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Restaurant Resistance Of COVID-19 Rules

Cover image for podcast episode

PHOTO BY NICHOLAS MCVICKER

Above: A sign is shown in a Carlsbad restaurant defying orders to close down in-person dining on January 5, 2021.

Local restaurants declare defiance of COVID-19 a peaceful protest, how San Diego's Spanish-speaking community is reacting to the end of the Trump era, and the leader of the San Diego Unified School District is chosen for a high-ranking position in the Biden administration.

Speaker 1: 00:01 He spoke protests, not in the streets, but in North County restaurants, the new resistance to pandemic health orders undoing the Trump legacy on immigration. President Joe Biden makes it a day, one priority reaction from our Spanish speaking community on this major shift in us policy and the sudden change at the top for San Diego's public schools, the district loses its leader during a challenging time. I Mark sour, the KPBS round table starts. Now

Speaker 2: 00:36 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 00:40 Welcome to our discussion of the weak stop stories. I'm Mark Sauer and joining me on this remote edition of the round table report, a Kayla Jimenez, a voice of San Diego KPBS education reporter Joe Hong and Lily O'Hara editorial director for the UT and Espanol. America welcomes a new president this weekend. We'll devote much of our show to that step forward in our history. But first the urgent threat that now transcends two administrations, the COVID-19 pandemic and how we're facing the grim challenge, where now more than a month into our latest lockdown, and some businesses are putting up what they call their own peaceful protest by opening their doors to in-person dining in violation of public health orders. Kayla Jimenez is covering this for the voice of San Diego, and she joins us here again on the round table. Hi Kayla. Hi Mark. Thanks for having me back. Well, the headline of your in-depth piece is how Carlsbad restaurants became ground zero for coronavirus defiance set the scene for us and why this part of the County stands out.

Speaker 3: 01:38 Yeah. So when I went to, um, Carlsbad village last Thursday was pretty clear to see defiance from these restaurants against state health orders, and they were pretty open for outdoor dining service, even though that's supposed to be closed down since San Diego County is in the purple tier. Um, many of these restaurants in Carlsbad were publicly flouting those rules by doing that and calling that a peaceful protest. And you could see those signs up that have their doors. It's not really a secret that many restaurants across the County are defying. Those orders can even drive down the Hoya and see that, but it seemed to be a coordinated effort by a lot of the restaurants in Carlsbad, um, organized that they had these signs that it was a peaceful protest, but there is some news Carlsbad city council actually voted on this Tuesday to increase enforcement notebooks, restaurants. So that is something new.

Speaker 1: 02:32 They are arguing. It's some kind of constitutional right. They've got the signs out there and maybe feel there's strength in numbers. Has, have we seen much enforcement so far or is it too soon since that vote by the County?

Speaker 3: 02:44 Yeah, too soon to tell so far and Sanitas did a similar action recently. Um, they threatened to take away those outdoor permits, where restaurants are holding, um, outdoor dining on public property. And Anthony did see some results, some people compliance and some didn't. So it's going to take some time to see, and I'll be watching what happens with that.

Speaker 1: 03:08 And so far though, uh, in Carlsbad, they're, uh, they're sticking to their, their protests. Now the phrase peaceful protest, it alludes to the scenes we saw last summer, as it relates to social and racial justice. Now, was that intentional? Are they trying to equate the two causes here and the link on kind of, kind of piggyback on that?

Speaker 3: 03:26 You know, that's a good question. I've been thinking about that one a lot. Um, it wasn't clear. I talked to Michael Curran who represents several businesses, um county-wide but about 60 of them in Carlsbad, and he's been advising those businesses to call it a peaceful protest and say that if they're not traditional right, to be open and kind of have the sign up, but other legal experts that we talked to who are tasked with enforcing that order have kind of disagreed with that interpretation and said, if they're engaging in civil disobedience, then they're accepting the fact that they are violating that law.

Speaker 1: 04:00 You know, and it's a tough thing. I mean, it sounds like it could, or, you know, probably will end up in court at some point, but uh, everybody wants these restaurants open and everybody wants the pandemic under control. Everybody wants vaccines to be granted. I mean, the goal long-term is the same for everyone, but here we are caught in this, in this in-between time. And some of those taking part in their peaceful protest, they've got support in high places, North County supervisor, Jim Desmond is often criticizing these restrictions. How is, how have his actions given these businesses, the confidence to do their own thing? Uh, at least for the time being when it comes to COVID-19.

Speaker 3: 04:36 Yeah, since may I'm counting supervisor just as men has positioned himself as one of the most high profile skeptics of business closures due to coronavirus and has been actively supporting businesses remaining open, um, he represents Carlsbad and other swaths of North County and has encouraged them to violate those rules. And he prays the compass and some other restaurants in Carlsbad for staying open as well.

Speaker 1: 05:00 And the, the crux of that argument for Desmon and these, uh, restaurant owners is that, uh, science isn't really showing that these major outbreaks and the surge we've seen in these cases and hospitalizations and deaths, unfortunately can be traced specifically to restaurants. There's other businesses, there's family, family gatherings over the holidays. I mean, isn't that the basis of their argument,

Speaker 3: 05:23 Right? And he's also saying that the businesses have no choice, but to be open and they're, um, going to falter and those people are suffering employees and those business owners.

Speaker 1: 05:33 So, uh, again, looking at the scene that these North County restaurants are, they're busy. A lot of people supporting them at this at this point, uh, or the patrons coming back to some extent,

Speaker 3: 05:43 It definitely did seem like there was heavy traffic at these restaurants. Um, there were a lot of people that were outdoor dining specifically, and then I even walked into Moskvina container, which is on state street and there were people inside of the bar. So it did seem like there was a lot of support for the restaurants being open by the residents in town who are still in supportive, going out and feel comfortable doing

Speaker 1: 06:07 So some division there, you've got some patrons going and supporting the businesses and others complaining. They should be shut down.

Speaker 3: 06:14 Right. You can definitely see the tension there.

Speaker 1: 06:16 Now, a County supervisors recently decided to step up COVID-19 enforcement. And you mentioned that, uh, the locally up there and, uh, in Carlsbad and that area, uh, also, uh, voted that way, uh, would that apply to these businesses in Carlsbad? What action can be taken or has been taken elsewhere?

Speaker 3: 06:33 Yeah. So this does apply to Carlsbad. They voted last week to increase enforcement against businesses and other entities that are not complying with the coronavirus related public health orders. And now their compliance team is being tasked with conducting proactive inspections, investigating complaints, and citing businesses for violating the rules. Um, I talked to the Carlsbad police department and a spokeswoman from there told me that that team has already served 32 cease and desist orders in Carlsbad since December. So they're seeing that, and then they're passing over the police department is passing over those cases. If those restaurants are choosing not to close to the district attorney's office,

Speaker 1: 07:17 So they can give some criminal sanctions, as well as, uh, imagine the County has their licenses, they can shut them down. Right, right now, the pandemic itself, how's it playing out in Carlsbad. We hear a lot about hard hit areas of San Ysidro national city. The South Bay has really been hit bad. What's the situation in North County.

Speaker 3: 07:34 Yeah. There's definitely a rise in coronavirus cases and hops realizations happening in North County, along with the rest of the region, but not as many in Carlsbad as other areas of North County, like Escondida, which has been hit, um, significantly hard in the past few weeks.

Speaker 1: 07:51 Now you mentioned, uh, complaints, uh, how these are brought to the attention. Of course, we talked about signs at the outset and the fact that the restaurants are just open anybody going by any police officers certainly can tell if they're open. Do you know if they're getting a lot of complaints and, and who is the who's the parties that are complaining? Yeah.

Speaker 3: 08:07 Was kind of interesting to watch it. The city council meeting and Carlsbad this week that a lot of citizens were calling for their businesses to be closed in their neighborhoods. And so I know that they have reported them specifically in Carlsbad.

Speaker 1: 08:19 I mean, it's such an interesting tension because in normal times these would be their customers. We'd all like to go out to a restaurant or have a drink in a bar these days. And, you know, it's all part of the sacrifice we've all been living with. And these business owners of course are directly hit and their livelihoods are on the line. No other stories you're pursuing when it comes to COVID-19 situation in North County, anything you're keeping an eye on in the days and weeks ahead.

Speaker 3: 08:42 Yeah. I'm definitely keeping track of the enforcement on restaurants and coming weeks. And then, um, specifically on school reopenings and closures, I've been keeping it pretty tight eye on that.

Speaker 1: 08:52 Well, we can only hope for good news on, uh, vaccinations and the numbers coming down, both in new cases. And of course, hospitalizations and deaths is such a tough time, right? I've been speaking with Kayla Jimenez, the North County reporter for voice of San Diego. Thanks very much, Kayla, thank you. This is a week of renewal and reflection for our country. The swearing in of a new president doesn't solve problems, but it offers the nation a new approach. If you have experienced the past four years like Latinos across the country, the Trump era saw the demonizing and separation of immigrant families. The fight to build a border wall, the disproportionate impact of the pandemic and the uncertain future for dreamers, president Joe Biden, dramatically address some of those issues on day one. Joining me is Lily O'Hara editorial director for the San Diego union Tribune, Spanish language platform, UTI and Espanol Lillia. Welcome to the round table.

Speaker 4: 09:47 Hello, good afternoon. Well,

Speaker 1: 09:49 First off, what was your reaction to watching the inauguration this week and the departure of former president Trump?

Speaker 4: 09:55 Well, Cindy noncooperation, you know, as much as we try to be objective and not to have any opinion or the fact where the ceremony itself was very emotive when I started scene and they just had all these feelings that I didn't realize how nice this will be proud to feel part of this country and to be an American and to have this nice symbolic ceremony. And it works. You're beautiful, I guess, and know a couple, you know, you're for me, but for everybody who was able to see it,

Speaker 1: 10:24 And president Biden took several actions on day one, as I mentioned, he changed deportation priorities. He halted work on the border wall. He ended, Trump's attempt to exclude undocumented people from the census, underscored his support for the dreamers. And he's rolling out major immigration reform. What's your take on the impact of Biden's dramatic change in direction and approach?

Speaker 4: 10:44 Well, I guess this year's one that shows that it has the thrill in truly intention to take the country nanny fitted into different detection. And for example, usually in the first day where you're waiting to see the articles about the ball and what fashion the first ladies are using and all that kind of studies, and yesterday was crazy. It was going to study after another, after another, and we just have to keep up. And, and, uh, so many of the studies were in the immigration area. So there was also something that it was a little bit of sort of Bryce, but then he works all of these 17, um, eh, documents that he signed it. And he was like, just show immediately that he was ready to start from the beginning and at like six o'clock and say, Oh, well I hope he really going to sleep cause discussing the long day, the first day. So there was really, it was, I've seen it from the journalistic point of view. It was really great to see all this action in the first day. I guess I couldn't see something like that since I've been doing this show.

Speaker 1: 11:49 I wonder if the reporters got any sleep too, because as you, it was story after story unimportant issue is day one. Now a bust of labor rights icon sees our child is sat behind president Biden during his first day in the oval office. What kind of support does the president have with Hispanic communities? He is a trusted figure or is there some work to do or do they just not know him yet?

Speaker 4: 12:12 Well, I guess he got the throat because he got the boat. Uh, he's there to, because I mean in the whole country, like about ho uh, hyper sensational, we Latinos that support him. That's why he got, we depressive them because now we have a stronger voice that we used to have independently of that. I guess he has a Cesar Chavez in his office, but he also have Dr. Martin Luther King and Rosa park, and some other art that you should present the inclusivity and the social, your cities that he brought me said in the campaign. So hopefully he will be, seems to be going in the direction to, to fulfill the promises he did. And I guess in that way, the Latinos may see that. And, uh, we just see it with immigration, uh, rules that he's starting to put in the, the opening for the immigration reform that the Latino community and activists and groups have been asking for years to, for that to happen, any trading happened. And so the list here, uh, of course we need to work out the details that will be coming the next week, but that was yours, I guess, a strong showing in his part that he's really willing to work in this inclusivity in the country.

Speaker 1: 13:24 And it couldn't be more different from the Trump administration. Donald Trump famously came down the escalator and called all Mexicans rapists and denigrated, uh, uh, uh, people from Latin America throughout the four years. And I won't recount all the things we've talked about here and you've written about, but, uh, it was a different time and it looks like a completely fresh start here now.

Speaker 4: 13:47 Yes, it is a preface study is, um, it's culpable. I mean, you just hope that it goes in the right direction and, uh, it's a different era. Hopefully it keeps going that way.

Speaker 1: 13:57 And one other thing on day one, the Biden administration brought back the Spanish language version of the official white house website taken down by president. Trump may seem like a small thing to a lot of people, but, uh, it really is kind of a signal. Is it not have a more inclusive tone?

Speaker 4: 14:12 Of course it's a sign. I mean, Obama had it and then Trump to remove it. And of course I saw it yesterday and they said the Spanish fourth and let's see it. And, uh, and you know, I'm also part of the Spanish editors association. And this morning we were checking like how well it's done. And actually it's a very high quality translation that they are doing. And I guess that also chose to respect that the government is having for the Latino community, because sometimes where you don't, you are not careful about the quality and how you're using certain language. I guess it shows that you used to add because you have to do it for any other reason, but in this case, it's a very good side. The Spanish studies use it is very good Spanish and a very good sign out to the Latino community.

Speaker 4: 14:57 Also, I guess it's important for a source to have information in the original language of a group, because for example, some people may question in the Latino community, the media, we put this information and we tell you that it's the truth and is precise. But if the government has information from the beginning, that language people don't go and see, ah, this media is good because you see, they didn't treat anything that is the ultimate state. So he's one of the values, I guess, that he has to have original source in the arena in a song specific language. And hopefully later will be, I mean, Latino side of the biggest group in the minority in the country, but later maybe, maybe include Filipinos Chinese or any other language that also comes out representation, representation of the country.

Speaker 1: 15:45 Well, I'm glad you brought that up. That's a really interesting point about the quality of the translation is non speak Spanish speaker myself. I never would have guessed that I learned something there. No. Another piece of history we saw this week was in the Senate, former secretary of state in California. Alex Padilla is now Senator Padilla taking over from vice president, Kamala Harris, her old seat. Uh, he's California's first Latino us. Senator your thoughts on this? Um, the significant first for California.

Speaker 4: 16:11 Yeah, well, you know, the Latinos we were here before everybody else. So we've been at the, by Mexicans too, then we've gained and, uh, to have a Latino by the first time as a Senator is the greatest step. And one important thing I think is not that he's Latino. He's good at what he does because all the previous jobs that he had having in Los Angeles and the secretary of state, he has been effective in what he does. And I guess he's not representing Latinos presenting all California, but he's perfectly able to do it. And we also have Mr. Javier Bissera now for being part of the federal government. So I guess there are two great examples. So how the Latinos are raising or they have been able, and the government has support all these people to, to show what they can do. And even we know they can do it, but sometimes they don't get the opportunity. But I guess that vision of being more inclusive, they have a social USP. Some be more fair with whatever is able to, whoever is able to do some jobs to invite them to work and work for everybody, I guess is just great.

Speaker 1: 17:21 Well, plenty to cover going forward on the new Biden team in English and Spanish for all of us, I've been speaking with Lily O'Hara editorial director for the UT Annette spaniel. Thanks very much, Lily. Thank you very much. As president of Joe, Biden's settles into the oval office, San Diego's top educators heading East to join the new administration, Cindy Martin superintendent of the San Diego unified school district since 2013 will now hold the number two job at the U S department of education, Senate confirmation, and KPBS education reporter Joe Hong joins me now, Joe, good to have you back on the round table. Thanks for having me. Well, first did the news of Cindy Martin getting this big job in the department of education, come as a complete surprise where the rumors going around the district,

Speaker 5: 18:04 You know, I, I hadn't heard anything and, and you know, I have to say it was a surprise, but you know, if you think about it, it really isn't, she's not a completely surprising choice. Uh, considering that San Diego unified is one of the largest school districts in the country and considering her experience here, um, it sort of makes sense, uh, to choose someone with their background.

Speaker 1: 18:27 It's the second biggest, uh, uh, district behind LA in California. And of course she's been there seven years and solid experience on the job now, how did, uh, Cindy Martin land this job? And do we even know, does she know her new boss, Miguel Cardona, the Connecticut commissioner of education that Biden Pickfords the new secretary of education? Was she angling for this job?

Speaker 5: 18:49 Yeah. You know, that's hard to say that the district and Martin have been pretty tight lips since the announcement. I don't know if she and Cardona had a, had a prior working relationship, but in the announcement Biden said that, uh, she, he sort of praised her success with raising, uh, test scores and graduation rates in San Diego unified. And it seems to indicate a desire to sort of scale up for success at San Diego unified into sort of, uh, the, the national arena.

Speaker 1: 19:18 And, uh, what do we know about this job? It's deputy secretary of education. It's a big job. It's not the top job, but it's right up there, right? Yes.

Speaker 5: 19:26 So it's, it's the second in command at the department of education at the federal level. So it can really range from everything from, um, you know, managing federal funding for public schools to overseeing special education policy, which is also sort of dictated at the, at the national level

Speaker 1: 19:45 Or so she and her new boss, assuming they're both going to be confirmed, uh, follow a very controversial, um, secretary of education and the Trump administration, Betsy DeVos. So, and, uh, I imagine there'll be taking it in a whole new door.

Speaker 5: 19:58 That's right. Yeah. So, uh, that's the device, you know, she was very, you know, pro school choice, uh, an advocate for charter and private options and, you know, Devoss was not an ally of, of teacher's unions. Uh, she was very critical of sort of the, the pool political sway that unions have in this country. And Martin, uh, at least has a very different sort of approach in all of those areas. So it'll be interesting to see the contrast,

Speaker 1: 20:28 Right. And Martin Hartley ran to the microphones following her announcement. What, what, what can we glean about what she'd do in the job? What should be the education department's priorities, according to Martin's most recent state of the district address? For instance?

Speaker 5: 20:41 Yeah, I think, uh, I think the key word for Cindy Martin has always been been equity. So that, that just means giving the most vulnerable students, the resources they need to sort of level the playing field. And so I think we'll see her continuing to push for that at the national level. I think she will continue to be a voice for, uh, for struggling students, uh, historically marginalized populations. And she, and I think she is sort of looking ahead and, uh, trying to find new ways to sort of, to serve students better.

Speaker 1: 21:19 And what kind of legacy to Cindy Martin Lee as she moves on from the superintendent's job, uh, here in San Diego? Uh, I don't know if she was universally loved. I don't know if anybody in that job, it's always a lightning rod job when you're dealing with, uh, teachers and unions and, and students. And of course COVID, uh, it's been a tough time for any superintendent in a big school.

Speaker 5: 21:40 Yeah. I, you know, I, and this is sort of an opportunity to qualify. Like, um, she, she has been a vocal proponent for educational equity, but, you know, she has drawn a lot of criticism in like, like a lot of educational leaders right now for how, how the, the pandemic has been managed. You know, a lot of parents wanted her to reopen schools saying that students who were struggling the most before the pandemic are getting hit the hardest during distance learning and things like that. And there was a recent study that was published last year or 2019 showing disproportionate suspension and expulsion rates for African-American students in the district. You know, this is something that, uh, San Diego unified as well as a lot of other districts in the country have, have just struggled with. I mentioned that, uh, Biden and making his announcement sort of praise Martin for raising test scores and graduation rates. I, I reported, uh, in 2019, um, when a national test scores came out and state test scores came out that the achievement gap, um, between students at low-income schools or schools in low income neighborhoods versus their counterparts in higher income neighborhoods, did the, the gap was growing. The, the test scores were getting better, uh, in these wealthier neighborhoods, but at some schools, uh, the test scores were, were actually getting worse. So, you know, Martin has been sort of this, uh, vocal champion for, for equity, but, uh, the district has continued to struggle then.

Speaker 1: 23:15 Well, she certainly, with your years experience as a teacher and now as an administrator will bring a lot of hands-on experience to the job that of course, uh, Betsy Devoss did not have no background at all really, and came from a wealthy family and wealthy donor background and not much else to bring to the job. So if nothing else she'll at least have that experience along with the education secretary himself, who was a commissioner there in Connecticut.

Speaker 5: 23:41 Yeah, absolutely. You know, Cindy Martin's background, she was a principal for many years at central elementary in city Heights and there she, she started a bi-literacy program, started a gardening program. So yeah, like you said, she really does have that hands-on experience of being an educator.

Speaker 1: 24:00 Who's going to replace any Martin in this job here in San Diego, which is enormously complicated as we say, by the endemic and remote learning for the time being at least.

Speaker 5: 24:09 Uh, so her, her temporary replacement is Lamont Jackson he's, um, an area superintendent basically overseeing the S the subsection of the school district that includes, uh, Morris high school in Southeast San Diego, Mira Mesa, high school and Claremont high school. And, uh, so far they have him as interim superintendent until the end of this calendar year. So they have some time to find Martins permanent successor.

Speaker 1: 24:39 So then we're gonna permanently look for somebody, the famous nationwide search is that about to be commenced?

Speaker 5: 24:46 Sure. Yeah. Um, the, the district hasn't really released any details of what that search is going to look like, but, you know, I don't know if it's going to be nationwide. Um, like, like I mentioned, Cindy Martin, uh, started her career locally and, and came up the ranks in San Diego unified. So, um, her successor might be coming from closer to home too.

Speaker 1: 25:07 Yeah. And of course, complicating it is travel and getting, uh, candidates in and zoom meetings and everything else we're dealing with now, not just in the classroom. Yeah, absolutely. Well, we'll see what happens. It's going to be, uh, interesting follow-up stories as we go through the rest of this year and whoever replaces us, Cindy Martin, as she moves on to Washington.

Speaker 5: 25:25 Yeah. Just, uh, just another education story to follow.

Speaker 1: 25:28 There we go. Well, it's a busy beat. I've been speaking with KPBS education reporter, Joe Hong. Thanks very much, Joe. Thanks for having me that wraps up another week of stories at the KPBS round table. I'd like to thank my guests. Kayla He-Man is a voice of San Diego, Joe Hong of KPBS news and Lily O'Hara of the San Diego union Tribune. A reminder, all the stories we discussed at air available on our website, kpbs.org. I'm Mark Sauer. Thanks for listening and join us again next week on the round table.

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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.