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Roundtable: The top stories of 2021

 December 17, 2021 at 12:00 PM PST

Speaker 1: (00:00)

This week on K PBS Roundtable, the moments that shape 2021 in San Diego, vaccines, misinformation, insurrection, and a failed recall. We review a year of countless big stories, the right to privacy. When on trial, how far can local prosecutors go? When it comes to surveillance inside of the legal system and make room a new kit, San Diego's newest soccer club lands one of the sports biggest stars. I'm Matt Hoffman, and this is K PBS round table.

Speaker 2: (00:41)

This is not dissent it's disorder. It's chaos. It borders on sedition.

Speaker 3: (00:50)

We will never give up. We will never concede it doesn't happen. You don't concede when there's theft involved, but you have to go home. Now we have to have peace. I come, da Harris do

Speaker 2: (01:02)

Solely swear. Hi, Joseph Robin Biden, Jr. Do solemnly swear. Congratulations, Mr. President,

Speaker 1: (01:12)

The resolution says misinformation surrounding coronavirus is prolonging the pandemic and potentially deadly for San Diegos. It's all been a big

Speaker 4: (01:21)

You're disrupting is a huge scam. You're creating a crisis

Speaker 1: (01:26)

That isn't there. Supervisors ultimately voted three to two to adopt the resolution.

Speaker 4: (01:30)

I believe that the masks work, I believe that the vaccine works. I believe that we have. And so I am not going to back down from doing what I believe is

Speaker 5: (01:48)

Right. No is not the only thing that was expressed tonight. We said yes to all those things that we hold dear as Californians. And I would argue as Americans, economic justice, social justice, racial J justice, environmental justice, our values, where California's made so much progress. All of those things were on the ballot this evening.

Speaker 1: (02:12)

Those are just some of the sounds from this year's biggest moments in news. A new president was sworn in just days after an attack on the us capital California's governor fought back after a recall effort that included a former San Diego mayor. And even with the rollout of a vaccine misinformation around COVID 19 stunted progress toward ending the pandemic here to reflect on some of the years biggest stories and a few that were maybe overlooked as Marisa Lagos. She's a correspondent for public media station, K Q E D, up in the bay area. And she's the host of the political breakdown podcast. Welcome back, Marisa. Thanks so much for having me, of course. All right. Let's start with the story that touches sort of everything COVID 19. We would've loved to be talking about this in the past tense at this point, but it's still very much with us, especially with the new Amron variant that people are closely watching. Do you think it's surprising that this has dragged on this long?

Speaker 6: (03:04)

I mean, I think , if, if, if nothing else disappointing, right, we all sort of thought that this would be in the rear view mirror a year ago because the vaccines were rolling out. Um, but you know, I do think we have to acknowledge in California the, the job that it has been done. I mean, some 70% of the state is vaccinated in the city. I'm in San Francisco. It's more like 80%, uh, kids are getting vaccinated and, you know, like everywhere else that we heard at the top, this has really been caught up in the sort of national politics in the moment we're in. But I, I, I do think California, you know, is, is poised to be in a better spot than a lot of places is. And I'm sure the governor hopes. So because, you know, we just had this masks coming back and all the things, and, and I don't think that that is the kind of conversation Democrats wanna be having when the midterms hit next fall.

Speaker 1: (03:51)

The state's COVID 19 dashboard shows that 70% of residents are fully vaccinated, yet conflicts and pushback on everything from vaccines to mask STR have a significant amount of coverage. San Diego county supervisors, even declared misinformation, a public health crisis city council and school board meetings have been especially nasty. Are, do you think we're a new territory when it comes to debate and civility? I mean, what do you think sort of unlocked this?

Speaker 6: (04:15)

I mean, it certainly feels like that. And, and, and I think it's been really heightened by this pandemic, but, you know, looking back the past four, 10 years or, or so, I mean, a lot of the writing was on the wall, so to speak around just how partisan things became at the national level first to some extent, and then trickling down. I mean, I do think that, you know, often it's not representative some of these fights at school board meetings and everything, a of a broader population. Like if you look at polling, often the squeaky wheel gets the grease, but I think there's a lot of communities that are really struggling with this. Um, particularly more rural areas of the state, uh, Shasta county for example, is, you know, attempts at recalling sort of supervisors. There. We have recall attempts against district attorneys in San Francisco, in LA our school board in San Francisco. Um, so I, I don't know what unlocked it initially, but it certainly seems like it's gonna continue happening.

Speaker 1: (05:06)

COVID 19 was central to perhaps the biggest story on your beat, the California recall in the end, governor Gavin Newsom cruised his way to victory.

Speaker 5: (05:15)

And so I'm humbled and grateful to the millions and millions of Californians that exercised their fundamental right to vote and express themselves. So overwhelmingly by rejecting the division by rejecting the C by rejecting so much of the negativity, that's defined our politics in this country over the course of so many years.

Speaker 1: (05:39)

Now that we're behind that, what was your biggest takeaway for, from that recall saga?

Speaker 6: (05:43)

Honestly, that it didn't change very much. I mean, if you look at the, just the sheer numbers percentages that Newsom, you know, got out of that, it was very similar to the vote in 2018 when he was first elected, uh, Democrats have, you know, a two to one advantage of Republicans in this state. And despite a lot of, you know, the anger we just talked about over COVID lockdowns and other restrictions, despite frustration over real serious issues that California's facing, right? Homelessness, drug, addiction, violence. I, I, I just don't think that anything that happened really changed the fundamental dynamics of the politics. And I think it leaves Newsom quite frankly, in a stronger position heading into next year.

Speaker 1: (06:20)

Well, as you mentioned, Newsom will be on the ballot again next year, given the results of the recall. Do you think that there's a Republican who can pose a serious challenge here? You know,

Speaker 6: (06:29)

I, I do, but, but maybe not given the state of the California G O P what we saw in the recall was a real splintering. You know, initially Kevin Faulkner for my San Diego mayor really look like the favorite. And then you had Larry elder jump in and really the base, especially those who supported president Donald Trump really coalesced behind him. And the other candidates were kind of left with table scraps. So I don't know if the G O P wants to come in and sort of annoy a natural candidate for next year. I know Faulkner or has hinted that he's still interested, but I do think given those same voter demographics and, and voter registration stats, I just mentioned they won't be able to do that unless they can find somebody who can cross over and be attractive to independent voters, maybe even some more conservative Democrats. And that's not what we saw in the recall.

Speaker 1: (07:15)

K Q E DS Marisa Lagos is here talking with us about all the big stories of 2021. Now let's go to the other end of the spectrum. What's something that you feel was maybe overlooked as a story or a topic in 21. What is something that should have been a bigger story in your opinion? You know,

Speaker 6: (07:31)

This is kind of a downer, but I really do feel like the fentanyl crisis has not gained the attention that it probably should give and how many people are dying across the nation. Um, I think that drug addiction in general was, you know, already such a huge challenge in our society and, and, and so many mental health and substance abuse challenges were really just increased by the pandemic. And so I do hope that that's an area that we focus more on. I think it's sometimes not one, you know, it's not fun to talk about. And it's certainly not always people who are kind of, you know, people on the margins who are, who are suffering from this, but I know in San Francisco, it is, it is really hurting people. And I, and I hope that we can find some space for that in 22.

Speaker 1: (08:15)

Yeah. Speaking of 22, we're about to head into that new year. There'll be some new laws on the books is the, or something that you think deserves more attention coming up in the new year, be it in California or elsewhere. I mean, one

Speaker 6: (08:25)

Thing I really wanna dig in on is this question of crime and, and sort of what is driving it in California, as much as we can answer that there's a big political debate, kind of royaling the state and, and nationally over some of these organized retail thefts and others, a, of the criminal justice reforms that, you know, have taken place in California over the past decade or two are being challenged by folks that feel like they're the reason for, uh, increases in crime, even though we're seeing increases nationally. And so to me, I think that kind of getting into the nuance of those, um, statistics and, and, and looking at it objectively is gonna be really important as we go into these elections, because we know that that is an issue that can often drive politics and, and, and change, you know, the course of

Speaker 1: (09:08)

The state. Well, we definitely wanna say thank you for being part of round table here in 2021, all the best to you and our call colleagues over there at K Q E D in the new year ahead. I've been speaking with Marisa Lago, she's the host of the political breakdown podcast. And thank you so much for your time. Thank you.

Speaker 6: (09:23)

Have a great new year.

Speaker 1: (09:32)

When a person is arrested. One of the first things they're told they have the right to remain silent, but does that person also have a right to privacy? And if so, where San Diego county's district attorney is making changes to a controversial practice of secretly recording defendants inside of court settings, they say that it's perfectly legal. So why are they stopping our guest? Greg Moran covered this story for the San Diego union Tribune. He's here to tell us all about it. Welcome back, Greg. Hi Matt. Okay. Before we dive into the surveillance here, give us a brief overview of this case. It involves Melissa James and Ian

Speaker 7: (10:04)

Bushy, right? So in March of 2019, a 63 year old woman in Carlsbad named Marjorie GoIT was, you know, frankly, brutally murdered in her home. She was, uh, during a burglary, she was, uh, attacked and suffered 142 stab or slash or puncture wounds, including 50 or 60 stab wounds, a short time thereafter, about 10, 12 hours later, the Carlsbad police arrested two people, Melissa James and Ian bushy. There were transients were living in an encampment by the lagoon and brought them in, uh, Melissa James, uh, essentially confessed. Uh, Ian bushy was, uh, did not, but they ended up, uh, deciding to charge both of them with, uh, first degree murder in the, uh, killing of, of, uh, miss GoIT.

Speaker 1: (10:54)

A tactic by prosecutors was to put them together in head of a room and record them in case they said anything about this alleged crime. Can you describe that setting?

Speaker 7: (11:02)

Right. So what happened was the morning of the arraignment, which is the first court appearance for anybody charged in a crime. They had a, a meeting of investigators and prosecutors involved in the case, and they decided that while they had a lot of information and evidence against Melissa to James, they wanted more against Ian bushy and they decided that way they would do that would be setting up what they, uh, referred to as a listening operation, a kind of Aine term, uh, for what followed they decided they would put listening devices, essentially bug a portion of a courtroom in Vista, put both of the defendants in there, turn the recording on and listen to what they said. That's where they set up this, um, dropping operation.

Speaker 1: (11:46)

And Greg were the detainees allowed to be recorded here. I mean, a jail is one thing, but how does that extend to like a meeting room inside of a courthouse?

Speaker 7: (11:53)

Well, that was gonna be the question in this case. I can tell you that the defense attorneys for Melissa James said that, uh, when they learned about this, uh, said that it was an outrageous, uh, government misconduct because their point among many was courtrooms are neutral settings. There aren't really venues for assembling ever, or gathering evidence. There really places where evidence is presented and weighed and facts are deduced from it. And conclusions are made. It's not, uh, an arm of law enforcement. Now, the prosecutors though said that this particular area in this particular courtroom is, uh, technically a holding cell at it's a holding area. It's no it's under the control of the San Diego Sheriff's department and is really no different than a jail cell. The question in this case was, does that apply to a space inside a courtroom here?

Speaker 1: (12:47)

I'm talking with Greg Moran, he's a reporter for the San Diego union Tribune. And Greg, you also reached out to the district attorney office for this story. Uh, what did they tell you?

Speaker 7: (12:56)

They said a couple of things. They said, uh, very, uh, forcefully that this is a lawful operation, that this is not anything, uh, that was, uh, sneaky or so repetitious or pushed the envelope. They defend the legality of it. And as they did in their court papers and in their pleading enduring hearings on this, they said, there's nothing wrong with it. However, having said that, uh, they, they told me we're not gonna do this again. It, and in fact, they said it shouldn't have happened. Uh, back then in 2000, uh, 19

Speaker 1: (13:28)

Now defense lawyers have claimed that the DA's office tried to cover up evidence of these recordings. What was their argument there, or what did they find?

Speaker 7: (13:36)

Well, that was very interesting. So, as I said, the, the defense attorney knew that this had happened in 2019. And then earlier this year, when it became apparent that the case was going to go to trial after many months and the COVID interruption and things like that, they raised this issue again and claiming that their clients, uh, right to privacy had been violated among other things. They had a hearing on this in, uh, April, 2019. And it was during that hearing that the defense learned that there had been text messages and communications between the prosecutor on the case, uh, investigators, the Carlsbad police, they realized that, or they saw that there had been five text messages that had been deleted. Those five messages came the night before. And the day of this listening operation in 2019. And they were from the prosecutor or to the prosecutor from investigators and detectives with the Carlsbad police department, they had been erased, no one had, uh, asked what was in them or why they were erased. Uh, they were missing that led the defense to think that there was something unflattering or, uh, damaging on those texts and that, uh, the district's attorney's office had taken step, or at least the prosecutor had taken steps to, uh, conceal that

Speaker 1: (14:54)

Someone who pleaded guilty to murder, isn't likely to draw a lot of sympathy from the general public, but in general, why are these questions about surveillance valid, you know, regardless of the nature of a case?

Speaker 7: (15:04)

Well, you, you know, I think it gets back to that, uh, concept or that, that issue I mentioned earlier, which is, you know, court rooms I think are different than, uh, the holding tank in a courthouse or a jail cell or the back of a police car. They are really forums or, or, or places where that are neutral ground. And I think the concern here is essentially co-opting the court system or the courthouse to be an agent of law enforcement, or at least in league, even if it was only for a half hour an hour with law enforcement that as the defense said in their papers, you know, puts a, a thumb on the scale of justice,

Speaker 1: (15:46)

The other defendant in this case, Ian bushy, he's going to trial what's next for him. And do we know if this surveillance issue will be brought back up in court?

Speaker 7: (15:54)

No, that's a great question. Uh, I tried to talk to his attorneys and they wouldn't, uh, say anything about this. I mean, they, they have said, uh, he has said, and his attorneys have said, since this began, he had nothing to do with this. I mean, and in fact, the evidence package is not, uh, great against him. They have very little, or I don't think any forensic evidence, the know blood DNA fingerprints, or anything that puts him in the house. He has insisted that, uh, he did not go in the house and Melissa James acted alone, but he was, uh, like her, uh, kind of duped into this, uh, ease dropping operation. Um, it's just something we'll have to see play out, but certainly the case against him is mature really different than against turn. And, and that, in fact, that kind of the weakness of the, of the evidence against Tim was really the catalyst for this whole dropping operation. They wanted to get more information on him, which in perhaps the final irony, the, the half hour that they were recorded talking really didn't lead to a whole lot of new evidence

Speaker 1: (16:51)

Against him, Greg, in as a reporter for the San Diego union tribute. And Greg, thanks so much for your time.

Speaker 7: (16:57)

You're welcome

Speaker 1: (17:01)

This week. K PBS news, investigative reporter, Claire Traeger has a good companion piece for that segment. It's all about the ongoing push to reduce the number of law enforcement shootings in San Diego county. It's

Speaker 8: (17:13)

Soon to tell whether any of the training is having an impact on the number of officers countywide, who shoot suspects as of this month, more than 3000 officers across 19 departments have taken the course, the glaring exception, the San Diego county Sheriff's department.

Speaker 1: (17:30)

You can watch Claire's full

Speaker 9: (17:40)

San Diego. Our has risen our time to stand together is now the wave is calling

Speaker 1: (17:50)

San Diego has star power when it comes to its athletes, Fernando TA's Jr. The young face of major league baseball immediately comes to mind. There's Tony Hawk. Who's the most famous skateboarder on earth pro golfer, Phil Nicholson called San Diego home, along with future NFL hall of Famer drew Brees, but even they may be overshadowed by Alex Morgan. She's the team USA, an Olympic soccer star who says she wants to wrap up her stellar career right here in America's finest city. Morgan was there on Wednesday when the San Diego wave FC revealed their team colors and logo as the newest edition to the national women's soccer league, K PBS reporter, Melissa May cover the story and joins us now. So we know that the wave is part of a league that's brand new to San Diego. For those who don't know, or may not be familiar, what is the

Speaker 10: (18:37)

NWSL? So the NWSL simply put is the national women's soccer league. It's inaugural season was actually back in 2013 and it only had 18. And then for the 2022 season, there's going, going to be 12 teams, including the expansion team, the San Diego wave FC to give people a comparison out there. The NWSL is to women's professional soccer in the states as the MLS or major league soccer is to men's professional soccer.

Speaker 1: (19:05)

So it sounds like we're gonna get another pro team. And we know that the rollout for the wave has come in sort of bits and pieces, but it really came together earlier this week. They revealed the team crest. It's basically the logo that will be on jerseys and merchandise. It's very colorful. How do they explain the design and sort of how, what it means to San Diego?

Speaker 10: (19:22)

So the crest is actually surrounded by the shield and it's this play on when a wave is about to crest and how powerful it is. And so those are in like vibrant blues. And then in the background perfectly in line with the cresting wave is the horizon and this beautiful pink sky. So they just embraced what San Diego is all about in terms of the ocean and the beach. And just what kind of brings us together with common ground. That's why they used the orange. They really took into consideration everything that San Diego was about and put it into this crest and made it super vibrant. Cuz when you think of San Diego culture, it's, it's pretty vibrant along with the, you know, the soccer culture here.

Speaker 1: (20:01)

Well, fans will certainly see it on the field. Soon. We know that the season starts in may and the team is gonna be playing at the university of San Diego's Terrero stadium. But Melissa, we know that's temporary and some news was made on Wednesday about their future home involving another university here, what's going on there.

Speaker 10: (20:17)

So this was a huge announcement that they made the season kicks off in may of 2022. And they will be playing at Terrero stadium temporarily though while their permanent home, which will be the snap dragon stadium stadium, the same stadium that the SDSU Aztec football team is gonna be playing on as you know, it's state of the art. But the really the amazing thing about snap dragon stadium is that stadium can hold about 35,000. Whereas the Terrero stadium can only hold about 6,000.

Speaker 1: (20:48)

The wave have announced a couple of players as they start to build this brand new team. And the big name there is Alex Morgan. She's arguably the biggest star of the past decade of American soccer. That includes a couple of world cup wins and Olympic gold. How is she the kind of player a team like the wave can really build around?

Speaker 10: (21:06)

Well, Alex Morgan is a proven leader. She's now the captain of the us women's national team. Not only that, but she's a three time Olympian. She's one, two world cups and she's a true veteran. She understands her responsibility to not only her team. She made it a point to say how much she wants to be a part of this community and really help develop the youth Fe specifically the female youth soccer clubs in San Diego. She knows that this area is very rich in football culture and she wants to make sure that she's not only the reason people come to watch, but she wants to become ingrained in the local soccer scene is especially on the youth level and specifically for girls. And she wants to be the reason why girls not only continue to play soccer, but also strive to not to play at higher levels, college professional, and you know, maybe on the national team as well.

Speaker 1: (22:03)

And did Morgan have anything to say about why she chose San Diego? I mean so many options out there. And did she tell you why she wants to come here?

Speaker 10: (22:10)

So for people that don't know, Alex Morgan is actually a Southern California native and she has family here. Her husband actually surfed on the LA Jolla coast where they had the presser right at that same spot. Her direct quote was it's the greatest city to live in the whole world. And she's actually always wanted to live here, but obviously her career took her other places.

Speaker 1: (22:30)

Well, let's hear from the big star herself, here's Alex talking at this week's event. I wanna

Speaker 11: (22:35)

Be able to give back to the community that I live in and not only does that mean playing on the field and, and inspiring the next generation and young girls, but actually digging into the community and, and being a part of, um, you know, of why these girls continue to play soccer.

Speaker 1: (22:51)

There was a big media turnout at this week's event as well. You were there too. Melissa, was there anything about the rollout or these players or just this process of launching a new franchise that stood out to

Speaker 10: (23:01)

You? The major thing was is that everyone from ownership players to coach Casey, Stony, everyone is on the same page. And they're very, very ambitious. And even though this is going to be their inaugural season coming up, they are, they wanna win a championship. And they, I think they have the ability with the signings that they've made with Alex Morgan, that they have the ability to do that. Another thing that really stuck out to me was coach Casey, Stony said, as she was growing up in England, she wasn't given the same opportunities that these young female players are given, especially in San Diego growing up, she was basically told that this is a man's sport. She was basically banned from a lot of pitches, even trying to practice or play the game that she loved. So she's really taken it upon herself to not only inspire her players, but to also inspire the youth female soccer players in San Diego to, you know, live your dreams, play this game that you love. There was actually a, a youth soccer player. She actually said she hopes to one day play for the wave FC. So that was, it was pretty heartwarming. And she was just so darn cute. She was 13 years old and she was just so well spoken. She really brought the conference just to a whole nother

Speaker 1: (24:19)

Level. We know there's definitely a lot of soccer here in San Diego. And our listeners might also know you from your work as a game host for the San Diego soccers. They start their new season this weekend at Patonga arena, Melissa what's in store for

Speaker 10: (24:32)

Fans. The San Diego soccers is the greatest legacy in San Diego sports history. They've been around since 1978 and this weekend they will be raising their 15th championship banner. Haven't won the champ, the Ron Newman cup championship since 2013. So it's been a while, but the game on Sunday that starts at 5 0 5 at Patong arena will be a celebration. And for those of you have, have never been to a soccers game. It's super family friendly. There's DJs. We have a fan group, which is very, uh, popular within soccer communities called the deep end. There's a DJ. And to top it off, the tickets are affordable and parking is free. We haven't had a home game at Patonga since March of 2020. Obviously when the pandemic started, it's gonna be a great time and it's just one way to celebrate the legacy of the soccers. And what's the Diego sports culture is just all about

Speaker 1: (25:35)

Thanks so much for tuning into this week's edition of K PBS Roundtable. And thank you to my guests. Marisa Lagos from K Q E D San Diego union Tribune, reporter Greg Moran, K PBS news reporter. Melissa May, if you missed any part of our show, you can listen any time on the K PBS round table podcast. I'm Matt Hoffman. Join us next week on round table.

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom addresses reporters after beating back the recall attempt that aimed to remove him from office, at the John L. Burton California Democratic Party headquarters in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021.
Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press
California Gov. Gavin Newsom addresses reporters after beating back the recall attempt that aimed to remove him from office, at the John L. Burton California Democratic Party headquarters in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021.
A discussion on the biggest stories from the past year, ethical questions over secret recordings inside a north county courthouse and San Diego's newest soccer team builds around a World Cup champion.

KPBS reporter Matt Hoffman talks with KQED political correspondent Marisa Lagos about some of the biggest stories from the past year. We also talk with San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Greg Moran about the San Diego District Attorney's to end a controversial surveillance practice inside courthouses. Also, KPBS reporter Melissa Mae joins us to talk about the big week for San Diego Wave FC as the NWSL expansion club reveals its crest and introduces World Cup champion Alex Morgan to the team.