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San Diego County board approves replacing polling places with voting centers

 October 21, 2021 at 2:26 PM PDT

Speaker 1: (00:01)

Supervisor, Nathan Fletcher explained San Diego's new vote centers.

Speaker 2: (00:05)

It is a little bit of a change, but so much has changed again, just in the number of folks who now choose to mail in their ballots.

Speaker 1: (00:12)

I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Jade Heinemann. This is KPBS mid-day edition. The county moves forward on a new climate action plan. It is

Speaker 3: (00:28)

Not just your generation and my generation at risk, but you church generation

Speaker 1: (00:36)

San Diego are asked to cut water use by 10% and we'll examine the controversial political cloud of defend east county. That's ahead on midday edition.

Speaker 1: (01:02)

We're all discovering that the fallout from the pandemic has changed a lot of things from disrupted airline flights to empty grocery shelves in San Diego, it's also permanently changed the way we vote. The San Diego county board of supervisors has approved a plan to replace neighborhood polling places with large scale vote centers, nearly 200 vote centers around the county will be available for in-person voting and mail in ballot drop-off. And they'll be open for voting at least several days before a scheduled election. Joining me with more on the vote centers is chair of the San Diego county board of supervisors, Nathan Fletcher, and welcome to the program.

Speaker 2: (01:43)

Hey, thank you, marina. Appreciate being on

Speaker 1: (01:45)

This was a big change for people who've been used to going to maybe a neighbor's house or a local school or church to do their voting. Why do we need voting centers?

Speaker 2: (01:55)

I think one, I think our democracy is strongest when the most people participate and the counties that adopted the vote center model early, uh, showed increased turnout. Uh, they showed increased turnout over the counties that did not. The second thing is I think if we can make it more convenient, if we can make it easier, if we can make it simpler cleaner, then that's also good for the health of our democracy. And I tried to do this, uh, two, two plus years ago and, uh, you know, the board thought it was a little too fast, a little too soon. And then, and then as you point out with the pandemic, we had a recall election under a vote center model. And so everyone's already done it one time. And with, with almost 90% of folks choosing to mail in their ballots, uh, you know, that remaining 10% giving them more options on more days, uh, where they can go to any one of these locations, uh, and cast their ballot, we've seen can, can, can be good for the health of our democracy and good for our county. And I'm glad we're moving forward

Speaker 1: (02:48)

Vote or used to have a designated polling place. Will voters now be able to go to any vote center they want to

Speaker 2: (02:55)

That's. One of the beauties of votes centers is, is you can go to any one. There will be hundreds of them throughout the county, a grouping of them we'll be open for election day plus three days prior. Another grouping of them we'll be open for election day plus 10 days prior. Um, but you know, you could never go somewhere that wasn't your polling location. If you did, you had to cast a provisional ballot and it might not match up. Now, the technology exists, you can show up, you can register, you can vote your neighborhood ballot with your local racist, uh, and have it, have it be immediately counted. And so, you know, it is a little bit of a change, uh, but so much has changed again, just in the, in the number of folks who now choose to mail in their ballots. Uh, this seems like a good step we can take. And, you know, again, we're joining the majority of California, uh, residents who are already in counties who are doing this, and we just did it, uh, in the recall election. And, and it seemed to work with,

Speaker 1: (03:49)

I just wanted to make that point about mail-in ballots. We will still be getting those right.

Speaker 2: (03:54)

Everyone will get an absence or a mail in ballot, uh, with postage paid, you know, we used to call them absentee ballots because when it first started, you had to demonstrate that you would be absent from the state on election day, and then we've come around to just mailing them to everyone postage paid. Uh, and, and again, we see almost 90% of folks are just choosing a mail on backend, but if you love voting in person, or if you want to drop it off, or if you want to change something or you lose it, or you aren't sure, then we're going to have hundreds of locations and you could go to the one closest to your work closest to your kid's school closest to your home. Uh, it won't matter which one you go to.

Speaker 1: (04:30)

Do we know yet where exactly the centers will be located? Or is that something to be decided?

Speaker 2: (04:36)

Yeah, so we've directed the registrar voters. They're going to do a rigorous, uh, community outreach and engagement process to work with community groups and, and, and do advertisements and do engagement to let folks know, uh, of this change. But a part of while they're doing that, we'll be doing the statistical analysis, uh, to identify the locations where they need to be in it. It's going to be based on population, uh, and placing them, uh, you know, in locations in a fair and equitable way so that that every county resident has equal access to a vote center.

Speaker 1: (05:07)

And when's the target date that we should start seeing these votes centers open up for voting

Speaker 2: (05:13)

Well. So when we head into our June primary next year, uh, they will be opening, uh, in advance of the June primary. You know, again, 30 days out everyone will get their absentee ballot in the mail, and you can mail that back in, uh, or you can go to a vote center, uh, in addition to the vote centers, there's a lot of drop-off locations where people can drop off their, uh, their, their, uh, mail in ballot if they choose. And, you know, the, the, the change, you know, change is always a little bit hard, but when we know we're doing something that increases voter participation, uh, and when we know we're doing something that can increase individual's convenience of, of being able to, to go to any one of these locations, uh, I think it's the right step. And I'm just really glad we're finally moving forward as a county and the board supported this effort,

Speaker 1: (05:56)

Supervisor Fletcher, just a couple of quick questions more before you go. If I could, we learned yesterday that the white house is reaching out to counties

Speaker 2: (06:04)

About the imminent rollout of COVID vaccines for kids five through 11, how is San Diego preparing for that? Yeah, I've spent a lot of time, uh, in the last few weeks. I mean, every day, uh, even if it's not top of mind in the news, we're still working on COVID, uh, we're going through a pretty robust education process with our vaccination sites. Uh, it's going to be a little bit different dosage. It's going to be a different instrument to administer it, uh, you know, working with so many of those, so that we're ready to go. We do expect this in the coming weeks, um, a little bit different than, than, you know, when we did the first rollout of the vaccines, you know, most folks will go to their pediatrician, uh, or they will go to a pharmacy, uh, or a, or a place where they would normally go to get their child vaccinated.

Speaker 2: (06:47)

As the county, we will maintain a great availability of vaccination sites if people would prefer to come to one of those. Uh, but it really is going to be a collaborative effort. And I think it's, uh, you know, gonna be a, another positive step forward. I know my, my ten-year-old son is the only one of our kids who hasn't been able to get vaccinated. Uh, he can't wait. Uh, he everyday is asking me if it's been approved, if he can get his shot or not. Um, and so we're really looking ahead to that along with continuing to monitor the, uh, uh, guidance around booster shots and that the potential in the coming weeks for mixing, uh, of, of different vaccines together. And so we continue to monitor plan coordinate, and then we'll update the public at the appropriate time when it's available

Speaker 1: (07:28)

And on another subject coming up next on, on our midday show, we'll hear a report about the county moving forward on a climate action plan, but critics are wondering why it won't be finalized until 2023. Can you explain why?

Speaker 2: (07:43)

Because it's a big document and it's also, you know, that the climate action plan is, is derived in large part, um, from the regional housing needs assessment. And so we've, we've got to figure out regionally, what is the plan for how many housing units we will need in the county in Sandeck still crunching some of that data. And so you can't develop a climate action plan to mitigate for development when you don't know how much development you're predicted to have in your jurisdiction. And, you know, in the past, you know, folks have rushed these things through, and then you get challenged in court because they don't comply with the structure. It doesn't mean that we are not working to lower greenhouse gas emissions today. We absolutely are. Uh, we're working to do that. And it doesn't mean we're not going to build any housing we're permitting and building housing as we go along. Uh, it just means that the guiding document, that's going to get us to carbon neutrality in the 2030s and is going to get us to hit those greenhouse gas reduction goals over the coming decades, uh, is going to take a couple of years to make sure that we get it right. Uh, but there's so much that we can do in the interim to protect our environment and build housing. And, and we're gonna, we're gonna plow full speed ahead and doing that appropriately.

Speaker 1: (08:49)

I've been speaking with the chair of the San Diego county board of supervisors. Nathan Fletcher. Thank you so much speaking

Speaker 4: (08:55)


Speaker 5: (08:55)

Us. Thank you, Maureen.

Speaker 4: (09:05)

There is a need for more housing infrastructure and transportation, but how can San Diego county accommodate growth while cutting greenhouse gas emissions? That's what supervisors weighed as they updated progress on the climate action plan, KPBS environment reporter Eric Anderson has been covering this and joins us to talk about how the county is reaching its goals. Eric, welcome.

Speaker 6: (09:29)

Thank you, Jay.

Speaker 4: (09:30)

So what did county staff have to say about the progress on the county's climate action planning? Yesterday's update?

Speaker 6: (09:37)

Well, county staff came to the board of supervisors to let them know where they are in the process. And, uh, that was really kind of a point of contention of the meeting, uh, because they still seem to be in the, kind of like the first third of the effort. And they don't expect to be done uh, this year, uh, or not even until actually the end of next year. Uh, one of the, uh, folks who came to the meeting, um, to talk about the plan and encourage the supervisors also had this, uh, this is Noah Harris of the climate action camp. And he had this to say, uh, about the process.

Speaker 7: (10:11)

We are deeply alarmed at the delay presented today, um, which will push the caps adoption into late 20, 23. As you've heard we're in a climate emergency, we have to slash emissions as soon as possible to stop the worst impacts of the climate crisis.

Speaker 6: (10:27)

So he is basically saying that he wants to see this thing done faster. Um, county officials say they want to make sure they do it right. Uh, so that it will stand up to legal scrutiny.

Speaker 4: (10:38)

It seems like environmentalist though are saying that not having that climate action plan means the county is not addressing climate change or at least not fast enough, is that the case

Speaker 6: (10:50)

Supervisors countered that assertion. Uh, Nathan Fletcher said yesterday that look, this doesn't mean that we're going to stop everything else we're doing. We're still going to try and reduce emissions with other policies and actions. We're still going to try to be a little bit smarter about the growth that we approve so that we can address the housing crisis without increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Uh, I think the key though, to having this plan in place is it would set that clear, uh, roadmap, roadmap, uh, with benchmarks, uh, for the county to shoot for.

Speaker 4: (11:23)

Okay. So let's talk more about the plan itself. What are some of the top line goals of the plan?

Speaker 6: (11:29)

Well, basically what the county is mandated to do, uh, by a piece of state legislation that passed several years ago is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030. And they have to cut them back by 80% by 2050 and county officials have kind of added on to that. They say they will want to try and decarbonize San Diego and get to a zero carbon space where if they are emitting carbon, uh, they made up for it by, uh, having mitigation projects that would reduce or sequester carbon, uh, on the other. And so that they have a zero baseline and they'd like that to happen sometime between 2035 and 2045. So they have some ambitious goals, uh, and they are squarely, uh, looking at this idea that, uh, San Diego county's future is closely tied to the county's ability, uh, to reduce its carbon footprint.

Speaker 4: (12:31)

One of the primary topics in the climate action plan is where to build homes. Talk to us about,

Speaker 6: (12:36)

Uh, many of these things, as you might think, do not exist in a vacuum. It's not just cars, it's not just houses, but where to build homes can affect many other things. For example, if you build homes in clusters, around transportation hubs, this idea of smart growth, what you're doing is you're putting people into more walkable communities, which will reduce their Alliance on cars and trucks and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If they are living close to where they work or where they go to school or where they need to shop, then that reduces the number of miles that they have to travel. Uh, if they have to travel miles at all in a car to get to those places, um, it's changing the way the county develops. And now there are members of the board of supervisors, county supervisor, Jim Desmon, who said yesterday, that look, it's not something that's going to happen overnight. And he doesn't want people to forget that San Diego county was essentially built for the automobile

Speaker 8: (13:33)

Roads and freeways, even though there seem to be the nemesis, uh, throughout all of this are still going to be, they're still going to be used and still gonna need, um, attention and work.

Speaker 6: (13:45)

And what Desmond is saying is, is that we need to rely a little bit more on technology, and he would like to see the plan acknowledge that he would S he's saying that, you know, if a lot of the automobiles become electric automobiles, they're not going to be creating these emissions and it's not going to be such a big issue. And he wants that acknowledged in the plan.

Speaker 4: (14:03)

And this isn't the county's first attempt at this previous boards have failed on approving a legally defensible plan. Uh, what were the primary issues with previous versions of this plan?

Speaker 6: (14:13)

The primary thing was that, um, the county tried to account for these increases in greenhouse gas emissions that might be created by developments in the back country by swapping carbon credits somewhere outside of the country. That was the last plan, uh, that was rejected in the courts. Uh, so a developer could build a housing development in a rural area. It would create all these extra car trips. And in order to offset the car trips, they would Bri carbon credits somewhere worldwide, uh, you know, maybe supporting the rainforest in Brazil or some other location. And that would suffice to offset this additional greenhouse gas emissions that they've created. But what the judge said was very clear. He said, look, um, this would not help the state meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals. Um, and he suggested that any kind of mitigation should happen locally if you're going to be increasing greenhouse gases locally, because you can't track how well these global carbon credits are actually reducing greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

Speaker 4: (15:21)

Um, and there was also a request to keep environmental justice a priority. Can you talk about why that's important and how the county may be able to prioritize that?

Speaker 6: (15:32)

The thing about environmental justice here is that there's kind of this interesting intersection of greenhouse gases and pollution. They, most of the greenhouse gases do come from vehicles, cars, and trucks, and there are communities in San Diego county, uh, that live near the poor that live near the international border, uh, that are already suffering the effects of pollution from economic activity. And they're trying to reduce that pollution effect. And if they're successful in reducing the pollution that also lessens the greenhouse gas emissions. So it's a, it's a goal. It kind of walks hand in hand, uh, in that sense. And, uh, Nora Vargas was saying yesterday that, uh, she wanted to make sure that, um, as areas like, oh, Mesa are developed near the border, uh, that they keep in mind, the county keeps in mind that any kind of development there has to be, uh, cognizant of the potential impact of truck traffic so that those residents might not be exposed to the kind of pollution that residents in Barrio, Logan and national city are exposed to.

Speaker 4: (16:35)

I've been speaking with KPBS environment reporter Eric Anderson, Eric, thanks for joining us.

Speaker 6: (16:41)

My pleasure.

Speaker 4: (16:53)

You're listening to KPBS mid-day edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen Cavenaugh officials with the San Diego county water authority are calling on the region to voluntarily cut its water usage by 10%. This comes after governor Gavin Newsome announced yesterday. He is extending the drought emergency across the state. So how much will a 10% reduction help joining me to talk about water usage is San Diego county water authority, water resources manager, Jeff Stevenson. Jeff. Welcome. Thank you. First, can you talk to us about the cause of the drought?

Speaker 9: (17:28)

Well in Northern California and really across the state, we've had two years of dry weather, uh, rainfall's been low. And then above average temperatures, especially here in San Diego, we've had, uh, the last 23 of the 24 months have been above average. So when you have above average temperatures and low rate fall, you can have water supply shortages, especially in Northern California, where they rely on the rainfall. And the snowpack more so than Southern California.

Speaker 4: (17:55)

And governor Newsome is asking counties to cut their usage by 15%. How did officials with the water authority come to decide on a 10% reduction instead?

Speaker 9: (18:06)

Well, in San Diego for the water authority, we have, what's called a water shortage contingency plan and retail water suppliers have a similar plan. And for the water authority, we have six levels. So levels one through six level one is a voluntary level. And in the plan, it calls for a 10% reduction in water use. And we're actually targeting 15% reduction consistent with the governor's goal. But the plan is designed for 10%, but there's nothing to stop us going beyond the 10% in the voluntary level level, two of the plan moves to mandatory. And since we're not in a mandatory situation, we're in voluntary. That's why we're asking our board to activate level one, which is set for 10% full, actually target a 15% reduction.

Speaker 4: (18:51)

I see, and the water reduction goal isn't official yet, what needs to happen next

Speaker 9: (18:56)

Thursday of next week, we will go to our board of directors and ask them to activate the plan. And then once they do that level one will be in effect. And we'll start to implement some of the actions that are under level one to get that 15% voluntary reduction

Speaker 4: (19:10)

Compared to the north coast, cutting its water use by more than 18% and the San Francisco bay area by nearly 10%. Why do you think Southern California was only able to reduce its water consumption by just 3% last year?

Speaker 9: (19:25)

It's really a different comparison, apples to oranges. If you, if you want to compare Northern California to Southern California and Northern California, they don't actually have water available to them, which makes getting a reduction a little bit easier. They don't have the snowpack and the rainfall in many areas. When you compare that to Southern California, we have a long history of water use reductions. In fact, here in San Diego, we reduced our use by 50% over the last 30 years, uh, when you look at it on a per person basis. So we've done a lot. And the other piece of that is when the governor asked for that 15%, and now they're kind of looking and measuring at each month, the first month was July. And the request from the governor came during the middle of July. So there wasn't really an opportunity to ramp up those conservation programs. And the other piece is in August, a similar that it's really, we've looked at a month and a half of water use reductions and to get additional savings in Southern California in a month and a half is really difficult because we've done so much already. And it's kind of squeezing that last drop of savings is going to take some more work

Speaker 4: (20:30)

And water cuts were voluntary. San Diego county actually had a slight increase in usage. Why do you think that is?

Speaker 9: (20:38)

That was really the first half of the month of July, where they showed a slight increase. But when you look at the San Diego region, we were down just under 2%, which, which really is amazing considering that water levels in San Diego in the region are still down at the levels they were when we came out of the last round. So we didn't see a rebound after the last drought, it's kind of become the norm in San Diego, uh, to be efficient. And that's where we're at now. We're really at a low level, uh, as, uh, as we are today, given that,

Speaker 4: (21:07)

And, you know, in order to hit that 10% goal, what cuts and water usage will the water authority be promoting?

Speaker 9: (21:15)

Well, what we're doing is we're enhancing our conservation program. So if you go to water smart S, there's a variety of programs that are available and rebates the next increment of savings because we've done so much. The last 30 years is really in the landscape area. So if homeowners want to remove turf from their yard, let's say it's turf. They don't use their rebates to help do that. And there are also rebates and other programs that will target, like say hos large developments that have lots of turf for grass areas where landscapers professional landscapers specifically can come to a class and get trained on other ways to help communities reduce their water use.

Speaker 4: (21:56)

And how will the water authority get that message to water users?

Speaker 9: (22:01)

We are ramping up our outreach communications program. So we've made our website easier to use. There's more information on the homepage to look at ways to get rebates and incentives, and then partnering in the community, doing outreach with our member agencies, because the member agencies and we have 24 of them, they're really on the frontline with the customer. So when you go to a well water agency's website, there's information, sometimes they will do bill stuffers, which just different ways to get messaging out to the community. And like I mentioned, the July measurement of how we did the first half of the month of July. It's not really an accurate measure of how we're going to do, because it takes time to get all of these programs and these activities up and running to get the message out.

Speaker 4: (22:46)

And as you mentioned, you know, your agency has some rebates available to help people decrease their water usage. Can you tell me a bit more about those?

Speaker 9: (22:54)

Sure. The big savings opportunity is really outdoors. And in the last drought we saw that the water that was saved or that wasn't used was really because people turned off the irrigation systems outdoors and didn't use that water, or they put in landscapes that used a lot less water. So that's still what we're targeting. It's kind of the, the last area, you know, indoors. We have water efficient devices, there's the toilets, the shower heads and all those things. And those are pretty standard across the region. So looking at outdoors and ways to save is the next increment of savings.

Speaker 4: (23:29)

And the agency is working on efforts to install low flow toilets and low-income communities, and has a variety of other drought focused programs. Could you tell us more about this?

Speaker 9: (23:40)

Sure. We are partnering with SDG E on a program to do that. And so there are pockets of the community is still left where financial incentives will help replace any of the toilets that are still out there that use more water to flush and getting those devices into homes and different places, pretty much guaranteed your water savings because it's a mechanical way to save water. It's not a behavioral change. It's every time you flush, you're using less. And so that's a way to guarantee savings.

Speaker 4: (24:09)

Tell us again, where people can go to get more information about those programs.

Speaker 9: (24:14)

What are smart S We'll give you all the information you need for rebates and other programs.

Speaker 4: (24:20)

I've been speaking with San Diego county water authority, water resources manager, Jeff Stevenson. Jeff, thank you so much for joining us.

Speaker 9: (24:28)

Thank you.

Speaker 1: (24:34)

The far right group defend east county burst onto the local scene last spring in response to racial justice protests, KPBS ism ether Sharma says now the group associated with racism and conspiracies is trying to be a player in San Diego politics.

Speaker 10: (24:53)

The Genesis of defendant east county is this, It launched in the late spring of 2020 after a band of mostly white men pledged to protect Lamesa businesses from black lives matter protesters. And then the group's founder, Justin Haskins livestreams from the January 6th insurrection. At one point that day, he called it our constitutional duty to overthrow a tyrannical government

Speaker 11: (25:24)

Capital on January 6th. Noah did not take part in it. No, I do not agree with it. And at other times,

Speaker 10: (25:31)

But the 37 year old construction manager still doesn't believe president Joe Biden was legitimately elected and he believes false Q1 on theories.

Speaker 9: (25:40)

I mean, if you're asking me if I believe that there is a group of elitists in Washington, DC, and in Hollywood that run a pedophile ring. Absolutely. I believe that

Speaker 10: (25:50)

At least one DEC member has openly discussed violence against black people. Federal prosecutors say San Diego and graze and moody or bragged in a text about pulling his Glock on a black person. He called the N word and smashing on some BLM. Zamudio is serving a two year sentence in federal prison for firearms violations, local black activists, Tasha Williamson says some DEC members have made racially tinge, violent threats against her and her son.

Speaker 12: (26:21)

They've put this out on social media and people are calling for,

Speaker 10: (26:26)

And then there is this undated video on Twitter of Haskins asking a black passenger what plantation he was on Haskins claims the comments were taken out of context, but wouldn't elaborate. Despite all this DEC has proven to be relevant in mainstream San Diego county politics. At one point in 2020 DEC boasted a Facebook following of more than 20,000 members, the platform eventually suspended the group due to violent racist rhetoric on its page. But by then both Republican Daryl Eissa and Democrat, uh, mark [inaudible] had sought DEC endorsement in the race for the 50th district congressional seat. Brian Levin is director of the center for the study of hate and extremism at Cal state San Bernardino

Speaker 13: (27:18)

Social media platforms like Facebook have enabled people who would just be banging the kettle on a corner somewhere to use the power of symbols, memes, and videos to create fear on anecdotes and identify villains

Speaker 10: (27:37)

Haskins insists. DEC main purpose is simply to promote traditional conservative values.

Speaker 11: (27:44)

We want to protect the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion. We want to protect the second amendment. We know we want to keep the government out of our homes with the fourth.

Speaker 10: (27:51)

And DEC wants to get like-minded people elected

Speaker 11: (27:56)

Every local candidate that we supported.

Speaker 10: (27:57)

One. He says they include Santee mayor, John Minto, Santee council members, Dustin Trotter, and Laura Koval and Kahan valley union school district trustee, Jim Miller KPBS reached out to them and other GOP leaders, such as Paula Witsell chairwoman of the Republican party at San Diego county. They either declined comment or didn't return calls, Mesa college, political science professor. Carl Luna believes their silence is an acknowledgement that DEC is radicalism has gone mainstream within the party. He calls the strategy dangerous. You call out

Speaker 14: (28:33)

Your crazies and you don't bring them into the coalition.

Speaker 10: (28:36)

As local Republicans avoid addressing DEC a more militant offshoot of the group has materialized is called the exile to Patriots and led by another local resident. Mike [inaudible] who did not respond to interview requests. Haskin says he condemns the exile Patriots because of their violent rhetoric.

Speaker 11: (28:54)

That is literally everything I have tried to avoid and make sure that we never will go down that path.

Speaker 10: (29:01)

But Luna says January 6th shows DEC is a gateway group to that path.

Speaker 1: (29:09)

Joining me is KPBS investigative reporter Meetha Sharma Amica. Welcome. It's good to be here now, founder, Justin Haskins estimates, DEC membership at six to 8,000. Is there any way to verify that number?

Speaker 10: (29:25)

No. And the reason is because the membership really exists a crane to Hoskins across these different social media network platforms. So they are on Facebook now and groups like DEC R also on other social networks like gab and parlor.

Speaker 1: (29:46)

But Facebook took that page down the DEC page down when it had 22,000 followers. Why exactly did Facebook take the group page down?

Speaker 10: (29:56)

Because there was content on the Facebook page, DEC his Facebook page that discussed violence against black lives matter protesters and against women and someone, or some people locally alerted Facebook to those posts as well as a video on the DEC page that was produced by Q Anon last October, before the 50th district congressional race, that video referred to then Republican candidate, Darryl Eissa, who ended up winning as a protector of child abusers. And I believe in opponent of Donald Trump and he, he is not,

Speaker 1: (30:40)

Is it possible that many of the thousands of followers that used to have came on board before the January 6th instru insurrection that Haskins took part in before DEC revealed its true colors, so to speak?

Speaker 10: (30:54)

Well, it's certainly possible that they joined before January 6th. I mean, they did join before January 6th, but it is a stretch to say before DEC revealed its true colors way before January 6th, many DEC members had already revealed their willingness to talk about violence against racial justice protestors and like images showing people behaving violently toward people of color and their belief in conspiracy theories.

Speaker 1: (31:27)

I have any east county political leaders come out against DEC

Speaker 10: (31:32)

Well Democrat Amar companies are met with DEC last fall while running for Congress from the 50th district. He regrets that he did that. He's running for mayor of Chula Vista and regarding DEC, he said he doesn't want to give the platform any attention or any legitimacy, especially now that it's known that some of the members, uh, including Haskins were in DC on January 6th, that said he also was very, very blunt. He said, it's both ironic and tragic that, and these are his words that the Trump fanatics who called him a terrorist, trying to infiltrate Congress were in fact the terrorist who infiltrated Congress on January 6th, killing officers in the process.

Speaker 1: (32:25)

It seems from your report that no one of either a party in San Diego wants to talk about the defend east county organization. Can you figure out why not? I think,

Speaker 10: (32:36)

I think that many, uh, maybe in the San Diego county democratic party, uh, within the urban league of San Diego and the NAACP local chapter, I think there is a very strong belief that, that by speaking about them, you're giving them some sort of legitimacy as, as, uh, mark happened, as Yara told me. So I think it's a fair interpretation that they don't want to speak about them because they just don't want to give them any oxygen.

Speaker 1: (33:05)

But then again, some of the experts you spoke with say, they feel it's important for respected political leaders to speak out against groups like DEC what's their position.

Speaker 10: (33:17)

Well, I think the experts believe that it's their moral obligation to speak about these groups to, to publicly condemn these groups because of the moment that we're in. I mean, the FBI has said that the number one threat to the United States is domestic terrorism. We have an example of a one-time member, a DEC graze and moodier he's from San Diego. He has openly discussed the need for vigilante militias. He's talked about crushing liberal terror terrorists. He's talked about him himself being ready to terrorize. He's talked about smashing BLM and pulling a gun on a black person whom he referred to with the N word. He right now is in prison on firearms violations. And it should be noted that when the FBI picked him up, they picked him up right around the time of the BLM protest in Lamesa on August 1st, last year and prosecutors roads, uh, in some documents that Zamudio was picked up out of concern for the safety of people exercising their first amendment rights. And so experts say that, look, you know, we're about to come up on these 2022 congressional elections and 2024 presidential election. If we have groups and politicians in our backyard who believe in the big lie who believe in conspiracies, we need to know that. And we need to condemn that.

Speaker 1: (34:50)

I've been speaking with KPBS, investigative reporter Amico Sharma Amica. Thank you.

Speaker 10: (34:55)

Thank you. Maureen

Speaker 4: (35:06)

California has turned to an unusual partner for COVID-19 response, the same company that built former president Donald Trump's border wall along the states' Southern border. The no bid $350 million contract that's frustrated, immigration advocates and community healthcare leaders, state government reporters. Scott rod has this Capitol radio investigation,

Speaker 15: (35:29)

No secret governor Gavin Newsome despised Trump's border wall. Here he is on CNN Anderson Cooper 360 shortly after taking office, but

Speaker 16: (35:39)

Thousand mile a wall is a monument to stupidity, not just vanity to stupidity. It doesn't solve the problem that

Speaker 15: (35:48)

Trump hired a company called S L S C O to build his wall in California. Two years later, the Newsome administration hired the same company for COVID-19 response. The state desperately needed medical workers and SLS CEO had pivoted to healthcare services. During the pandemic, the company provided thousands of medical staff who were sent to vaccination sites around the state. They also helped screen and immunized nearly 60,000 migrants at the border in the shadow of the wall, S L S CEO built to keep them out. It

Speaker 17: (36:22)

Does raise questions about how that decision took

Speaker 15: (36:25)

Place. Pedro Rios directs the U S Mexico border program for the American friends service committee.

Speaker 17: (36:32)

Those is just a lack of historical memory to be able to hold accountable. Those companies that were profiting from that type of,

Speaker 15: (36:41)

We wanted to ask Newsome about this, but his office did not respond to our request for comment, S L S C O and the state department of public health declined interview requests. In a statement, the company said it was honored to provide medical staffing to California. In an email, the department of public health said S L S C O provided quality staff. Many of whom were bilingual. The department claims this helped advance the state's effort to test and vaccinate underserved communities. Britta Guerrero is CEO of the Sacramento native American health center. She disagrees, we

Speaker 18: (37:19)

Would have never considered a partnership like

Speaker 15: (37:21)

That. The native American health center helped organize vaccine clinics, including ones for undocumented Californians, unbeknownst to Guerrero. The state sent 10 workers from SLS CEO to staff, the events she says that could have jeopardized relationships with vulnerable patients who already distrust the healthcare system.

Speaker 18: (37:41)

We represent black and brown communities, underserved folks, and keeping our communities and our patients safe is at the center of who we are. And so working with an organization that has done the opposite,

Speaker 15: (37:57)

Hurtful CAPP radio spoke to multiple county public health departments who said staff from SLS CEO served an important role in their vaccination efforts. Here's Sarah boss, Madeira county's public health director.

Speaker 18: (38:10)

We found that the quality of the staff was very good. They provided excellent service to our community and our residents on par with our expectations of our regular staff in Madera county

Speaker 15: (38:20)

Boss says she was unaware of the company's background building border walls. She added that her top priority as a public health director is to ensure residents have quality care and access to the vaccine in Sacramento I'm Scott rod.

Speaker 4: (38:37)

You can read the entire investigation into California's partnership with border wall company, S L S C

Speaker 1: (38:59)

This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Jade Heinemann California was most likely named for a character and an early 16th century Spanish novel queen Calafia was a mythical black warrior who ruled an island of Amazon women. Most Californians don't know this origin story, but a bay area theater company hopes to change that for the California report. Azule Dahlstrom Ekman tells us about a performance welcoming queen. Califia back to the state after a 500 year absence,

Speaker 15: (39:34)

I'm here at Dunphy park in Sausalito watching queen Califia ceremoniously step off her boat and onto California soil for the first time in hundreds of years,

Speaker 19: (39:44)

Sorry, unification ceremony begin.

Speaker 15: (39:51)

Her story is being interpreted today by the antenna theater. The actor playing queen Calafia is radiant in yellow and gold. She's covered in jewels and surrounded by an all female entourage carrying Spears here to greet her or the Cal alumni marching band and loyal subjects. She's stoned quiet though. Maybe it's culture shock a man named the cocky California and brings her up to speed.

Speaker 19: (40:15)

Take a look at this industrial might right here doing some heavy lifting six largest economy in the world, baby.

Speaker 15: (40:31)

That's a little different than the California. She's used to sorry.

Speaker 20: (40:35)

[inaudible] California.

Speaker 15: (40:39)

Well, queen Califia was a character in Las Vegas, Dallas Blondie on an early 16th century, romantic adventure novel written by Garci Rodriguez de Montalvo Calafia wore armor made of Fishbone's used weapons made of gold and commanded an army of Griffins

Speaker 20: (40:56)

On the right-hand side of the end days, there was an island called California, which was very close to the region of the earthly paradise. This island was inhabited by black women and there were no males among them at all for their lifestyle was similar to that of the Amazons.

Speaker 15: (41:14)

The novel was so popular in Spain that when Spanish conquistadores reached the tip of the Baja peninsula in the 1530s, they thought they'd found the fabled island of California, the name California stuck, but queen Califia isn't as well known. She's only appeared in popular culture in fits and starts. And people don't even agree on how to pronounce her name.

Speaker 21: (41:36)

Can I make an entrance or can I make an entrance? You don't have a clue who I am. Do you? My name's Califia as in California,

Speaker 15: (41:44)

Despite being played by Whoopi Goldberg in a Disneyland, California adventure movie, many Californians still don't know the woman behind the name, but the actors at today's performance are clearly trying to change that Raylene Gorham lives on a houseboat in Sausalito and only learned about Califia a couple months ago,

Speaker 22: (42:05)

I found it really intriguing, and I really would like to celebrate this part of California history. I think it's the right time.

Speaker 5: (42:12)


Speaker 15: (42:19)

Even, [inaudible] an actor playing part of his entourage is new to the story. And when was the first time you heard about queen cloth?

Speaker 23: (42:28)

Uh, I'm not gonna lie like two weeks ago.

Speaker 15: (42:31)

She related the rediscovery of queen Calafia to a Swahili word, San COFA.

Speaker 23: (42:37)

It means to look back at our ancestors in order to move forward and make sure that we're not repeating history. You know, that's also a part of Sankofa

Speaker 5: (42:45)


Speaker 15: (42:57)

At this time in the United States, racist statues are being removed in schools, renamed and many here today. See queen Claudia story as part of a nationwide movement to re-examine our history. That includes the actress playing the queen herself, Dean Nathaniel,

Speaker 22: (43:12)

This isn't me as queen Califia, but just be as what do you would say? I think that corrective representation is really important because, um, we're looking at the new generation of black girls and women of color coming up. And it's really important for them to see positive role models.

Speaker 15: (43:32)

Chris Hardman, who directed the celebration, thinks the Claudia story is essential knowledge for every California.

Speaker 24: (43:38)

It's our origin story. It's like, it's like if you've decided not to read Genesis, you know, and you were, uh, that you were a Christian

Speaker 5: (43:50)


Speaker 15: (43:59)

And he thinks that theater is the right medium.

Speaker 24: (44:02)

I think that's what, you know, the potential of the theater trick is, is it brings the history in and it makes it like puts it right in front of you. And it says it's alive deal with it. Get in there, understand

Speaker 15: (44:18)

And understand the story behind our state's name

Speaker 22: (44:22)

In Columbia. And I come home,

Speaker 15: (44:28)

The California report I'm Azule Dahlstrom Ekman in Sausalito.