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SANDAG per-mile tax plan explained

 November 1, 2021 at 1:47 PM PDT

Speaker 1: (00:01)

A proposal to tax drivers by the mile to make public transit free

Speaker 2: (00:05)

Drivers. Uh, according to this plan would pay 4 cents for every mile that they drive on the roads.

Speaker 1: (00:11)

I'm Jade Heintzman with Maureen Kavanaugh. This is KPBS mid-day edition Health officials predict a rough flu season ahead.

Speaker 3: (00:28)

I can die from the flu. It can definitely put you in the hospital. And often you'll see a secondary pneumonia after flu infection.

Speaker 1: (00:35)

How the VA is standing in the way of veterans receiving treatment outside their system and the local vigils to honor DIA de Los Muertos that's ahead on midday edition. As many of the world's leaders gather in Glasgow, Scotland for the United nations climate change conference, the fight against climate change is taking center stage here's president Biden addressing the conference earlier this morning, we're still,

Speaker 4: (01:15)

And at an inflection point in world history, we have the ability to invest in ourselves and build an equitable clean energy future. And in the process create millions of good paying jobs and opportunities around the world.

Speaker 1: (01:29)

Late last week, closer to home the San Diego association of governments, better known as SANDAG announced a bold transportation proposal to reduce the region's greenhouse gas emissions, a step and its fight against climate change. It could have a major impact on how San Diego has traveled day to day here to talk more about the plan and its potential impacts on the region is KPBS Metro reporter Andrew Bowen. Andrew. Welcome.

Speaker 2: (01:55)

Hi Jade. Thanks. Can you tell

Speaker 1: (01:57)

Us about what was proposed last week and how it would impact San Diego?

Speaker 2: (02:02)

Well, on Friday, the SANDAG board discussed several updates to its regional transportation plan. This is the roadmap that the county uses to show state and federal authorities that they've got a plan for how to meet everyone's transportation needs far into the future. We're talking out to 2050 and the state has required SANDAG to significantly reduce both the number of miles that people drive in their automobiles day to day and overall greenhouse gas emissions. This plan was first announced earlier in the year in the spring. Uh, and the updates that they were proposing or discussing on Friday were mostly small tweaks to the plans, or maybe a little bit more detailed to things that they had already discussed earlier. There is an emphasis on traffic safety, uh, trying to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries on our roadways. Uh, there was a plan to, uh, try and incorporate more bathrooms at public transit stops, uh, language on the importance of preserving habitat and open space. The area that got the most amount of discussion and controversy was some changes to how this whole plan will be funded including this road, user charge that would be imposed on people for every mile that they drive in their cars.

Speaker 1: (03:16)

And there was a great deal of reaction from the announcement of a pair of those mild taxes for drivers that you mentioned, how would that work? Well,

Speaker 2: (03:25)

Sir, first a bit of background. So for many years, the gas tax has not been paying for all of our transportation infrastructure needs revenues from the gas tax funds have been declining from for decades, really as more people drive, uh, more fuel efficient vehicles, hybrids, and electric vehicles. And so the idea is that by 2030 drivers, uh, according to this plan would pay 4 cents for every mile that they drive on the roads. Uh, 2 cents would go to the states. This is just kind of the sandbags way of assuming, you know, started picking a number of saying, let's say the state, uh, charges 2 cents for every mile, and we will charge another 2 cents on top of that. And the idea is that this, uh, road charge would actually replace the gas tax or, uh, some adjustment would be made to the gas tax. So people aren't paying twice. It's just kind of a change in the way that we calculate the cost of driving, because right now, uh, electric vehicles are, uh, using the roads. They're, you know, putting stress on the roads, which, you know, ultimately over time causes potholes and deterioration of the infrastructure, but they're not paying any money in gas taxes. So, uh, how do we capture those, uh, you know, uh, the, the cost of that, um, stress on the infrastructure in a way that's kind of fair to everybody. And what if

Speaker 1: (04:43)

Fact, will this have on how public transportation works and operates?

Speaker 2: (04:47)

Well, the regional transportation plan that SANDAG is discussing includes, uh, a very significant investment in new public transit infrastructure. There are multiple commuter rail lines that will be running, uh, across the county. We're talking new lines that are separated from traffic. So either a, you know, a subway system, uh, or an above ground, uh, you know, elevated railway. Uh, and the idea again is to not just charge people for, uh, driving for every mile that they drive, but also to make public transit free by 2030. So, uh, you know, the same year that this, uh, road user charge would come into effect, and this really gets at the, uh, strategy of a carrot and stick approach. We've heard a lot of criticism, particularly as Congress is debating the build back better act and the, you know, uh, social spending and climate change funding for, um, you know, reducing our carbon footprint.

Speaker 2: (05:44)

You hear a lot of criticism from climate activists and climate scientists that we rely too much on carrots, uh, or incentives to get people to say, put rooftop solar panels on their roofs or drive electric vehicles. We don't have enough sticks, you know, ways to sort of like nudge people a little bit further in that direction. So pricing the system, pricing the transportation system so that everyone can see in real dollars and cents that it's in their interest in everybody else's interest to drive a whole lot less and take more sustainable modes of transportation, I think is really at the heart of this strategy of making transit free and also pricing driving more

Speaker 1: (06:22)

San Diego mayor, Todd Gloria announced support for the plan. He has also made equity, a key part of San Diego's actions on climate here. He is speaking about the cities, our climate, our future plan,

Speaker 5: (06:35)

Our response to the climate crisis must take into account the disproportionate impacts on historically underserved communities and appropriately address those existing inequities.

Speaker 1: (06:45)

So how does the SANDAG plan address issues of

Speaker 2: (06:48)

Equity? SANDAG officials have described their plan to me as trying to solve for a couple of different things. Uh, one of them is just meeting the obligations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, you know, creating a legally compliant transportation plan. But another thing that they're trying to solve for is this issue of social equity. They've done quite a bit of data analysis on access to opportunity and different parts of the county. And, you know, they can get down to the minute essentially how much time it takes for a person to get to work in, say one neighborhood like a national city or a city Heights, or a San Marcos compared to another neighborhood, like somebody who lives downtown or in Kearny Mesa or anywhere. And so they're taking all of that data, trying to incorporate it into their long-term transportation planning, and just making real decisions about where they're going to build this rail line, or, you know, how much, uh, funding they're going to dedicate to a new high high-speed bus, uh, line, um, that go through different neighborhoods, unsurprisingly, uh, low income people have some of the most difficult commute times. Many of them, uh, perhaps don't have access to a car to get to work. So they're using public transit, which takes a whole lot longer. And so the plan really aims to make improvements to those less, uh, affluent or, uh, areas with less access to opportunity first. And so one example, a real sort of example is the alignment of one of their commuter rail lines that they're planning, uh, puts a station in city Heights instead of north park.

Speaker 1: (08:25)

So what has to happen for this plan to be implemented

Speaker 2: (08:28)

A lot? The first thing that has to happen is on December 10th, the SANDAG board of directors has to vote to approve it. Uh, but then, you know, the actual implementation of the plan relies on many different things. First of all, voters would have to approve new tax measures. You know, the state and federal governments would probably have to step up their funding of infrastructure. There are lots of different things that have to happen in order for this plan to become a, um, many of them are, you know, multiple decisions, many, many years into the future. Uh, but you know, the, the next step I would say is just a December 10th, the final vote at the SANDAG board of directors.

Speaker 6: (09:07)

I've been speaking to KPBS, Metro reporter, Andrew Bowen, Andrew, thank you very much for

Speaker 2: (09:11)

Joining us. My pleasure, Jade

Speaker 6: (09:22)

As San Diego works on implementing climate action in transportation Californians at the United nations climate conference in Scotland are working with world leaders on tackling the global threat of climate change. So the California report thought now would be a good time to revisit the state's goals and what's being done to achieve them California report host Saul Gonzalez spoke with KQBD climate reporter as rhe David Romero about this.

Speaker 7: (09:52)

I can see why nations have climate change mitigation goals, but why California? Why should the golden state have a climate change, target or policies like a Germany or China or Norway?

Speaker 8: (10:05)

Yeah, well simply put California has the largest economy and of all the states. And if we were a sovereign nation, we would rank fifth in out of the whole world. So what we do here matters, and it influences national policy. It's also important to note that the state doesn't have a negotiating seat at cop 26 because they're not a nation, but all of this is a chance for state leaders to tout its climate work and to compare ourselves to the rest of the world.

Speaker 7: (10:30)

So tell me about California's goals when it comes to reducing greenhouse gases, how are we doing when it comes to achieving that?

Speaker 8: (10:38)

Well, we have a lot of goals here, everything from car and truck emission standards, a law that mandates a quarter of all cap and trade funds go to low income communities. And we also have rules that mandate reducing short term live climate pollutants, like methane. We want to reduce those by 50% in less than a decade, but I think most notably the state reach the 2020 goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels, four years early. So that was a really big deal. But some scientists say the state isn't on track to meet stricter goals by 2030 or even 2050. And in September, the legislature failed to pass the California climate crisis act that bill would have had the state become climate neutral as soon as possible. And no later by 2045 and climate activists and some scientists say that was a lost opportunity to take the climate crisis. Seriously.

Speaker 7: (11:28)

You know, when I think of a contributor to climate change, I immediately think of all of the cars on California's highways and freeways and roads what's happening there.

Speaker 8: (11:40)

California has this goal to have 1.5 million, zero emission vehicles on roads by 2025 and then 5 million by 2030. So far, we have fewer than a million, and there's only something like 2 million nationwide. So there's a long way to go. There's a lot of work to get to that point, but then there's all the infrastructure that we need to support those cars. The state has a goal of 250,000 charging stations by 2025. And we only have about 75,000 so far. So there's a lot of work to be done there.

Speaker 7: (12:10)

And finally, Ezra, you know, as well as I do, the California has this clean green reputation where the land of solar farms and wind farms and lots of Teslas, we should be pretty well positioned to meet our climate change goals. But is that the reality?

Speaker 8: (12:27)

Yeah, well, California, you know, we have this litany of climate policies and plans and you might see electric vehicles like Teslas all over the place, but it's at the same time. It's also the seventh largest producer of crude oil in the country. And remember this climate crisis is all about the effects of what happens when we burn fossil fuels. So in one way, we are this place that has these climate emission goals. And it's really great. On the other side, we're an oil state and the state auditor recently said that if California doesn't make deeper cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, it will likely fail to reach its goals. So we have a lot of work ahead of us.

Speaker 6: (13:05)

That was KQBD climate reporter as a David Romero speaking with California report host Saul Gonzalez.

Speaker 6: (13:20)

This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Jade, Heinemann get your flu shot. Now that's what San Diego public health officials are urging as they warn about the potential for a bad flu season ahead. The number of people getting flu shots in the county is lagging from last year at this time. And experts warn that with decreased immunity and the end of social distancing flu could be a real problem through the holiday season. Joining me is San Diego union Tribune health care reporter, Paul Sisson, and Paul welcome. Thanks for having me. What are the factors that might make this a bad flu?

Speaker 3: (14:00)

You know, there are several, as you mentioned, we're just doing a lot less social distancing and masking and, you know, maybe hand-washing as well than we were this time last year, uh, headed into a season when many more people are going to be closer together than they usually are because the weather is getting colder. So there are fewer events and activities happening, outdoors events generally, uh, you know, just a ripe, uh, situation for viruses, especially respiratory viruses to spread from person to person. And then we've got a really kind of interesting additional situation with the flu this year. Uh, public health experts that I've been speaking to have been mentioning that because we didn't have a severe flu season last year due to all of the, uh, special precautions we had in place, uh, that we weren't exposed to the flu as much as we usually are as a community. Uh, and so that means that our immune didn't have to fight off this bug like they usually do. And that creates a less antibody protection overall in the community than is usually the case.

Speaker 6: (15:02)

How does immunity work from year to year with the flu? Does, does immunity declined fast?

Speaker 3: (15:08)

Uh, yeah, you know, it's really interesting. I spent a fair amount of back and forth time, but there's a really good researcher over at UCLA last week on this very topic. Uh, you know, you may recall that back in 2009, when we had the H one N one epidemic, uh, older people were more protected than younger people, uh, and they found it and found out that that's because, uh, older folks were, uh, exposed to certain flu viruses, uh, many decades ago that looked a lot like H one N one that showed up in 2009 and caused so much trouble. Uh, and so really the way our immune systems work from what I understand is that we have long lasting memory cells that remember what viruses we have encountered before. Uh, but those memory cells have to be kind of nudged by, uh, by a new threat to begins, uh, producing, uh, the special B cells in our bone marrow and other in plasma to, uh, to, to create the antibodies in our blood that we need. And, and research is showing that, uh, for the flu, those, those, uh, antibody producing cells don't last so long, they may be gone within a year. Uh, so just the act of reentering the flu causes our immune system to start producing a whole nother batch of antibodies for, for a lot of different flu viruses that we've encountered before. And so just having that encounter really gets everybody almost like a booster shot that creates some level of herd immunity and the community that lasts into the next season. So why

Speaker 6: (16:39)

Are we encouraged to get a flu shot every year?

Speaker 3: (16:42)

That's about it actually has two, uh, simultaneous functions, uh, in one case the flu mutates, very Fastly, it's a, it's a very quick changing virus that, uh, that needs to have a retargeting of the vaccine every year to, to fight the versions that are going to be circulating in, in various communities. So we need sort of a retargeting. And at the same time, we also need, uh, almost like a booster shot just to get our system making antibodies against a lot of different versions of flu that looked like the one that is going to be coming around. And when

Speaker 6: (17:18)

Did flu cases actually start to

Speaker 3: (17:20)

Spike? If you look at the annual chart that the county puts out, uh, every week, uh, it's pretty clear that mid to late November is usually the time when we really see kind of that hockey stick curve really sharply heading up, and then it continues to increase through the holidays and into the new year.

Speaker 6: (17:36)

How long does it take for a shot that maybe I got today to provide immunity,

Speaker 3: (17:42)

Uh, experts say, as it takes about two weeks. So that's really why they're urging folks to come forward now and get vaccinated just because it's going to take two weeks for immunity to build in your body and then by then we'll be into mid-November. So, so it's really a good idea to get after it right now, if you can't,

Speaker 6: (17:59)

You know, we've been so inundated with, uh, concerns over COVID-19 and rightly so, but perhaps we forget that how badly ill one can get with the flu. So how seriously ill can you get with a case of,

Speaker 3: (18:14)

I mean, you can die from the flu, uh, the CDC estimates that the flu kills between 12,050 2000 people per year nationwide. Uh, and that really depends on the severity of the individual year, uh, and you know, how well the vaccines are matched to the circulating version. Um, that's, that's really causing all of the illness. Um, it can definitely put you in the hospital, uh, you know, and often you'll see a secondary, uh, pneumonia. It comes from, uh, you know, after, after a flu infection,

Speaker 6: (18:45)

Our hospitals and other healthcare providers, maybe getting ready for what could potentially be a dual surge in COVID and fluke.

Speaker 3: (18:53)

Yeah. I mean, I think they're always trying to be ready for anything that comes at them. Um, I think they are definitely very concerned right now about staffing shortages that started this summer. Uh, you know, and then, uh, the COVID mandates that have, uh, reduced the size of their workforce. So yeah, I think that they are definitely doing what they can to get ready, but they've been telling us all summer that they're really struggling to, uh, to meet their staffing needs. Uh, so anything we could do to stay out of their hospitals, I think they'd really appreciate,

Speaker 6: (19:22)

There's been a lot of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy. The flu vaccine though, is a different beast entirely. Do it anticipate any lingering hesitancy when it comes to getting a flu shot?

Speaker 3: (19:34)

I think there's always been a fair amount of hesitancy. I think we usually get about a million and a half, or maybe a little less than that, uh, flu vaccines in arms every year. So I think our vaccination rate is usually something around 50%. Uh, so, so there's always been a fair amount of reluctance. Um, you last year was a, I think they set a record in terms of the number of total number of folks who came forward for flu shots. Uh, and so it's hard to say really a, you know, a lot of folks may have come forward for the, uh, COVID vaccine and previously not received the flu vaccine. So it, it may, I guess it could go either way. I haven't really heard any experts weigh in on exactly how they expect those two factors to influence each other.

Speaker 6: (20:18)

Can you get flu shots as easily as COVID shots?

Speaker 3: (20:22)

Absolutely. Um, maybe even easier, you know, uh, all of the pharmacies can give them to you, uh, plus your, all of your healthcare, uh, uh, organizations, all of their, uh, main medical offices are able to give flu shots. Uh, and the county has, uh, immunization clinics out there for those who, who don't have a primary medical provider. So, uh, yeah, it's, it's, it's very easy to get a flu shot

Speaker 9: (20:47)

If

Speaker 6: (20:47)

You want one, okay. Time to get another shot. I've been speaking with San Diego union Tribune, healthcare reporter, Paul says, and Paul, thank you. Thanks for having me. And I knew source investigation has found that the VA is preventing veterans from getting treatments outside its hospitals. Here's I news source reporter Jael Castellano to share what she uncovered in the first part of her two-part series.

Speaker 9: (21:18)

[inaudible]

Speaker 10: (21:22)

On a sunny afternoon in August Navy veteran, Christine Russell walked around her church in Northern San Diego county is

Speaker 11: (21:29)

St. Michael's by the sea. It's an Orthodox Episcopalian

Speaker 10: (21:32)

Church. Russell started coming here in 2016 around the time she first felt unbearable pain in her body that year. She went to the emergency room more than a dozen times every time.

Speaker 11: (21:44)

Um, I went to the ER, they kept insinuating that, um, my chest pain was psychosomatic, that it was, um, anxiety and that it was depression. And it was,

Speaker 10: (21:55)

It's not because she's a veteran. Russell gets her healthcare through the San Diego VA. She says doctors they're misdiagnosed her symptoms for almost three years. Finally, in late 2018, she was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. That's when the VA agreed to send Russell to experts at other hospitals,

Speaker 11: (22:15)

Having my doctor in the community allows me to have other options through other windows and doors that I wouldn't have. If my cancer doctor was in the VA home,

Speaker 10: (22:27)

Then in February of this year, Russell got a letter from the San Diego VA saying it would no longer pay for her treatments. She was already $30,000 in medical debt. So she couldn't afford the treatment. If the VA didn't pay for it,

Speaker 11: (22:43)

It's like they cut my legs off. Basically, you know, they cut off my lifelines because all those doctors are my integrative support team. They are why I'm still alive.

Speaker 10: (22:54)

Russell is not the only one. And I knew source investigation has found that across the country, the VA administrators are overruling doctors and preventing them from sending patients outside its hospitals. These efforts have ramped up following a 2018 landmark law called the mission act.

Speaker 12: (23:16)

Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States

Speaker 10: (23:21)

When the law was passed, president Donald Trump and Congress said it would ensure veterans have access to the healthcare they need. If the VA can't provide high quality treatment in a timely manner, they'll pay for the veteran to go somewhere else.

Speaker 13: (23:34)

They can't. They just go see a doctor instead of standing online for weeks and weeks and weeks. Now they can go see a doctor,

Speaker 10: (23:43)

But the mission act has cost the VA billions of dollars. So starting in 2019, the VA created new rules that are supposed to save money and keep veterans inside the health care system. Here's Dr. Kathleen Kim, the chief of staff of the San Diego VA

Speaker 14: (23:59)

Because of the nature of the mission act. But the VA is sending a lot of care into the community. And we're worried that we're not going to be able to pay our bills.

Speaker 10: (24:12)

Kim defended the VA saying treatment plans are still based on veteran's medical needs. She explained that it's often better for patients to get their care at the VA. So there are no problems coordinating paperwork or treatment plans with other hospitals, but experts in advocates say the VA could be preventing veterans from getting much needed medical care.

Speaker 15: (24:32)

It basically defeats the whole purpose of the mission act and why we set up the criteria.

Speaker 10: (24:37)

That's Darren Selznick who helped write the mission act. We're an Oceanside at the veterans association of north county, and he has keepsakes from his time working on the law, laid out in front of us.

Speaker 15: (24:51)

What is that exactly? Scorecard red, yellow, green. Are we in progress? So when I implemented mission act, I developed the scorecard and I rated everybody and they all thought they were agreeing until I came in. And then they're all red, yellow

Speaker 10: (25:06)

Sell. Nick says medical decisions should be left to patients and their doctors, not administrators.

Speaker 15: (25:12)

So it's ludicrous to, to have anyone else review and say that the referring clinician who's working with the patient doesn't know best. It's just ludicrous.

Speaker 10: (25:23)

As for Christine Russell, when the VA sent her that letter cutting off her cancer treatments, the decision was made by a group of people she had never met before. People in communication with you about your care on a regular basis. No,

Speaker 11: (25:37)

No, they are not

Speaker 10: (25:39)

None of them, but they were making the decisions. Yes. How does that feel? Horrible. After a lot of angry phone calls, Russell was able to restart her treatments outside the VA, but it hasn't been a smooth process. She recently got this voicemail from her VA primary care doctor. Hi,

Speaker 16: (25:59)

This is Deanna

Speaker 10: (26:02)

Russell's. Doctor tried to send her to three specialists outside the VA, but the requests were not approved

Speaker 16: (26:11)

Because they didn't approve the community

Speaker 10: (26:12)

Care. Russell is still fighting for her medical care. Every day is a physical and mental challenge. You know,

Speaker 11: (26:20)

I have my psychologist and my psychiatrist, but that's not enough

Speaker 10: (26:25)

Jesus on difficult days, Russell turns to her churches, music for comfort.

Speaker 9: (26:30)

[inaudible] joining

Speaker 6: (26:43)

Me is I knew source reporter Jill Castillano Jill. Welcome.

Speaker 10: (26:47)

Thanks for having me.

Speaker 6: (26:49)

You know, this is a disturbing report that we just heard. How is Christine Russell doing now?

Speaker 10: (26:56)

Well, honestly, she's still struggling. Um, one bit of good news, the voicemail that you heard played there, Russell now actually was able to get some of those treatments approved in the community, but it is a constant struggle as the way she describes it every now and then she'll get another notification of some kind that she can't get the treatments that she needs outside the VA. And she's got to go through some hoops again, to get those renewed. She is still struggling with her cancer and it's a difficult journey for her. Uh, but she is doing the best that she can and taking care of herself.

Speaker 6: (27:34)

And just to be clear, the problem that arose in her case is the VA not allowing the outside treatment that her VA doctors recommended. Is that right?

Speaker 10: (27:45)

Yes, that's right. Russell has a pretty complex case of cancer. So VA doctors encouraged her to go somewhere else for treatments, feeling that they were not best suited to help her yet. In this case, the VA decided no longer to pay for those treatments, decided to ask her to return to the VA, to get her treatments at the VA anyway.

Speaker 6: (28:11)

Right? So when a VA patient is referred to and receives treatment by an outside doctor, someone who's not part of the VA system, the VA is billed for that. So how does, how does that work?

Speaker 10: (28:24)

Yes, that's right. If veterans meet one of six criteria under the 2018 emission act, the VA is required to pay for that veteran to get care somewhere else. Healthcare experts will say, well, this creates an incentive for them to keep veterans inside the VA system. So they don't have to pay for that external treatment.

Speaker 6: (28:46)

And why does the VA need to refer patients outside than at work to begin with?

Speaker 10: (28:51)

Yeah. Well, under, under the mission act, there are these six criteria. So if a veteran, for example, is facing a really long wait time for a VA appointment, let's say it's two months to see an oncologist. Then the vet will be qualified to get their care somewhere else. Also a really long drive. If you're two hours from the closest VA, the U S government has decided that's too far for you to go for your mental health care or your, you know, whatever treatment you need to get outside the VA or in the VA. So they're going to try to send you somewhere else. That's closer to you or more convenient for you. There are other reasons too. Sometimes the VA simply does not offer the care that you need. For example, OB GYN or doctors who help with women's health issues are not a focus.

Speaker 10: (29:41)

The VA, since most vets are men. So oftentimes let's say you're a pregnant woman. They're going to send you somewhere else for that care. Somebody who can specialize and really help you with what you need. Another reason is if it's in the veteran's best medical interest, and this one is a little bit tricky, but it essentially means if a VA doctor and the patient agree that it's in the patient's best medical interest. For some reason to go outside of the VA, they should be able to get that care outside of the VA. I should mention this kind of process eventually happens in all hospital systems. There's no hospital that offers every single treatment known in the United States. Eventually, if you've got a complex case, you've got something come up that your hospital doesn't know how to handle appropriately. They're going to send you somewhere else.

Speaker 6: (30:33)

But instead of creating the mission act, which is apparently incredibly expensive for the VA, why didn't the government give additional funding to the VA system to expand its ability to care for veterans,

Speaker 10: (30:47)

Uh, that really hits on the heart of the debate and the current political feud around VA health care. Right now, generally speaking, over the past seven years, the Republicans have been pushing for the creation of more standards, more ways for veterans to access care outside of the VA. That's because they're worried about veterans being in this closed off system where not the best care cannot be provided. Meanwhile, Democrats say let's strengthen what the VA already has going for it. And let's get it in a place where we don't need to send so many vets outside of the VA. The mission act actually was a compromise where it both created more ways for vets to get care outside of the VA, but it also gave a lot of funding to the VA. And the VA is continuing to expand its services is looking for those avenues to make sure that patients can come and get the best care that they need. Okay.

Speaker 6: (31:53)

Is there a concern within the VA administration that spending money on outsourced medical care will actually decrease resources for patients within the VA system?

Speaker 10: (32:04)

Absolutely. That is a big concern that I've heard openly stated by VA administrators. They're very concerned about the possibility that sending patients outside of the VA will ultimately lead to less money in the VA. What does that mean? Less money for their own staff or for their own hospital equipment, potentially that could cause a problem. And this is part of why the documents that I've found are showing that the VA is concerned about funding. And that's why they're trying to keep patients at the VA. That's why they're creating new rules and procedures to keep patients at the VA when they can

Speaker 6: (32:45)

Part two of your report, uh, Jill we'll air tomorrow. And in it, you talk about the VA shutting down another outsource medical program for veterans who are dealing with depression and PTSD. Can you give us a preview?

Speaker 10: (33:00)

Yes. I think the report airing tomorrow really shows how high the stakes can be with some of these veterans and how serious their conditions really are. It follows the story of Kiowa Wolf. Who's a veteran in San Diego who was cut off from mental health treatment of specialized community, mental mental health treatment over a year ago. And it walks through his struggle, his journey to get that treatment back outside of the VA.

Speaker 6: (33:30)

I've been speaking with I new source reporter Jill Castillano Jill. Thank you.

Speaker 10: (33:35)

Thank you

Speaker 6: (33:37)

To hear more about Jill's VA reporting. You can join her in person tonight at 6:00 PM at the veterans museum in Belle boa park. The event is hosted by concerned veterans for America. Visit I new sources, Facebook page. For more information,

Speaker 1: (34:01)

The state of California is grappling with a racist pass and the idea of reparations for black descendants of slaves. There's a new task force studying this issue and families are coming forward to share their experiences, cap radio's race and equity reporter, Sarah Mises, tan as the story of a black Sacramento family and their fight to write history

Speaker 17: (34:25)

Out along a wooded road off highway 49 in the gold rush town of Coloma stands a boarded up building.

Speaker 18: (34:32)

So right now we're standing in front of the Kalama Emanuel church here in the town of Coloma.

Speaker 17: (34:38)

I'm out here with Jonathan Burgess. The church may look rundown, but to him and his family, it means a lot more Burgess dug deep into family documents and old deeds. Now he and his family believed that this church, as well as much of the land surrounding it was once owned by his great, great grandfather. That is until he says it was taken using eminent domain by the state of California and made into a park.

Speaker 18: (35:06)

I remember coming up here, it was just dusty roads as my memory and older, you know, uh, you know, uncle that when my grandfather's brother that could no longer talk, he would just point and cry. And now as an adult piece in this history together, I get why he was crying

Speaker 17: (35:22)

Just as trying to make a legal case to get his land back. There are others doing the same. This is happening as California grapples with its legacy of oppression of people of color in particular African Americans, the state has created a reparations taskforce to discuss how it might begin to apologize and make up for discriminatory policies and actions. Javan. Scott Lewis is a geography professor at UC Berkeley and part of the state's task force. He says, in order for California to grow into the state, it is today. It had to take land from people of color.

Speaker 19: (35:56)

You still have a need to develop in largely, already populated places. And so the only way that you can do that is through the removal of people, right? Of communities of landholders, who, you know, to put it bluntly.

Speaker 17: (36:12)

He says eminent domain was applied unequally in particular to African-American communities that may not have had the power or money to resist. And the taking of this land has impacted generations of Californians

Speaker 19: (36:26)

Is the interruption of intergenerational wealth, especially African-American communities who had to who've had to give up their lives. You know, what you have is also an interruption to the stability of community development.

Speaker 20: (36:38)

So with that, let's sign this bill and turn this property over.

Speaker 17: (36:43)

That's the sound of an event with governor Gavin Newsome. Earlier this year, he enacted a new law and officially returned a strip of coastline back to an African-American family in Los Angeles. This case called Bruce's beach has now become a landmark

Speaker 20: (36:58)

For the descendants of the Bruce family. But for all of those families torn asunder because of racism all across

Speaker 17: (37:09)

Kevin Ward helped lead the Bruce's beach effort with her organization. Whereas my land, so

Speaker 19: (37:14)

Many people were expecting for Bruce's beach to be the blueprint.

Speaker 17: (37:17)

Now she's been asked to help other families do the same, but she says the path is not easy.

Speaker 19: (37:23)

I don't understand is that the alignment was there, right? The right people and the state assembly, the right people in the state Senate, right? The people and the county were there. I do believe that we will have success. In other cases, we just have to figure out what that alignment looks like

Speaker 17: (37:43)

For Jonathan Burgess and his family. He hopes that public advocacy and education about his family's legacy and Kalama can eventually spur lawmakers to similar action for now. His family has contacted a law firm to help them gather documents for their case. And he's testified before the state's reparations committee to share his story. He hopes his family will see the return of the property and the renovation of the church. Soon in the Sierra Nevada town of Coloma. I'm Sarah Mises, tan,

Speaker 1: (38:19)

You're listening to KPBS mid-day edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen Kavanaugh, DIA de Los Muertos is being celebrated by many San Diego wins today and tomorrow it's a Mexican tradition to remember, and honor loved ones who have died. This has done in large part by creating colorful alters. That typically include photos of those who have died and their favorite foods and drinks, candles, marigolds, and more joining me to talk about how San Diego gins are marking the day is KPBS border reporter, Gustavo Elise. Welcome back Gustavo. Well, thank

Speaker 21: (38:53)

You dude. So

Speaker 1: (38:54)

Individuals create alters to honor family members who have died, but there are also a lot of groups that create alters as well. Tell me about that.

Speaker 21: (39:02)

Right. Well, it's not this group, so the government is in on it too. And I think DIA de Los Muertos is a holiday that really lends itself to this because it's a public display of, I don't want to say morning, it's more of a celebration of, of, and remembrance of loved ones who have passed away and it's done so in a public manner. And I think a lot of activism groups kind of take that as a form of drawing attention to certain causes or specifically people who have died as a result of certain issues that they advocate for, whether it be a crime or COVID or immigration policies. We've kind of seen it over the last couple of years here in San Diego, kind of expand,

Speaker 1: (39:45)

Uh, the county just unveiled and alter to honor San Diego ones who lost their lives to COVID. Uh, what can you tell me about that effort?

Speaker 21: (39:53)

Well, it's the second year that the county has done this. They've, they've encouraged people to submit images of friends and relatives who have died of COVID. Uh, here in San Diego, that's more than 4,000 San Diego aunts have died from the coronavirus and it's actually being built as we speak right now, as we're recording this, um, outside of the county administration buildings downtown by the bay and tomorrow I know the county is going to hold a special ceremony as well, around six 30, Tuesday, November 2nd.

Speaker 1: (40:23)

And another alter was created at the old time Mesa detention center to honor those who have died in the custody of ice. Tell me about the group behind that effort and what they're calling for.

Speaker 21: (40:34)

So the group is the American friends service committee, they're they advocate for generally speaking for human rights, along the borderlands, and specifically focusing on migraine communities, living in Tijuana, uh, immigrants detained in the detention centers, a local undocumented community, and the, the vigil that they set up outside of the privately-owned detention center. I know Thai Mesa was primarily to bring awareness of the fact that people are dying while they are detained. A lot of these cases, they're migrants with no criminal records or non-violent criminal records who are detained almost indefinitely while their cases kind of work their way through the immigration courts. So they're in there for a long time. It's been particularly lethal for, for some migrants during the pandemic, actually one of the first, uh, if not the first in custody detention death was from San Diego last year by a gentleman who died from COVID-19. Now, this vigil is interesting because it comes at a time when, just a week after, uh, 24 members of Congress, all from California have sent a letter to the department of Homeland security, which oversees ice, asking them to shut down the states three detention facilities,

Speaker 1: (41:56)

You know, San Diego union Tribune, reporter David Hernandez wrote a story about an altar at mum's flowers in Southeastern San Diego, that altar remembers victims of crime. What stood out to you most in that piece?

Speaker 21: (42:10)

Mainly two things stood out from the PS the first and sadly, we can't share it because this is radio, but are the images from the photographer and not is. I mean, they're, they're just really impressive and, and capture the, the mood and the place and just everything surrounding, uh, what, what the shop owner is doing over there in Southeast San Diego. And more than that, just how David Hernandez wrote about the community aspect of, of this event is so it's organic. It's not led by one group or one activism or, or the government. It's essentially just people around San Diego who have lost family members or friends or loved ones to violent crime. And it kind of shows the spirit of the adults were to close, right? A lot of these people, they don't know each other outside of the fact that they're joint by having this tragic circumstance in their life, but they come together in this public place to grieve together and build community around that. And I think that's particularly powerful given the last, uh, year and a half of COVID restrictions and isolations that we've all gone through.

Speaker 1: (43:21)

There's also a DIA de Los Muertos event tomorrow in Tijuana, who's behind that event. And what issues are they highlighted?

Speaker 21: (43:28)

So there are two organizations behind the event, uh, two different advocacy groups, both of them dealing with, uh, the deported community than Tiguan I, one is a deported veterans group. And the other is a deported mothers group. And they're using the [inaudible] and the Salter to give a chance to the deportees, living in Tijuana, a chance to come together and honor, and celebrate the passing of, of their loved ones who have died in the United States while they themselves have been deported, uh, raises questions of a family to separation, and really just a human toll of deportation. I think in this country, we tend to think of deportation as the end of a story, right? Deportation is kind of what happens to immigrants after they deemed a and kind of found that they don't have the right paperwork or the right circumstances to be in this country. And that's kind of the end of it. Well, these groups are kind of showing that no, that's not the end of it because life goes on after deportation. And a lot of, and Tijuana will struggle to find housing jobs, and even just that real human aspect of being physically separated from their life and family that they had here in the United States. So I think it's just drawing attention to that dynamic.

Speaker 1: (44:50)

I've been speaking with KPBS border reporter Gustabo Selise Gustavo. Thanks so much for joining us

Speaker 21: (44:56)

All. Thank you.

Speaker 9: (44:59)

[inaudible].

Last week, SANDAG announced a plan to charge drivers a per-mile tax to fight climate change. The proposal caused a strong reaction from drivers, so how likely is it to move forward? Also, as San Diego works on implementing climate action in transportation, Californians at the United Nations climate conference in Scotland are working with world leaders on tackling the global threat of climate change. Plus, San Diego public health officials are urging residents to get their flu shots as soon as possible as they warn about the potential for a bad flu season ahead. Meanwhile, Veteran Affairs administrators are overruling doctors’ judgments and preventing them from sending their patients outside the VA health care system. And as the state of California is grappling with a racist past and the idea of reparations for Black descendants of slaves, CapRadio brings us the story of a Black Sacramento family and their fight to right history. Finally, Dia de los Muertos is being celebrated by many San Diegans today and tomorrow. It’s a Mexican tradition to remember and honor loved ones who have died.