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A Snapshot Of San Diego’s Mayoral Race

 September 4, 2020 at 11:10 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:01 The race Titans, what a new poll says about Barbara Bree, Todd, Gloria, and those who will choose San Diego's next mayor. Time is running out for the census, the challenges, political and practical, making it harder for workers. And when should people with COVID symptoms, seek medical care, a deep look into the decisions, playing out in homes across San Diego. I'm Mark Sauer and the KPBS round starts. Now [inaudible] welcome to our discussion of the week's top stories. I'm Mark Sauer and joining me at the remote KPBS round table today. David Garrick, who covers city hall for the San Diego union Tribune reporter Mary Plummer of I new source and reporter Andrea Lopez via Fanya of the union Tribune. San Diego is lame. Duck mayor remains active picking the developer for the massive remake of the midway district. Meanwhile, the race to replace him as heated up considerably a new poll shows joining me to discuss the new swirling around San Diego city hall is David Garrick, who covers the place for the San Diego union Tribune. Dave, welcome back to the round table and Mark. Thanks for having me. Well, your beat has been busy despite the fact that we're in the dog days of August, let's start with the race to replace mayor Kevin Faulkner since the election season is upon us tightening up, right? Speaker 2: 01:29 Yeah. I mean, uh, Todd Gloria beat Barbara Bree by 66,000 votes in the March primary and was considered I guess, a heavy to moderate favorite. And we have a new poll that shows that it's very close to almost dead even. And she actually has a small lead about 3%, which is smaller than the margin of error of 5%, but still a 3% leak. Speaker 1: 01:46 And we're going to dip into that a little, uh, a little bit in a minute, but both Brie and Gloria are Democrats and they will have a democratic majority on the city council. So where do they differ as leaders, according to their campaign so far? Speaker 2: 02:00 Yeah, it's interesting because I think a couple of years ago before they were running against each other, they were very similar on almost every issue. But since the campaign has begun, Bri has tended to position herself a little bit to the right of where Gloria is on certain issues. A key ones would be developing a dense housing projects in suburban neighborhoods. She voted against extending the city's eviction protection recently. So she hasn't gone all the way to the right. She's just going a little bit to the right of Gloria. And I don't know if that may have helped in this poll because this poll showed that she has strong support among conservative voters. So it's possible those two things are Speaker 1: 02:34 Well. How do you think she may have made up so much ground in this ratio? Barely got out of the primary after all? Speaker 2: 02:41 Yeah, she had to wait until a was st. Patrick's day. About two weeks after the election to actually pull ahead of Republican Scott Sherman and secure that second slot, it was very touch and go there. I think maybe taking those moderate positions, she's hammered Gloria on the Ash street debacle. That's a downtown high rise. The city bought that turned out to be filled with this and it's caused the city. Many millions. Gloria was on the council when the deal was approved. Of course he points out that after he left and rejoined the council, he went to the assembly that a lot of subsequent decisions were made. And so they both have sort of their argument trying to blame each other for that situation, Speaker 1: 03:15 The pandemics a challenge for any candidate running for any office this year. How do you see Bree and Gloria campaigning as the race heats up? And we get closer to a November 3rd, Speaker 2: 03:25 You know, mayoral races are citywide. So typically candidates can't go door to door the same way you can in a smaller city council election, but obviously door to door is just not an option and rallies aren't really an option. So it's definitely changing the way candidates are going to go about it. I've talked to some of the campaigns. A lot of them are not sure they have different plans. Will there be, you know, mayoral forums would like throw it on zoom where no one's in the audience. So it's going to be an interesting campaign season. And I really don't know exactly how it's going to shake out, but certainly they'll both spend money on mailers, internet ads. And, uh, in the primary Gloria was able to afford multiple television ads. I think Bree maybe did one. I can't remember. So we'll see if maybe she does some of those as well, but Gloria, I'm sure we'll do TV as again. Speaker 1: 04:06 Well, one to shift to the other big story here, the new mayor is going to take over negotiations of the big midway district development that was announced by mayor Kevin Faulkner this week. Who's the developer that was chosen for this big project and why? Speaker 2: 04:19 Yeah, it's actually a combination of four or five different companies, but the two leading companies are Brookfield properties, which is one of the most prolific builders of mixed use housing in the nation. And then ASM global, which is connected to AEG. They're like an entertainment corporation. They run about three or 400 arenas and stadiums worldwide. So they're pretty prolific including, uh, LA live, which has gotten quite a bit of a claim. And then the OTU and London and the Mercedes Benz center in Berlin. So they have a strong track record in building and managing arenas and creating entertainment districts around them. And I think that's one of the key reasons that the city chose that certainly the city selection panel said that was one of the key reasons Speaker 1: 04:57 And central to this winning proposals, a new arena to replace the old sports arena it's been around for more than half a century. Tell us about it. It's not cheap this arena. And is it going to maybe try to house a future NBA or NHL team? Speaker 2: 05:10 I might quibble with the word central. Oh, not to criticize, but, but you know, basically what the city and the developers have said is that they have a collective goal of building a new arena. Initially, when the search started, Marina was kind of like, and they were agnostic about it. Are we going to have in our new arena, are we going to have a remodel arena? They weren't sure exactly how they were going to handle that. But public opinion show that people really wanted. The local residents really wanted a new arena. And so they've shifted gears, but no one is guaranteed that there will be a new arena. They've used this very careful phrase, our collective goal. So just to be clear to your listeners, it's not a done deal. There'll be an arena. There may be one price that I've heard is 300 million to 600 million where 300 million is the more realistic one for the kind of arena we have now that hosts lacrosse and indoor soccer and hockey like minor league hockey, those kinds of things in concerts. If we wanted to get back in the business of trying to have an NBA team or an NHL team that will be about 600 million and we much larger arena with more bells and whistles and more corporate stuff, you know, I don't know if San Diego has even inquired to the NHL or the NBA, whether there's interest. So I dunno if that's even on the horizon, but that would be the cost if it was yeah. Speaker 1: 06:18 Besides the arena, you've got plenty of housing and we'll talk a little bit more about that. You've got a lot of retail, all sorts of other development here. How's it? How much this is all going to cost and where's the money come from? Speaker 2: 06:28 Yeah, that's a good question. Um, but basically some of the elements that you're talking about actually create revenue, they're going to the proposal now is for 2100 housing units, high and high rise buildings, uh, on what's now like a parking lot of the sports arena. And basically those, the revenue from those will be used to pay for an arena for public amenities, for parks, for, you know, uh, stuff to connect the San Diego river. And they have a lot of cool elements and amenities that they're planning. And those will continue to be adjusted and shaped over, over time as the city works out a deal with the developer. And the question is, is, are taxpayer subsidies. And the answer officially is no, but it's important to note that the city is basically going to give a sweetheart lease to these companies, you know, to develop 48 acres that is owned by taxpayers. So let's not an official financial subsidy where taxpayers are paying money, but you know, they could sell that, that, uh, you know, to the highest bidder and use that money to pay for something else. So subsidy is a questionable word to use. Yeah, Speaker 1: 07:23 The devil will be in the details and that's all going to be worked out now, a big housing part of this and that all depends on a vote San Diego, they're going to take in the November 3rd election, right? We've got a, we've got to change the zoning rules. They're the height Speaker 2: 07:37 Measure E it's a, it's a proposal to lift the city's coastal 30 foot height limit, which dates back to the early seventies, the previous ballot measure, and basically would lift that 30 foot height limit and just a very small targeted area. I think it's about 800 acres surrounding the sports arena. Proponents say, Hey, you know, this is not a coastal area. We're not blocking views here. Even though the sports arena is in the coastal zone, no one thinks that the sports arena is on the coast. So they have a strong argument. On the other hand, some folks feel like it's a slippery slope. And if you list the height limit there, there's going to be a push to lift it elsewhere, along the coast. And then we'll look like, you know, Miami beach instead of the California look where the coast is more shorter buildings. So that's concerned on our poll show that that has a slight lead measure E but there's like 40% undecided. So a lot of people aren't even aware of it yet. So it'll be interesting to see between now and the election where the support or opposition to that goats. Speaker 1: 08:27 Well, cause it'll really change that development. If it can't pencil it out and go higher with those, uh, revenue making, uh, residential units. Speaker 2: 08:34 Yeah. If you have to build buildings of less than 30 feet in height, you just can't build enough units to pay for a new arena. I don't think, I mean, I'm not a developer, but it seems like it will be quite a challenge. Right? Speaker 1: 08:43 Well, lots to have this going forward. It's going to take some time, any timetable at all on this development. Finally, Speaker 2: 08:49 Supposedly the agreement between the city and the developer will be complete early next year. So we'll have a new mayor and new council in place Speaker 1: 08:56 That's predicted first quarter of 2021 being a reporter and seeing all these things, whatever they predict that I'll just say second quarter, because typically nothing finishes on time, but it looks like sometime in the first half of next year, we'll have a deal before the city council. If they prove that. And I guess construction could begin relatively quickly, but I've heard eight to 10 years to build the whole enchilada, to build the arena, build all the housing, get everything in place. Now maybe that's a pessimistic view. Maybe it could be four years, but it's not like we're going to have a new arena in 20, 22 or something. And that seems unlikely to me, those snapping of fingers and getting it done. Well, I've been speaking with David Garrick who covers city government for the San Diego union Tribune. Thanks Dave. Thanks very much for your time. Speaker 1: 09:35 It takes just a few minutes of your time, but time is running out. The us census takes place every 10 years. It's wrapping up at the end of this month and here in San Diego important door to door work to ensure an accurate population count will end even sooner. This is an unexpected change as we start to get some detailed numbers on local response rates, the San Diego union Tribune, Andrea Lopez via Fanya joins us for an update on local census efforts. Hi Andrea. Hi Mark. Thanks for having me. Well, let's start with a big picture. According to your story, California is at 84% response rate. Is that a good number at this stage? Speaker 3: 10:12 It's definitely a better number than other States. The census Bureau actually just released a list of States and the response rates and California is definitely in the top 20. It went up from 84 to 88% today, Speaker 1: 10:23 And you dive into specific neighborhoods and in your store and you found some areas topping 90% compliance with the census. So what are those places? Speaker 3: 10:33 Yeah. And, and that's great, right? We, we definitely want to be at a hundred percent. Some of those areas where census tracks that represent the neighborhoods of Rancho Penasquitos and, uh, scripts ranch, as well as Carmel Valley and Rancho Bernardo. Speaker 1: 10:46 And what about the other end of the spectrum? Which neighborhoods are lagging in the count so far? Speaker 3: 10:51 What were some of the neighborhoods that advocates say? They, they kind of expect to do, to have lower response rates when it comes to the census. And some of those are areas that have high population of students and as well as rural areas and [inaudible] areas Speaker 1: 11:06 And, uh, any other noteworthy reasons why we'd get a low response in certain areas? Speaker 3: 11:11 Yeah, well, um, it definitely depends, but most, most often, um, there are some things that, you know, make it more difficult for certain residents to fill out the census, whether that be language barriers, even just not having normal address for some people, especially those who live in rural areas. It makes it more difficult for census takers to find these individuals, individuals who live in apartment buildings, it makes it difficult to get into gated communities and things like that. Speaker 1: 11:36 And remind our listeners, why, uh, why is turnout important? What is the census determined beyond a simple population count, Speaker 3: 11:44 Right? And, and it, you know, that this happens every, every 10 years. So it's easy for some of us to forget about it, but basically the census determines how billions of federal get spent and get distributed across different States. Um, so essentially that means, you know, how much money for roads and schools and hospitals and, um, different kinds of projects going to the community you live in. So essentially the less response rates, the less, the lower number of response rates in your community means less resources. Speaker 1: 12:12 Now, some of these reports get a little confusing on when the census is going to end, when workers are going to stop door to door operations and counting people. Normally it's a little later in the fall and this year it's it's earlier, what's, what's the latest from the census Bureau. And then, Speaker 3: 12:28 Right. So, um, originally the census extended their deadline because of everything that was going on with the pandemic, they extended it to the end of October. Then, um, went back from that to the end of September last month, a census representative told community organizations that work on census outreach, that they would be ending there door to door, knocking operations earlier on September 18. Now the census is telling us that they are not ending there door to door operations on September 18th. They are going through September 30th, as well as yourself. Response rates are still available through September 30th. However, some regions may reach their goals of the number of doors they get to knock on earlier than September 30th. Speaker 1: 13:09 All right. So it does get a little confusing. You would think with that, with the virus and all, and that the pandemic, everything that everybody's going through, they shove it back even into next year to get it right, but that's not what's going to happen. Speaker 3: 13:21 Right? And, and recently the census really some numbers as to which areas of San Diego County had enumerators that had gone out and were reaching the houses that they needed to North County reported in 82% of workload that was complete. So that means, uh, numerators were going to all these houses that had not responded on their own. And East County had a 69.6% and parts of San Diego city of San Diego. Cordato, Chulavista had a 63.6%. So those areas still have a lot of work to do. Speaker 1: 13:51 Now this week, NPR reported that the house oversight committee got hold of an internal census document warning that a shortened schedule threatens the quality of the data coming in and around the country, in your discussions with census workers and advocate advocacy groups, what's their take on some of the political maneuvers by the Trump administration and its lasting effect on the credibility of the census. Because after all this all went up to the Supreme court, uh, you know, within the year on questions about questions on the census, it's been political. Speaker 3: 14:23 Yeah. Well, it's definitely made their job harder advocates for one Tommy that, you know, when it comes to the census, it's already difficult to reach some of these hard to count communities, specifically immigrant communities. So it's, it's built a lot of fear, especially when we had, um, you know, the possibility of a citizenship question and, you know, our immigrant population doesn't feel the most comfortable giving information to the government. So it's made their job. The changes in the deadlines have made their jobs harder and covert definitely, you know, they can't do this in person outreach, speaking to the community, uh, going to their homes. So it's made their job harder for sure. Speaker 1: 15:04 Right. And you talk with a co director of a nonprofit with expertise in census work. And what were the specific things that she had to say about the pandemic and how tough it is to follow up with people, especially in rural areas? Speaker 3: 15:15 Yeah. The rural areas are really interesting. Um, she mentioned that a lot of people don't have, you know, ordinary addresses. Sometimes they live in mobile homes or so it's harder for them to even get something in the mail about the census. She said that some people she spoken to in rural parts of San Diego County haven't even gotten any, anything in the mail about filling out a census. She said that normally the in-person outreach that they do is that the casinos, the libraries, the health clinics, and obviously, you know, the casinos were closed for awhile. The health clinics are still open, but it's harder to get in there because there's precautions for COVID and obviously libraries are still closed. So it's just been more difficult. Some of the locations that they usually go to to speak with individuals in rural areas are, you know, just not open. Speaker 1: 15:59 So I'm imagining this big push as we get closer to the deadline and some areas that have already got pretty close to full compliance, will they take some census workers from them and everybody kind of campaign in the areas that are still lagging as we get closer to this deadline coming up. Speaker 3: 16:14 Yeah. And, um, the count me 2020 coalition has identified 23 areas in San Diego County that they want to focus on mostly because, you know, it has a high immigrant population or, um, a diverse, uh, population minority. So they're focusing on areas like city Heights, Logan Heights, Yani kind of neighborhood that usually tends to have a low response rate. Speaker 1: 16:37 Where can people go online to get more information on the census or even completed for their house? Speaker 3: 16:42 Right. Well, again, I, as I might've mentioned earlier, you know, the census, uh, the survey actually just takes a couple of minutes. Um, but people can find it at 20, 20 Speaker 1: 16:52 And it's a pretty simple thing. I've filled it out myself. I'm sure you have. And it really doesn't take much just a matter, you know, we're, we're all procrastinators too, that plays into all this. Right, Speaker 3: 17:02 Right. Definitely. But you know, it, it really does mean so much for our communities and, you know, we don't want to miss out on any kind of opportunity to get another resource in our neighborhoods. Speaker 1: 17:12 I've been speaking with Andrea Lopez via find your reporter for the San Diego union Tribune. Thanks very much. Thank you. The number of people dying at home in San Diego County has increased on average since the pandemic began. Some of those are COVID-19 victims who receive little or no medical care, or who tried getting to a hospital when it was too late. Joining me now is investigative reporter, Mary Plummer of KPBS partner. I knew source Mary, welcome to the round table. Speaker 3: 17:41 Thank you so much for having me. Speaker 1: 17:43 Well, this is a sad and troubling story about a vexing situation at the center of this pandemic. Start with the, how many more people are dying at home in San Diego County. Now, compared with previous years, Speaker 4: 17:54 County keeps track of death location. And when we reviewed County data, we found that the percentage of deaths occurring in homes, uh, as opposed to, you know, in hospitals or other settings Rose from about 35% in 2019 to about 38% this year, since January. And that's an increase from the same time last year of about 630 desks for the time period that we looked at for this story. So it's clear, you know, that the pandemic is playing a role here. We talked with experts and families. Who've lost people to COVID-19, uh, to try to understand kind of what's going on behind closed doors in homes across the County. Speaker 1: 18:32 What are some of the reasons why people who are sick and their families decide not to seek medical care, even though they suspect they've contracted this deadly virus? Speaker 4: 18:41 Well, you know, as, as your listeners know, COVID-19 testing has been a real challenge across California and across the country. I think what's, what's lesser known is the challenge with a false negative COVID-19 tests. In our story, we, we refer to a paper from the Mayo clinic, uh, that published in June that estimated there could be more than 20,000 people in California who received false negative results and false negatives, you know, can discourage people from seeking further medical care. As you start to get more sick, you can have a false sense of confidence that you don't have. The virus research from Johns Hopkins found that COVID-19 tests working at their best, still lead to false negatives about 20% of the time, meaning at least one in five people with the virus received negative test results. So that's certainly one thing that plays a role in people not getting medical help. Another is, is simply gaps and outreach and education from public health officials in San Diego County. Uh, one family who we feature in the story say they were never contacted by a contact tracer. Uh, even though the father of the family tested positive at a public testing site in Escondido, that's not supposed to happen. The County says they are staffed up and equipped to reach out to everyone who tests positive. But, but unfortunately there are some gaps in that, in that system. Speaker 1: 20:02 And it's confusing to lay people to know when they should head to the hospital and when they should just continue to treating themselves at home, right. Speaker 4: 20:09 That's right. You know, symptoms of COVID-19, aren't always severe. Some people can be very sick and seem healthy. Um, healthcare providers frequently tell those who test positive to stay home and isolate from others. Uh, and that can leave a lot of confusion among family members. And those are an, and you know, those who are sick about what to do, um, County public health officials recommend that you should stay in touch with your doctor and go to the hospital or call nine one one. If you were a family member experience, um, difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in your chest. Um, if you, any signs of a bluish tint, the lips or face, or if a sick person, um, you know, either won't wake up or is having trouble staying awake, those can be signs that you need to get immediate help. Speaker 1: 21:01 Now you interviewed several families whose loved ones died of COVID-19 at home. Tell us about Hector Navarro Lopez, who he tried to get medical help. Once he came down with symptoms consistent with COVID-19, right? Speaker 4: 21:13 Yes. A Hector was a 52 year old with no underlying health conditions. I was living in San Marcos. Uh, he has a wife and four children. And, um, he initially, you know, started feeling sick, went to get tested and eventually found out that he had tested positive. And during the course of this, he sought, um, healthcare treatment, uh, at a clinic and was turned away. And that's kind of where his story takes a turn. Um, his wife ended up caring for him and, um, his health took a turn very suddenly. She called nine one one, and he had two heart attacks and died on the way to the hospital. So it was very sudden for the family Speaker 1: 21:56 And the help just never came to this family here when to play a clip of Hector Navarro's Lopez, his wife explaining how help never came. Speaker 5: 22:04 Nobody called me to let me know how to take care of him. Not the County, no, the clinic and the doctor. Nobody, nobody told us anything. Speaker 1: 22:12 Now what did Noemi a Royal Ramirez say? She was told about getting contacted by a doctor after taking her husband to the clinic. Speaker 4: 22:20 So no Emmy's husband did have a phone call with a doctor after that visit to the clinic. The doctor told them to call back once they got the test results. According to Noemi, she did call back to report that he was positive and no one ever returned her call. And you know, that really left her to navigate caring for her husband on her own. She gave him Tylenol. She gave him vitamin C. She told us that she relied really heavily on, on what she'd heard and learned from television. Um, she, she was doing Google searches on our iPad, trying to figure out how to get him the best care that she could at home. And mostly through the process. You know, he seemed okay. He had short spurts of a fever. It was the final morning when he woke up complaining of problems in his legs, um, that she did make that nine 11 call. And, um, it was the last, last moment that she would see him. He walked normally to the stretcher. And then as I mentioned, had had two heart attacks on the way to the hospital. Speaker 1: 23:19 And what's the clinic's response to this situation. Speaker 4: 23:22 Uh, so in a statement, uh, the North County health services, um, which is he had gone to the location in San Marcos, uh, the chief medical officer there said that its clinics have been committed to caring for the community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Uh, they declined to comment on Hector's care specifically, but they said that they began screening patients symptoms early on to protect others from the virus. Speaker 1: 23:48 Now we've seen these tragic stories play out here and in cities, across the country, since the pandemic began, uh, the questions are tough, right? When should patients seek medical care? It's a, it's a tough call a lot of times, Speaker 4: 24:01 Right? And some of the details that I mentioned earlier, I think are really important for families to be aware of when you're home, you do want to keep in close contact with your doctor, for sure. And I think remembering that, you know, COVID-19 sometimes, um, things can progress very quickly. Certainly. Um, if you notice any changes of color in the face, that's a time to immediately reach out, um, and get help, or, um, if there's any sorts of trouble breathing or if the person is having trouble, either staying awake or is unreal. Speaker 1: 24:31 And finally you reviewed San Diego County medical examiner records for this story. What did they reveal about public health risks and the pandemic? Speaker 4: 24:40 My news source was really the first news organization to take a deep dive into the medical examiner records. And, um, what they reveal is, is really kind of the devastating final moments for folks who were not able to get medical help. And they show some stories of people who died with no, no medical help at all, or people who received very little medical care and died of COVID-19. And in many cases, these are folks who died alone without any guidance or without folks around them to help. So I think they really underscore the potential dangers of COVID-19. Certainly this is a small slice of people who can track the virus, but the consequences can be incredibly serious. Speaker 1: 25:22 Well, they certainly can. And of course, everybody is hoping that this is temporary, the treatments improve, and eventually we get a vaccine. It's just such a tough time. I've been speaking with a news source reporter, Mary Plummer. Thanks, Mary. Thank you so much. That wraps up another week of stories at the KPBS round table. I'd like to thank my guests, David Garrick of the San Diego union Tribune, Mary Plummer of I new source and Andrea Lopez via Fanya of the union Tribune. A reminder, all the stories we discussed today are available on our website, I'm Mark Sauer. Thanks for listening today and join us again next week on the round table.

A new poll shows a tight race between the two candidates for San Diego Mayor, time is running out to complete the 2020 Census, and more people in San Diego County are dying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.