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2020 Strategy For Local Parties

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A big endorsement in the race for San Diego mayor, the local Republican Party launches its own news platform, the United Nations studies homelessness in San Diego, and schools work to update policies on teacher-student interaction.

Speaker 1: 00:01 The primary is still more than six months out, but some strategic moves are happening now. A look at the road ahead for local Republicans and Democrats, a fresh set of eyes on San Diego Struggle with homelessness. The takeaways from a UN observer and a firsthand look at the problem and the complex challenge for local schools. Technology has changed the way students and teachers communicate. So why haven't cleared guidelines been set? I'm mark Sauer. The KPBS round table starts now.

Speaker 2: 00:38 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 00:41 welcome to our discussion of the week stop stories. I'm mark Sauer and joining me at the KPBS round table today. KPBS reporter Andrew Bowen, investigative reporter Morgan Cook at the San Diego Union Tribune, Union Tribune columnists, Michael smollins and reporter Kayla Jimenez of Voice of San Diego. Well, there's local political action to talk about here in the dog days of August, more than six months out from the California Primary County Democrats back to candidate for mayor and county Republicans have gotten into the news business, sort of Andrew start there with the Democrats who get the big endorsement this week and a, it's a pretty big margin at that.

Speaker 3: 01:17 It was, yes. So a Todd, Gloria current assemblyman, former city council member in the city of San Diego got the endorsement from the Democratic Party's central committee. About 71% of the delegates are, the members of the central committee voted for him. So it wasn't exactly a close one.

Speaker 1: 01:34 And it's a big deal. Why it's involves campaign funds.

Speaker 3: 01:37 Yeah. So it's a, it's a big deal symbolically because a lot of voters at this point are not really paying close attention to the mayor's race. And so to have that brand endorsement of the county Democratic Party certainly carry some weight with some voters, but financially speaking, it also will help, uh, assembling Gloria with fundraising. And the Democratic Party has a lot of money on its hands that it can spend on a Gloria's behalf. So that is then money that would not have to come from Gloria's official campaign. And, uh, the party can send out what's called member communications. Uh, typically mailers to register Democrats. They look almost like they can look identical to the mailers. That glorious campaign would be sending out, uh, but it's not coming from his, uh, campaign account.

Speaker 1: 02:22 So a big boost. He's gotten some other important endorsements as well.

Speaker 3: 02:26 Yeah, so he's gotten the endorsement of every, I believe every democratic assembly member in the state legislature, a couple of very high profile state senators, Governor Gavin Newsome, uh, some local labor unions that can set up independent expenditure committees that could also spend money on his behalf. So at this point it's really Todd's race to lose.

Speaker 1: 02:46 All right, Michael, speaking of money, your count today, a notes that Gloria does face some trouble over ms handling of some funds here. Is this a big deal?

Speaker 3: 02:54 Well, it's always hard to say a, it gets complicated, but in a nutshell, he's got a mayoral committee in

Speaker 4: 02:59 which he's raised a lot of money over $600,000, but he also created a committee to run for assembly next year as well when he's running for mayor. Uh, the timing of it, uh, puts him in a bad light because, uh, he had already announced and filed paperwork to run for mayor and why he needed this other committee is that his 2018 committee had over three, about $300,000, and the time limit was going to run out on that. W W would have really restricted what he could do with that money. So he transferred it there and, uh, they're claiming that he didn't file certain things and, and broke campaign finance law. How big of a deal that is. We'll just have to see a, a, uh, some San Diego sons who don't support Todd Gloria and one is a Barbara Breesa porter, one of his opponents, um, have a hired attorney to, and he's requested investigations by the city attorney and the district attorney, the FPPC, the fair political practices commission of California is looking into it.

Speaker 4: 03:54 They've even asked the FBI to look into it, uh, you know, so they're throwing sort of everything against the wall. Again, is this a, a sort of a technical miscue mistaken form not filed at the right time as Gloria and insists or is it something more nefarious? The real issue here is that that money was raised. Most of that money, if you were raising it for mayor, you couldn't use it because it's from corporations from political action committees and things like that. That can't be the can be used for a legislative races can't be used for mayor. What he could do if you're following up on Andrew is give that money to the Democratic Party to work on his behalf. So that's really kind of the underpinnings of what, how serious it is. We'll just have to see how it goes.

Speaker 3: 04:32 Yeah. I think one of the things that this set, this speaks to is that Todd Gloria has been in the public eye for quite a while. Um, as the front runner in this mayor's race, he's under immense scrutiny and also over the time in his elected office or in public life, he's made a couple of enemies, frankly. Um, Matt Walstrom is one of the people who, who sent this letter asking for some sort of prosecution or investigation. He kind of, um, was, is not a fan of, of Gloria because of they have some history over, uh, the uptown community plan update. The city wanted to increase density in this man's neighborhood and he didn't like that he was on the community planning group at the time. So I think it's, uh, certainly remains to be seen whether this sticks. Um, I, I haven't really heard a whole lot of, um, noise from his opponents in the race trying to make this a big issue. So yeah.

Speaker 1: 05:19 All right, well, we're going to move on to the Republicans here. It doesn't happen to be republican that in that race in particular, it looks like a Democrat will be mayor one way or another. But speaking to Republicans, a new website looks like an objective legitimate news site, but certain headlines are revealing like San Diego Ans file lawsuit against California's war on the second amendment, or five Democratic candidates visit San Diego to pander to Latinos. Another hint, there's no by-lines on the articles. No list of writers, editors a way at the bottom of small type saying this is all paid for by the county Republican parties. So Morgan, tell us about your story on this and what's the purpose of this Republican back site?

Speaker 5: 05:56 Well, the purpose the site is that the county Republican Party has concerns that the local media has a left leaning bias that isn't fair to them and that it gives a perspective, um, that they don't, they don't agree with and they just think is not right. And so they created this new site, so the, to fill that void, you know, and give a, um, a right perspective, you know, right-leaning political perspective, uh, on the news. And that's the,

Speaker 1: 06:24 but as your story points out, and I said there in that intro, you look at it and it looks like a pretty straight forward, a legitimate news site.

Speaker 5: 06:32 It does, unless you get to the bottom and you read the fine print. Or if you're a particularly an observant reader and you notice the headlines seem, you know, more subjective than objects. It right.

Speaker 1: 06:45 And no by-lines, no credit lines, no contact us. Here's the editor, typical things you've seen, union Tribune or any other PBS, any other ones?

Speaker 5: 06:53 Those are typical to see. And I asked why they, um, why they didn't have them. And, uh, the chairman, Tony Clark, he explained that they didn't want to, they chose not to and, um, he didn't, he didn't want to elaborate on why that was. Uh, so it's a choice that they made.

Speaker 1: 07:10 Now how does this all a square with the, uh, this, uh, party driven info site, how does that square with political disclosure laws [inaudible]

Speaker 5: 07:18 um, when you use money for political purposes, in this case from their state and federal political committees, and I'm an associated tax exempt organization. When you do that, you have to disclose who it was paid for, um, somewhere in legible, big enough to read tight. Um, and then after that, you know, the FPPC the FEC, they take, um, a really broad view of what content you can have as long as you have those disclosures. And so they seem to have done that and then they're good to go.

Speaker 1: 07:53 Well, you're saying this sort of thing before Mike

Speaker 4: 07:55 in various forms. Uh, as with everything, uh, I think seemed to be ramped up because of technology and, and Internet and websites, uh, it's able to, you're able to distribute them a lot more. Uh, you know, we've seen, uh, there's some cases in the past where mailers have come out that looked like news, but they're, they're actually just, you know, a campaign mailer, uh, often a campaigns if there's a story that is favorable to their candidate or unfavorable to their opponent from, you know, centralized norm, normal, normal media organizations. Uh, you know, my stories, your stories I have in the past have been used in, in mailers. It's not always a fun thing, but you know, we can't write our stories with rolling. With that in mind, what will be interesting to see how this, uh, is distributed and how is it used? Is it going to be appearing on Facebook and therefore, and then using those in campaign mailers as, uh, you know, representations of, of, you know, kind of legitimate news organizations. And I use that kind of carefully because I mean it is Republican News, so there are certainly allowed to do it as long as they are disclosing as a, we were talked about, uh, but it's, you know, it's, it's a new twist on an ongoing phenomenon.

Speaker 1: 09:00 [inaudible] Morgan that you got to push back from the news side, another story there after your story came out. And what did that say?

Speaker 5: 09:07 Um, they, they didn't think that, um, our coverage had been particularly fair at to them. They, um, they felt like it was unfair to mention a, uh, a Texas congressman who had used direct mailers. So printed mailers wasn't exactly the same. Um, and you know, he did it right one time using these mailers and he is the disclosures like they have used the disclosures [inaudible] hot water the other well, right. There's ways to do it right and there's ways to do it wrong. And the first time you did it right and the second time it appears he did it wrong because while he did put the disclosure, it wasn't the true funding source. We have no reason to believe that is the case here. Um, just they, they didn't think that that was very fair.

Speaker 1: 09:53 All right, well we're going to move on, but we should know that there was no byline on that story either on the push back story.

Speaker 5: 09:57 Oh No. But there was an opinion tag on it and we hadn't seen very many of those before, so. Okay. Alright.

Speaker 1: 10:05 Well this is going to be a big issue for San Diego is the next mayor. And we've talked a lot about San Diego's housing crisis and our resulting homelessness crisis, but a visitor on assignment from the United Nations brought fresh eyes to those living on streets along beds this month. And Michael, who was this, uh, expert and a, what were some of the, the key findings that she came away with?

Speaker 4: 10:26 Well, her name is Leilani Fara and um, she's got an interesting title. I think it's a special wrapper tour for the United Nations on, uh, on equitability and adequate housing. And she tours really the, the, the world looking at these issues, which of course is very focused on homelessness. Uh, and she came to San Diego. And, um, despite some, some aspects of progress in the city that's been reported, uh, she found it a little bit eyeopening and had some very sort of harsh comments. They, I think she even said that, uh, it was worse than she expected.

Speaker 1: 11:02 [inaudible] yeah, the harsh comments. A practice of criminalizing homelessness. Uh, even though local officials say that's not what's happening.

Speaker 4: 11:09 Well, that was, I think her main focus is, is that the, you know, there is citing of people for, for to, you know, move them along. Basically. Let's face it, that's what's happening here. Uh, they're not supposed to be camped out on sidewalks and in certain areas. And that's the term that, that, uh, advocates for the homeless use the, the thing that you're criminalizing the homeless because you're not giving them a really shit enough shelter. So, uh, that was her big concern. She did, however, meet with, um, people that nonprofits in city officials, local officials, county officials, and came away thinking that, you know, their hearts in the right place. They're willing to try new things. But you know, in the end, uh, it's, it's, uh, you know what it is on the ground and, and she wasn't, uh, very impressed with what's happened to him.

Speaker 1: 11:53 Well, we do have a clip

Speaker 6: 11:53 here from her interview with the, our KPBS reporter, Max Rivlin Nadler on the causes here that she found. Let's, let's hear that they use residential real estate as a way to leverage more capital to keep accumulating, accumulating wealth and buying more properties, et cetera. It's having a devastating effect on cities around the world. I haven't investigated that as much as I would like to in San Diego. Uh, but sure. It's a problem in northern California where I visited a year and a half ago. Uh, and, and in other places in the u s

Speaker 7: 12:25 [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 12:25 All right. Now, Andrew, the new mayor, uh, like the current one's going to have to deal directly with this issue, um, central so far to the campaign. It's going to be, certainly, you would think as we move ahead.

Speaker 3: 12:35 Yeah. Well, both. Uh, the, the two main front runners, uh, guitar, Gloria and Barbara Bree have both said that homelessness is one of their top priorities. Um, both have criticized the current mayor's policies and practices. Um, in a recent mayoral forum that was held earlier this month, Todd Gloria specifically called out the criminalization of, of being poor and homeless, although he didn't really call out specifics. Um, and he's also said that he, one of his one specific policy that I found notable was he plans on moving, uh, homeless services from the San Diego Housing Commission, which is kind of a partner agency to the city, um, to the mayor's office. He says that'll create more direct and transparent accountability when, when you're dealing with this problem. Um, Barbara Bre noted in that same forum that she had voted to advance in affordable housing measure, uh, for next year's ballot that would raise about $900 million for affordable housing. Um, and as the campaign goes on and as the candidates are under more pressure to develop really specific policy plans, I think we'll maybe start to see a little bit more differences between the two of [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 13:40 and talk about how it's going, what it's going to cost and where that money would come from. A Michael, your column this week also noted that uh, the UN now representative far has sites Finland as a model where a actions to solve homelessness really made a difference, but she couldn't really lay it over San Diego and there's some different,

Speaker 4: 13:56 well, big differences. Uh, it was fascinating. She, she mentioned that there wasn't a lot of coverage of that. I, so I, you know, just kind of started googling around to see what is Finland doing and you know, it's a different kind of country. It's not just a matter of scale. There's only about five and a half million people in the entire country. But they did have a pretty serious homeless problem and they went down the normal track of uh, you know, sort of temporary shelters, interim housing and the sort of step approach. They went to what is commonly known and remotely familiarly known now as a housing first. But there's a lot to that. They, they, you know, their, their whole society, uh, has a lot of services already in place and housing first doesn't work unless you provide the services to, for people with mental health issues, addiction issues and so forth.

Speaker 4: 14:39 Uh, but the, the, the other real key thing is that, that a big part of their housing stock is public housing. I think in Helsinki, one out of seven people live in a city owned apartment. So they have this whole operation, it's all centralized where they, they've even got their own housing construction company in the municipal government. So they were able to ramp this up. And as we know, the big problem among many in San Diego is that we just don't have the housing and it's very expensive to build. Uh, there's a lot of regulations. How that happened early on. I mean, I'm sure there were fits and starts there, but they're getting a lot of credit. But even the Finland officials don't say it's, things are perfect, that they still have to figure out why people are falling into homelessness. They try to reach out to people sort of on the bubble, but there's still a structural thing that, that has people kind of heading in that direction here and there.

Speaker 1: 15:29 And, uh, we have a, a different wrinkle here where the county government has stepped up in the past and certainly here recently with the new makeup in county government and they have, you know, some money resources now that maybe the city doesn't have at this moment. So we may see a more regional,

Speaker 4: 15:45 well, and I think Andrew hit on it talking about Todd Gloria, that, that as much as they've tried to pull things together, it's still a very factionalized approach in San Diego and probably other cities, the counties involved in mental health. A city doesn't really control that. Uh, the city has other services. So, uh, I think in, in, in Finland it's a lot more, uh, unified in that regard. Whether we can get there, it's, I think it's been pulled together much better than it had been in the past. But that still is an issue

Speaker 1: 16:14 almost all the time in this segment. What happens with, with her report, I mean, is it going to some dusty Ben there at the u n or,

Speaker 4: 16:20 to be honest, I don't really know. But she does report back to them on her, her trips and they, because she, you know, I was familiar with what happened in Finland. There's a body of, of uh, reports and knowledge that is there to share.

Speaker 1: 16:33 We turn around tap the UN maybe for some, some funding here. I mean, it all comes down to money in the end. And we talked about this issue many times on this show. I somehow, I don't think that's going to be as far as the very revenue that San Diego named. Well, and we were gonna pay money for Greenland this week. But that's a whole nother story. Well, we're going to move on. I mean, it's a fascinating topic and it's certainly one that will play out in the mayor's race as we say, in going forward on many levels. Well, the heartbreaking stories of child sexual abuse involving teachers and school staff have revolts. The public such cases have also resulted in school districts here are losing millions in lawsuit settlements. The suits point out districts fail to protect students because they didn't have clear comprehensive policies outlining improper teacher student interactions. But that's changing. And uh, Kayla, uh, we've got the, um, San Diego unified and Sweetwater union high districts, they got sued in years past. Why were they fine? Found liable in these cases,

Speaker 8: 17:27 right? So those cases where there were inappropriate student teacher relationships and there was sexual abuse by these teachers, um, the schools were held liable because they didn't have the policies or training in place to set definite boundaries between teachers and students.

Speaker 1: 17:45 We try to think a lot of people might find surprising these days because know anybody who works for organizations such as this and corporations and all and long sense, especially with the sex abuse scandal, the Catholic Church, we've seen the boy scouts and met a number of organizations, they have clear guidelines. You would think schools would long since come to this, right? But that's not the case,

Speaker 8: 18:05 right? So 90% of schools in the state or they get their policies from the California School Board Association and those kind of threatened as a template for the statewide districts like unified and Sweetwater. So that the association just implemented a policy last month to kind of move in that direction that outlines different boundaries like social media and texting with students, taking students home from school and visiting homes and those boundaries that aren't exactly teacher student. Right.

Speaker 1: 18:40 And I wanted to get into some of the specifics there. A voice of San Diego's done a commendable series of stories on student abuse that area school districts. But step back a moment, one of the stories show overall the critical problems are getting student safety from predators in schools.

Speaker 8: 18:56 Right? So when you hear usually about inappropriate student, who's your relationships though? Start with what you would say. It's small things. So texting that turns into texting late at night and rides home. That turned into rise alone where there's in depth conversations about family situations and different things so that the student ends up relying on this teacher and that's where the inappropriate relationship.

Speaker 1: 19:20 Okay. So it builds and builds and, but it's, it's a pattern here because we have a Predator situation. So they're, they're probing, they're looking for weak students situations at home. Uh, it's at their where were they can move in and take advantage.

Speaker 8: 19:33 Right. And they target vulnerable students that they feel like they can mentor.

Speaker 1: 19:37 And, uh, I wanted to, uh, turn that around for a moment. Um, the students themselves, are they getting education guidelines? Are parents brought in to say, you know, these are the parameters, these are the things to look for. This has been the situation.

Speaker 8: 19:51 So that was a big concern of experts too, is that the teachers aren't exactly getting the boundaries and students and parents aren't either. So maybe with this push of policy that will change the students and students, staff and family members have that information.

Speaker 4: 20:05 Well, you know, it's interesting. I said earlier on, it was like with so many things when you're talking about a different subject, uh, ah, you know, the Internet and, uh, you know, the contact is just different than than it had been. And, but this has been going on for time. And Memorial, a friend whose daughter is now, you know, an adult, but when she was in high school, he said that there was almost an informal network amongst schools, uh, girls at the high school about which teachers to kind of watch out for. Uh, and it just, it seems more prevalent now and maybe it is, but I think the, the flip good side of this is, is it's just being exposed and talked about. Martha lawsuits unfortunately are being filed. And so, uh, but I guess it, you know, I don't really have a question here, but it is sort of remarkable after

Speaker 3: 20:48 all this time, some schools are still debating like to have formal guidelines, uh, on, on this kind of behavior. I mean, we go to training sessions, we've got pamphlets, um, as we have for decades. Do take, Kayla, I want to ask you, you know, teachers often complain about how they feel like schools are under such pressure to be kind of the catchall social services, uh, for all of their students. Many of the students might have legitimate problems at home and families. Have you heard, um, at all what teachers have to say about this? Maybe did they feel like, uh, these types of guidelines might actually prevent them from being effective advocates for their students?

Speaker 8: 21:27 So I haven't talked to many teachers about how they feel about it recently, but I have heard in the past concerns where teachers have been kind of concerned. Kind of going off of Michael's, um, comment is that these teachers are kind of out in the open and everyone knows that they're being inappropriate with students. And teachers feel like they don't have a way, if they go to the office and say, Hey, my colleague is an acting appropriately with students, there's no any, right, they're not breaking rules and there's this gray area. So I have heard that from teachers that they wish they had that support.

Speaker 1: 22:01 Now as we, uh, start to get back into school this month and certainly in September here, are we expecting to have some more clear, more concrete guidelines coming down now for schools in this region.

Speaker 8: 22:12 So the San Diego County Office of Education recently implemented a policy last month that's really extensive. And other districts like Sweetwater and unified are taking a look at CSBA is policy on the county offices policy to kind of push that forward

Speaker 1: 22:27 and how likely is that to get enacted and have something, you know, as we move into the school year?

Speaker 8: 22:32 Yeah. So some districts are still talking to the teachers unions and seeing what they can actually put forward. So there are some, I think it's a work in progress. Okay. We're at the beginning, right?

Speaker 1: 22:42 Is there a lot of push back from the, um, from the unions, um, for, for teachers and staff here. I mean, you would think that they'd all be wanting to be pulling in the same direction on, on this issue,

Speaker 8: 22:53 right? What the teacher's unions, I mean, let's due process obviously for the teachers. And so there's a lot of negotiations that go into this. Even through the School Board Association's policy, they had to bring in the unions to make sure that that was approved for the state.

Speaker 1: 23:07 And a, is there a, I mean, on the state level have, have you, are there model districts? Are we seeing where were unions and teachers and students and administrators have all come together and said these guidelines are working and you know, I mean, I know they all go to conferences and as an educational system, uh, you would think that some places to say, Hey folks, you've been sued, you've had settlements. It's working here. Take a look at what we're doing.

Speaker 8: 23:29 Yeah. So I covered a story about Redlands unified and they had maybe $30 million in settlements over the past few years [inaudible] cases. So they had to do something and they implemented a policy last year after all that happened and an extensive training situation for their stuff. [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 23:48 okay. And your story talked about some, uh, some bulleted notes. What are some of those specifics that, uh, that we talked about in terms of some of the red flags here, if, um, students are seeing this or parents are seeing this, this is a problem situation where the teacher,

Speaker 8: 24:03 yeah. Right. So some things that I've seen a lot, even the cases that I've looked at are gift giving gifts to students, transferring them home from school, asking them about their families situation in a way that wouldn't be appropriate between teachers and students. Um, texting and social media communications. And some of those communications might also be via apps that don't really leave a paper trail. Right. Like snapchat, which is mentioned in this new policy.

Speaker 1: 24:31 Yeah. So, so I mean, it gets rather devious at times. Yeah. Short period of time left, uh, before we're out of time here. Uh, difficult to bring in law enforcement in these cases because of the gray areas. And because of the, uh, the, uh, Gray area, uh, in terms of the student interaction with the teachers.

Speaker 8: 24:47 And a lot of these cases, it's very gray area on what they decide to prosecute. I mean, they're not going to prosecute it if a teacher is texting a student and what I've seen in a lot of these cases. So it's really up to the school districts and the parents and students themselves to be aware too.

Speaker 1: 25:03 So really a self policing thing, but when you get multimillion dollar settlements, that gets everybody's attention. Yeah. Yeah. As we go along. All right. What's the fascinating thing and we'll, and we'll look for a more stories, a very commendable series there and the boys to San Diego. Well that does wrap up another week of stories at the KPBS round table. And I like to thank my guest, Andrew Bowen of KPBS News, Morgan Cook and the San Diego Union Tribune, Michael Smolins, also of the Union Tribune and Kayla Jimenez a voice of San Diego. Now a reminder, all the stories we discussed today, they're available on our website. KPBS dot. O r.G , thanks for joining us today and please join us again next week on the round table.

Speaker 9: 25:57 [inaudible].

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KPBS Roundtable

Mark Sauer hosts KPBS Roundtable, a lively discussion of the week's top stories. Local journalists join Sauer to provide insight into how these stories affect residents of the San Diego region.