else is doing, but also I want him to be, Speaker 7: 18:09 That's why she also urges parents to take the virus seriously and follow CDC guidelines until the vaccine is available for kids younger than 12. These days, Bryce is back to playing soccer with his neighborhood friends. But as mom says, because the long-term effects of Missy are still unknown. Doctors will continue monitoring his health. That was Speaker 1: 18:31 It's valley public radios. [inaudible] Wild land firefighters, except risk. When they head out to battle a blaze, but Cal fire firefighters are getting sick and some have even died during training. This story is a collaboration between the investigative unit at Columbia journalism school, the California newsroom, and KPCC Jacob Margolis and Brian Edwards have the report Speaker 10: 19:02 On a hot July day. A few years ago, Cal fire firefighter Yaroslav cat cop was hiking on a trail near Temecula. When he collapsed. By the time he got help, it was too late. He died at the age of 28, not on the fire line, but while training, Speaker 11: 19:18 They told me that everything that could have been done was done. Speaker 10: 19:23 Ashley Valario was cat Cobb's longtime partner. Speaker 11: 19:26 And like, I believe them. And I like trusted Speaker 10: 19:34 My reporting partner, Brian and I reviewed hundreds of pages of documents from Cal fire and Cal OSHA. We found a pattern of seasonal firefighters and inmates getting sick and some even dying during what should have been one of the least dangerous things. They do train Speaker 12: 19:48 Exactly Jacob over the last year and a half, almost four dozen CallFire firefighters have suffered from heat illness during training. And since 2003, five firefighters have died during training exercises where experts say heat appears to have played a role in their deaths and all these cases, point to bigger issues within the agency. Speaker 10: 20:04 For one there's a culture that values pushing on at all costs Speaker 12: 20:08 To Cal fire has major issues with helping people improve their fitness levels, safety, Speaker 10: 20:13 And three, even before they get started training insider say Cal fire's process for catching preexisting medical conditions is lacking. Okay, Speaker 12: 20:22 Let's start with the punitive culture issue. Cause it's a big part of this story. Speaker 10: 20:26 And it seems to be a big part of Yaroslav cat cop story. In particular, he collapsed and died after being pushed by his captain to do a training hike a second time after he'd already been showing signs of heat illness, Cal fire demoted the captain. After the investigation, we were told by multiple current and former Cal fire employees that pushing firefighters beyond their breaking points is common Speaker 12: 20:48 In a written response. CallFire state it vigorously rejects the notion that a punitive culture exists, but there've been similar issues since cat Cobb's death. I'll Speaker 13: 20:56 Admit it. We had problems in San Diego in the last four months. Speaker 12: 20:59 That's California union president, Tim Edwards, who spoke with us after we shared what we found. He says that a supervisor had to be admonished for the way he was treating seasonal firefighters, Speaker 13: 21:07 Making them hike when, when they weren't feeling good, making them like thinking. If you pushed them a little bit further, you know, it would help. Speaker 10: 21:15 Another reason Cal fire firefighters are getting injured during training uneven, physical fitness standards, any lack of consistent training standards. That's a problem for seasonal firefighters who might take six months off between deployments and not show up in firefighting shape. Here's Edwards again. Speaker 13: 21:31 Is there a physical fitness standard coming onto the job? No, there's not. Absolutely not. And we've been pushing for years for one Speaker 10: 21:38 In a statement, Cal fire said, quote, each must do his or her part year round to ensure that they're preparing for the upcoming fire season. Our investigation found many firefighters. Don't always get clear guidelines for improvements. After taking the winter off. According to the injury reports, we reviewed a majority of the seasonal firefighters that got sick with heat in the last year and a half did not have documented conditioning plans. Speaker 12: 22:02 The final, big issue, seasonal firefighters usually only get basic physicals before they start working Speaker 10: 22:07 In the cat investigation documents. Cal fire captain Caesar Neri is quoted as saying, you could get a better physical playing high school football than the one required by Cal fire. Speaker 12: 22:17 Other departments often require firefighters to go through more extensive testing before they start in the field. Meaning for Cal fire firefighters. There's a chance that bigger unknown pre-existing conditions could be missed. Speaker 10: 22:27 We spoke with Ashley Valario Krakow's longtime partner. She was angry. Speaker 11: 22:32 You're supposed to like have faith that those people would like keep up safe. Definitely it shows what kind of leadership that they're willing to allow, Speaker 10: 22:42 How to keep firefighters safe. During training is a question that will only become more pressing as California's wildfire outlook continues to worsen. I'm Jacob Margolis Speaker 12: 22:52 And I'm Brian Edwards. Speaker 1: 22:55 Joining me is Jacob Margolis science reporter with KPCC N L a S and co author of this report. Jacob, welcome to the program. Thank Speaker 10: 23:04 You for having me Speaker 1: 23:06 Give us a little background on Cal fire seasonal firefighters. How much of their year is spent fighting fires? Speaker 10: 23:14 Yes. Yeah. You know, it, it varies depending on how, just how, uh, long our fire season is. But as you and the listeners probably know, fire season is pretty much year round now. I mean, especially during drought years. And so, uh, these firefighters could be working anywhere from, you know, let's say April or may all the way through November, possibly December. Um, but then they do take some time off. Uh, and then before they're, before they're brought back on in the spring Speaker 1: 23:42 And since they aren't full-time firefighters, are they relegated to certain types of jobs? Speaker 10: 23:48 You know, what we've seen is that they oftentimes like the firefighter ones, which are seasonal are often doing probably some of the most difficult grunt work, uh, especially as incarcerated firefighters have been released over the past few years at higher rates. Uh, more seasonal firefighters have been brought in to replace them and those incarcerated firefighters, we're doing a lot of that grunt work as well. It's often some of the most dangerous work. And so, um, you know, they're down in an, in it and in a crucial part to our firefighting response, Speaker 1: 24:18 Maybe like mopping up a fire or something, something like Speaker 10: 24:21 That. Yeah. I mean, it could be digging lines. It could be helping mop up a fire afterwards. Uh, you know, I think many of the ranks get down and dirty and, and really work very hard, but especially the seasonals, uh, are, are, are in the dirt. Speaker 1: 24:36 And how much does Cal fire depend on seasonal firefighters and incarcerated inmates? Speaker 10: 24:42 Yeah. You know, they're a crucial part of our firefighting force. There are more than, or around 3000 of them, uh, currently this year and there are about 5,000 or so full time firefighters. And so it, you know, a significant portion, Speaker 1: 24:56 It seems that when things go wrong in these training exercises, as you mentioned, one big problem is the culture that pushes these firefighters past their limits. Can you tell us about that? Speaker 10: 25:08 Yeah. Uh, you know, what we found was that, and we tell this through the story as, as we mentioned of Yaroslav [inaudible]. Um, what we found is that there is absolutely an underlying culture of, of push, push, push, uh, kind of in that can at times be punitive if, if certain captains or supervisors, maybe don't think you're pushing hard enough. And in the piece we did detail, uh, the cat cover story and what happened with him. Um, and we also mentioned, you know, we ask first off, we ask how fire actually, if they feel like there is a punitive culture where, you know, people might be pushed beyond their breaking point. And they said, no. Um, you know, we'd spoke with an expert, Brent Ruby out of the university of Montana. And he studied specifically wildland firefighter fitness for some time. And it's clear that firefighters need to have clear training plans that ramp up over time, like any kind of, you can consider them essentially endurance athletes, and they slowly build up that fitness so that they're able to handle these hot and extreme situations. When they're finally out in the field, Speaker 1: 26:11 As you mentioned, a Cal fire union president says in your report, we've had some problems in San Diego. Can you expand on what he was talking about? Speaker 10: 26:22 Yeah. So there was an instance in the past few months of a supervisor pushing new seasonal firefighters, um, to, to the limit, uh, during really hard conditions, uh, particularly during training. And so the union told us they had to step in and, and say something to the supervisor and, uh, kind of get them back in line. Speaker 1: 26:43 We did a story last week about a report from the union of concerned scientists that increasingly high temperatures would soon make it more dangerous for everyone who works outdoors. How does that factor into the injuries and deaths of firefighters? Speaker 10: 26:59 Yeah, I mean, our report obviously focuses on heat illness in particular, and you can see heat illness in temperatures as low as 70 degrees. I mean, it's, it happens at temperatures that you might not expect, especially if you're hauling a ton of gear like these firefighters are. And as you know, we profiled just what was happening during training the heat almost during training in particular, because we felt that that was the, uh, probably safest environment for firefighters, you know, uh, they can't really control what's going on in emergency situations. But if you look at, uh, if you kind of pull out and look at the heat illness across the board, over the past 18 months, there were something like 150 different cases. If you included people going out in the field and actually executing on what they're like on knocking down fires Speaker 1: 27:48 On one positive note, you found that a responsive supervisor could make a huge difference in firefighting training. Tell us more about that. Speaker 10: 27:59 Yeah. I mean, it's up to supervisors to really monitor whether their people are suffering from heat illness. And, you know, we, we do feel that Cal fire makes concerted efforts and has made concerted efforts. And there are plans there's, they've had a heat illness prevention plan since I believe 2001. Um, when all things are in place and people, supervisors are protecting their people and people know what signs of heat illness to look out for, you know, there you end up in a much better place than if you're say pushing people past their breaking point in really extreme conditions during training, um, and not really helping them ramp up their fitness over a longer period of time. And so, you know, it is very possible to get to a place where, uh, and we've spoken to multiple experts who say that heat illness is completely preventable and especially during training, it is completely preventable. Speaker 1: 28:49 I've been speaking with reporter Jacob Margolis science reporter with us KPCC and Las and Jacob. Thank you. Thank you. Speaker 6: 29:03 September is national suicide prevention month. And the number of reported suicides in San Diego county declined slightly in 2020 compared to the previous year. That's according to an annual report released this month by the San Diego county suicide prevention council, where Stan Collins is a prevention specialist. He joins us now with more Stan welcome. Thank you for having me, according to your annual report, the total number of suicides dropped from 429 in 2019 to 419 in 2020. How significant is that decrease? I think Speaker 14: 29:39 It's first, you have to recognize each of those numbers on paper is a life is a community, a family that's, you know, experienced a tragedy. So although we have some hope about the numbers and the gain, you know, the reductions from 2018 or are slightly more significant when we had, you know, 460. Um, but it's encouraging. Speaker 6: 29:59 What do you think could have contributed to this decrease? Speaker 14: 30:03 I think part of it is just, there's been a lot more awareness over the last couple of years about what resources are available. I think our collective mental health was impacted during, you know, the past year and a half. And I think folks are, although we're, we were worried about the additional stressors that the pandemic and, you know, the, the other unrest brought to us, I think it's has to do with a lot of work from a lot of different people, letting them know what resources are available, but as a society, I think more embracing conversations about mental health. Speaker 6: 30:30 Yeah. I mean, and as you mentioned, you know, with the extra stress and pressures from a global pandemic, I mean, were you expecting those numbers to increase or, or do you think in some ways the pandemic may have reduced stress for some people Speaker 14: 30:44 I don't know about reducing stress. I think there was a lot of fears that suicides were going to increase with the added stressors historically what we've seen in response to other tragedies or pandemics. The way that I refer to it is that we felt the earthquake, but maybe the tidal wave has yet to reach our shores. So I think it's, you know, as we're reemerging back into the world, transitioning out, you know, whether that's kids back into school or us back into the workplace, I think it's really important for us to keep that focus on our mental wellness and realize that we're all going to continue to be under stressors for quite a while now. So I think it's important to remain vigil Speaker 6: 31:17 That in mind, I mean, is the county doing something different now than it has in the past in terms of improving treatments? Speaker 14: 31:24 Well, regarding suicide prevention, a couple of years ago, the San Diego county suicide prevention council released an update to our strategic plan. We're one of the few counties in California that actually has a plan. We're really fortunate that county behavioral health really invest in suicide prevention from the up to us campaign to a school-based project and the council. And so over the past few years, there's nine strategies outlined in that plan. And we've been able to build upon each of those layers. And so what we're really trying to do is get everyone to understand that each of us is just one spoke in the wheel, but no one entity can prevent suicide. And it's really about getting people outside of mental health and outside of suicide prevention to really embrace their role and empower them to understand that every one of us can help someone find their reasons for living Speaker 6: 32:07 We're rates of suicide higher for certain age groups in 2020. Speaker 14: 32:12 So demographically, it does vary. So overall the numbers did go down, but looking at some more at the national data, there are specific groups, uh, young African-American men we saw did see a slight increase. So we can't just across the board, say suicides are down the pandemic, obviously affected different groups in different ways. And so we can't just take it as a blanket when we got to keep working, Speaker 6: 32:33 You're a suicide prevention specialist. So what does that mean on a day-to-day basis? For Speaker 14: 32:39 A lot of what I do is around education and awareness. And as I was just speaking about, it's really about empowering the individual, whether they're a nurse, whether they're a school counselor, a law enforcement officer and EMT somebody at the unemployment line, uh, just to first recognize warning signs, and then to be comfortable to have a conversation, to ask the question and not be afraid to say, are you thinking about suicide? We have a lot of fears about if we talk about it, we're going to cause it to happen. And the opposite is true only by talking openly and directly about suicide. Can we ever hope to prevent it? And a lot of what I do is just getting people to trust their instincts and embrace their own abilities. Like I said, not to convince somebody not to die, but to help them find reasons for living. Speaker 6: 33:21 And as I mentioned earlier, it is national suicide prevention month. How can people help someone they think may be suicidal? Speaker 14: 33:28 I think the most important thing we can do is hold space and listen. Um, like I just talked about not be afraid to introduce a conversation about suicide and let them know that I'm willing to have that conversation. I think another part of it too, is not be afraid to contact the crisis resources here in San Diego county. We're blessed to have the San Diego county access and crisis line. And I really want to emphasize to folks. It's not just, if you are in crisis, if you are supporting somebody through a crisis, if you're preparing to have a conversation with somebody, if you're sitting on the couch and you ask them, Hey, are you thinking about suicide? And the answer is yes, one of the best next steps is to call the access and crisis line and say, okay, what do we do now? How do I help keep this person safe? Speaker 6: 34:07 And other than the crisis line, are there other ways that the county is reaching out to help those in need? Speaker 14: 34:13 Yeah, we provide a training. It's called question persuade, refer QPR. So we call it a gatekeeper training and it's basically to help prepare individuals again, recognize the warning signs, have that conversation and then know what their next steps are. So anybody who's interested can go to SPC for suicide prevention, council, SPC San to either sign up, to attend a training or to host a training. But that's a great first step. Speaker 6: 34:37 I have been speaking with Stan Collins, suicide prevention specialist for San Diego county suicide prevention council stand, thank you very much. Speaker 14: 34:45 Really appreciate you shining a spotlight on suicide prevention. Thank you. Speaker 6: 34:48 If you have an emergency or just want to find out what help is available, you can call the San Diego access and crisis line at 8 8 8 7 2 4 7 2 4 0. Speaker 5: 35:03 Uh [inaudible]. Speaker 1: 35:10 This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm Maureen kavanah with Jade Heinemann earlier this month, Marvel delivered its first Asian superhero in a cinematic universe with Shang Chichi and the legend of the 10 rings, but it's been a long, hard road getting to this point in Hollywood for the latest episode of cinema junkie host, Beth Armando speaks with Brian, who artistic director of the San Diego Asian film festival about the evolution of Asian images on screen from the stereotypes of yellow peril to [inaudible]. This is an excerpt of the podcast. Speaker 15: 35:48 Brian, you have been the artistic director at the San Diego Asian film festival for 10 years. And you know, one thing I think that mainstream white audiences may not appreciate because they see themselves on screen constantly in all sorts of variations. And for people who are Asian or Latino or African-American, there is this real sense that they were not seeing themselves on screen for a long time. So talk a little bit about what that kind of representation means and what the absence of that means for an audience Speaker 16: 36:23 For decades. Um, and this extends centuries of include other media like literature and theater, which is that Asians in the mediations in popular culture in the west is othered, right? Like you're considered exotic. Um, you're there to, as somebody to conquer, like for instance, for some like whites imperialize hero to conquer, or that you you're here to kind of work, help the us work through its own anxieties about for instance, immigration or the Asian takeover, especially in like the 19th century, the early 20th century. And then, so you have these figures, villainous figures like Fu Manchu, who are there, like kind of embody all of what we fear about this, this world that we don't understand. Speaker 17: 37:14 We got down to this boy, practically, nothing as yet. What are you going to do to him nearly inject a drop of serum into his blood? The injection of the serum will make his brain mind. In other words, it becomes a reflection of by, well, he will do as I command exactly it's the why we're doing it right? Another of your Oriental tricks, Speaker 16: 37:39 The inscrutable illness is something that's going to ultimately be our downfall and therefore we need to conquer it. So there's a little bit of that. Um, like the, the vilifying of Asian-ness, but also on the other end, sort of like an attempt to neutralize Asian, the threat of the Asian, by for instance, making Asian men seem unthreatening sexually, um, by making Asian women seem conquerable sexually. So, so these are two kind of stereotypes that we see very much ingrained in American popular culture. Speaker 17: 38:11 My father, my daughter explained to this gentlemen, very ward that might be, is point out to him, the delights of our lovely country, the promise about beautiful women. Speaker 15: 38:29 No, we had the pleasure of having you introduce a screening of Fu Manchu that we had done here in San Diego. And you talked a little bit about kind of the social and historical context that those films came out. And this was in the 1930s that kind of led to it doesn't justify or forgive these representations, but it kind of gives you a context that explains why some of these images were popular on screen at that time. Speaker 16: 38:57 I mean, they're historically very fascinating. Like it's, I would never want to cancel these films. I think we should watch them to better understand really the minds of Americans. Um, like we're like mainstream America rather than like the minds of evil Asian people, which are, are never actually represented on screen because all of these Asian characters are played by. Speaker 17: 39:18 I am trying to change what I presented to you, but our federal government, federal government, Ms. Hall, tonight, you report car stolen. Oh, but it wasn't stolen. It was merely borrowed. That is all most fortunate to have met such charming radio ladies. Hope to meet you again very soon. Speaker 16: 39:39 And so watching it now, it's very clear that this sort of Asian, this is a puppet that's being wielded by, by a white establishment and by Hollywood. And so, yeah, so watching, like you get to see, like, what was the anxiety that Americans had about this sort of yellow peril, perhaps the takeover of our, of our jobs of our, of our women by the mysterious orient Speaker 15: 40:03 He owns. And the 1930s came along after a lot of Asian immigrants were coming in to help build the railroads. But there was this sense of there was Asian immigration at the time that was causing anxiety and there were laws and, and, you know, social issues that were going on at the time that just intensified these anxieties that Americans were having. Speaker 16: 40:22 Yeah. Especially if we think about like Chinatowns as a place of like, um, the mysterious Chinatown, which persists even, I mean, certainly through like Polanski's film, Speaker 16: 40:34 What happens in Chinatown stays in Chinatown, like, like who, who knows what's happening behind the back of that Chinese restaurant. Like, like whether it's like opium dens or Mahjong parlors or whatever, a prostitution or something. And so they have this mystery of it and, and one is it like, we can accept it while it's taking place in Chinatown, but what happens when quote unquote civil society, um, and Chinatown worlds blend into each other. So fear of them coming into mainstream Americanness. Uh, so that was happening around this time. And that also was also helping to justify the Chinese exclusion act, which had been around since the late 19th century. And yet during this time, like there were limits on how like Asian people moving to the United States, like this was part of like American law to consider Asians as unwanted here in the United States. And this Papa culture only reinforced that. Speaker 15: 41:25 So there's this period of kind of Asians being depicted as this yellow peril. And it was the combination of kind of the fear of immigration, but also as we move towards world war two, the Japanese are the enemy, but then there's also these kind of weird anomalies that pop up because we have something like Charlie Chan, which is not a superhero, but he's meant to be the brilliant detective, all a Sherlock Holmes or something. He's not played by an Asian actor. Speaker 18: 41:54 I want to be quiet and rest. I recently became a widow. Speaker 17: 41:57 So solid also regret marriage, very unhappy. What do you mean absence of wedding ring? Do you note the lack of affection or deceased husband, Speaker 15: 42:07 But it's an interesting moment to kind of contradict some of the other stereotypes. Speaker 16: 42:13 Yeah. The stroke track and also Mr. Moto, Peter Laurie, Speaker 18: 42:16 And forgive me, but we are so out of touch with events here in thongchai permit me to introduce myself and Mr. Moto, what are you doing in a country like this? That's been next in these ancient ruins in a pursuit of a archeology. Speaker 16: 42:33 This will be the other side that I was talking to. So like the there on the one side, there are these attempts to show how Asians are threats to American society. But the other side is to, to make that threat seem, not that threatening by making these kinds of heroes seem very polite. They provide the, uh, fortune cookie kind of wisdom, Speaker 17: 42:53 Like ancient egg, unpleasant odor, Speaker 16: 42:58 But they don't really have very much in terms of charisma or personality or let alone desire, which we expect our heroes to have. Let me think about like, like the Indiana Jones type, right? Like you, you, you exude a certain kind of charm and you get the girl as opposed to, you know, you're just sitting here very politely solving crimes, like, like that, that has a certain charm to, but it's also an exotic charm. You would never extend that to somebody who's not necessarily. Speaker 15: 43:27 And I want to thank you very much for talking about Asian representation on screen. Speaker 16: 43:31 Thank you as always, Speaker 1: 43:33 That was Beth Armando speaking with Brian, who to hear their full interview, go to and check out the latest episode of cinema junkie.

The San Diego City Council on Tuesday approved increasing water rates and a new set of sewer rates that will increase the fees for single-family homes, but decrease it for multi-family units. Plus, the latest wave of Haitian migrants heading to the United States is centered on a little town in Texas called Del Rio, but its effects could be felt in Tijuana where there’s a sizable Haitian population. Also, since 2003, five Cal Fire fighters have died during training exercises and experts have attributed their deaths to the high heat. Meanwhile, doctors in the Central Valley are told to be on the lookout for a rare complication related to COVID-19 in children. And, National Suicide Prevention Month is bringing awareness to the issue and where to get help. Finally, in a “Cinema Junkie” podcast excerpt, how Hollywood moved away from negative Asian stereotypes to the heroics of Bruce Lee and Shang-Chi.